|What is Prem Baad? Who is Vikas Ananda?|
This little bit of graffiti can be found in literally thousands of places around Kathmandu. On practically every wall, every post, every sidewalk throughout the city you can spot this odd twirly question mark and the words "Prem Baad." Just now I walked out of the cafe where I am writing to see how long it would take me to spot it - I found one on a post less than half a block away.
And yet whenever I point it out to a Nepali and ask what it means, they invariably tell me that they have never noticed it before. I find that difficult to believe; the symbol is found in almost every corner of the city and they have been around at least since the last time I was in Nepal two years ago. It has been a mystery to me for a long time.
Prem Baad means "Loveism." (Baad is used with another word to suggest an ideology, e.g. samaaj baad -> society ism = Socialism or mao baad -> Maoism). The twirly question mark appears to be a Buddhist symbol like those used on the magnificent stupas and monuments throughout the city:
|This was taken at Swoyambhu. Look closely below the eyes.|
One of my Nepali professors told me that "Loveism" is the philosophy of Vikas Ananda, a very popular spiritual guru in the city. These bits of graffiti sprang up as a protest against violence and political divisiveness in Nepal. So, mystery solved?
Unfortunately, nobody can tell me very much about Vikas Ananda and these followers of his that put up graffiti all over the city. I have yet to find anyone here who knows very much about it or any mention of either Prem Baad or Vikas Ananda on the Internet. I would appreciate if someone who has a more secure Internet connection could help me by finding more information (my settings have been changed so that anyone can leave comments now).
Part of the problem probably comes from the ambiguities of Romanized Nepali: Bad could be spelled Baad, Wad, or Waad. Vikas could be Vikaas, Vikash, Vikaash, Bikas, Bikaas, Bikash, Bikaash, Bhikas, Bhikaas, Bhikash, or Bhikaash.