Four days later, I am transferred to Kathmandu against my will. I will miss the holiday festivities in Bhairahawa, but they seem to be less than promising. Here, the preparations are more consequential. In the yard, we are treated to a concert with an orchestra brought in from the outside. I’m surprised to see that there is a woman in the group. Although she is not exactly young, I find it improbable that she would be in the midst of all these abstaining males. She must feel quite uncomfortable; in fact, she never strays far from the musicians’ security guards. When there is a woman inside the prison walls, the detainees are on their best behavior. No macho whistling or ogling. The prisons are so poverty-stricken that there are even some facilities where men and women must be housed together, as in the district of Udayapur.
The naike are cooking buffalo meat in huge pots. Portions are then distributed freely. We eat on tables set out for the occasion. Coming towards my table I see Hughes, the other French detainee, accused of pedophilia and awaiting judgment. He hobbles a bit because of a hernia he has developed. He wears a small wooden cross around his neck.
“Hello, Mister. Ach! I just got back from mass. It was a drag.”
-“Mass? There’s a church here?”
-“Yes, just over there. It’s a room in that building.”
He shows me a cellblock around the courtyard and adds, in his characteristic mixture of French and English, “I also pray to the Buddhist monastery, the Hindu temple, and Jesus is happy! No problem, only one God!”
One day, a prisoner who is also a priest tells me that there are probably between 200 and 300 Christians in the prison. It’s the third largest religion in the prison. Islam is fourth. This figure seems to be an exaggeration: on the outside, 4% of the population is Muslim and barely over 1% is Christian. But as I have observed from within the prison, they proselytize. The Christian community seems to be particularly active and well-organized. As for the Muslims, they have no place of worship consigned to them, and pray outside.