Nepal was technically a country without a government for 24 hours, but that did not seem to bother residents of Katmandu, its languid capital, resting in the shadows of the world's most spectacular mountains.
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa resigned yesterday after a no-confidence vote in parliament amid charges of official corruption and government ineptitude, and while King Birendra still has ultimate power, Nepal's constitution does not provide for a caretaker government.
But if Katmandu was anxious over this state of affairs, which ended today with the selection of a successor to Thapa, it masked it behind a facade of normalcy. In the shops, the temples and public parks, people shrugged their shoulders and asked the Nepalese equivalent of, "So what?"
"His majesty is still in the palace, isn't he? " asked a betel nut vendor in Katmandu's ancient sister city, Patan. At Swayambhunath, the monkey temple that sits on a sacred hill overlooking the city, a young Nepalese selling hashish said nonchalantly, "It happens," notwithstanding the fact that Thapa was the first prime minister to be voted out by Nepal's parliament.
To Nepalese, the real power lies in the royal palace, and the unopposed selection by the National Assembly today of its former speaker, Lokandra Chand, to the premiership seems not as important a topic of conversation as whether the monsoon will fail for a second year in a row, or whether food prices will go up again.
The ordinary people of Katmandu seemed unaware of the intrigues behind Thapa's downfall, and the frantic, last-minute maneuvers he is said to have tried to save his job.
That is the grist for the relatively small literate and politically interested portion of Nepal's population, many of whom were gathered today on the spacious lawns of the Lion Palace, which houses the National Assembly.
Several thousand persons, most of them civil servants, students or political hangers-on, gave hearty cheers, first to the disgraced Thapa and then to Chand, the man who drove him out of office.
Thapa flashed a victory smile and declared to reporters that he welcomed the no-confidence motion that ousted him because it proved that the panchayat, or the partyless assembly system, works.
"Everything is going very smoothly. It is a very good sign that the democratic process is going forward," Thapa said, echoing the words of the opposition that removed him.
There was back-thumping all around, and one gregarious parliament member, Dron Shumshere, boomed, "We got rid of the devil and now we are looking into the deep sea to find what must be done."
There were cheers for Chand, a soft-spoken lawyer, cheers for his rival, Assembly Speaker Marich Man Singh, and cheers for King Birendra, who made it all possible.
As nightfall descended on the valley and the cows began reclaiming the dusty streets, the monarchy that Prithvi Narayan Shah founded out of the tiny principality of Gurkha in the 18th century remained intact enough, and outwardly at least, little had changed in the timeless enchantment of Katmandu.