An Impulsive Nation
From the palace to the pavements, from tea shops to blogs, Nepal is a country of impulsive characters, writes DR. J.
Sano yo desh bhaye pani
Ragata bagai dinchhaun hami….
So goes a verse in a popular YouTube video music that more or less sums up what it means to be a Nepali. To paraphrase: Despite being a small country/ We will shed blood.
Unfortunately, the literal translation cannot capture a nuanced meaning of those lines. One may assume that the singer is alluding to an institutionalized Nepali history of determination, self-sacrifice and survival despite the country being vulnerable to forces that threaten its very existence. Okay, on that.
But there is a meaningful difference between “bagaunchhaun” and "bagai dinchhaun.” The former term conjures up a collaborative effort, grounded on self-realization and responsibility. There is a justifiable goal of doing something and achieving it. The latter term clearly implies an external anchor to our “doing” whatever we do, usually in a show of strength; in our case “shedding blood.”
These days, though, the classic "external" does not exist in regards to Nepal, except occasionally for James F. Moriarty, the American ambassador and his country half way around the world. We don’t have an overbearing India any longer (at least not at the moment), and even China does not look cozy toward monarchy. Instead, increasingly, we have created externals within our internal universe. The erratic Maoists, the haughty Seven Party Alliance, the beleaguered Palace, and with them, the divided Nepali population, constitute the many alienated pieces, each constituting an external to the other.
So we blame the other within us for our very existence and for what we do. We do what we do not necessarily because that is the right thing to do and that we really like doing it, but we do what we do because the Maoists are doing what they are doing, or the King, or the SPA are doing what they are doing. Simply put, if they are doing it, why not us or me?
I recall an anecdote from a family. A journalist friend in Kathmandu in 1995 was worried that his step brother was fast turning into an alcoholic.
“How so?” I asked.
“He says he is drinking because of us-- myself included and my parents.”
“Because he thinks so.”
So we do what we do because of the others, not because of a need to do what we do, but because of our jhwank, a sudden bout of impulse. From the palace to the pavements, from chiya pasals to blogs, we continue to perfect this character.
The King delivers a message on Democracy Day not because he has something significant to say, but because the SPA leaders deliver their messages. PM Girija Prasad Koirala decides the King must abdicate not necessarily because the king must go, but because the king may be wishing that Koirala was gone. And so do the Maoists. Because you did it, I do it. Ask Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ram Chandra Poudel, Madhav Kumar Nepal and others (including the Maoist leaders) who suffered royal pursuit, imprisonment or arrest and they’ll tell you what they do is because of what the king did to them. It's feudalism stupid, they'll tell you.
This blame game has reached a point of no return. Hence, it has assumed a hilarious shape. So much so that you blame some one in advance for what you might think the person may blame you later. This is apparently what Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda) did the other day. The “good orator” (to borrow the phrase from Royal Nepalese Army, as the national army was known until a year ago) said the palace, with the leadership of the wayward Crown Prince Paras, was involved in a plot to assassinate top political figures, including U.S. officials in Nepal, and foment a revolt within the army. Despite calls for evidence to that effect, the Maoist leader has not offered any proof to back up his impulsive statement.
Clearly, there is an element of revenge and reprisal in our motives, not the internalizing of responsibility even as we crave for a “new Nepal.”
This adversarial character of our national politics also reflects in our media (no kidding, they are called the mirrors of our society):
Nispakchha yo press bhaye pani
Spin gari dinchhaun hami
It is almost like the threats of mission journalists from the Panchayati era: Lekhi dinchhu, chhapi dinchhu. If you fail to donate us cash, we will publish defamatory news about you… The difference today is: Because you throttled us during the so-called People’s War, or during the direct royal rule, it is payback time now.
All sorts of crazy stories develop in Kathmandu. If it suits your agenda, you don’t have to verify them. You don’t have to second-guess them. They help in news media’s feeding frenzy. You don’t have to explain them. They help create a level of suspense.
The Maoists surrender all arms. No, the Maoists retain many arms.
The Maoists are confined in camps. No, many Maoists are not confined in camps.
The Madhesi leaders applaud interim constitution. No, the Madhesi Tigers will continue armed struggle.
Koirala is for ceremonial monarchy. No, he is for a republic. Actually, he is not sure about it.
Buddha boy disappears. He appears. He disappears again. No, he appears again. But he disappears again….
Confusing, isn’t it? That is the dilemma.
Ask the Buddha boy, and the most probable and an apt answer you may get from Ram Bahadur Bomjan is this: I am what I am, and I am always where I am!
Blame the local parachute reporter.
Looks like we have lost our sense of place and sense of purpose. Perhaps the Buddha boy has some good explanations of our dilemmas and contradictions.
He shouldn’t be disappearing for good for nothing. Actually, finding him should not be difficult, if we try. Why won’t some police officers, using a chopper, chase the Buddha boy? In America, that is a very effective way of capturing fugitives or escapees.
We don’t have to escape forever.
Dr. J is pen-name of a Nepali Journalist based in the United States.
Posted by Editor on March 15, 2007 2:34 AM