MIDWAY: Land of euphemisms

It seems one doesn’t always need a rib-tickling joke to burst into laughter. And the proof is a chat with a European friend of mine the other day. Our tête-à-tête was focused on Kathmandu for a while. Kathmandu is a bit polluted, I said, and to my dismay, she broke into violent peals of laughter. “Ah, ‘a bit’ polluted!.” I soon realised that I had fallen into my own trap. My face assumed a reddish hue and I chose to remain tight-lipped.

To tell you the truth, it had never dawned on me that euphemisms could be so hilarious and yet so embarrassing. Just three days on, our reps in Jakarta screamed: Kathmandu is Asia’s most polluted city! I couldn’t help wondering what my foreign friend would have said she were close by.

And therein hangs a tale. Since the abovementioned incident, I am literally obsessed with euphemisms. Not surprisingly, there seems to be a plethora of them just about every subject. Euphemisms on people. Euphemisms on places. Euphemisms on government. You name it. Euphemisms perhaps came into being as a result of people’s penchant for political correctness. After all, why say someone ‘died’ while one can safely get away with he or she ‘passed away’?

The holy Bagmati is ‘polluted’. Strangely enough, we pollute things holy and still continue to call them ‘holy’. After all, we didn’t pollute it. Doesn’t she come polluted right from the Shivapuri Natural Reserve where she springs? Blame the ‘civilised’ picnickers who don’t dither about offering the sacred river plastic wrappers, water bottles, remnants of food, among a zillion other pious things. As if that were not enough, the stretch between Sundarijal and Chovar proudly receives... urine and faeces. An, ya. She’s still holy.

Nepal is the tenth poorest country in the world. A newly-born Nepali comes carrying a debt of 10,000 rupees. Once again, Nepal’s just ‘underdeveloped.’ Just a tad less developed than our over-developed Western brethren. Our Prime Minister is probably the most reliable fodder for euphemisms. It’s said he has a ‘big’ nose. You kidding? Everest dwarfs. And, ah, what wouldn’t I give for a nose to sniff and snuff out the folks who come up with ridiculous euphemisms.