Nepal | June 05, 2020

PM’s lavish birthday: Need to repair damage

Jiba Raj Pokharel
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There is no dearth of leaders who maintained their integrity of the highest level. Some leaders such as Puspa Lal and Man Mohan Adhikari lived closely by the ideals of communism

The celebration of the birthday by the Prime Minister in an extravagant style has stirred a hornet’s nest both inside and outside the ruling party. One of its influential leaders of the party has termed it a cruel massacre of the party’s decision and its code of conduct. One of the leaders of the civil society has denounced this show blitz as reflective of the absolute monarchy, which is unacceptable in the era of republicanism that Nepal has entered into, following a political movement that saw the loss of more than 1,700 valuable lives.

The history of the celebration of birthdays goes back 5,000 years during the regime of the mighty Pharaohs, who raised the pyramids in Egypt. Greeks also have a tradition of celebrating the birthday of the gods. In Nepal also, we celebrate the birthday of gods with great devotion and dedication.

Janmasthami, Krishna’s birthday, is celebrated with pomp and pleasure, whose history should go back to at least the eleventh century or even seventeenth century BC, in view of the Gopal Dynasty that ruled Nepal around that time, with its capital in Matatirtha.

Another is the birthday of Lord Shiva, which concluded last week in the form of the greatly revered Shivaratri at the precinct of Lord Pashupatinath. Its history goes back to times immemorial, but at least the Kirat times, as evidenced by the temple of Kirateswore Mahadev on the hillock of Guhyeswori, which is believed to date back to at least the first
century. The presence of Shiva Linga dedicated by Nara Burma in the year 467 at Lazimpat shows its proved celebration at least before the fifth century. Man turned divine, Gautam Buddha, who carried the torch of peace and compassion, is remembered every year on the full moon day of Baisakh by celebrating his birthday with much energy and enthusiasm.

Earlier in Nepal, the kings celebrated their birthday with thrill and shrill as they were considered the incarnation of Lord Bishnu.

This practice continued in Nepal till it transformed itself to a republic from what was first an absolute and later a constitutional monarchy.

Among the commoners, in certain families, it is customary for the senior member of the family to celebrate it spontaneously with a modest ritual performance. These days, almost all the people, especially the young, observe it generally in the initiation of their friends by cutting cakes and lighting candles, extinguishing them and singing birthday rhymes.

This has almost been mandatory in the case of children, who otherwise rebel so fiercely that the guardians are left with no alternate other than to concede to their demand. This is an imitation of the cakes that were first offered in moon shape in Greece, to the Temple of Artemis, the Goddess of Moon, followed by the lighting of the candles to make it glow like the moon. So birthday celebration is more of a western phenomenon, which has entered Nepal recently.

The National Birthday Celebration had folded into the pages of history, but it staged a sudden comeback in the celebration of the birthday by the Prime Minister in his hometown Athrai in Panchthar district this week.

It was marked by huge expenditure, incurred by a helicopter ride offered to the giant size cake as well as his merrymaking relatives and well-wishers. What was worse is that a holiday was announced by the local government to observe the birthday of the Prime Minister. This certainly gave an ironic memory of those dark days of the partyless Panchayat, when the kings used to announce a public holiday on their birthday at will.

This is more unfortunate because the communist leaders always swear to live by the ideals of communism in selflessly serving the toiling masses and the country always placing the interests of the party and people above personal interests. But after assuming office, they quickly forget it and begin following a luxurious life style.

But there is no dearth of leaders who maintained their integrity of the highest level. Some leaders such as Puspa Lal and Man Mohan Adhikari lived closely by the ideals of communism. Former Premier Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was a living example of simplicity and honesty, and it became very apparent when he exited the Prime Minister’s quarter with
his pitcher and umbrella that he had carried when he entered.

The first communist leader in India to celebrate the birthday party was Muzaffar Ahmad, who was the founding father of the Communist Party of India.

Jyoti Basu followed closely on his heels by celebrating his birthday but in an unwarranted grand manner. Prime Minister Oli opened the door for such an undesirable extravagance in Nepal.

When the Mahabharata war came to an end, the newly crowned King Yudhistira said that many cherished values of the nation had got a beating during the war, and it would be his first agenda to restore them in their original glory.

Similarly, Prime Minister Oli should repair the damage caused, by perhaps issuing a public apology or the like soon, for unleashing this demon of lavish spending and never acceptable ad-hoc holiday announcement.

It should not be embarrassing because self-criticism and critical support after all have become a norm particularly with the communist leaders in Nepal. This will close the door for further streak of wasteful spending in the future to the show-off maniacs.

A version of this article appears in print on February 28, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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