Reality byte from Nepal: A nation of VIPs

Some twenty-five years ago, Indian writer Balraj Khanna, domiciled in Europe, made a character in the book refer to India as a “Nation of Fools”. In a similar context, one could perhaps refer to Nepal as a “Nation of VIPs”, which we Nepalis certainly are. The story goes that the hard core supporters of exiled Dev Shumsher, accompanied him to the edge of Kathmandu valley. They then rushed back and professed to the new ruler Chandra Shumsher that they were misled and begged forgiveness.

All Nepalis worship power in whatever form it exists and are ready to move from centre to centre in the process. When the centre ceases to be a power the coteries, sycophants or the ‘chamchas’ beat a hasty retreat and go to a new place.

Coming back to the realities of Nepal, I listen invariably these days to the FM Radio which boasts that it gives news simultaneously from sixty-four centres all over the country. I was very pleased to hear it announce that in this Loktantra, it is neither appropriate nor necessary to refer to any individual as ‘Honourable’. It made a plea to discontinue this practice immediately in the case of persons such as ministers who received pay from state funds. After all when the British were in India, the bureaucrats were referred to as ‘the servants of the people’. I remember Dr. U. Ko Ko, the Regional Director of WHO /SEAR, who ended his letter with ‘your obedient servant’.

We in Nepal generally vie to be around those with / in power. We like to be around the ‘high and mighty’. Perhaps it is a nice feeling of security when one is near those with the trappings of power. It has been said that if one analyses the people in power one will find that usually it is the same 10% of the elite who are always there, irrespective of who holds the reins of power. They are perhaps the Narads or the Secret Dossier Experts of the 21st Century!

A couple of months ago when the Sri Lankan President was visiting Nepal, all the vehicular traffic along the Pepsi Cola Road that runs parallel to the airport on its Eastern boundary was blocked solid with traffic for 45 minutes. Recently, there were massive traffic hold ups when our own President went to address the House. He has expressed his regret at the inconvenience caused to the people and hopes that such incidents do not occur in the future. However, on the day of departure of Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal to attend the 15th NAM Conference in Egypt things were vastly different. The drivers of vehicles along the Western side of the airport beside the Nepal Golf Course were kept twiddling their thumbs on the steering wheel as the ‘PM’s sawari’ to the airport took place. It is perhaps to the credit of the blue attired traffic police and their superiors that they are as zealous to express their enthusiasm and show their efficiency for a ‘Son of the People” as they were for King Gyanendra. Kudos to them.

The ministers of the last government and now the ministers of the present one must be enjoying the fruits of their positions. The pleasure of not suffering ‘load shedding’ whilst the rest of the country suffered no longer applies to the households of the ministers. Thanks must be made to the investigative journalist who unearthed this abuse of privilege. The obvious pleasures of those in power is now to avoid traffic hold ups for there is always a siren blowing pilot car and an Armed Police Force truck with gun toting personnel in front. Oh! to be a Minister in these days of Interim Government!

It is said that the people get the government that they deserve. As we look around the world, see the rise of leaders such as Barack Obama, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales in the Western Hemisphere and we realise that they are the new faces thrown up by the people.

What is happening in the countries of the East? India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even North Korea have had a form of dynastic rule for a large period of time. Is this not similar to the rule of the privileged as was present till recently in Nepal? Are we in Nepal heading towards a calamity or are we waiting for a new Jung Bahadur to rise up from the masses. It has been rightly said that a leader is not born to lead but rather thrown up by the people and come to the forefront. Is that day coming for us Nepalis? Is the process already underway here?

Taking into account the upheavals of the last decade and half it seems to be obvious to all that we do not know where we are headed. ‘Horse trading’ and the backroom shenanigans has become a permanent feature of our political culture. The Civic Leaders, the ones who claim to be fighting for the rights of the people can be taken care of by being given the right to form NGOs. This is their piece of the modern day cake. They will stay quiet then!

The custom of receiving floral garlands from Panchakanyas at the time of departure or arrivals of VIPs, which had been discontinued by Mr. Prachanda has been restarted by Mr. Madhav Nepal. As Napoleon, the pig of “Animal Farm” would have said, “ All people are equal but some people are more equal than others.” There is always room for learning!