It is 5:15 pm on my table clock. The news just got over. Thank God! The anchor added: “We’ll be back with the 6 o’clock news soon.” 6 o’clock news. The hell with all the news channels. I am bored to death, sick of being given every minute details of what is going on in the country of invalids. Why the hell did I tune to in the first place? I could have chosen something else.
Choices, there are never enough choices when you belong to the privileged class who can be choosy! What could I do when the RJ was telling me the name of some dogs of the hell of Balwan Khan My Son and My Jaan. Give me a break! I literally want to hurl my speakers out of the window. And peering into my computer screen is not helping, either. Again it is BBC, Charles Haviland reporting from the capital. I am supposed to be looking after my little cousin in my room, but just a while ago caught the sight of her smeared by a permanent marker. There is nothing I can do now; I wish I were a baby ignorant of everything around me. Ignorance is bliss.
My friend called me in this morning. What are you doing? Planning to score a straight A in all the subjects? She inquired. We laughed. That statement according to my student instincts is the ironic version of “I am sure you are wasting your time”. After all it is always better to assume something good about people. Everything needs to be understood in the opposite manner. It’s the Nepalese way of doing things.
Peaceful protests equals hurling stones, crashing batons. The decisive “Andolan” refers to a series of never ending Andolans. Constitutional Monarch means …the Chairperson of the Cabinet? These day terms like constitution and monarch hold absolutely no meaning for me.
Who is God? I don’t know. Who needs to know any when the Incarnation of Lord Vishnu is ruling Nepal, lucky us the Nepalese people! Ruled By God. Can you imagine that?
“Hami ta yahan pheri Jamna Aateko” she said. “Jamna” needs to be understood as all set to play cards. That has been the only thing to keep her folks engaged in the last two… or was it three days of curfew? Don’t go, why the hell isn’t she out in the Andolan? If answering that is a must, the reason is the same as why are you staring at your computer screen at the moment? Not out in the streets yourself?
Cards, I so desperately wish I knew how to play it as well. I don’t even know how to play Solitaire in my computer. Kali, on seeing my terrible situation introduced it to me sometime ago in college. But once again back to square one. I have absolutely no idea how they keep flying in and out. House of cards, I can manage that though. You build it so carefully and then somebody always plays villain by blowing it all. Like our dreams and aspirations all blown by the so-called wind of change…supposedly taking the country by storm.
Let me put aside all that I know of the manipulation of Article 127, Article 115 behind. Forget all about the recent polarization of power, all the SPA and Maoist and KG debate. We know what democracy gave us: infant mortality reduced to 7% in 2000 from 10% in 1990, life expectancy rose from 52 to 59 years. The road network which had expanded from 276 to 7,330 between 1951 and 1990 had reached 15,308 kilometers by 2000. The number of telephone lines were 25 in1951 and 63,293 at the end of the Panchayat Period. It stood at 255,800 by the end of the century. So you think democracy gave that to us. You couldn’t be more wrong. There was a lot of infrastructure development in the Communist USSR as well. Democracy facilitates the process; there are a whole lot of things involved. See, this generation reads and talks politics as well! Does that matter, the knowledge of what went wrong in the constitution, the series of anomalies that followed? The polarization of power. I would laugh my head off is somebody proclaimed to understand politics better than a daily wage laborer in Kathmandu. Politics is life; the higher you fall in the hierarchical social structure the lesser you understand its implications.
My friend in the US is submitting an assignment on “The Absolute Monarchy in Nepal”. “Check out my assignment for any amendments or additions,” he sends me an attached message. The only change I make is the SC verdict allowing the FM stations to transmit news (the same which is driving me insane). The other is my question to him about the claim he makes of KG planning on being the King once again years after he was crowned one. Can the statement be confirmed? I ask highlighting the text. It is something like presuming the Nepalese King who held on to that title for the shortest time, late Dipendra to be the murderer of his family without any concrete evidence in this age of CSI craze.
The curfew leaves us with little options! I chatted with another friend of mine in the US. How was your day? I inquired. I went shopping, bought a dress for an International Party coming up in college she replied. You sure have fun there I wrote back attempting to comprehend her life there.
Yah, its fun. You should come here sometime she said. Maybe for my masters I replied.
She is a student of Pharmacy. A secure future ahead. An empty mind is a devil’s workshop; I have all time to think of where I will land in some years. A load of pending assignments at hand, one is analyzing the tenth plan, discussing what is in it and what it lacks. It aims for Poverty Reduction; there is an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Bedlam is the buzzword; I am in no mood of working on plans. I gave up Science for Humanities. Biotechnology, I was already its student at heart before I joined the course. “Why do you plan to study…” was a question in my entrance exam (Arts faculty). Development is about change, no matter what the subject will always be contextual. After all, change is the only permanent thing I had answered. I decided I was better suited for the subject, burnt away my well-managed reference materials on electrostatics, organic chemistry. Moved on.
And change, the only permanent thing after all. Dreams of riding on sleek UN vehicles replaced by someone more involved with the community. That again replaced by the desire to work for the government. Instant change on seeing how the Bote-Majhis lived on the banks of Narayani, how a Chepang woman told us “I am but a nobody….” Seeing no reason why we wanted her photos. One law, one policy and the huge change in their lives. Politics has implications on them; we take obtaining citizenship, purchasing a new piece of land for granted. Talking of myself, I won’t be perplexed if the next stop of my picture perfect future is “Peon” after my masters. This is Nepal; reality bites.
I don’t want to know the price I’ll pay for dreaming. The first thing I look at every morning is G.B Shaw’s ” You see things and say ‘Why’? But I dream things that never were, and I say ‘Why not?’ above my study table. When nothing materializes it will come as a tight slap against my face. I’m well aware of it. Frustrations, suicidal thoughts there are still a series of them yet to come. But don’t bother; just don’t bother about the hundreds like me. We will grab a copy of Napoleon Hill’s Ways to Succeed, read Dale Carnegie re-read Shiva Khera and once again find solace in Khaptad Swami’s ” The Science of Thought”. We have options to calm us down. Come out of your selfish desire of democracy that is more of big talk less of actions that matter. Think of the youth in millions that have never heard of Shiva Khera, never will, have to work day in and out. For them it is a one-day life story. Each day is different, disconnected with what is to happen tomorrow, unconcerned about what went happened yesterday. Yesterday when my sister brought me my dinner, I was complaining, “Why is there so much rice? Are you planning to fatten me.” What she told me was something I never expected to hear.
“War time, eat when there is food. Remember “The Pianist” anything can happen.” We laughed.
We can joke about it. There is somebody living across the river I can see from my bedroom window that cannot. S/he doesn’t know of Adrian Brody, has a slim chance of ever knowing him. But will have to trade their watches for food, will have to resort to his dialogue Food is more important than time. History is in the making. How long will it take I can’t say, but how long will such people suffer? Nothing’s changed for them. Panchayati era they obeyed, the so-called decade and some years of democracy they were submissive, autocratic rule: things are still the same. Heading for a republic? It doesn’t matter. They have been empowered, you can argue. That is a different story. Let me not go into “The ladder of Participation” debate.
Our right to protest for any damn thing ends right where someday else’s right to survive starts. You are free to move your hand the way you like it. But it has to stop right where somebody else is standing. Encroaching territories is not democracy. We are hypocrites, clamoring of the need of inclusive democracy, discussing of the lack of social and cultural rights in our constitution failing to see any of its implications in our over hyped revolution for freedom. The state thinks of the middle class only, we are the state. Reduction in the price of electronic goods MP3s, flash drives, lenovo, I pods. We are glad. Stop to think about the ones who don’t understand what Media Ordinance is, whatever the role of Independent Judiciary was in it. MP3s don’t ring a bell to them; they’re too preoccupied of what they will have for dinner tonight.
Traffic lights provide 30 secs for the pedestrians to cross the road, around 3 minutes for the vehicles. That is the state policy. And I am a hypocrite advocating for the class I have merely observed, never experienced what it is like to be one. I am a charlatan that interviews a hungry Chepang woman, forcing her to speak out wasting whatever little chemical energy food has released in her body, when the meager one day meal is all she survives on. I am an imposter who is attempting to voice her thoughts in a platform that is merely for the privileged. That squatter dweller across the river is never going to read this, never going to tell us all what exactly it feels like to be out there. This little girl will keep sporting a frightened look howsoever lovingly you ask her permission for her photo.
Instant gain, its what we seek. Instant changes don’t last. Instant gratification comes in excitement, ends in chaos. We have been debating about the police brutality for days. They belong to the low-income group as well. They are mere puppets in somebody else’s hands. Sometimes I feel as if they are merely releasing the frustration of all the security personnel in this land, confused about their role at this historical moment. Who isn’t well aware of the need of democracy? Still they can’t afford to lose their jobs. Death due to crashing batons, bullets showered on the protestors, some mere spectators are inhumane. No way acceptable. Not permissible under any circumstance.
But look at the way we are. We stop at nothing once we lay our hands on the security personnel as well. Though police brutality still exceeds our attempts to harm them it was us who said it would be a non-violent, peaceful protest in the first place. Let us stick to what we said. Learn something from the foreigners that were arrested from Thamel yesterday who were merely displaying placards “Stop violence, come for talks”, follow our own folks in Kirtipur.
Let the government of invalids term its people terrorists. Let KG keep vacationing in Pokhara as though nothing’s happened. Let Thapa keep imposing curfews. Let the police be ordered to beat us all. Let us resist. Do it the Buddha’s way: We cannot change the things that happen to us, but we can change our responses. Let the response be non-violent. Let them put us all behind bars. Let the prison walls burst with freedom fighters.
You can cage a free person but you can’t do away with the desire to be free. Until this ends, somebody out there will be dying of hunger in the hundreds of squatter settlements in this country. They will die a dog’s death; no one will ever term them “Martyrs of freedom”. What have we lost by this strike? Nothing, we still get to eat. They don’t. We will on with our blasé lives, turn into bigger hypocrites.
So let us stop talking big. Stop this intellectual babble. Let us be out, be heard, and pressurize the deaf, dumb and blind government of ours to listen, talk and see the reality of this nation. A non-violent way out is all I desire. A nation where no one is deprived of their right to survive is all I seek.
(ZaDed maintains a blog herself at spaces.msn.com/zaded)