Welcome to our village Mr. Minister! We expect you to increase your assistance to us in the coming days and strengthen the already good relationship between out two great nations! Pics by CSK and DW
“I didn’t think anything boring than roads before I was engaged in the development works,” he said. “Today I think roads are magical things. They can give lives to the rural areas.”
As-Salamu Alaykum Malik Saheb!
Shahid Malik. The first Muslim minister of Belayet (the United Kingdom) who looks after the Asia in his ministry “Department for International Development” (DFID). The DFID that has been assisting in projects aimed at brining stability in politics to the road constructions has significant presence in Nepal. That is why Malik who came to Nepal last week met and interacted with ‘powerful’ folks of Kathmandu to the ‘deprived’ and ‘illiterate’ ones of Kavre.
Shahid Malik, the Belayeti DFID Minister for Asia, and Bella Bird, the DFID Chief in Nepal.
Belayeti novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer was in India the previous month to promote his latest novel A Prisoner of Birth. On that occasion, while talking to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of the Indian Express for the TV channel NDTV, he had said: “What you (Indians) are doing in England is what Jews did 30-40 years ago…Indians are now taking over local councils…you will live to see an Indian Prime Minister in England.”
When Archer says “Indians” he means, in the broader sense, the belayeti citizens of the South Asian origin, that part of today’s South Asia that was once under the Belayeti Empire. For example Shahid Malik. He is not a gora belayeti. His country of origin is Pakistan. Before Malik assumed the role in the ministry, his parents assumed roles of Mayer. Apart from proving the rise of “formerly colonized” in the country of “former colonizer” in this post-colonial age, the success of Malik also symbolizes the elevation of minorities in Belayeti society.
The lady on the right is Susan Goldmark, the World Bank chief in Nepal. [Want to read her love story? Click here.]
The word “Muslim” generates contradictory views in the contemporary world. That is because of the participation of people with Islamic faith in most of the terrorist attacks. Needless to say there are liberals and conservatives and occasionally the formers become the victim of the haughtiness of the former. Forty-year-old Malik is the example. Less then two months after he was elected Member of Parliament from Labor party ticket London came under attack in 7 July 2005 and Mohammad Siddique Khan, the lead suicide bomber, was from his constituency. In 2001, when riots broke out in his hometown Burnley Malik’s father was the deputy mayor of the city. As he tried to calm down the agitating Belayeti Pakistani he was beaten by the police. The images and videos of Malik covered in blood was broadcast in Belayeti newspapers and TVs. Later, the Lancashire Police apologized and the Chief Constable praised Malik’s role of ‘peace keeper’ in the riots.
Shahid Malik with the (Maoist) member of the CA from the area and others.
Malik was searched for explosives by the American officials in Washington’s Dulles Airport on 28 October 2007 while returning to London. Malik has said that he was treated similarly in 2006 in New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. Both of his visits were at the invitation of the American government- that too to take part in the programs non other than those related to counter-terrorism. After the American ambassador in London and the American officials apologized to him Malik said that he believed “no malice whatsoever was intended”. He also said that he looked forward to getting back to the USA.
He spent his honeymoon in the US in February 2008.
“When I left Nepal in last September it was a kingdom and I was single,” said Malik in an interaction program that was attended by a few Nepali officials and donor representatives in Dhulikhel after he visited a rural road in Kavre. “This time I came to a republic Nepal and I am married.” Both visits saw similarities and Malik didn’t spare to satirize that. “Maoists left the government in my previous visit and this time to they left on the day I arrived,” he said in a humorous tone. Because of the mass resignation by the Maoist minister from the cabinet, Dev Gurung, the minister for Local Development, wasn’t present in the program despite the pre-announcement. Malik humorously commented on the slow pace in the formation of the government. “A cabinet can be formed among those in this hall,” he said. That comment brought laughter in the room.
Shahid Malik with the ‘wise woman’.
When he was in Bohoredovan of Sarsyunkharka Village to inspect the Tamaghat-Thuloparsel agriculture road, Malik asked the villagers: What are the one or two things that you would like to do differently if you were to build the road again? He didn’t get the clear answer to that question; instead there were demands that the road be blacktopped.
“What is it that they have valued the most abut the road as women?” he wanted to know.
Who is taller? And who is beautiful?
He was told that it was now easy to take pregnant women who were having difficulties in giving birth (“unable to deliver”) to the hospital. After a woman answered very actively and reasonably, Malik told the interpreter: “Tell her that ‘she is a wise woman’.”
“Oh yea sir I definitely do have wisdom,” fired back the wise woman. “But no education.”
That wasn’t translated but created laughter among the crowd.
Sensing that the communication wasn’t being complete via the interpreter, Malik stood and surprised all when he said: “Aap Hindi samaj sakte ho? [Do you understand Hindi?]
“Nai,” the women responded. [No, in Nepali.]
“Nahi?” he said. [No, in Hindi]. “Kaise ho aaplog? Punjabi?” [What kind of folks are you? What about Punjabi?]
How would they, who didn’t understand Hindi, understand Punjabi? Then he started speaking in English. The main problem of Kathmandu-based foreign diplomats is that they don’t understand Nepal which means they can’t listen to the villagers and sees Nepal through the eyes of urban elites. Let’s not talk about Punjabi but many in Nepal definitely understand Hindi. It would be better if Malik gathered information about his ministry’s work by talking in Hindi with those Nepalis who don’t understand English! At least that will prevent many of the views from being lost in translation.
<img src="http://blogmandu.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/shahid_malik_and_sadak_06.jpg" alt="shahid malik the birtish minister in a nepali village"/
I found some villagers liking very much the presentation and openness of Malik. There is a tradition in Nepal that if you are a high ranking official you don't talk tot the men on the street and seat like a God far from them let along interacting with them. But here, according to a villager, a minister "who has come to see our problems from a rich country like Belayat" was enjoying the interaction with the villagers. An excited Malik also posed for cameras along with the 'wise woman' and others. The man who faced ill treatment in American airports was warmly welcomed by the poor Nepalis with vermilion and stack of garlands. That's the best part of being rich, I guess. You always receive welcome from those poor who expect help to get themselves out of misery.
<img src="http://blogmandu.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/shahid_malik_and_sadak_07.jpg" alt="shahid malik the birtish minister in a nepali village"/
"We got our voice after the opening of the road," responded a woman to one of Malik's questions. "We became able to speak."
"We were not able to go out," said another. "There would be intervention [by the males] asking "where?" It's not like that anymore.
Malik must have understood the magic of the road after listening to those women. "Roads are like the veins of the body," he said. "Roads take necessary things to (and out of) village just like veins circulate blood in the body."
<img src="http://blogmandu.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/shahid_malik_and_sadak_08.jpg" alt="shahid malik the birtish minister in a nepali village"/
As I was listening to the women I remembered 41-year-old Bharat Bahadur Shahi of Manma VDC, Kalikot. I had met him in his small shop just above Tila river a year ago while traveling the difficult and still not completed Karnali highway. "As vechile started plying in front of our homes the lock of our destiny was opened," he had said. "You and I are introduced because of the road. We are getting clothes and food cheap."
<img src="http://blogmandu.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/shahid_malik_and_sadak_09.jpg" alt="shahid malik the birtish minister in a nepali village"/
The importance of being connected to the road for a district like Kalikot that doesn't have an airport might be a little bit more but at one level, I felt, the importance of road is equal to all Nepalis from Kalikot to Kavre [from where the Araniko highway passes through].
Important they certainly are but you can't get roads just because you want them. According to the World Bank, Nepal's total road network and density is the lowest in the region. Only 36 percent of the population has access to all-weather roads. There was total 28 thousand kilometers of road in Nepal in 2005 including 11 thousand kilometers of rural and agricultural roads. The world's biggest road network is in the United States with 6,430, 366 kilometers in 2005. India and China are in second and third positions with 3,383, 344 km (2002) and 1,870,661 km (2004) respectively.
<img src="http://blogmandu.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/shahid_malik_and_sadak_10.jpg" alt="shahid malik the birtish minister in a nepali village"/
"The poor condition of the road network hampers the delivery of social services," said the World Bank. "High transport costs and the lack of connectivity are major impediments of Nepal's development."
Do we need the World Bank to tell that? Or, what Malik Saheb? Aap sun rahe ho na? [You are listening, aren't you?]