How to Write about Nepal?

A take on how the western media generally projects/covers Nepal

By Deepak Adhikari

This blog entry is inspired by two Granta pieces: How to Write about Africa and How to Write about Pakistan:

Start your piece with “Nepal is a Himalayan country sandwiched between two Asian giants…” Also add that Nepal is ‘tiny’, even though there are several smaller European countries (which never seem tiny is Western eyes) than Nepal. Nepal, with the population of 28 million, is world’s 30th largest country (if you take population to describe a country’s size). Mention the population but don’t explain what it means, don’t bring perspectives—your readers just want facts about the poor countries (Don’t forget to say it’s one of the ten poorest countries in the world).

Also, don’t forget to sprinkle your report with the poverty porn: “Nepalese earn less than two dollar a day.” Forget that we don’t measure our income in dollars and there are filthy rich Nepalis in Kathmandu, outside Nepal and even in rural areas. But, the third world poverty is what sells in the West. Finley Peter Dunne rightly said newspaper (or journalism) “comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable.” So, those living out there in western metropolis in their cozy and comfy rooms need to be educated about the poor living in far flung areas. This will add to their sense of how lucky they are!

While writing about Nepal, apart from the glistening mountains and its beauty, you must also write about the Sherpas, the unsung mountaineering heroes, the Gurkhas, the brave soldiers. Write that Nepal is a mountainous country, blissfully eschewing the fact that half of the population lives in Tarai plains. Use the word Shangri-La, that beloved invention of yours (we never had that). This word can also be used for Sikkim, Tibet, Laddakh, Bhutan, among others. Write that this was a paradise!

Forget how this country came into being but don’t forget to mention the June 1 2001 massacre and compare that with some Shakespearean tragedy. Don’t forget to mention this in your report, this will make your story straight out of a horror movie!

Taboo subjects: the vibrant Nepali middle class, the recent development in sectors such as education, healthcare, media, among others. It’s literary tradition, the folk lore. Treat Kathmandu as if it is still a medieval city. While in here don’t spare the ‘living goddess’. Your readers will be amazed at this tradition of maintaining a living goddess while her counterparts in western countries enjoy their childhood. Exoticize this as well as other topics as much as you can and avoid exploring why the Kumari tradition continues after all these years. Your report should not have to be nuanced. It should resonate with your readers’ stereotypes.

Insert a sentence saying the Buddha was born in India (the way Fareed Zakaria did in his book Post-American World). Confuse Nepal with Tibet. While writing the head line, make sure you use Everest, mountain, Himalayas, roof of the world, top of the world, high (as in recent WashPost headline: Mao in the Mountains).

Even though the monarchy was abolished in 2008, write the country is the world’s only Hindu kingdom. When you write about the Maoists (the fave topic of yours), write that Prachanda means “the fierce one” or even better “the awesome”! And, compare the Maoists with their Chinese counterpart and its cultural revolution (but also be ready to discover how different they are: China’s turnaround from its own past while Maoists still stick to Mao’s dictums).

Best of luck—you can make an outstanding career as a writer or foreign correspondent in Nepal!

Editor’s note: Please add your own favorite expression at the Western press about Nepal.

UWB blogger Deepak Adhikari is a journalist with Kantipur, Nepal’s largest newspaper. He maintains a personal online diary here.






25 responses to “How to Write about Nepal?”

  1. Aalok Avatar

    great little article. you mentioned some good points.

  2. Anjali Avatar

    wow deepak jee! yes we should not forget to write ‘ its one of the ten poorest countries in the world’ while we r writing about Nepal.

  3. Pradeep Bashyal Avatar

    Really gud piece. This made me recall one of ur old (similar) piece frm NEPAL titled ‘parachute journalist’

  4. Neil Pande Avatar
    Neil Pande

    Nice write up. Some people really do well selling poverty and passimism…

  5. prepaid Avatar

    Hehehe sathi, afule pani last ma lekhi haleu…UWB blogger Deepak Adhikari is a journalist with Kantipur, NEPAL’S LARGEST NEWSPAPER.
    You too wanted westerners to know that Kantipur is not only Nepal’s Nepali language newspapers, but THE LARGEST NEWSPAPER. Think what should a journalist with Nagarik Daily, Samacharpatra write about their newspapers? This is another fantasy. Still it’s true that Kantipur has the largest circulation but when you mention that, you want others (readers) to understand that fact, though it is not necessarily related to your story.

    1. Postpaid Avatar

      Not just to westerners but anyone who comes to this page, prepaid, including you. You could have said the same thing about: oh.. you introduced yourself as a blogger, think what should other bloggers of the world think!! a blurb or something similar is given to let readers know about the writer etc. and its good if it becomes specific. For instance ,you could have simply introduced yourself as PAID or paid but you chose PRE-Paid. LOL. why? What should those who have also paid before using the service should call about themselves? LOL. Euta kuro ni.

  6. Abhishek Avatar

    One who don’t know much about Nepal will get some good info about it.

  7. Dirgha Raj Prasai Avatar
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

    Nepal is the pious Hindu country in the lapse of the Himalayas, which is beautiful, quiet, the birth place of Buddha and origin of Hinduism. Besides being the country of Everest it is equally popular with its diverse cultural values. This is the land where civilization began and is also known as the country of ‘SANGRILA.’ Nepal is as holy place to Hindus & Buddhists, as Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem to Jews and Christians.
    Nepal, the pious country, is a country sandwiched between China and India. Because of its geo-political situation, Nepal’s sovereignty has always been very sensitive. Nepal is rich culturally and naturally. Our successful foreign policy would be to maintain our culture, traditions and indigenous identities to balance between China and India. Actually, Nepal is a paradise which provides calmness and rejuvenation to the mind. This lovely place is also said as the potpourri of ethnicity and has many cultural landscapes. This land of bio-diversity has so many cultural and religious landmarks that give a soothing experience to everyone. Nepal is a rich and complex mix of different cultures and traditions, melded over thousands of years into a unique whole. For the western traveler there is much that is familiar, and many surprises. Family and religion are of paramount importance, and are constantly reflected throughout the culture. Culture provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. It offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. Nepal moves to a different rhythm than the West.

    But, the sovereignty of Nepal is being in danger. The country’s independent and future cannot be secured either by republic or the People’s Republic. But why have been the leaders Nepali Congress (NC), UML, Maoist raising the point that can put the country in serious risk. ? The NC has chosen the path of its own downfall by accepting the Communist’s agenda of republic. If congress fails the only other alternative to it is the Royal institution and the country would remain secure. It is only the royal institution or monarchy, which can safeguard the country from one party-Communist autocracy. In the context of Nepal, if monarchy comes to an end the communist autocracy will prevail over everybody else. If monarchy is down, the communist’s despots will go after the congress first accusing them as bastion of feudalism and will chop off their heads.
    Five years ago, when it saw the situation was in its favor, the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Indian leaders designed another plot. Guaranteeing the Maoists safety and providing support, they, in the name of multi-party competition handed over the agenda of constituent assembly as a propaganda box in the form of 12-point agreement to the Nepali Congress, UML and other communist leaders who had sold out themselves to the Indians.
    Now, due to their notorious activities and anti-nationalist servive, they have confused to move. They can build the constitution and now, they can’t elect the prime minister also. They are all traitors and they should be punished . Without, punishment, the country can’t save. There are atlest, 15 Bahuns -Girija died- Ram chandra, Krishna Sitoula, Shekhar Koirala, Madhab nepal, Jhalanath, Baburam Bhattarai, Dinanath, Prachanda, Bamdev, Kharga Oli, Surya Bd. Thapa, Prkash Lohani,Debendra Pande, Sundermani, the yellow-dress Bahun, Kanak mani, Sudip Pakural, Khadendra Sangrula ( RAW & CIA agents) and atlest 5-7 others-like- Subas nembang, Shre Bd Deuwa, Padhmaratna Tuladhar ,Ramsaran, Pashupati Shemshre, Dev Gurung ( CIA agents)
    They are all culprits. I am not baised. They have lost their credibility already. That is all.
    It is our worryness. Please, think the reality and write about nepal.
    Thank you.

    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  8. TP Mishra Avatar

    Deepak ji,
    I hope the writers/foreigner corresponds should not forget to mention that “Nepal is one of the world’s richest country in water resources, that has the capacity to generate electricity in larger scale, but the country remain dark most of hours.

    Good compilation!

  9. Pant,Dibakar,In the US Avatar
    Pant,Dibakar,In the US

    Indeed,It’s a great write-up of writer for which he is thankful.Its because of these visionless politicians of Nepal that the outsiders including westerners are more encouraged to write negatively about this culturally greatt and naturally praise-worthy nation.

  10. asheshfreespirit Avatar

    I wish this article reaches out to wider arena. Because not only the westerners but our Indian neighbors need to revive their stereotype thoughts on Nepal and Nepali. Really good write. Liberating!

  11. shantinagar Avatar

    hello blogger, Good write up….

    Nepal is going through a phase of new democracy and national unification. Yes western eyes wil not describe what you do. One sees the difference and one sees what one can understand. It is different if I complain about the food in my country or guest does so. Included my dear mother.

    Buddha was born in Lumbini where the bahuns sold the tree to Japan. But rice is cheap. I think astrologers and nostalgics included chhetri and bahun by the way buddha was chhetri, all underlign positive change.

    I am happy in nepal i do not know what I am any longer. But the fact is that NRN became a group. The sherpas are very able to write about themselves though in a language you and I cannot read….

    Ethnic minorities and languages…social classes and casts, not to speak of gender. I think women are landlocked and men are so bossy in Nepal.
    Anyway I was also born in a country I happily left and am deligthed to return to once a while. When I see them agree with the neo fascist who will be right about wrong policies unintelligent policies of EXCLUSION and they the good thinking folk have no choice but vote yes or all will burn down what is left of stupid Netherlands.

    More mountains. You have tibetan culture, Magar, Mongolian, madhesi…

    and only 1 Hisila Yami to lead them all.

    Hindu fanatics are not attractive in India, yet I miss the old Nepal, but we embrace the future. I admire the school teachers and anyone surviving daily traffic jam. I work nearly 7 months a year there and I get breathing problems. Positive Nepal is a good idea Dibakar Pant.

    I already mentioned dear Mishra TP that Nepal has hydro power and be careful the other nations do not sell to us what was your own already…

  12. nepalikuire Avatar

    So, something like:

    “Visit Nepal, the mid-sized, overpopulated, border state of India. Largely created by an ear and nose-chopping king mixed with local folktales and British blood money (for helping put down the Indian uprising), the country’s flat lands and rich city-ites drive Prados, entertain middle class tittle tattle and discuss the local birth of Buddha, whilst celebrating their chosen few’s private schooling before they sod off to the US. Oh, and there is not one breathing god. Not one.”

  13. Michael Dillon Avatar
    Michael Dillon

    Deepak Adhikari makes a strong case against the tendency of some Western journalists to exoticise Nepal and write in lazy cliches. But – what do Western readers need to know about Nepal? Probably detail, cool analysis and multiple points of view, but where is this to be found?

  14. Prayash Avatar

    It’s an entertaining write up. It is true that a mythical Nepal is created in a lot of writings to please the Western readers. However, facts on Nepal like it is one of the poorest countries in the world, our infant mortality rate is one of the worst out there, ethnic and gender discrimination abound plenty and other hard facts to swallow shouldn’t be neglected just because some of us feel ashamed to mention it.

  15. Durgapuja Avatar

    We focus on the wrong points now nobody want to read they are all eating.

  16. BahunBajey Avatar

    Nepal is Shangrila…try telling that to all the goats this Dashian. And also to all the widows and all the ethnic minorities and those affected by the cholera outbreak last year.

  17. Gloomyboy aus Avatar
    Gloomyboy aus

    Mero man chhoyo, thanks deepak Ji ….

  18. Alok Avatar

    So true! Enjoyed reading that.

  19. Amanda Shore Avatar
    Amanda Shore

    As someone who could be classed as ‘Western Media’ I would just like to respond. I love Nepal and I write about all of the issues i see in this country but when i want to get published i compete against journalists write on issues all over the world.

    I can tell you I don’t WANT to only write about the negative issues of Nepal. I love to write about the achievements of this great country. If you find me somewhere to publish, either in Nepal or internationally, I will write about positive things all day and night. But even Nepali media rarely publishes stories of achievement and good will.

    If you want to draw attention to problems in Nepal you have to lay it out for all the ignorant westerns who have no idea where Nepal actually is. Nepal IS moving forward, there is “a vibrant middle class” but these things don’t attract funding dollars and they don’t bring tourists. Poverty Porn, as you put it, sells papers and draws attention.

    Would you prefer we do not write about Nepal at all?

    One last thing. “People in glass house should not throw stones”. I read Nepali media. The national english papers are 80% full of rubbish, just as western media. Maybe instead of pointing fingers all of you should get out in the streets and see what is going on instead of patting yourselves on the back for how cleverly you dismissed another’s hard work.

    You want to see something different? Show me what you would like us to write about. Show me the real Nepal in your own writing. Show me the change you want to see in western media in your own work!

    1. deepesh Avatar

      How can I contact you???

  20. siva Avatar

    It is natural that western media writes what it finds unusual or different from their country. I am from India and in western world still reports it as country of poor. Although as an Indian I find it annoying sometimes, it is true. And anybody coming to India from outside, will immediately see that a large number of people are poor. Similarly for Nepal, although you living there can see that you are getting better every day, it is still difficult for an outsider to see.
    Another thing, generally negative news sells.

  21. acharya Avatar

    nepali janata is no more than the goat ready to be slaughtered on the day of Mar. How many of them have already ended up their lives just for nothing and how many will loose no one knows. It is just ‘Sandheko judhai ma bachako michai.” When will the flag of peace flutter in Nepal? How many gallons of blood will be shed in the soil of Nepal? Nepali janta hope for the the best and prepare for the worst.

  22. Soupe Avatar

    One of the best article I have read about Nepal.

    Another serious note: racism needs to go away from the comments. We need to stop finger pointing at “bahun”, “chetrri”, “Newar”, “Magar”, “Madeshi” and so on. It does not help the cause unless your motive is to crumble the nation.

    Another note to King lovers: Nobody is going to read your 20 pages long comments about how awesome the King is and the time of joy it was when Nepal was a kingdom. Neither is true. You are living in a lie. The Royal family is stupid, immoral and incompetent even when compared with the worst of the worst politicians like Sujata K.

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