A political pawnMy parents are from outside the Valley. When they stepped into the Capital looking for better lives, they also crossed the point of no return. I was born and raised in this very place, Kathmandu, where dreams come true, or so they say.
My parents are from outside the Valley. When they stepped into the Capital looking for better lives, they also crossed the point of no return. I was born and raised in this very place, Kathmandu, where dreams come true, or so they say.
There is one thing that I truly like about this place—the sheer hustle and bustle it takes to make it here. Everyone is busy with heading somewhere. When I find myself at the junction of the perpetually crowded Asan bazaar or Indrachowk, I see young lads trying to sell kurthas and old folks instructing and imparting age-old wisdoms on medicine, handicraft, painting and the like.
There is this other thing that leaves me with mixed feelings—the stark disparity between the rich and the poor. Recently, I have come to become more and more aware of the iniquities present in this society and I am convinced that these differences are important to observe and understand. We are not all the same; there will always be disparity among people.However, no one is complete on their own and we need each other, even if simply to make up for our faults. For these reasons, for democracy to truly prevail, we must institute policies that will ensure access to proper healthcare and education for all—only such measures, I feel, can finally end the sham democracy set up to mask the oligarchic control of the economy and a long entrenched clientele system that dominates the political sphere. Only by ensuring the same access to education and healthcare, regardless of race, gender, class or caste can we foster a capable citizenry and workforce that might finally be able to lift the nation out of poverty.
When I find myself at the junction of Asan bazaar or Indrachowk, I tend to feel hyper aware of the fact that I am a woman and that I am an adult. And more often than not, I also think of my attire and my way of talking that always betray the fact that I come from privilege—and this fact is enough to perturb me as I know I am among the few and the privileged in a society blighted with extreme inequality.
I have to ask myself, am I though?
I see kids playing by the side of streets. I see vendors who use paper masks to shield themselves from dust but won’t move places to sell vegetables. When these people wake up they have only one thing on their mind—survival. I can see the desperation as well as the humour, courage and mirth that exists in spite it. Sometimes, I even envy it.
Awareness of one’s privileges comes with its downsides.
My privilege allows me to live safely cocooned in blissful ignorance. I could choose to be totally insulated from the woes of the world under the sturdy roof that my parents provided for me—but only for so long. My privilege allows me to wake up to mundane tasks. The privilege allows me to decide what I want and don’t want to do in the day on a whim. I relalise now, my privilege had made me complacent—to the core.
I am a Nepali, meaning a citizen of Nepal though to many the name simply signifies “a person from an underdeveloped country.” I cannot say that this nation was built on shaky foundations for throughout history we have shown great ignorance and cowardice but also strange and profound courage and fortitude. However, this much is fact—this county lies over volatile tectonic fault lines but also geo-political ones—throughout the history of the people who have lived in this region, long before it was even called Nepal, the confluence of these two problems have often been cause for political and social instability.
Today, the persistence of an aged bureaucracy serves to impede the youth at every step and precludes the possibility of social mobility. We need to exorcise these ghosts from the halls of power before we build anew. I have come to see how little Nepal has to offer us in terms of growth or even survival. I was taught from a young age how dirty the bureaucratic system is. I have heard elders talk about the undeserving people in the system. Perhaps that’s why I always stayed away from politics, even as an observer. However, now that I know how much of a privilege I bear, I no longer have a choice but to speak my beliefs and to work towards them—for I feel as if doing so is the only way I can preserve my humanity and live with a light heart free of remorse.
I still hear from my dad about the insurgencies, riots and protest that revolutionised aka broke our system. And I realise, sometimes even when people come to unite from all backgrounds and fight for good, they lose. Nepal for me, to be honest, feels like a lost cause. A land of empty promises that have been echoing in these hills for ages. Yet somehow, I realise the importance of sticking to my convictions and using everything I have to abide by them and maybe even mend this broken system someday. I can leave, I am rich enough to but were I to do so, I risk losing what I call mine.
At this point in my life, I cannot help but refuse to keep up with the status quo because it is no longer conscionable to me. I seek to know and learn this country so I can someday play a part in healing its many wounds. If I was unaware of the cruel game of politics and of the tendencies of the wealthy to act in ways that serve only to preserve their power and social standing, I would be hapless—as many are when it comes to talking about this disastrous business of politics. I seek to learn how these systems of power are organised and to see alternate, egalitarian visions of organising it and then share it with one and all. Being who I am, it is what I can offer and if we all do our small part, maybe we can begin to dream of a real future. But first let us converse. Where are you like-minded people?
Pant is a Mechanical Engineering student in Kathmandu University