Nepal's tourism aspirationsIn 2020, the country should be open about its problems and its dedication to the preservation of our cultural matters.
Nepal's millennial perception always strikes me as a unique, ambivalent and original phenomenon. A new year evokes the selfsame imagination, and the bygone year and its legacies go down into our memories. The New Year reminds us of the millennial year 2000 when we had transcended certain boundaries to welcome it. Like the rest of the world, we too had put our hopes on the 21st century that it had ushered in. I recall attending a grand celebration organised by a young tourism savvy entrepreneur named Hari Lama in Nagarkot to welcome the new millennium; he called it a 'youth festival'. Since I had crossed fifty by a few years I did not allow him to put my name under the title of 'youths attending the festival'. But when a wonderful group of Japanese youths all in their mid-fifties came to participate, I changed my mind. We were all driven to Nagarkot to see the sunrise—a miracle sight that I had witnessed only for the second time—the first time being the viewing of the same scene from the top of Mount Fuji in August 1997. The sun rose slowly, in a flow; it looked as though it was spilling the mellow light of heaven over the Himalayas. There were many euphoric visitors from all over the world. We cried out to express a moment of shared joy.
We have just welcomed 2020 under the banner of ‘visit Nepal'. This is a call to the people from outside to visit the country. These are tourism savvy people who are used to welcoming the tourists and dealing with them. And then there is the federal government, which is promoting this slogan and is trying to blend its own dreams with its credibility—which is being eroded by the chaotic and polluted state of the metropolis, ruined sites, languishing half-constructed and abandoned bridges, appalling road conditions, frequent road accidents, lack of facilities to answer the call of nature and so on. Those wonderful people whom we are attempting to address with ‘visit Nepal’ are those who come here anyway. They came when it was risky to visit Nepal due to a state of insurgency and in moments of natural disaster. They have visited the places where the avalanches caused by the big earthquake of 2015 were just beginning to settle. Some were caught in the hazards too. After returning home they have published very moving stories of their visits full of love for the people here and the places they visited. We should make note of these visitors when we invite them to come again. Some of the visitors in 2010 may be first-timers, and the others would be repeaters. But it would be unfair to say that the government has not put any efforts to try to make it a successful visit Nepal year. Still, the challenges are many because you are taking up the cudgel, which is a good thing, and you cannot evade your responsibilities.
We have used the Gregorian calendar for the visit Nepal programme. That shows how we are ambivalent about our choice of the calendar. In a country where at least four new years change within a span of 12 months, we keep the Gregorian calendar for communication with the world. This calendar is synonymous with global imaginaire for us. But culturally we don't use this year to record our liminal moments of life, nor does this unite the communities. We measure politics with the Bikram Sambat and identities with others. We use the Gregorian year to reach out to the wider world. But the Gregorian calendar is our alternate time scheme. Kevin K Birth in an article compiled in a book entitled Time, Temporality and Global Politics says, ‘The relationship of time, politics, and globalisation involves the interaction of the global imposition of a Western timescale, local ideas of timekeeping, and how cycles of holidays shape sentiments and approaches to political challenges’.
Though the sway of global politics is great, I would like to simplify our perception of this calendar, with confessions and ‘sly civility’, to use the theorist Homi K Bhabha's expression. I was fully swayed by the spell of the millennial year 2000 over the heights of Nagarkot that morning. That was a power, a consciousness of sharing with the global community, and a moment of confession that we partake in the hopes, fears, and frustrations of the people of the world.
To have a year for welcoming visitors from outside is a very natural desire on our part. The last year, insofar as its international power is concerned, we spent by seeking to define politics and attitudes of our neighbours towards us. The year brought news and ripples of the wider world. We repeated the dates and months when the events happened in the wider world. That is why it is but natural for us to address the world and to invite people to visit us in the year 2020. But it is very important to realise what we want to show and why we would like to show them to the wider world. We seem to want to show Gautam Buddha's birthplace in Kapilavastu; we want to show the restored and semi-ruined cultural monuments of the Nepal valley, and the Himalayas, to the visitors. And we want to cook indigenous food for them.
In all the above schemes, people involved in the tourism and travel business and the government should be careful not to repeat the same cliché. We should not write brochures that avoid telling the truth about us. We should tell the truth about our problems and activities, about our dedication to the preservation and accentuation of our cultural matters, and about our ecology. We should be very careful about one habit that all concerned with the travel business and the government are used to. That is, making inflated guffs about heritage, our food, nature and our transparency. When people travel and visit a place and meet the people, they do so to meditate on them quietly and internalise the memory. Let us act with poetics not politics in the 'visit Nepal' year.
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