Can Nepalis think?Can Nepalis think? This is perhaps one of the most common questions to which thousands of countrymen are seeking a sincere answer.
Can Nepalis think? This is perhaps one of the most common questions to which thousands of countrymen are seeking a sincere answer. I see all of them considering the problems that modern Nepal faces and the events that led to the current situation. Politically, we are one of the most unstable countries in the world—24 prime ministers in the last 26 years. Economically, we are one of the poorest nations in the world—25.2 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. We have rich religious and cultural diversity, yet have failed to realise the strengths of these assets. Our country has natural resources that could yield immense revenues if exploited well for tourism. However, tourism accounts for only 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
Technologically, we are one of the best-connected economies in the Third World—mobile and internet penetration rates stand at 105.15 percent and 44.89 percent respectively. Sadly, I have not seen people taking advantage of this achievement to develop the country. Finally, geographically, we are strategically located between two fast rising economies with the highest populations in the world. However, we lack a balanced diplomatic approach that could help us build warm ties with them and launch mutually beneficial initiatives.
The three types
Some years ago, I read a book entitled Can Asians Think? by Prof Kishore Mahbubani. He has identified three distinct groups of Asians and this classification can be applied to Nepal too—those who cannot think at all, those who may think and those who really think. In my opinion, those in the first group do not think at all. They are active only when there is a personal gain to be made. Individuals in this category believe that if they have sufficient resources, it is more than enough for them. Instead of thinking and acting for the betterment of other people, they prefer to spend their time at unproductive social gatherings, complain on social media, point to other people’s shortcomings and defend their past and current faults. This group believes that other people are responsible for all the problems in the country.
Nepalis in the second group are somewhat concerned about the issues around them. They think and act beyond the first group. They try to create networks to take the lessons learnt from their discussions to the next level. This group of people create platforms for interested individuals to identify causes and potential consequences, and brainstorm to generate ideas to prevent the country from plunging into a greater tragedy. The only drawback is that their solutions depend on the existence of certain ideal conditions, like policy stability. As a result, most of the ideas generated by these people to guide the country towards prosperity are unrealistic.
Nepalis in the final group are not only aware of the difficulties that are prevalent in their communities and the vicinity, but also work to solve them. I have found individuals belonging to this category complaining less. Moreover, the best thing about them is that they happily admit their mistakes and work to correct their faults. They have understood that it will take some time to resolve the country’s major problems, including political instability. Thus, they do not wait for a perfect environment to kick off their initiatives. They consider themselves to be part of the solution and they believe that their individual actions will produce a chain reaction. I have found that the nature and scope of their work define the extent of their contributions to society and public outreach.
Individuals like Dr Sanduk Ruit, Mahabir Pun, Indira Ranamagar, Pushpa Basnet, Bir Bahadur Ghale and artist duo Sitaram Kattel and Kunjana Ghimire (Dhurmus-Suntali) belong to this category. Despite the challenges, they have done whatever they can and with whatever they have to bring about positive changes in the lives of people. There are many others whom I would include in this group of Nepalis. They is an apple farmer in my hometown, Jumla, who helps more than 155 local people earn a living, social activists in Doti and Achham who worked to substantially reduce ‘chaupadi’ incidents, young activists in Kathmandu who promote cycling in the Valley and who also pressurised the government to build a cycle-lane on the Maitighar-Tinkune road section, agriculture entrepreneurs in Morang who provide jobs to locals and also work round the clock to cultivate crops and a tourism entrepreneur who encourages and invites guests to travel to different parts of Nepal to help local communities.
We all know that the direction in which we are heading will lead us nowhere. Thus, the time has come for us to reflect upon our past mistakes and work towards building a better Nepal together. But the question remains: Are we thinking enough to take up this challenge?
Mahat, a graduate from the National University of Singapore, is a Kathmandu-based public policy researcher