Buddha, nagging monk and Nepali Congress Cadres

 

We recently had Buddha Purnima, remembering the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. We pride ourselves that Buddha was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE. But how much do we learn from him? How much, we as a Nepali read his story and teachings and follow?

Here I draw two parallel modern Nepal story where some Nepali are doing opposite of what Buddha taught.

Buddha’s teaching: 

  • Buddha and his disciples

One day in monsoon season Buddha was walking by the jungle with his disciples. On the way they reached a river which was starting to flood due to monsoon rain and there was a beautiful young girl wandering by the riverbank trying to cross the river. Buddha saw that and offered his help to the girl. Holding her hand Buddha helped her cross the river; the girl thanked him and went her way, Buddha and his disciples went their way.

When they reached their destination, one of the monk expressed his unhappiness about the incident, Buddha smiled and said nothing. A few days later Buddha was preaching about meaninglessness of earthly relationships, the monk again said “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then hold the hand of that girl?”

This time Buddha replied, “I left the girl a long time ago at the riverbank, however, you seem to be holding her hands still.”

The moral of this story is that mental attachment to an idea or earlier experience blocks the full experience of the present here and now. Attachments slow the mind, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation. And eventually distract us from our progress and future development.

Two stories of Modern Nepal:

  • Historic Peace deal in Nepal and Kanak Mani war cultivation company

12-Point Understanding between the Seven Political Parties and Nepal Communist Party (Maoists) leading to Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In this agreement, the parties pledge to work towards democracy, peace, prosperity and social advancement and ending autocratic monarchy. The parties agree that the National Army and the Maoist army shall be under the supervision of the UN or any other reliable international actor, to conduct fair elections, and to accept international mediation during the dialogue process. Including through the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission.

Although main leadership and majority of population have moved forward from the war there are people like Mohan Baidhya (Kiran) and Netra Bikram Chand (Biplab) complaining about Maoist and Nepal Army integration. There are also Kanak Mani Dixit and company nagging about the war time events and complaining about TRC and NPRC. Kanak Mani Dixit war Cultivation Company benefits a lot from war, the more war and death the more of news for his media group and more of so called human rights agenda for his empire and eventually more donation. His mere existence is a sad existence who lives on the benefits from people’s death. Fundamentally the same applies to Netra Bikram Chand too.

The moral of this is that unnecessarily nagging to an idea or every war time experience blocks the full experience of the present here and now. Attachments to their personal benefits from war slow Nepal’s progressive socio-political change and prolongs transition period, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation. And eventually distract us from our progress and future development of the country. This will benefit people like Netra Bikram Chand and Kanak Mani Dixit but the country will suffer.

  • CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress leaders & protesting NC Cadres

Ruling coalition partners–Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre–have finally agreed to partner up for elections of mayors in two metropolitan cities of Nepal.

Some of the Nepali Congress cadres in Bharatpur are furious about the alliance and think teaming up with Maoist is unacceptable because they were the enemy at war time. Maybe some of these Nepali Congress cadres still have hangover of war like the disciple of Buddha whereas the leadership has moved forward from it.

The moral of this story is that few Nepali Congress cadres still have mental attachment to war era idea or earlier experience which has blocked the full experience of the present here and now. The present or now of Federal Democratic Nepal is that there is no war and there are no enemies. There was 12-Point Understanding and then A Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The appropriate response to immediate situation is that all the parties who believe in democratic republic should stand together by eliminating fassist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party Nepal of Kamal Thapa. The attachments to the war era seems to have slowed the minds of Nepali Congress cadres in Bharatpur, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation.  And eventually this and likely events distract us from our progress, peaceful politics and future development.

 

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FlyDubai and journey to Nepal.

After seeing the  news about FlyDubai racially discriminating Nepalese passengers, I recall some of my  journey to Nepal here. In my experience, invisible racism and discrimination of Nepali migrant workers begins from immigration officials of Tribhuwan International Airport.

Scene 1:
Abu Dhabi, International Terminal: 3
We have been travelling for last 15 hours and we are really tired. So we are lying about a chair trying squeeze our body and put feet on top of the handbag. In about 2 hours before the scheduled flight people start to gather in a small gate of terminal 3. Mostly migrant workers, all shape and size, age and gender. Some of them seem to know each other and start talking while some don’t know anyone and start showing smiley face to start a conversation: Where are you from in Nepal? Or Where is your hill home? Where did you come from? Which company you work for?

As most of the passengers gathered, it was noisy in the area and we decided to put our heads up and see what was happening. And about an hour before our flight some people seem restless. Every time there was some announcement of arrival/departure/passenger etc some of the waiting passengers would run towards the gate because they didn’t understand what was the announcement for. And every time they ran towards the gate the Etihad officials at connection desk would loudly shout at them to sit down with an angry face. And they would return to their seats quietly.
On the flight back, the way some people were running and the way the Ethiad officials shouted still shocked us. My wife was especially concerned and told me that it’s racist thing. She reminded me there were some French tourists as well among passengers and when they went to inquire after some announcement (just as Nepali workers did) the officials seemed much calmer and friendly and would explain that the announcement was not for boarding.

Scene 2:
Etihad, Flight EY 0292 Economy
On the plane we had seat next to one very young looking migrant Nepali worker who was returning home from UAE. When the air hostess came to our seat offering drinks, the boy was confused. He didn’t understand what she was saying so my wife told him that she is offering drinks if he wants. He promptly said beer, and my wife translated that to the air hostess or probably she understood the word beer anyway. She then poured some whisky on a plastic glass saying there were no beer left. The boy wasn’t bothered and started drinking. But we were shocked again. My wife had translated what he wanted and when there was no beer left why would she offer him whisky and even wouldn’t bother asking him if that was okay with alternative. We now started to talk between us in English that this is something very humiliating experience for us as Nepali. The language barrier of migrant workers and the bad attitude or invisible racism of airlines employees were so prevalent all the way.

Scene3:
Tribhuwan International Airport, Kathmandu
As the flight landed, the passengers cheered and clapped. I can imagine their joy of landing in Kathmandu, probably with some money in the pocket, gifts for family and being able to hold the head high and most importantly speak and be heard and feel the existence of being.
But this happiness didn’t last long for many migrant workers. As Nepal’s immigration rule everyone have to fill up arrival/departure form in TIA and many migrant workers are illiterate or not able to fill up this tiny form. The way Nepali immigration officers and airport police were treating to those unable to fill up form were even shocking. Some immigration officials were heard shouting “You can fly, you can earn money, but can’t fill up a tiny form eh?” Me and my wife helped a group of elderly people who said were returning from visiting their children in USA and UK. After filling up around 9 forms we decided to run quickly to the baggage claim because in TIA, broken, lost and stolen baggage is a norm. So we had to make sure we go to claim area asap and get hold of the baggage.

On the way home in taxi from airport, we kept talking what would stop this discrimination and verbal abuse of migrant workers on travel. Can international airlines to and from Kathmandu be asked formally to make translator available on board and at connection desk? Can workers be given some Basic English lesson before they leave country, which would be useful during their travel? Can the menus in airlines operating from/to Kathmandu be made available in Nepali? Can the airport officials and police in TIA given some education on morality and customer service? Can government make arrival form available on board in plane so that people have time and can help those who can’t fill up forms? This was a practice UK did:- they did make international arrival form available on board through airlines before landing which gives plenty time inside plane for people to help those who can’t fill up from.

If Laxman Thakur can, why can’t Chitwan? Why can’t Jhapa? Why can’t you?

When I was reading the news of Laxman Thakur in Annapurna Post about how he is planning to give refuge to some 500 people in his home town, I was so filled with emotion first and wanted to know whether his mother tongue is Maithili or Bhojpuri, I even tried to translate some ‘nice’ words into Maithili to say thank you and to tell him how proud I was of him. I know he might be better than me in Nepali, but I wanted to be Laxman Thakur, I wanted to say thank you to him in the language he learnt from his mother. After a while I couldn’t stop thinking about the news. I had different ideas in my mind. I suddenly started to think, if he can convince his villagers to accommodate some 500 people what about the rich and developed districts like Chitwan? If the village is reachable by good conditioned road, if there is no risk of landslide or further damage, if the family is healthy and hasn’t got vulnerable member they should remain where they are and government must help them in their place. We are strong people and we can rebuild. But, if the village is at risk of landslide, people are vulnerable, people are traumatised, there is no road and difficult to reach then they should be relocated temporarily or permanently. There can be three different ways to accommodate people in dire need: 1. People can take shelter in the houses of the relatives or the generous ones like Laxman Thakur. This will be basically temporary shelter during monsoon. The people will return to their place or find work and move out in maximum 6 months’ time. The people who have lost homes and nowhere to stay and also there is risk of landslide or other problem in their place can take shelter in such Home Stay. The aid agencies or government should help the accommodating family with the food and other aid. The accommodating family should be selected carefully. The EQ victims should not be accommodated with the family whose member has records such as child sex abuse or other criminal or suspicious record. This can be tracked with the help of local police or local community leaders, head teachers etc.  The government and local authority should appeal the people of the nation to help and if interested accommodate people in their homes for six months or so. 2. The local authorities of unaffected districts like Chitwan can provide permanent or temporary accommodation to the people of need. Temporary shelters should be for the similar people the same as earlier mentioned and they will be back to their places of find job and move out after maximum 1 year time.  The shelter can be tents or government suggest temporary shelter of tin or other local materials. It is important that water, sanitation, security and other basic things are provided in these temporary shelters. The Local authority should be careful that these places should not turn into slum in future. The failure of the central government to rebuild the EQ victims’ village/town can result in long stay in these settlements and turn the place into slum. So the very careful, clever and determined effort plus sound co-operation between the Central government and local authority is crucial.  Permanent settlement should also be provided by the local authority of unaffected areas where Earthquake Victims (EQ) are unable to return to their place because of risk such as landslide or trauma or some other genuine reason.  If every unaffected district take their share of responsibility the problem will be solved much faster and effectively. While settling the EQ victims the local authority must respect the local people’s concerns. It is wise that the integration process is started from the beginning and the security and the health of both the EQ victims and local people is not compromised. Cultural, religious and ecological issues should be considered before selecting the area for settlement. The early involvement of local community organizations and community leaders, use of local volunteer will help building harmony and good relationship with the EQ victims settling in their neighbourhood. Nepalese are known as friendly people, so if there is good management there won’t be issue in integration. 3. Government should rent the houses in the unaffected and developed regions to provide immediate shelter to the vulnerable EQ victims like pregnant women, children, elderly, disabled, sick and injured. They should be able to live with their family in the rented property and government should provide the rent, food and other aid. This will help people recover from the trauma and also their family will be with them. The other family member should be encouraged to find work, or the NGOs or Aid Agencies’ focus should be training them in construction and other sector rather than buying them bottle of mineral water.