Ranju Darshana, Mhairi Black and the Fearless Girl

Although human being have aimed for the stars and reached moon many of us haven’t been able to change our mind-set; either we are in developed and liberal western countries or less developed and conservative countries like Nepal.

Our mind-set is dominated by Abrahamic male God or alike, who is in Richard Dwakin’s word “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” I often see the parallel between Dwakin’s definition of God and politicians around us. Just like Dwakin’s God, politicians are mainly male, control-freak, racist and often bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.

But there are signs of some light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Bibeksheel Nepali Party’s nomination of 21-year-old Rajnu Darshana to run for the Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City in the upcoming local government elections slated for May 14 has already changed so many things in Nepali politics. Her candidacy is that sign of light at the end of this dark tunnel of Nepali (and world) politics. Today she stands like Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl looking at the well-known Charging Bull. Today, she stands in front of Nepali politics’ Charging Bulls; old male politicians who usually come from dominating Bahun-Chhetri caste group. She is challenging them in so many things.

There have already been so many criticism in social media about her age, gender and experience. And exactly those are so called “values” she stands against. The more trolling and criticism means the more people have been hurt by her candidacy, imagine what will follow if she wins.

She has already hurt a lot of misogynist male egos – she is a woman.

She has already hurt a lot of unforgiving control-freak male politicians – she is ‘hot off the press’.

She has already hurt so many malevolent old bullies – she is so young.

Trolling and attack on young women in politics is not new and happens in the most developed and democratic societies too. In the UK, when Mhairi Black, a Scottish (SNP) politician defeated Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander to become youngest Member of UK Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 2015, she was just 20 years old university student. Mhairi Black proved that the fearless girl in politics is not just a piece of art, given the chance she can triumph over the charging bull.

Mhairi was also criticised (a lot) that time and still criticized for her age, gender, appearance and everything trolls can think of. Every time the trolls attacked, she has stood up better and smashed the evil. After being called a “carpet munching bull dyke” by a Twitter troll she stood up for LGBT rights and online safety.   After a troll said, “She’s got nothing to worry about. Nobody’s gonna wanna rape that”, she stood up and exposed the internet trolls who targeted her with shocking messages after her appearance at the rape clause protest in George Square. In the long list of abuse to her, are not just trolls but also one of Scotland’s most prominent female academics, Jill Stephenson, who described Mhairi Black as a “slut”.

Whether that is trolling of Mhairi Black and Ranju Darsana or any other young woman in politics, it shows the level of mind-set we have in this world. This exposes the vulnerability of human society on the road to equality and prosperity. This highlights the need of more fearless young girls in politics to challenge our mind-set.

Whatever the outcome of election is, Ranju Darsana has already won the cause. The cause of equality, freedom and change. It is an invitation to the young people of Kathmandu on the road to CHANGE. It is an invitation to the women of Kathmandu on the road to EQUALITY and FREEDOM. It is an invitation to the men of Kathmandu on the road to MUTUAL RESPECT. And most importantly it is a challenge to the charging bull of Nepali politicians that THIS IS NOT A POLITICS-AS-USUAL.

 [Pictures above, The Kathmandu Post, Huffington Post UK and google]

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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.

Country Roads

I went home to Nepal after 2 years to see that the country had gone backwards in development and social change. But the smile in people’s face and Himalayas were as prevalent and defiant as death. Here is the first part of my experience. Roads.

Roads

The first welcome after escaping the chaos of Tribhuwan Airport was by armed police patrolling dusty roads of Kathmandu, barking stray dogs, street vendors and darkness.

The roads seemed much wider but gave a feel of a battlefield with the dust, bumps, noise, speeding bikes and microbus and pedestrians crossing roads dodging the death. I felt like I was in the middle of the Valley of Ashes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and the two eyes of Shwyambhunath temple were  the eyes of Dr T. J. Eckleburg.

At hometown in Chitwan, the roads were even wider but the mountain (I mean literally mountain as high as buildings) of dust meant it was almost impossible to see a meter away. The trucks emitting the clouds of black smoke would make it even worse.

The construction of roads seemed to be going on massive scale in town, on highways and in hills of Gorkha. But later knew that these construction were on pace of a sloth posing millions of peoples health and safety a dreadful threat.

Road Bullies

Apart from the dust and smoke thewe was unbelievable intolerable level of bully from the drivers and helpers of public transport; bus, taxi, rickshaw etc. One day the bus in Tandi to Narayangarh route took us from Tandi to Bharatpur and stopped saying that’s the journey done. When asked with a city warden lady she shouted that was our mistake to take particular bus. Frustrated I reported to the traffic police and he would just node his head and wouldn’t speak.

The other day in Kathmandu the taxi wouldn’t go in normal meter, demanded triple the fare I had paid other day. Again went to police and he replied that the taxi driver can decide if he wants to go or not and in meter or whatever price. In the matter of 3 minutes there were around two dozen thug taxi drivers surrounding me which was scary in fact.

In the long route going to Gorkha from chitwan, the bus was so overcrowded, when it approached near traffic post near Gorkha, asked some of the passengers to drop off and walk. I was so tired that couldn’t be bothered calling traffic cops who wouldn’t help anyway.

Population went bigger, public vehicles got smaller

Another surprising and completely illogical and damning thing about roads in my hometown Ratnanagar was that I noticed the population had almost doubled, house number increased, shopping centres and hotels opened. But the public transport had gone smaller!! There were smaller vehicles where you could hardly crouch. There used to be small auto rickshaws which were thrown out of Kathmandu because they were too pollutant, could carry around 12 people. Now they were still running plus there were many smaller vehicles that hardly carried 4-6 people.

I wondered whoever gave permission/ route permit to run that vehicles in Chitwan must have his head filled with pig’s shite otherwise normal person with common sense wouldn’t permit such crazy idea.

Masked Population

Everyone out of house were wearing mask in Chitwan. This was like everyone was out from operation theatre or as if there was some epidemic going on and everyone was dead scare to breathe. Well, Kathmandu is polluted and I would call it Narakpalika नरकपालिका (hell) instead of Nagarpalika (Municipality) but No one would expect Chitwan to be that polluted, being in the middle of huge rainforest and natural heaven.

But yeah, if you still run the auto rickshaw which were thrown out 20 years ago because they were so polluted, if you permit hundreds of tiny vehicles suitable for chicken, as public transport and dig roads leave the mountain of dust over people’s houses – what can you expect. So there were almost everyone (and me as well), sick with respiration related diseases and common cold, sore throat, sore eyes, runny nose. Despite the masks the smoke and dusts were clear winners.