Friday, October 24, 2008

Screwing in a light bulb

Yours truly got it in a mail. Hopes you would like it too…

How many Maoists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

1) The light bulb cannot be changed — it has to be smashed.

 2) Forget the light bulb, talk of screwing a country.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hats off Mr. Krugman

Yours truly had heard of a joke some years back, which goes:

Q – Why did God create Economists?

A – To make weathermen look good.

Of course, forecasts were the key to understand the joke.

But having known about Paul Krugman winning the Nobel for Economics, it was imperative that yours truly would google him. And salute him all the way, for his analysis of trade patterns and where economic activity takes place.

Some people just have it, they possess it and they know how to deliver it. They can spot a paintbrush and do a da Vinci out of it, while people like us, would not imagine beyond whitewashing the backyard with it.

Kudos to Krugman, for he has a sense of satire too (something this weblog tries to achieve)…  

Not because he can analyze trade patterns, but he can spot what has to be spotted. For they know they can visit the past, to learn something that should be averted in future. Yours truly found this post by Krugman, and would like to share it…

Please have a look at how he looks at the present global crisis, through something that happened in 1979. It's just not economics, it's the way you see things, and try to make a difference.

Paul Krugman writes:

In the long run we are all dead

But in the short run some of us can’t get buried because of the credit crunch:

The spectre of the Winter of Discontent threatened to return to haunt Labour last night after funeral directors revealed that the burial of ‘hundreds’ of bodies is being delayed for financial reasons.

In a bleak new sign of the growing economic crisis, hard-up families are having to wait more than two months before receiving Government money for funerals.

Organisations representing undertakers accused the Government of putting them in an ‘impossible’ position by dragging their feet over burial costs for poor families.

Previously, undertakers would pay for the cost of funerals and wait to be reimbursed by the State, but the lack of credit in the banking system means many firms can no longer afford to do so.

HT my wife, who lived in England for a while and still enjoys reading the tabloids.

Thank you Mr. Krugman, for making the weathermen still look bad…


Friday, October 10, 2008

Dashain in Secular Nepal !

Yours truly is amazed. In the midst of animal sacrifices, and recent backdrop of a riot, that ensued when the capital dwellers refused government saying – No free meat, fellas! – somebody reminded him that Nepal was secular. Goodness me, how come? Did we not take pride just a few years ago for being the only Hindu state in the world (mention of Kingdom is not hip these days)?

But it was forced on yours truly that we indeed are in a secular state and from a Hindu Kingdom we became a Himalayan Federal Democratic Republic (you can add People's, if you wish to). And just like so many others in the nation, yours truly had to give in, accepting what was already accepted by those considered lesser humans (no wonder, Nepalis have always been called nimukha janata).

Then began the search of the meaning of secularism.

The term 'secularism' was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1846. Holyoake invented the term to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. Later, it grew into meaning that people belonging to different faiths and sections of society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government policy.

We became a secular nation, due to certain parties' pressure and of course without even taking the trouble of asking people for their view. For us, it is okay if so many countries remain Muslim and some remain Jewish state. In their defence, we would always say that people of other faith also live in such and such countries, without problems.

Alas! As if people of other faith had difficulty to survive here, just because they had other faiths, which the state did not endorse.

And then came Dashain, the mother of all festivals in our country, in our secular state. And we relished, in animal sacrifice, in gambling, in guzzling the holy potion, remaining intoxicated yet again. It's amazing how the entire national wisdom goes to sleep for a fortnight every year. Maybe even wisdom goes out boozing. For we, more often than not, take in Dashain as a time 'not to think' but 'drink'. (Not so long ago, this was the time of year, when now deposed monarch imposed crown on his infamous son, making him crown prince)

But this time around, the monarch had already been given a ticket to bungalow in a jungle, and his prince took time out for Singapore. What about Dashain? Dashain would come the way it has done, for centuries. For festivals and seasons do not care who is in power; but maybe festivals do. So it was time that we found a monarch. Otherwise, who would offer tika to people? And in our efforts to find a monarch, we did hit the right button (at least we hit the buttons).

Even in a country where the Prime Minister – given his people oriented orientation – swears by the people, and not god, while taking oath of the office, it was not difficult to find someone gullible.

How could we forget that we had a President? A President that was a product of 'coalitional' compromise; A President who has a clean image (at least cleaner than the rest); A President who would not say no to avoid confrontation; A President, who was not elected by popular vote, but was adopted by the nation without much complain; A President who has a genuine smile; A President who is a genuine people's person.

So the new Head of the State offered tika to everyone interested. And the people attended, right from the Chief Justice to the public (who wanted to have a glimpse of People's son as head of the state) to the Home Minister, who was more worried about cameras not being at his residence. Reminded yours truly of the glory days of the monarch, who would do the same, calm and collected, without talking too much with the people…

At the same time, the deposed monarch was also busy, offering tika to his loyalists, at a private function, at his private residence (and not the one provided by the government), celebrating Bijaya Dashami, the victory of good over evil. Only, the crowd at his celebrations was bigger.

Some say Dashain is cultural and not religious now. Agreed, but yours truly always thought Jamara and tika have religious significance too. Some say the Head of the State was carrying out a cultural tradition (though TVs showed him saying he was carrying out constitutional duties). Agreed, but yours truly always thought the King offered tika because he was considered reincarnation of a Hindu deity.

Philip Pullman, English writer and staunch secularist wrote:

“Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good”.

But they said Nepal is a secular state!!!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Royal Pain

Francis Joseph Charles I, Austrian monarch in early 20th century, said just after ascending the throne," What should I do? I think the best thing is to order a new stamp to be made with my face on it."
To yours truly, this explains what the Royals are. For whom, the most important thing is, of course, themselves. And history proves yours truly right, more often than not. One thing is for sure, the monarchy - world over - was never busy thinking about people. For the Royal bunch, it was always, I, me and myself…
And the people… err... the subjects suffered.
But things have changed, or so, you would hear.
We now have a republican structure, with a President heading the nation (who, like the King, graces festivals, and is felicitated just like his predecessor head of the state, used to… Has he started giving autograph too?).
Officially, the former Royals have been reduced to a civilian status, with the rights only civilians can have (give or take a few luxury vehicles and some escorts).
And the people… err… the subjects still suffer.
The issue in question is the 32nd birthday of the former Princess. Though never considered very Royal by the people, err, subjects, one can't forget that she was 'the next queen'.
She decided to visit a few places, including temples and an old age home near the best loved temple of the Royals (remember the adage 'Pashupatinath le hami sabai ko raksha garun'?). Yours truly is impressed with the gesture shown by the former Princess, to visit a home for the elderly, on her birthday coinciding with the International Day of the Senior Citizens. Impressive stuff…
The issue does not end there. With the former Princess on her way to the Home, paparazzi was sure to follow – a chance to actually get some sound bites, and a picture sans her former Royal husband would be too tempting to forego for the Press.
Press - just like other people - do await, with morbid anticipation, the fall of people, loving every second of it, and the reaction of the person who has fallen. Perhaps we love to see signs of vulnerability in people we once worshipped, made them demigods.
And top of the paparazzi list was Kantipur TV, who spotted the car she was travelling. Kantipur, in its bid to prove that we are no less paparazzi than the rest, had to do something special.
And a special audio visual package was prepared, showcasing the princess', dressed in her most gracious smile, visiting temples and giving away edibles to the elderly, who have been forgotten even by their own family.
Picture perfect, except that there was a minor glitch. The package was aired too. Just that to air it, the program showcasing it was prolonged, killing time of a news bulletin, that yours truly had to appear on. Somebody, who shall here be nameless, and who shall - for his actions should remain jobless - decided that the 11-minute audio visual package was to be shown, even if meant extending the current affairs program by adding bhajans in it. And yours truly, along with the premium air time, was held hostage in the unplanned conspiracy.
 It takes a genius to think the unthinkable but it takes something more to do the un-do-able. And here we surpassed even that. Can you imagine yours truly actually appearing on a news bulletin without a single commercial break (an average Kantipur News break is 5-7 minutes). History was made.
Yours truly was left gasping for breath, while his producer was trying to learn the new tricks of the trade, new rules of the game. We blamed the Royals for all that went wrong, all the while doing the same things that we despised them for. Taking people for granted is just one of those.
And you are left thinking, Who is the King? The mortal who has been cornered, or the immortal ego within us, which loves every chance to resurface.
Yours truly once read these lines, by Lord Byron:
The heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old, -
The dead but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.
Guess, it still holds good in modern times.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The actual reason behind Dance Bars closing?

The closing down of dance bars just when the night is still young for so many Kathmandu dwellers, the busy bees during the day, has made a lot of people go crazy. While many blame it on the Home Minister's love for ultra communistic ethics, some say it will clean Nepal (Maybe, just the way Plague cleaned Europe during 14th century) and the Nepali habits of extra indulgence in what they term as vulgar activities.

At the same time, many people, including yours truly, have started wondering why. The reasons could be many. Right from simple lunacy to hatred for the so-called nudity to the realization that Nepali culture is going topsy turvy have been cited as the reasons for what has now been heralded as the boldest, if not stupidest, move in a democratic country.

But the recent reason that yours truly heard, the reason why our unelected Home Minister – who also happens to wear the hat of Prime Minister when 'the fierce one' is out of station (meaning, most of the times) – could have done probably the undoable, is what transpired between a few friends (involving the scribe too), at a chiya-guff (translated in English means 'the intellectual discussion'). Plausible reason?? You are the judge…

The excerpts of the story:

It so happened that our Home Minister, whose name translates to mean communist god in English, went to a dance bar on an evening, just to enjoy the music (and along with it, the scene), after hectic day at work (you know he gets busy wearing too many hats during the day).

After drinking a beer – apparently the beer was brewed from the grains in Nepal, removing any doubts of foreign imperialistic influence – he faced the music. It so happened that the bar-wallah produced a bill. Smarting the humiliation of actually being faced with the bill, he was left aghast by the fact that the bar-wallah had charged him of three beers and some glasses of wine, that he failed to offer the girls taking orders from him (regular stuff that the dance bar-wallahs do to customers, considering they are too intoxicated to know the difference).

Not expecting the unexpected, the Minister was furious, and a fight ensued between his Youth-ful Force and the bar bouncers, who claimed to be from the rival YCL (pronounced Why-See… Yell). And eventually, being from the junior partner in the ruling coalition, his team was left in tatters. The minister was not only forced to pay, but also was blacklisted at the bar, for talking politics during the show, disturbing the air-clad dancers.

It is then that the Minister swore, on his past ability to topple the party leadership, that the bar-wallahs would have to pay for it.

And now, the bar-wallahs are crying foul. At the same time, the Kathmandu people, who believe in 'Night is still young' adage, and the Police, who made the dancers sing to their tunes, are paying for it.


Monday, September 22, 2008

A right to dream!!!

It's only natural for us mortals to ask questions to those, who we consider knowledgeable. And it's natural for us, to show our mortality by putting the same ones on pedestal, whether they deserve it or not (mostly not). I, mere mortal, had to show my ignorance by asking questions. And what better occasion than to ask a question to a fellow journalist – who happens to be an economic reporter (not talking about his thriftiness while going to the canteen) – than just after the budget was announced?
I asked him, half hoping that his enthusiasm of the day when Comrade 'Red Flag' announced the first budget since giving up on the jungle life, "So, what do you think about the budget?" In fact, I wanted him to throw some economic jargons at me, which he would do on any given day, like most of our economists – who are as far away from people as a tiger would be from 'a guide to healthy vegetarian diet'. I was even prepared to provide a fake nod, from my part, just to appreciate his knowledge and hide my ignorance (again being a mere mortal).
My fellow journalist said, "Everyone has a right to dream." A shocker!!!
And I was expecting him to give me a lecture on what a budget is, or how probably the budget should have been. In my mind, with that one line, he reached immortality, when his puckered his lips to dart those words out, while I concentrated on his teeth, which can be any rodent's pride. I don't know, if my fellow colleague, or the one who sometimes also refers me as a friend (when he needs me to do stuffs for him), was in the best of his mood or really was feeling bad for no tax cuts to economic journalists. But he'd said something that no one had told me about the government's financial estimates.
Of course, I knew, right from my childhood that everyone had a right to dream. That was the premise on which my support for republican set up was based. As I used to boast, 'The best thing about a republican set up is that it gives every child a right to dream to become the head of the state.' Thank god, I never met the then dream inspectors, during the era that did not support such thoughts, who would have hauled me into some cell in 'Hanumandhoka Khor'.
Wisdom at childhood is often swept by reality in the semi-adulthood (the time more famous for other finer and interesting things in life). And I had realized that too, forgetting that there are dreams, and a right to dream. Alas! Our constitution makers probably would never add that right as a funda-mental right.
A dream… don't know if the Finance Minister ever thought it that way… don't know if I could've seen it as a dream that way… don't know if we as a nation thought that way… don't know if I've stopped dreaming… or else, don't even know if this lack of dream itself is a dream.
That reminds me what Arthur Miller wrote in Death of A Salesman, "A salesman has got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory."
And maybe, it's time it comes with the territory to Finance Minister… or maybe it's time it comes with the territory to the journalists… and maybe it's time it comes to me 'with the territory'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kantipur Dekhi Bahundanda Samma

  • By Nabin Khatiwada

I finished reading 'Microsoft Dekhi Bahundanda Samma' last week. It is Nepali translation of John Wood's 'Leaving Microsoft to Change the World ' (just the anti-thesis of closing schools and burning tires to change the world).

My friend Bisnu offered me a program to go to Bahundanda (what an irony, it has large Gurung population). I agreed immediately to go.

I told it to Somesh. He offered (offers after offers) me to write about the tour in his blog and gave the title 'Kantipur Dekhi Bahundanda Samma' but asked to write a satire.

Satire! My heavy body on the hilly trek was itself a satire for me (probably not for others).

Satire! Our political leadership have been satire on us till date (of course, because we made them the leaders). In this mess around us, everything is a satire and I just don't know why he is forcing me to write satire. Just Mix the headlines of daily Papers, they will create a good satire.

Koshi broke its embankment and swallowed 3 villages of Sunsari, Prime minister was on official visit to China.

Deputy Commander of then militants is appointed Peace Minister (heard of Nepali proverb 'chor ka hat ma tala chabi').

But, this is about my tour.

While leaving Kathmandu in a reserved Microbus, I asked our driver 'are you sure there is no road blocked on our route?' He just laughed and we moved ahead.

We were lucky enough there were no blocks until we reached Besisahar. But, People in this small town were busy celebrating Teej festival, not in their houses or open ground but on the road. Yes, you got it right… ON THE ROAD…

Roads are the place we Nepalis use to celebrate and protest everything (unique culture??). Nepal Tourism Board should promote this and we should invite tourists to witness this cultural uniqueness. Let's not be negative about it, let's not complain about road blocked, let's think big and start selling this. All the Gurus of this culture are in power positions now and surely they'll approve this plan as NTB pushes for it.

There were many tourists in Lamjung, when we reached. They were trekking in Annapurna circuit. They were enjoying falls near Bhulbhule (probably best one for adventure sports of Canoeing). But, who'll sell it? And, why to sell it at all? The poor people around there (mostly Gurungs) might benefit from it if it is developed properly. But, power centers have already given them the slogan of federalism and Jatiyata (sounds so much like Jaya Lalita). Why give more?

We were moving forward in the opposite direction of Marshyangdi River. The trekking route was swallowed by landslide in two places. Who'll manage it? If a tourist doesn't have to bear the pain of such conditions, how can we call it adventure tourism anyways? We and our leaders are building New Nepal and we are dealing with big issues. Damn to trekking routes.

Construction of Road in the opposite side of trekking route is going on. After the completion of the Road, tourist will reach Manang directly. Then, these trekking routes will lose the business. Till date government has no plan, what will the people benefitting from trekking route do after the completion of the road? Damn, we are building Twenty first century Nepal. What a planning, superb!

When we reached Bahundanda, we got people's hearty welcome. The local club named Young Star Club has created (it actually was a creation) a small football ground and was organizing football tournament. They have done a miracle in that hill. Somewhere, my heart says, 'bravo!' But I stop the thought. Political people give big talks at the opening ceremony of the tournaments. They gave long speech about the political condition of Nepal and finally uttered few sentences to help the sporting event and widening the playground.

What a political culture. Political leaders, be it local or national, can deliver speech on any subject and anywhere. They can't create anything but can use the platform others have created very well.

Poor club members, still happy and hope those leaders will help them.

And somewhere, deep within, despite the negativity that I learnt, I'm also like those young club members… still optimistic. I can not add more lines to this…

It is all reality Somesh!

Sorry, I couldn't write satire for your blog.

PS: Somesh: "Nabin, of course, is a walkie talkie satire... but since he has admitted of not being able to write one, we have decided to send him on another trip, where he can unload the political baggage, and of course, the cost will be all his... and for his ease, we have invited ourselves to be his guest..."


Sunday, August 17, 2008

What to expect in New Nepal?

Now that Nepal has officially become New Nepal (don't you know who the New Prime Minister is?), we are sure some things will change for good (still questioning the logic of the word…) now.

But what would it be that would change and what would remain the same. Yours truly was just told yesterday (by someone claiming to be a friend), "All good things will change, and all things will remain good."

Big talks those, for these words are difficult to fathom. The only things that I could manage to understand in those were the complicated use of the words. No good that…

Anyways, we only pray that some things from good 'ol Nepal would remain the way they've always been. Like, smelly rivers in the capital; opportunity to watch the latest blockbuster while complaining during Maitighar Traffic jam; Short-term Nepali festivals called bandh, chakka jam etc.; and the people who love to interrupt you no matter what.

The chances are Nuclear-free world could be a reality before these things actually change in Nepal. But some things that we would love to see changing, and realistically pray that would change, in the days (or hours?) to come would be:

1. Security to those-who-matter: Maoist combatants providing security to security chiefs - This idea perhaps needs to be patented. For this could have come from a genius head (so, not staking claim to such an idea at all…). If the combatants are good enough to secure the new PM (that too, the Fierce One), of course, those Generals, IGs and similarly attired personalities would be better off under their cover. Moreover, it does not let them deviate from what we term as the 'People's mandate'.

2. Nationalization of intellectual property: So much has been talked about the nationalization of property. It's time for a shift, and Nepal is yearning for a quantum shift now. With too many intellectual property heads confined to such small space in the capital, we need to do something about it. We are looking forward to nationalize it. The rationale here is - like every other organization that is national, these too do not work. With so many heads nationalized, it's definitely going to be easier to get rid of them too (not an original idea though…). One question needs to be answered though, if all the nationalized intellectual property is thrown into Bagmati, would the river be called Brain Drain?

3. Parking lots on the roads: This is certainly the Oscar winner, among all the ideas that have been thrown to yours truly lately (he's already under a pile and barely able to type - This is secretary using the fingers for him). Something that we'd love to see in New Nepal is, parking spaces on the roads. Take Maitighar to Tinkune stretch for example. Just imagine how many vehicles can be parked on the stretch. With protests at Maitighar and Constituent Assembly at Baneshwor, haven't the roads already been reduced to slow moving parking lot? Dare to disagree, if you can. Moreover, this is another way to increase the royal, err… Maoist, oops… government revenue. Keep on adding more vehicles on the road Mister, we gonna get you down by levying parking fees. Wotta way to employ those 'league goons', err… league leaders while extorting, err… enforcing fees. Ain't it a brilliant idea comrade (pronounced come-raid)?

We'll let the list grow fat in days to come.
And before it gets too late, news to share:

Venezuela's national assembly took action against kidnapping and passed a law that addressed abduction. Up to this point the country hasn't had a specific law that deals with kidnapping. Now, if someone is convicted of kidnapping they could face up to 30 years in jail. Even thought kidnapping rates are down this year, the government felt a law was needed to address gorilla warfare abductions that have plagued the country.

We can have our assembly formulate a law supporting kidnapping. Any takers??? Something we can add to make it our very own idea is - All kidnapping which do not show political cause behind it and asks for no ransom be banned. Unless, how would the state and business function?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Prime Minister's return

"ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS", wrote that brilliant satirist George Orwell in Animal Farm way back in 1945. Perhaps he never came to Nepal, or was he actually born in Nepal (or else how did he know what we're practicing in the 21st century)?
It was interesting to see the Prime Minister's return to the capital today evening. The PM's motorcade makes a sight to witness, when Tinkune-Baneshwor road, devoid of working streetlights, is just lit by the surrounding vehicles. More importantly, if you fail to notice, it's even more interesting to see the traffic policemen hustling the other vehicles to the adjoining lanes. Such is their authority at those in these vehicles, and the love for the country's top executive's authority, you would be happy saying, "thank god, I'm just watching from the window and not in one of those vehicles."
Another thing that you can just wonder about, in my case, think aloud, is – Did he not, only a few days (or weeks was it?) say that the People's son has been made the top man in Nepal? Those who have been at the receiving end of then King's (and his family's) trips to the streets of Kathmandu, would always complain of why monarchy did not deserve to remain in this country. Yes, of course, the 'biker' and the posh car driving royals would not care about the plight of people, who also had time being wasted, just because they were 'commoners'. The logic was simple – The royals do not understand commoners' plight. Plenty of gravity in that comment…
But watching Mr. Koirala come back home (in case anyone doubted that) was a little less than pleasant. Personally, I've been a great fan of the octogenarian, because I thought he was just like me, or rather like 'us'. What I did not realize is the power base he sits at. The top man in Nepal, with due respect to 'The First President' of the country, just doesn't seem one of us. For, we are not even allowed to see him (even if we stand by the side of the road). And then, he does not make me (or 'us') feel powerful, as we would have loved to see in democracy. It's still the same people who enjoyed the power, seem to be making merry, despite being headed by 'People's son' (If I can derive the term).
The other thing that struck me was, "Why so much security?"
Security from his own people? Does he feel threatened by the people here? Or, is it a distance he has created from people? Beats me…
Nobody probably knows how long the man would continue at the top spot. But, if I am not wrong, he's not helping his popularity ratings much by shunning people, just the way Royals did (for which the commoners were disenchanted with them).