Politics of Look and Gaze

Look and Gaze

[Reserach on Look and Gaze by Kamal Raj Sigdel]
[This research was awarded Martin Chauthary Media Fellowship in 2006 and a full text of the report was published in the journal, Media Studies Vol. 1 (Nepali version). A copy of the journal can be found at Martin Chautary Library, Thapathali, Kathmandu. If you have any questions regarding the research, don't hesitate to contact the researcher (blogger) at kamal.sigdel [at] gmail.com ] [Copyright: Kamal Raj Sigdel]

This is an article I just cut pest

Politics of snow leopard by Abhi Subedi (Published in The Kathmandu Post)

Six mountaineers announced that they would hoist eight-party flags on top of Mt Everest in their historical Loktantra II expedition in April 2007. 'Snow leopard', the 60-year old Ang Rita Sherpa will be a member of the team. They will call this venture "Democratic Everest Expedition". I would like to call them 'snowmen' with respect and love.

Besides the eight-party flags, the snowmen will also hoist flags and probably put mementos there of the Amnesty International, different human rights organisations, Janaandolan II martyrs, the UN and other peace societies. That means the Madheshi Sadbhavana party's flag will be hoisted on Mt Everest by the Sherpas for the first time.

Symbolically, this will be a very important reversal of the Pahadi dominated perception of Nepali nationalism and deconstruction of Nepali state's mountain geographic logocentrism. The metaphor "horizontal comradeship" that Benedict Anderson uses for nationalism will be reflected in the vertical movement of the snowmen, mostly the great Sherpa explorers who are the most accommodative people in the world. Instead of putting forth slogans like the Everest region for the Sherpas only, the Sherpas have invited the flags and signifiers of diverse groups and nationalities to put on the Everest summit.

This news has drawn some flak. Apologists of the 'leave Mt Everest alone' say this is a politicisation of Mt Everest. But interestingly, this statement is 'always already deconstructed' because the name Everest itself has political genesis. Anyone little familiar with colonial history of this region must know that this highest peak of the world was named by Colonel Andrew Waugh after Colonel George Everest ignoring the happy note of discovery by an obscure chief Bengali computing officer Radhanath Sickdhar who wrote to him, "Sir, I have discovered the highest mountain in the world". A certain 'Brian Hodgson', who was a political officer of the Raj in India at that time objected to the naming. He advocated for the continuity of the native names that were used then.

Everest was considered the third pole. Since north and south poles were conquered by Robert Peary in 1909 and 1911 respectively, Everest remained to be conquered. And the British undertook the mission. Death of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on June 8th, 1924, was the anticlimax of imperial 'noble desire'. Mallory's letter written to Rupert Thompson on 12 July 1921 speaks of the irony. He wrote, "I sometimes think of this expedition as a fraud from beginning to end, invented by the wild enthusiasm of one man, Young husband; … and imposed upon the youthful ardour of your humble servant....The prospect of ascent in any direction is almost nil, and our present job is to rub our noses against the impossible in such a way as to persuade mankind that some noble heroism has failed once again." Mallory later saw the absurdity of the political imaginary of the empire.

This dream culminated in the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on 29 May 1953. The victory was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth on her coronation four days after on 2nd June. Tenzing Norgay making a grand victory tour was photographed in London folding hands in namaste wearing watches on both wrists. Clash of Mallory's personal aspirations with those of the British Raj was the climax of the imperial dream. Since then climbing Everest never saw the irony resulting out of a clash between personal aspirations and statism. But one thing is certain. Climbing Everest has always represented covert political desires.

Scaling mountains, covering miles on the ground and crossing seas and rivers are the familiar tropes of the politics of colonialism. The Himalayas, especially Mt Everest, has drawn the attention of the British, Chinese, Nepalis, Indians and others. But it was the British who held on to the history of the peak metaphor and associated it with imperial nostalgia. Others shared their nostalgia with fun and textual indifference. In the imperial and nationalistic imaginary Everest became the signifier of an invincible and inaccessible altitude that should be explored, touched and walked upon. The three nation Japanese led crowded and visual media savvy expedition in 1988 turned it into a postmodernist mountain exercise.

The snowmen's humble expedition, though it appears like a postmodernist game of littering the highest mountain with festoons, is at heart a symbolic journey of a 'New' democratic Nepal. The snowmen's excitement is a very meaningful historical phenomenon. To rush up to the summit with flags by these snowmen is to deconstruct the grand Everest narration, the grande récit used by both the British Empire and the Nepali feudal history. This "Democratic Everest Expedition" will give a new meaning to the history.

The snowmen's projection of Everest metaphor at a time when all the other metaphors of Nepali "horizontal comradeship" are sustaining cut injuries like the broken finger of Prithwinarayan Shah's statue is a very important reminder of the Hamletian dilemma of to be or not to be or to keep or not to keep Nepal as an independent nation. I personally consider the snowmen's decision to take eight-party and other flags to the Everest summit now as a powerful call for a democratic restructuring of the "horizontal comradeship" of New Nepali state. (TKP, March 21, 2007)

INTERVIEW WITH OM GURUNG: 'We must keep our integrity intact'

Dr Om Gurung, who heads the Napal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN), is an assistant professor of Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuwan University. Dr Gurung holds PhD degree from Cornell University and loves to call himself a social activist, rather than assistant professor of TU. NFIN has begun to stage a peaceful protest since Saturday to exert pressure on the government for granting autonomy on the bases of language, ethnicity and geography. He says that this protest should not affect the holding of constituent assembly polls. Dr Gurung spoke with Puran P Bista of The Kathmandu Post, shedding light on how the state should be restructured and ethnic groups and subgroups be empowered in this country.


Q: Why has your organization been fighting for ethnic rights when the interim parliament?

Dr Om Gurung: In the current political process, we have given priority to ethnic rights. The rationale is that in the last 238-year long history, the rights of the ethnic groups have been denied by the state. The state never tried to address the problems of the ethnic groups. For example, tribes such as Tharu, Magar, Gurung, Rai, etc are the indigenous people but their stakes in state administration, judiciary and armed forces, as per the population, have been minimum. They have been suppressed, oppressed and marginalized. The state has limited their growth because of the denial of the socio-economic and political rights. The state continues to exclude them from all kinds of state welfare schemes. The state benefits directly go into the pockets of those who are in power. And I think you know who are benefiting from such state-run programs.

The ethnic groups became poorer. Their languages have been pushed toward extinction. The indigenous groups have endured the state suppression for long. We can no longer tolerate such practices. We want our rights to be guaranteed in the constitution to be drafted after the constituent assembly polls. The first thing is, the state must acknowledge this fact and restructure it to ensure the rights of indigenous communities. To do so, we must have stakes in all the decision-making bodies. In other words, our representation must be granted on the basis of population.

And we have adopted a peaceful means to exert pressure on the government.

Q: Could you be more specific on your demands?

Dr Gurung: The reality is that the state has failed to accommodate us and recognize our languages, culture and tradition. This is very clear. So long as the current policy of exclusion or discrimination lasts, the indigenous communities will continue to suffer. We think that the three aspects should be taken into account before we restructure the state: Language, communities and geography. Distinct communities settled in particular geographical areas have distinct languages. The state should be restructured on these bases. The theoretical objective is to have provisions of self-determination. We have been claiming "along with the provision of self-determination", which means that an ethnic community does not enjoy the right to determine the fate of the area it dominates. There are differences between the "along with self-determination and the provision of self-determination".

Q: What are the differences between "the along with self-determination and self-determination".

Dr Durung: If we say the provision of self-determination, it can go to the extent of having a separate state. "Along with self-determination" means the autonomy granted to a unit that does not enjoy the right to be a separate state.

Q: Does your version of self-determination mean that any ethnic group enjoys no right to hold plebiscite on whether or not a unit can be part of Nepal?

Dr Gurung: "Along with self-determination" cannot be equated with the demand made by the Sri Lankan Tamils who have been fighting for a separate Tamil state. "Along with self-determination" means a separate geographical unit within the country. We have to take into account the country's integrity and social structure before restructuring it. We have stayed together for so long. Now, we cannot demand for a separate state. Secondly, if we look at the geo-political situation, it is very fragile. Our country has been wedged between two Asian giant countries—China and India. We have to learn from them and live together. If we demand separate states, there are chances of swallowing these states by either of these two Asian giants. So, we have to be careful and should not let the separatist groups have upper hands in deciding the fate of this country. We do need self-determination but not to the extent of granting the ethnic groups to opt for a separate state. It is impossible to think so both in theory and practice.

Q: But one of the demands made by Madhesi People's Rights Forum and Terai Janatrantric Mukti Morka is of provision for self-determination. Don't you think so?

Dr Gurung: We, too, have demanded self-determination. But it is absolutely different from that of MPRF or TJMM. We differ on this count with MPRF. MPRF wants a separate terai state stretching from Jhapa to Kanchanpur, where over a dozen ethnic communities are living. They speak different languages, practice different cultures and traditions. We never let terai be in the hands of a few feudal lords who want to rule the weak and poor.

A few groups want self-determination for a separate state. We have to grant autonomy on the basis of language, community and geography. It empowers every community and provides an opportunity to develop this country.

Q: That means the country does not need to be federalized. There are other political mechanisms as well, to empower the indigenous communities.

Dr Gurung: No, we are very much for federalism. The structure of the country should be federal.

Q: What kind of federalism you think will be suitable to this country? Do you see India as the best example?

Dr Gurung: Again, we define it on the basis of how we draw provisions for self-determination. We are not looking for a union sort of federalism as the Soviet Union had, nor a confederation. Grant autonomy to the unit and empower the local people. We need a loose and indivisible federal structure, where our sovereignty is kept intact.

Q: Don't you think that we got to look into the economic aspect as well, while federalizing this country? Is it possible to grant your kind of self- determination to 90 ethnic communities?

Dr Gurung: It should be based on ethnicity. The separate regions are dominated by separate ethnic communities. For example, Solukhumbu is dominated by Sherpas. If you visit Manang, you find Manages. In terai, Maithelis, Bhojpuris, Awadis, Tharus etc speak different languages. So, if it is possible to grant autonomy on the basis of language, then let us do so. But take for granted that it is not applicable to all parts of the country. Terai cannot be made a single unit citing Hindi as a binding language. We can grant autonomy to western and far-western regions on the basis of geography. Whether you call it Karnali Pradesh or Western Pradesh, we have to make it a separate unit on the basis of region rather than language. The rest can be split into different units on the basis of ethnicity. For example, Gandagi Pradesh is dominated by Gurungs, it should be made a separate unit. Similarly, let us have Magarat Pradesh for Magars.

Q: Economically, the curving of such Pradesh may not be possible as some of them, you just mentioned, lack adequate resource for sustaining themselves as separate units of this country.

Dr Gurung: Yes, we have to see into economic aspect as well. But how are you going to protect language, preserve culture and practice tradition? Many units could sustain and revenues generated by some of the units should be allocated to the weaker units.

Q: You have discussed on three aspects—language, ethnicity and geography. Granting autonomy or self-determination on these aspects may lead to ethnic cleansing as there would be several minorities living within each unit, and they may face the same sort of exclusion.

Dr Gurung: All forms of exploitation should not be based on ethnicity. Let us say that there are several subgroups within the group. The majority represents the unit but the minorities should also find space in decision-making bodies.

Q: How is it possible?

Dr Gurung: We have to make special arrangements for the subgroups to ensure that they find voice in all decision-making bodies.

Q: You mean introducing a reservation system as India has done so?

Dr Gurung: Yes, we can go for that. And let us not take only the backward and poor communities. Within the unit, there could be other communities as well, provided they fall in the category of minority groups. So, there is no question of ethnic cleansing. We must accommodate all the communities into the unit to address common problems. We cannot deny the basic rights and displace them simply because they happen to be subgroups living in a particular region.

Q: Such ethnic cleansing may not take place in Limbuwan, Khumbuwan or Gandak region. Can you rule out such possibility in other parts of the country?

Dr Gurung: I have a special reservation. I call it an ethnic violence. We have to dissociate from such ethnic division and those who promote violence. What is happening in terai is dangerous. It is gradually taking a shape of ethnic violence whatsoever the leaders of terai claim it.

Q: Why do you support MPRF then?

Dr Gurung: We have supported on certain issues only. The state exploited the Madhesi community. It suppressed the rights of the Madhesis for long. We support the organization that is genuinely fighting for the political rights. We have been unable to reach an understanding with MPRF because of this reason. First, MPRF talks of federal structure but on the basis of geography only. They want to have three federal units—terai, hills and mountains. How can the entire terai be a single unit only? At the most, they can compromise on a vertical division of the country into 14 zones and 54 districts only. We do not agree with such political agenda. Don't take that only Madhesis are in terai. Second, our interpretation of Madhes is different from that of Madhesis. We want to know where Madhes is. We indigenous communities think that Madhesis are there in this country but there is no land called Madhes in Nepal. These Madhesis have come from Madhyadesh. It is a place between India's Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. So, we call them Madhesis. The rulers of this country brought them into Nepal. Now they are demanding a separate Madhes.

The third thing is that the Madhesis want the entire terai to be a separate state. There are several ethnic communities living in terai. MPRF must acknowledge this fact and seek our cooperation. Otherwise, we are not going to back the movement, no matter what they claim and demand.

MPRF talks of proportional representation of total terai. We have told them that proportional representation should be based on the population of ethnic communities. The intention of MPRF is to deny the rights of Tharus, Rajbansi, Shanthal and other minority groups living in terai. It will be dominated by Yadavs, Jhas, Shahs, Mishras, etc who have been wielding power. (TKP, March 19, 2007)

Perfect match

Dr Ujjwal Bikram Khadka

I have always wondered and never quite understood the mystery that makes a relationship between a man and a woman work. Man has always wandered in pursuit of happiness not knowing whom to and where to turn to, only driven by a deep aching need of fulfillment.

How many times have we seen that two people after getting married remember the day when they first met and discover that they had exactly the same feelings towards each other. Moreover, many couples after getting married realize that they are similar on various grounds, same kinds of tastes in food, music, actors, similar attitudes and behaviors towards everyday ordeals of life. However, one cannot guarantee marital success or success in relationships on mere sharing of certain views alone.

Well, I think, the deepest void can only be filled by knowing your true self. In this era, when worldly accomplishments and instant gratification are sole motto, man has lost touch with himself. I am not going to make some foolish statements like "you are enough alone", but I think the deepest longing is for God himself. As somebody rightly said Man is a journey from animal to God, the supreme consciousness, we are stuck in the middle and hence discontented.

You are wounded because you are separated from yourself, your true self, your inner being. Spend few moments each day in silence, meditating and simply being , not repenting the past or groping in future. It will heal you immensely. You will also realize that you are already fulfilled, you don't need to wander; you only need to realize or perhaps remember. This is not an intellectual concept. You cannot rationalize. As poet Rumi rightly said, "Love is the sea where intellect drowns". You needn't calculate in love as a modern mind is conditioned to. You simply allow utter serenity to permeate your being. You are all that you need to be this very moment. What would you trade your eyes, ears, senses, ability to appreciate beauty, individuality and freedom to choose, the very essence of being a human for? You simply aren't attentive enough; you need to attune yourself to nature. You simply forgot how to live.

After healing your deepest wounds you are truly fulfilled .Now you are ready to share. So the very idea of trying to change the other is wrong. Everything appears random on the surface but, remember: at a deeper level everything is organized.

Now that you have changed yourself, you can see your beloved as a mirror of your higher self. Now you can surrender to love. Devote each day to achieving true union and healing the wounds of separation. It doesn't matter in how many ways you differ from your partner, you have found your perfect match.

You can rejoice in ecstasy, in love, in holding hands, in seeing each other, in little caresses and courtesies; you'll be fulfilling your deepest desires; you'll be loving and serving God himself. (TKP, March 18, 2007)

Can women unite under diversity?


Bell Hooks, a famous feminist says, "Women do not need to eradicate difference to feel solidarity. We do not need to share common oppression to fight equally to end oppression… We can be sisters united by shared interests and beliefs, united in our appreciation for diversity, united in our struggle to end sexist oppression, united in political solidarity."

When we talk of women's unity, we speak of a diverse population of women--rich, poor, middle class and different ethnic groups of women. 

But women's issues are interconnected wherever they are. Yes, there are many factors that separate women -- religion, caste, class, patriarchal values, political ideology, etc. Those involved in the women's movement need to recognize the factors that separate them. Unless we develop sisterhoods within these diversities, women's unity will not be strong.

Undeniably, there are some weaknesses and divisions in the women's movement, but we need to appreciate women's efforts within different organizations. We need to interact and reach a consensus to move ahead. Our strategies should be to create a powerful woman's group by mobilizing women of both the cities and the villages. 

In our country, women are the backbone of our subsistence economy and contributing a lot to the social and political movement. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, women have been organized in different forms, especially in the rural areas. 

However, there is a lack of intermediary organization to bring them together for their cause. A lot of programs are taking place at the grassroots level, but there is a big gap between the government, donors and these programs. The main issue we need to focus on is to tie up these different groups involved in socio-economic activities, which are taking the shape of a campaign. 

The problem is that the majority of the programs are project-oriented and finished within a short period of time. The local groups are not prepared to take over all of the activities left by the projects. Because of this trend and political instability, development activities have become slow. The main focus of the development activities should be directed toward bringing equality, poverty alleviation and employment generation together with incorporating education training and reform in the law. Programs and Projects should enable women to come together to strengthen women's movement. Both government and non-government organizations should help increase the involvement of women in social, economic, and political fields.

Women's participation in politics and decision-making can be ensured through women's capacity-building and self-reliant programs. Otherwise, their representation will be only symbolic. For example, in our country women are coming together under savings and credit groups, cooperatives, consumer groups and community forestry program. They are doing well and respected in their respective communities. This is an important accomplishment in women's movement in Nepal.

Though we are trying to come together even during International Woman's Day, we have been unable to come together and organize one procession to show women's unity on women's issues. In this situation, women associated with political parties think that they are superior to the women who run social organizations. The women, who run social organizations, think that they are above the women politicians. All of us are showing our strength in our own way.  Some of us think that we are for liberal women. Some of us think that we are for radical women, and some are for trade unions. Because of this, we have organized different processions on women's day.

The main slogan raised on Woman's Day is always about woman's unity, but this action has showed disunity. We need to organize different programs according to our own target groups, but we must have one single procession on that day if we really want to be united. We all need to unite to organize women being above politics.

Now, there are many women's organizations affiliated with different political parties and many autonomous social organizations are working. What we are lacking clearly is that we are focusing on the symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the root-cause of the problems. These days it seems caste has been more important to put our own agenda in the decision-making process after the terai movement. Politics based on caste will further bring fragmentations among us. At the grassroots level, women's programs have been able to erase lines between class and caste, and create equality.

In a global scenario too, women from universities, political parties and different organizations are trying to work together. All over the world, women want to have their own identity, freedom of expression and equality, whether they belong to a rich or poor family or country. Women of developed countries are also disadvantaged workers in comparison to the men of their world. In the global woman's movement, professional women teachers and political women are joining hands to come ahead. 

According to philosopher, Aristotle, friendship is defined in three categories. The first is according to occupation or job relation. The second is according to socialization, or coming together because they enjoy each other's company. The third, and most important, is the sharing of the same values, morals, and issues. The third way is important for success and unity. Senior feminists have been suggesting to get united to achieve success in women's campaign. Feminists believe in developing sisterhood whether one belongs to different ethnic group, rich, middle class, or poor family.

(The writer is the founder president of Nari Chetna Kendra Nepal) (TKP, March 8, 2007)

Growing US concern

By Narayan Prasad Wagle

Nepal is the neighbor of the United States at the other side of the globe", Ronald Regan, the then President of USA, had remarked while receiving the late King Birendra at the White House.

This statement clearly speaks of the geographical distance between the two counties and the psychological proximity thereto -- a profound sense of friendship and goodwill -- that has bridged the distance.

In the diplomatic history of Nepal, the United States has become the second important country after they established diplomatic relations in 1947. Prior to this, Nepal had diplomatic relations only with the United Kingdom. Despite a striking asymmetry in power, geographical size and economy, they have been able to develop a model relationship in the last six decades.

However, the relations between Nepal and the United States have been politically overcharged since late 1990s, when the Maoist insurgency flared up shaking the whole nation. The Nepal-US relations, which moved on an even keel during the first five decades, have drawn flak not only from the Maoists but from other intellectuals who see the growing US concerns as interference in our domestic political affairs.

The motive behind the growing concerns, they claim, is strategic and ulterior. As Nepal is located between the two Asian economic giants -- India and China, the US intends to manipulate the Asian power politics by establishing a puppet government under its control in Nepal.

At a time when the image of American foreign policy is tarnished in the whole world, particularly because of the Iraq war, the common perceptions of American foreign policy in Nepal too are not positive. Some argue that the US arms support during the heyday of the Maoist insurgency merely intensified violence and killings of innocent people.

The support made the government totally rely on arms security tactics unwilling to seek peaceful settlements of disputes. The 12-point pact between the seven party alliance and the Maoists, which led to the popular uprising burning to ashes the king's desire of dictatorship, drew sharp criticisms from the Bush administration.

On the eve of April uprising, the American ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty called on the SPA to break the pact with the Maoists and reconcile with the monarch contrary to the spirit of the people. Moriarty's visits of army camps and frequent speeches about domestic political affairs do not conform to diplomatic norms and etiquette, and principles of Vienna Conventions on diplomatic relations. The arm deal between the government and the Maoists was unreasonably

delayed, partly due to the threat of suspension of aids by America if the conditions put forward by it are ignored.

Of late, the recurrent meetings of the ambassador with the prime minister are believed to have stalled the peace process, not allowing in one pretext or the other the formation of the interim government, including the Maoists -- pre-condition for holding constituent assembly elections. The visit of US Under Secretary of State for Management Henrietta H Fore seems to have further strengthened the official position of its mission in Nepal. All these developments have naturally generated suspicions in various quarters about its growing concerns in Nepal.

Nonetheless, the accusation that the US has strategic interests in Nepal and that it wants to form a puppet government under its control is some sort of exaggeration.

The US struggled during the entire period of Cold War for the cause of human rights, democracy and liberal economy -- the ideals that came triumphant at the end. So, the US is in no mood to compromise with something less than these ideals.

In case of Nepal, the US policy is guided by the same ideals and sense of goodwill and friendship. It has always extended the support for democracy and democratic movements in Nepal. The US economic support that began with the point four program in 1951 has given shapes and directions to the sustainable economic and social development Therefore, the US interest in Nepal is primarily ideological rather than strategic.  The apparent clash between the US ideals and the Maoists ideology is the root cause of the growing US involvement in Nepali politics, which was also deliberately invited by the previous governments of Nepal to suppress the Maoists when they dubbed them terrorists. It seems that the US interferences will persist until the Maoists remain a major political force and do not give up their ultimate goal of establishing the totalitarian communist regime, and until they renounce violence once and for all.

The propaganda politics of the Maoists is not going to work. The Maoist propaganda that the palace is plotting to kill top US officials may boomerang upon the Maoists themselves once they fail to provide reliable information. Moreover, the US interference also depends on the roles of political parties, including the Nepali Congress, which seems to remain the most trustworthy democrats in the eye of Americans once the monarchy is done away with. And most importantly, the US and other foreign intrusions in domestic affairs will surely increase if the major political forces fail to put their house in order.

Foreign interventions have not been good to foster nationalism, national unity and nation-building in any part of the world. Both radicals, who ignore international relations and puppet governments who ignore sentiments of people, are found to have collapsed or weakened giving torments to their people.

The weak Somali puppet government backed by Ethiopian troops and the failure of radical Hamas government are good examples of how lack of international support or neglect of spirit of people while preferring excessive dependency on foreign powers destabilizes the whole nation.

In the past, the politicization of foreign affairs has cost dear for Nepal even bringing splits within parties as seen in the case of Mahakali Treaty. So, the SPA government and the Maoists should come together to form a realistic foreign policy approach immediately stopping making propaganda of foreign affairs against each other. Then there will be much to gain from the lofty ideals of American policy. (TKP, March 15, 2007)

How do feminists look?


March 8. Women's Day. A common question is: "Are you a feminist?"

Well, feminism, the new F-word is something that you arguably don't want to associate yourself with. "I am not a feminist but I believe equality can come if..." is the safest way of saying that you are a feminist but you just don't have guts to admit that you are one. For many, being a feminist is an embarrassment.

Why? Mainly because even among the most 'aware' lots, feminists are wrongly interpreted as people who believe in extreme, humorless, anti-men, anti- motherhood and pro-abortion notions.

Considering an article by Avash Karmacharya that appeared on The Kathmandu Post on March 7, we know where women stand in their professional life in Nepal. While Biraj Thapa, an actor, made Rs 300,000 per film actress Richa Ghimire was satisfied with mere Rs 75,000. As far as acting is concerned the latter seems to have more experience and refinement in the profession.

The circumstances aren't any different in most developed countries either. While most men devote all their time and energy at offices to climb the ladder of successes in business or services, women handle both homes and offices. Thus ceteris paribus, considering the amount of energy they divide between home and work, women should get priority when it comes to promotion or pay.

The whole idea of stating this is that feminists advocate equity, for they know that men and women are different and can never be 'equal' unless both of them produce the same hormones in equal amounts. Each has varied psychological needs and priorities. True flexibility must be maintained accordingly with equity in mind.

Secondly, feminism advocates that women must be able to question and challenge in response to physical abuses and violence against women.

Feminism in real sense gives women power to decide on whether they want to keep their father's name or would prefer keeping it after her husband. Some women believe the real substance is in the inner identity rather than in a name. And feminism lets them do just that.

Thus feminists aren't people who blindly ask for parental property or power to knock off their husband. They aren't just the people who stand up in a crowded bus so that a lady can sit. Feminists are also men who only stand up in a crowded bus if they think that the woman in front of them isn't strong enough to make the journey standing. Feminists are also women who are bold enough to say that she doesn't need sympathy and is able to stand up by herself.

Feminism is being practical and just. Feminism is being with your husband for no other reason other than love. Feminism is respecting motherhood. It is being who you are. So would you want to be a feminist now? There is no reason why you shouldn't. (TKP, March 10, 2007)

Women's day?


I and my friend were on the way to our college. We saw some lads ragging a schoolgirl. She looked so perturbed but the guys were still taunting her. They were shouting, 'I love you' at the girl. How might a girl feel when teased by the boys in such an offending manner on the road? It's really an embarrassing moment. All of a sudden, I remembered that we were celebrating Women's Day this week.

I like to recall another unpleasant incident too. A man in our neighborhood used to beat his old mother. One evening, we had just finished the dinner. We heard some bizarre sound of crying. When we rushed out, we saw that the same man was pounding his mother so harshly that none of us could tolerate to see that. Some people went to thwart him but he just started jumping on them. So, nobody could do anything. The woman lost her eyesight a week after the incident, and died a few months later. This sounds like a fantasy but it's a true occurrence.

Both of these cases are widely prevalent in our society. Apart from this, there are a lot of cases that go to prove that people under-value women in our society. They are forced to give birth to many daughters in the expectation of a boy. Girls are sent to government schools while boys attend private.

The basic reason of the women to be diffident in the society is their enslavement by men either for expenditure, sanctuary or anything else. It is a universal truth that the strong dominate the weak -- be it men dominating women or women dominating women. It is a fact that women are in general physically and socially weaker than men in one way or other. If a bad guy rags or taunts a woman anywhere she can hardly endeavor to smack her tormentor in most cases, although there may be exceptions.

The obsession at this moment is not to involve women in a brawl against the people harassing them because the same conditions might emerge in the next place yet again. So, there must be the coherent constraint that prohibits people to do that surreptitiously or publicly. The need to solve domestic violence is more crucial than women's entry to the parliament. The 33 percent reservation of seats for women passed in the parliament does not shore up a woman who faces fisticuffs of her spouse daily. In this milieu, income is the most imperative facet that has permitted the men to rule women. What I consider is, unless and until the women of every dwelling are sovereign in earning, the conflicts of women rights never end. Even our culture stands against women in numerous cases. For instance, dowry system should be abolished in the society. Giving of daughter alone does not suffice; so they are accompanied by other tangible properties. Is it so? For this the bride's family must be strong enough to rebuff for the dowry.

Such insignificant issues remain in the society, which hinder the women from being equal in the society. Such problems linger in the society and decide a woman's fate. These are not the matters that are unknown to anyone albeit there is nothing special done to eradicate domestic violence. The authorities concerned must try to make women aware of their plight. The violence exists in villages as well as urban places. The bitter truth is, we have yet to make sincere effort to grapple with the situation. (TKP, March 9, 2007)

Thamel mess


Few months back, when the winter started unleashing its fury a defensive mechanism to fight the cold days and nights of the season was obligatory. I didn't want to be caught in the battle of shivering and cluttering noise of my teeth. I was desperately looking for a new pullover. The last one I had was almost tattered. A comrade of mine advised me to go to Thamel.

Next day, I hit Thamel so that I might have a pullover to protect myself from the frosty cold of Kathmandu. But the cost of pullovers had skyrocketed and beyond my reach. At a shop, my eyes caught one nice pullover on display outside. Wasting no time further and hoping to receive a little bit concession so that I could afford it I selected it. Instead, the seller sold it to a foreigner (who happened to enter the shop) at more than the actual price I was asked for. I was flabbergasted. The poor foreigner did not have the faintest idea that the price he paid was hefty. It was not his fault as well, for price tagging was not in practice there. The objective behind this was nothing but to charge whatever price they wanted from the foreigners mainly because they lack bargaining attitude.

That day, I couldn't find one for myself and that did not matter to me the most except the way I got sidelined and disrespected. Thamel was totally different than what I had thought before--a shopping paradise. The more I delved in the depth, the more I got embarrassed.

All sorts of illegal activities were in swing there. Be it prostitution (massage center), black marketing, gambling and drug dealing…etc. Local gangsters appeared bullying around and busy in fund-raising from foreigners by force. When they failed in their objective, they used abusive words against them. Beggars and street boys played their part to fulfill the gap. They appeared in looting and stealing etc. Foreigners were harassed in every single step they moved forward, by these freaks.

Law and order in that place was noting but a joke. I did not see any one maintaining law and trying to stop what was going on. Local authorities were enjoying a dreamless siesta.

People from all over the world come to visit Nepal to see its natural beauty and other well-known tourist spots and most of them stay in Thamel, for it is a very popular place amongst them. They see their kinds of people all around the place and feel that it is like their native land. What they carry back to their countries is the experience of the way they were treated and respected.

It is nothing but hypocrisy that we chant "Atithi devo bhava" throughout the year and do noting to stop such illegal and irrational activities in one of the most known tourist spot in the city. (TKP, March 12, 2007)

Teenage problems


For hours she whispers on the telephone to someone who she claims is " just a friend". She is absentminded and you can often see her staring into space with a contented smile upon her face. She is in the throes of her first crush!

To have the capacity to feel a crush for someone is the first greatest discovery of being an adolescent. That is the time when teenagers' room is filled with posters of handsome and beautiful stars.

The beginning of a crush is often marked by a total enslaving of the " fan" towards a very distant object of adoration which is not reality but more of a dream.  nybody who does not have a crush on any movie star or rock star during her adolescence can possibly have a stunted psychological and emotional growth, say psychologists. This crush can be even toward someone seen fleetingly and never ever seen again. But that person seems to be the epitome of everything that is perfect in every way! It can also be a college mate whom a teenager does not dare to approach because he or she is so unattainable.

It is noticed that children who do not go through this stage of crushes during any stage of their childhood or adolescence grow up to be antisocial and emotionally underdeveloped. This is due to the fact that they do not want to allow themselves to get attached to someone, even if he or she is someone totally unattainable. So when they have to start relationships with " real life" people, they find it difficult to communicate and open up in a normal way.

It is usually at the age of 15 or 16 years that a teenager decides to do something about the newly found emotions and dream of love for someone other than his parents and family. It is this love which will allow her to move away from the secure cocoon for family life and affection while being assured of a reassuring transition to adulthood.

The idea of a boyfriend or a girlfriend has never been part of the Oriental tradition, but as life expectancy in the medieval ages was very low, child marriages were the norm. However, thanks to the superimposition of Western culture and beliefs on us through books and the cable TV, it is not unusual to see parents of schoolchildren teasing them about their boyfriends and girlfriends.

At this age, which is romantic beyond comparison, girls normally dream of love at first sight or a romantic strike of lightning. It is usually someone older whom they believe is the love of their life. Making a mockery of her emotions is going to make your teenager rebel with the age-old cry of, 'you don't understand me! What do parents know about love?"

In searching for the love of her life, an adolescent passes through the stage of being enamoured by many specimens! You can call first loves, firework - intense and burning red-hot but without any substance.

Everybody knows that being a parent is not easy, especially when your girl is entering teenage. The teenage years are the age when a teenage girl gets in touch with her emotions. A parent should nurture the child with care without negating her feeling. If not, they will always regret the fact that their child does not trust them anymore. (TKP, March 13, 2007)

Street children


Time: around 9 am. Day: Sunday. Place: Jamal. Description: Perpetual commotion with honking micro vans, bickering conductors, utterly annoyingly patient drivers and feebly strained impatient passengers like us, throwing frequent glances over our watch, hoping against hope when the driver would jam his foot on the accelerator pedal, and few irascible ones hollering at the drivers. Surely enough amidst the hustle and bustle, popping out here and there, are the inevitable street children.

When you are helplessly relying on the other person to get you some place on time, the least thing you want is being beleaguered by one of those imploring, insistent street children. When already driven to the point of insanity waiting for the vehicle to start, with the irksome street children falling all over one's foot, the sole thought that reverberates within my head is "hey… shoo… shoo… now don't you even dare touch my foot. I don't exist for you and you don't exist for me. Get away from here".

The other day, I was confronted with such a situation. I tried to avoid any interaction with one of such street children, pulling back my leg below the seat as far as possible.  I was secretly elated that I was sitting next to the window where the kid couldn't reach my foot. However a lady, seated beside me, wasn't quite thinking the same line of thought as I was.

To the kid's infinite pleas for a rupee, she responded, 'Look kid, don't beg when you can work with the two hands you have. I shall give you 10 rupees if you come with me to work at my home.' Most of us have often applied the same trick and the kids run away on that remark. She must've presumed the kid would throw up a wry smile and vanish! To my surprise and I guess to hers as well, the kid nodded affirmatively and sat obediently on the front seat for almost 5 minutes. Eventually the conductor dragged him out and the van left.

Had she really meant what she'd said, she could've stopped the conductor. But then again, we are just everyday people; we are not Mother Teresas, are we? We've got our own woes and problems to solve. Instead of putting up a pretense, I could have given the boy a rupee. Though it's against my principles to give money to such street children since it only encourages them to beg further, I find it hard myself to reconcile the ambivalent thoughts of altruism and rationality. In those times I often recall one of my highly socially inclined teachers telling us, "I play my part by giving those kids money, and it's up to them to make a wise use of it…." But who is going to tell them to be wise, when they are sniffing away dendrite? Do they even see the line separating wrong and right, when rummaging through the garbage? With the emergence of a 'new' Nepal, one can only wish the street children's plight were well addressed. (TKP, March 13, 2007)

Woman at woman's eyes


Let me start from a miniscule anecdote connected to my elder sister who was undergoing delivery process recently at Thapathali maternity home. As an attendant, I nursed her during the whole night without having a chance to blink my eyes. There was no possibility even to doze because each pregnant woman lying on the beds of the big ward was crying and yelling in pain at the top of her voice. I was turned almost cruel and inhuman. It seemed as if I was experiencing the delivery pain before getting married. Their shouting in pain was causing my heart to crush and also causing my lower stomach to feel discomforted.

Meanwhile, I happened to undergo the stream of consciousness with the conflict of ideas in my mind. First, I loathed myself for being a woman who has to bear a baby for nine months in her womb and deliver the child after suffering utmost pain. She may also die in the process whereas a male has nothing else to do after making the woman pregnant. Nor do they feel any pain. Why did god curse us and for which crime?

The pain the females suffer is beyond our expectation and imagination - simply inexpressible and unthinkable. A mother survives simply with the bliss of becoming a mother. Do the males know it? Ouch! That hurts! Then, I thought of women's immense power and courage, which only she possesses. I exalted myself that woman was a fertile and creative creature biologically.

 As my sister was taken to the delivery room at her final stage of labor pain, I came out of the patents' ward and heaved a sigh of relief. After my half an hour's wait, my sister came with a baby. I was cheered up but my sister's visage was very sad and somber.

When my sister was asked 'son or daughter?' she was reluctant to answer. She said Chhori (daughter) with the expression of disenchantment. It was evident she was expecting a son.

However, she gradually accepted the child positively and happily after her well-wishers praised the beauty of the newly-born baby. This story unravels an important theme to discuss about the female psyche.

Why couldn't my sister easily accept the baby as she knew the baby was daughter though she is a well-informed woman living in the twenty-first century? Why could not she feel a sense of excitement to be the mother after she knew the sex of the baby?  Where did the pain and love vanish?

 Is the daughter not worthy of our love? Are there not women who have ruled the nation and did their country proud through their contribution? Are the people like Pasang Lahamu Sherpa, Laura Bush, Mother Teresa and the like not women? Does the creation exist in the absence of women?

The answers to these questions should undoubtedly enable women to feel proud of being women with extraordinary role and capacity in this world. (TKP, March 15, 2007)

Whimsical or load-shedding!


When you have office, you earnestly desire for a break and have a list of things-to-do. When you get a break you end up being so sluggish! I woke up, freshened myself then went though dailies to make me updated on what is happening in our world.

I had long thought about straightening my hair but I was not at all sincere and serious about this. Consequently, I had not been able to grant my valuable time for it. I reached my nearest salon, and as I had prayed for, there were no other girls because I would like to have the hairdresser's full attention in me! The work of hair straightening is neither short nor sweet as your hairs are literally pulled from its roots. One can well imagine how excruciating it will be. It takes almost four to five hours depending upon the length and quality of the hair. 

Before I sat in front of a huge mirror, the hairdresser started talking to herself; she was remembering days that had a load shedding. It was for two consecutive days her area had power cut at 5.30 in the evening so there was no possibility of power cut at 5.30 on this particular day. As per her, the time is supposed to be 10 at night, so we started with our work. I was feeling all nice to have my hairs treated with all sorts of crème, washed and then blow dried. 

Then came the part of pulling my hairs from their roots by a heated ironing rod, I was incessantly telling the lady to do it lightly. We even joked saying how gratifying it would be to perform this task on a person you detest! My pulled hairs started looking so straight, the pain was worth it. But lo! All of a sudden it was so dark inside the salon. Well, no awards for guessing,

NEA did not want me to look pretty with straight silky hairstyle like that of Jennifer Aniston! Our calculation went wrong and there was this power cut, at 5.30 sharp. You can well imagine mine as well as my service provider's plight. She was saying there were two other girls who had a similar fate like mine some few days before.

She was so annoyed, as her work was time and again being disrupted by this unmanaged so called load management imposed by the electricity authority of a country which has 83,000 MW of hydropower potential! I even suggested her

to have a rechargeable straightening rod, but the countries that manufacture these products don't have to suffer from power cut and why would they care for a country like ours where the market is too small! Well what next, I visited the salon next day as well to do the remaining. For me, it was like hair straightening done in an installment! I could not figure out whether I was whimsical or the load shedding! (TKP, March 16, 2007)

Empowering women

By Nikita Nepal

Social system apart, the attitude of parents towards bringing up their children basically moulds the next generation. Of late, a positive trend has emerged where parents' support is not only limited to providing education and economic support but also to prepare them to lead a balanced life. Unmoved by the age-old practices of neglecting their daughter in preference to sons, the new age moms and dads are using their resources and as a result, there are women who have not only competed against men but also outsmarted them in various fields.

But still this success story is limited to very few as we are caught between traditional value and spread of modernism. The result is many women are caught in webs of wife-beating, uncaring husbands, dowry harassments, depression etc, and it becomes difficult to decide "whom to blame." Why are parents in haste to get rid of their daughters in the name of marriage? Once daughters get married, parents shrug off their responsibility as marriage is supposed to be an end in itself and not a means to sustain life.

Regrettably, this happens even in our capital city itself where there is certain degree of freedom for women to pursue their career and life-style as they want. But only some of them get the requisite support to do so, while the rest have to follow the choice of their guardians or face stiff opposition.

For policy-makers, women's rights have been a subject of concern. In contemporary society, the role of women has changed drastically. The typical housewives who cater to all the household requirements, including rearing and upbringing of children in various sub-roles of wife, daughter-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, etc have played a significant role. But a change in socio-economic and cultural aspects has begun to show a deep impact on the society. This has further added responsibilities and widened the role of women, who also share financial burden. The Kathamandu woman's case cannot be seen in isolation. Other members of the extended family do not support women in their endeavor to work as responsible women. There are instances in which an unemployed husband, instead of helping her and making sure that family runs smoothly, turns out to be alcoholic and her mother-in-law tortures her for dowry.

The incidents of wife battering and harassment for dowry are common. But in most cases, things are sorted out by the pressure groups that include parents from both sides. With a few compromises and patch-ups, the couples decide to lead their life amicably, and in course of time, the situation turns out to be normal.

There is little doubt that Nepali women have come of age, thanks to changing socio-economic dynamics. The fact that the number of employed and self-employed women is increasing is a testimony to the fact that they have taken a big stride. However, they have still to go far to achieve a respectable social status. For this to happen, a long-drawn strategy is needed. After all, women's empowerment does not occur easily or overnight. (TKP, March 17, 2007)

Naturally Nepal

By Hitesh Karki

It goes without saying that it sounds all too clichéd to harp about endless power cuts. But no, it did not sound that way. There's no electricity for 6 hrs a day and to compound the problem I am just back from standing in a line to get some fuel, I was sure she would not understand petrol, for almost an hour and did not manage to get even a gallon for my vehicle, I was sure she would not understand liters either. 'Amazing! Isn't that great?'

This happens to be the reaction when I had narrated the current state of affairs of mine to a colleague far off in the eastern coast of the US. It appeared as if she could not control her excitement when she instantly reacted by saying 'I am sure it must feel nice to have all your dinners under the candle light. You lucky guy!'

I just didn't feel like saying anything more. I had already described the hills and mountains; had even presented her with Everest postcards and posters, and exaggerated a bit as to how I brush my teeth every morning staring at the tallest mountain ranges of the world. And you know when someone genuinely thinks, like the way she was doing, that it's all too amazing you don't feel like pulling the strings any further. I then realized what more adjectives she would have come up with had I mentioned that there was no cooking gas either. And when I heard her say how much she would love to come to visit my place all the way from the other corner of the world, my imaginations, quite naturally, began to run wild.

I then remembered going to Harvard Square just in front of the gates of the great Harvard University, where getting a parking space is not only a rarity but almost impossible if the day happens to coincide with a holiday. She had got into this parking space and just about when she was to do this parallel thing in the parking, a bunch of men, she said they were the guys from MIT even though there was nothing I could find in their appearance to suggest so, screeched in and tried parking their BMW while she was preparing to park her own Toyota 1999.

Jumping out of the car, she just marched or should I say barged ahead to the driver and gave him her piece of mind. The guys or men, albeit with complete reluctance, obliged. The parking space eventually welcomed the Toyota. Now that she had said she would love to visit my place, I just failed to comprehend a scene of taking her around the tour of the city and its traffic. The little tiny vehicles, of course by her American standards, and stopping anywhere they want, the bikers zooming past from either side of you, I knew she would definitely go crazy. What I do not know is, to what extent! And then the thought of taking her around the tour of the country got into me, leaving me absolutely disturbed.

You name anything that moves and you will find them taking a stroll in the highway or some even treating as if it were their playground. And god forbid if we were to brush anything during the course of the drive, in a flash of second we would not only have to ready ourselves to sign a check, the minimum I believe is somewhere around one million according to current 'market compensation rates', but also bring the life line of the entire nation into a complete standstill. Boy, she sure would feel all too powerful!

Even if the 'dust' of garbage has now settled you never know when the issue will resurface again, YCL or no YCL! The thought of taking her across the heritage sites standing along side heaps of garbage and both of our eyes falling over the poster in nearby shop with the word Shangri-La' printed in bold, I am not sure how would she react but the thing I know for sure is expression on my face will be nothing less than a 'Kodak moment', the one worth having a look at.

And on Chitwan safari I could take her to the headquarters of the reserve and show her what weapons are being used to poach the rhinos rather than showing the one horned beasts themselves. That could be quite a fun. If at all she gets amused by the easy availability of the arms and ammunition, I am sure my answer would take a swim in any of the rivers of this filthy water rich nation of ours and, fish or no fish, at least a .303 is guaranteed. All I hope is, at the end of her sojourn she manages to get and grasp a different perspective to Tourism Board's advert, Naturally Nepal. (The Kathmandu Post, March 18, 2007)

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