Nepalese people in general are quite conservative/traditionalist. You may find them in modern attire and with modern gadgets; may even find them in bar drinking imported whiskey, but deep inside, most of them are conservative, narrow minded, proud traditionalist, who believe that we are what we are and must be preserved. They come up with their own pseudoscientific explanation to defend their practice and beliefs.
How did we end up becoming like this?
Well, there is not just one reason and it didn’t happen so overnight. You and us are new to this part of world, born probably 20-30 years back, but this country has been around for many hundred years. Long before we came to his world, people were strictly following certain values, beliefs, concepts, practices, rituals, and kings and rulers then were preserving and promoting those things. There were even laws and rules to force people to adhere to.
Nepal was “close country” just like North Korea for a long time. This country was living with its own concept and rules and practices, primarily based on Hinduism. It was only recently that we have stepped in to become an open country, where we would value individual freedom, gender equality, free market, science over religion, etc.
WHY? Why did we move from what we were to this new form?
Because we didn’t benefit anything from being close, religious, anti-liberalism country. We only remained poor forever because of our obsession with religion-based policies and practices. So, overtime people realized that this must change and we should not be holding onto failed concepts and ideas, and rather adopt ideas and concepts that seems working in every other countries.
From BP to Prachanda, that was the fight for. Nepal as a country finally got freed from Hinduism-based ideas, concepts, laws and rules and policies and leaned towards liberal democracy and liberal values. It took 50+ years to uproot the whole thing.
How come Hinduism to be blamed for our poverty and misery?
That’s a very complex question that I am afraid I can’t answer in few lines, but to make you understand the theory in perspective, understand this.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
If you end up having a terrible life, there is something seriously wrong in belief you carry. If you end up becoming poor, there is something seriously wrong in belief you carry. Similarly, if your country never prospers, always in poverty, always in darkness, there is something fundamentally wrong in the collective belief hold by the people living in the country and their rulers. Since for many hundred years, people from Nepal remained poor, lived in darkness, one thing for sure, there was something seriously wrong in what this country was living by as guiding principles, beliefs and values.
So, it’s not that Hinduism as a whole to be blamed but the values and beliefs rooted to Hinduism seemed likely the reason behind out backwardness.
Still no one knows that for sure. Think of Nepal as a man who is struggling to gain weight. Tried this, tried that but never seems to gain weight. So now finally they are feeding him what every other people are eating. Result is yet to see. If he now gains weight, it’s proven that what he was eating was a wrong food.
Why are people still conservative and proud of beliefs and values that never benefited them
That’s an interesting question. Think like this. There is a village totally cut off from outside world. They have their own practices, values and traditions that they live by. For them, being rich means getting to eat rice once in a year. They don’t know that even the poorest can eat rice every day from other villages. They walk all day for water but they think that’s normal. What you think as hardship is their everyday life and they don’t see anything wrong in. Now, you go and offer them something that would get them rice every day but for that they should be doing certain things in your ways and not how they have been doing. Will they do?
There is always a leader in such close tribe-like village who decides what to be done and what not to be. If leader is conservative, traditionalist, proud about what they are and how they, the leader will not buy the idea nor will let village members to.
In our case, King, Ranas, ruling Hindu elites were the leaders, that’s why monarchism had to be thrown, feudalistic institution had to be destroyed, and people were to be given more freedom to decide.
So how to change them?
First, change the leader and replace with someone more progressive, open to new ideas and concepts.
Second, make the village more democratic so that only handful of people don’t get to decide what is best for the village.
Third, educate people on news ideas, practices, give them more broader perspectives, introduce them to more diverse world and structures. Make them realize that their hardship is unnecessary and not normal. Show them that life can be lived with much ease and comfort. In all this, they will on their own realize — one life and I should live by what is best for me, what makes me happy, what matters the most to me, and not that to the tribe leader, not that to the superstitious beliefs, not that to the tradition and culture.
Fourth, promote freedom and liberty that every single individual himself/herself stands as a change maker. Today, we have pages like Kaagmandu Magazine, Atheist Millitants of Nepal, many liberal and progressive pages, contributing in changing this country. There are many organisations and clubs and political parties formed to work on the change. They are not funded. It’s happening spontaneously and voluntarily. WHY? That’s human thing. In free and open society, things like this happen pushing naturally the society into progressive lines.
What are the challenges
There are always three types of group in any existing system. One who is happy, another who is not happy, and the third one, the undecided one. Happy group fight to retain the status quo. Unhappy ones fight to change. Third ones observe the fight, listen the arguments, to finally decide which side to take. Third ones are mostly the defining group that whichever side they take will win.
So first challenge is to develop argumentative skill that comes with education. More the educated people for change, more easy to win the show.
Second challenge being right people in governing power. We need to empower progressive and open minded people. Get more such minds in all professions and positions.
Third challenge being ensuring freedom and liberty. As long as there is freedom and liberty, country naturally takes the progressive line.
Fourth challenge being religious extremist from South. They should be kept off the bay.
Last challenge being the regressive force, who wants to push country backward.
It takes time for people to change. 100 years back, 100 out of 100 people would practice “menstruation taboo.” 50 years back, with communist and other progressive movements, number came to 90 out of 100; with Maoist and new wave of change, probably in 60. By now, probably in 50-50.
Change is like a bicycle. The moment you stop peddling, it will stop rolling.
To get a perspective about what kind of country are we actually living in, think of this. Most of us are first in our family to go to college; even first to pass SEE, and we represent barely 40%. 60% of the population have never been to college. Out of those 40%, many of them don’t know what was wrong in our belief system in first place — they think there is actually nothing wrong. We live in such country. It gonna take sometime for people to understand what very few of us have understood.
Bright side of our society however is we are not extremist or fundamentalist as such. We are quite open to change, quite easy to convince, quite soft to deal with regardless of differences. We have democracy, we have started to endorse and value liberty; we are being more exposed to outer world. In couple of decades, we probably will be the most tolerant, most easy, most open society, as long as there is democracy, liberty, secularism, and more emphasis on science and education.
Until then, let’s keep peddling.
Youth migration: Shrinking or swelling local development?
The ministry of youth and sports in its report data released on the occasion of
International Youth Day on August 13, 2017, revealed that 1,600 Nepali youth leave the
country for foreign employment each day and this number is nowhere close to slowing
Hundred years down the line, imagine the youths migrate out of their villages or small towns. They do not lead the simple “gaule jiwan” as we call it. They have stable incomes and they live with their families in a town or at least nearby a market.
Can you picture a prosperous life for them? Sure, it can be said that they live a prosperous life with stable incomes and access to the market and facilities. But let us take a moment to think about the village they were originally from.
From my recent experience of volunteering with Raleigh Nepal, it has been alarmingly established in my mind that migration practice in Nepal is detrimental to the future of the country. I stayed in a semi-rural community of Dal Bhanjyang, Gorkha. The village was sparsely populated, mostly comprising elderly, women, and children. Most of the young people of the village, particularly men, were out of the village in bigger cities or foreign countries for employment.
A gap in the active working-age population was evident due to the rampant migration. This gap created by the lack of active working people has affected the agricultural yield of the farm-based community. Many farmers leave their cultivable land barren because they do not have enough helping hands to farm.
I would like to give you an example of my host family in the village. Khadi Maya Thapa lived with her daughter Sarita and mother in law Pampha Devi Thapa in the village. She has a son who lived in Gorkha city for education while her husband works and lives in the Middle East.
They have plenty of land in the village but they do not have enough helping hands to help in agriculture. They look after a few livestock and practice subsistence farming only in a small section of the land they have, leaving the rest of the land barren.
Another important aspect to be considered is not just the current lack of young people in the village, but the future demography of the village. There is already a huge number of youths who have migrated to a place where they have a more comfortable life. Plus there are more young people who are planning to migrate in the future. So, this rampant migration will ultimately displace families to a more comfortable location.
Therefore, in the span of a few decades when the now old generation will pass away, the current middle-age population will be senior citizens, and the current new generation will be migrating and moving, these villages will be empty. The now middle-aged population is already working hard in the country and abroad to invest in their children. Either to send them to foreign employment or for their education. Which further perpetuates the migration of the newer generations into the cities away from villages.
Let us look at another example from the village, Narayan Thapa was a local of Dal Bhanjyang who came back from Qatar for a few months break. He looks forward to going back to Qatar because he believes he would be able to earn a good living for his wife and his children in the future. When I asked him if he wants to settle somewhere or live in Dal Bhanjyang all his life, he replied that he is working hard in a foreign land so that his children, wife, and himself can enjoy a comfortable life in a city or at least a small town.
From villages to towns, from towns to cities, and from cities to a foreign city. There is always a better place one can strive for. But at what cost are we striving for a comfortable life is the question. The bottom line could also come to causing a major shortage of agro-based families and causing problems of food security as well.
Moreover, we need to understand that these communities without the presence of an active young population can cause a gap in the smooth function of a society. Because it is the youths who are the torchbearers of the future and the ones who bring innovations and new ideas to communities. Nowadays, the villages in our country are facing a big gap in innovation. The children are growing up without having to look up to youths and families are separated.
Even though the situation seems to be distressing, we cannot deny that people in these villages have no other choice but to try to keep pace with the world that is innovating and changing. So when they cannot do that from their villages, they opt for a bigger place. On the other hand, the ramifications of such choices may be too hard on the country. Therefore, decentralization and empowerment of youth in the local communities are a must.
American life, Nepali salary — does not work
I carry a phone, have a computer, decent pair of clothes and shoes. In my room, there is a TV hanging on wall, and in kitchen, a micro oven to warm my foods and refrigerator to preserve left over. To go around, I have a bike. I sometimes drop by cafe, which serves me coffee made from coffee machine. Love to watch movies and go to near by multiplex with cozy ambiance and lights and world-class sound system. Need to take my parents sometimes to doctors and they do the check-up using the modern equipment. A typical middle-class life I live. There are millions out there in this country with same pattern and possession.
From morning till I go to sleep, everything I consume aren’t made in Nepal. They are imported from some other countries. Even the internet I am using or electricity, the system behind is based on device and technologies made somewhere else. To share my thoughts, I have this blog, the domain and server, are too based in other countries. Those phone, those computer, those clothes and shoes, those TV and refrigerator, bike and coffee machine, or the medical equipment, are not manufactured keeping Nepalese people in mind. While setting the price, they didn’t think if a person from the poorest country can afford or not. They simply set a price that people with earning of 1000 dollars per month (at least) can afford.
How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income?
Standard of living that most Nepalese thrive for is influenced by standard of living that of country from high GDP and we consume the products made for those people with average income of 2-3000 dollars per month. Irony, however, is we barely earn 500 dollars per month at best. How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income? This is the conflicting zone most of us are living in. We want perfect things like that of from country with high GDP or we will laugh. Office needs to be perfect, house needs to perfect, vehicle needs to be perfect, lifestyle needs to be perfect, like as seen in videos made from US citizens or from other developed countries. We forget to realize that perfection comes with a price, that being Nepali is hard to afford.
But then who cares. Wife does not care, children don’t care, neighbors and relatives do not, nor friends. We are constantly judged for what we posses, how we pose and how we present ourselves, and it must be like that from Youtube or Bollywood insta or else we will be laughed. We will be judged for being poor, being below the standard.
In macro level, this is the struggle that most middle-class Nepalese are facing. First, there is an obligation of buying products like refrigerator, phone, TV, etc, as a necessity, made for people with 1000 dollars income, from a 300-500 dollar salary. Second, there is a cultural psyche to look better, stand out better. Thus, we will rather thrive to meet that standard than settle with our reality. Thriving to meet that standard means finding an income source of 2000-3000 dollars per month. First we try in genuine way, and if is not working, we look for hook and crook.
Be it PM, or president, or mayor or bank CEO, designer or call center employee, everyone is walking that struggle to fit in. Outside we all may pretend to adore and admire people living with their own ability and affordability, but deep inside we don’t value people who can’t live the standard. We don’t value celebrity that we can find travelling in local bus. We don’t value government website that can’t afford high speed. We don’t value PM’s web conference with poor resolution. We don’t value relatives in government office who can’t afford to send their children to good school and college. We don’t value CEO that looks “khate pate” because can’t afford branded clothes and shoes. I can go on. We in reality have no space or respect for those who fail to live and act matching the modern standard.
All the standard comes with a price, price that is designed keeping people from high GDP. So what the people from low GDP supposed to do? Simple, find a way to earn at least 2000-3000 dollars per month to enjoy that standard or live in your cave as you truly belong.
An old man once told me, “timiharu lie chahiyeko chha bikasit desh ko subidha, kamaunu chha garib desh ko talab. Ka milcha ani?. In other words, you can’t have american life with Nepali earning. Either go to America to have that life or find the american income here in Nepal.
That’s what happening in Nepal. Everyone is looking for a way to get to that income bracket — school, college, businesses, cafes, parlors, everyone — without which you can’t afford iPhone, you can’t afford coffee from coffee machine, you can’t afford Nike shoes, you can’t afford a vacation, you can’t afford TV at home, you simply can’t afford anything made somewhere keeping in mind 2000 dollars income bracket.
There is no way out. Deal with it.
Underpaid elected representatives and the consequences
No graphic designer wants to work for anything less than 25K salary. No programmers wants to work for anything less than 50K salary. Hire a marketing consultant to take care of your business marketing, s/he will not charge anything less than 50K.
A principal of a school take nothing less than 70-80K to lead the school. A CEO takes anywhere from 2 lakh and above to run a company. A bank CEO takes way way more.
Just try taking a decent flat in good locality, you will get nothing less than 35K. Want to take in a colony, will cost you nothing less than 40K.
To have a decent comfortable life financially, you need at least 2000 dollars of income, that you can send your children to good school, can take care of parents, can fulfill genuine needs of spouse and of self.
When your personal life is smooth with no guilt or regret or shame because of poor financial status, you are highly motivated, energetic and dedicated to your professional side. You must know that by now.
That’s the reality we live in.
Now think of a job, where you job responsibilities include waste management, infrastructure development, maintaining the social harmony, planning and executing projects, and salary offered is 60K.
That’s salary for a mayor.
I am sure no one with good experience and academic profile will take that job. Why should they when they deserve more and they can earn 3 times the amount? Only people who will take that job are those who can’t earn outside or the naive minds who have not tested the reality yet and are living in a bubble.
Salary of a PM is around 1.5 lakhs. A bank CEO gets 5 times that, whose job is just to take care of the bank and its few hundreds employee. And here, the person whose job is to manage the whole country and 3cr people gets barely 1500 dollar. HELLO!
Let’s for a while, flush off all the prejudice and hate towards elected representatives and think…think them as fellow human just like everyone of us, and ask, will we get best out of them by paying way way less?
We ended up in this situation because of our idealist concept “neta janata ko sewa garna ho….paisa kamaune bhaye jagir khaanu parthyo, business garnu parthyo” Our idea of leadership is Jogi-like figure who can sacrifice all the materialistic needs, compromise personal happiness and that of family, live that altruistic life, and we judge fellow human interested in politics and in public service based on those traits and characters. We look for that Jogi figure.
What we forget to realize is that, with that criteria, we will never attract someone who can lead bank, who can be country head of NGO/INGO, who are gold medalists. And instead will end up with good-for-nothing individuals to manage this country, manage our county, manager our city. And we wonder, why we only get a terrible incompetent person for the job. Because we set the criteria that attract only INCOMPETENTS and NAIVES.
A successful business man once told me, “if you don’t pay well, you will end up with bad team and with that bad team, you will never succeed. You should never be concerned about how fat paycheck is being taken. You should be concerned about are they doing what they are paid for. If you are paying them 15K, you will get 15K worth of work. You should not be complaining for them not doing 50K of work. If you want them to do 50K worth of work, you should know to pay them 50K.”
As a business consultant, I can relate that. I have seen many businesses going no where and the problem is in kind of team they have. To pay less, they hire freshers and dull employees and they wonder why their businesses are not growing.
I have also seen brightest and smartest indviduals failing to deliver a project because they took the project at very low cost, that when reality hit them, they lost the interest and the needed energy to deliver right.
The very same thing applies in country.
You don’t get Elon Musk in 200-dollar salary.
This realization comes with growing up. So may be it’s time for us to be realistic enough and not idealist, and speak for better paycheck, better facilities for our elected representatives, so that more bright and smart show interests. it’s time for us to acknowledge the fact that Mayor is a job, PM is a job, like CEO and Branch manager. Do you know that Ward Representatives don’t get salary??
We have messed up big time by chasing the idealist version of governance, which only has created more gossips, more lack of respects, more contents for media to taunt for them taking beggar way of sheltering in hotels, wearing gifted watch and shoes. What are they supposed to do with 60K salary?? Put yourself in that shoes and think. Money is the reality and we should not shy away from. Rather embrace it, articulate it, and get best out of. Pay best, pay enough that s/he can take care of her personal life without reaching out to donors and businesses, and then question if not performing per the amount paid.
We have been complaining a lot without ever thinking of what payment are they getting in return. It reminds me of a boss, who had so much of complaint against his employees but never thought from his side if he is paying enough to expect the result. He didn’t understand that you don’t get Elon Musk in 200 dollar salary.
Father of Singpore, Mr, Lee once said, ” Don’t underpay our ministers. To find able and committed men and women of integrity, willing to spend the prime of their lives, and going through the risky process of elections, we cannot underpay our ministers and argue that their sole reward should be their contribution to the public good.”
You want this country to be like Singapore? then start thinking like Mr. Lee.