Nepal

‘We need to respect people from the smaller countries like Nepal’

May 07, 2015 07:32 AM
Disaster causes much suffering and loss to many people in Nepal

By Anand Soondas

Boorish Indians have a tendency to disrespect populations not living in the white powerhouses of Europe & USA

A few years ago when i had gone to Kathmandu in the aftermath of King Gyanendra's declaration of a state of emergency in the Himalayan nation, an Indian diplomat posted at our embassy there told me how the first thing he advises new joinees is to remember that Nepal is a sovereign, independent country and not New Delhi's colony in the mountains.

At the heart of Nepal's frustration with the Indian media, voiced eloquently and strongly on Twitter through the trending hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia, lies a more fundamental issue. A clash of cultures ­ i would go so far as to say civilisations ­ and a tendency to disrespect populations not living in the white powerhouses of Europe and America.

It was February 2005 and the troubled monarch had dissolved parliament, booted out the prime minister and suspended almost all constitutional rights, the foremost being freedom of press, speech and expression. Telephone lines were snapped, internet blocked and the military was everywhere. A huge crisis loomed over the former kingdom and the diplomat was worried how our media would wade into the situation.

Someone should have shared this very simple, very basic pearl of wisdom last week with the Indian TV crews and other members of the press as they went about barging into relief camps in Nepal that had no food or water, pointing cameras at battered faces and thrusting mics into mouths too numb to give a byte.

They did in a foreign land exactly what they do here ­ elbow people, shout each other down, intrude and aggravate.Just that everyone in this part of the world is used to it, even encouraging it at times. There are places, though, where such show of belligerence is alien to the local ethos.

At the heart of Nepal's frustration with the Indian media, voiced eloquently and strongly on Twitter through the trending hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia, lies a more fundamental issue. A clash of cultures ­ i would go so far as to say civilisations ­ and a tendency to disrespect populations not living in the white powerhouses of Europe and America.

A polite, humble society where everybody elder to you is didi or dai and younger is bahini or bhai, Nepal doesn't understand the aggression of Indians.Its people think violence is best suited only to the battlefield. Road rage cases in the capital city of Kathmandu are rare, so is eve-teasing and molestation ­ all illicit manifestations of a misplaced sense of might.

When someone tells you something in Nepalese homes and streets, you acknowledge it with a `hajur'. The `tu' of Hindi, which translates into `ta,' is almost always reserved for the junior lot, sons, daughters, children, never elders.

What compounds the relationship India has had with Nepal is the condescension for a people who have always been fiercely independent, repulsing British attacks in the early 1800s with such determination that in a rare acknowledgement of courage in the face of adversity they erected a memorial at Kalunga, present day Nalapani, that honours the `gallant adversary'. So impressed and awestruck were the Brits at the valour of the Gorkhas that they would soon go on to recruit the hardy soldiers into their own armies, a tradition that continues to this day .

A friend from Kathmandu who studied in India ­ St Paul's in Darjeeling, St Stephen's in Delhi and later Jawaharlal Nehru University ­ would always tell me Indians do not realise, or refuse to, that not all Nepalese are Gorkhas, and not all Gorkhas durwans.

“It's only the most deprived, most needy that come to India to guard people's home,“ he would explain to fellow students at JNU. “It's like the poor Bihari, UP-wallah and Punjabi come in search of work to Mumbai as taxi and auto drivers.“

It is this insensitivity and suffocating patronising that goes with it that had Nepal erupt in anger at the Indian media even as hundreds and thousands from this country opened their hearts and wallets to the suffering millions next door.

One of the close to 1,30,000 tweets that complained about our handling of the crisis in Nepal, already shell-shocked with devastation and distraught with grief in the wake of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that left more than 7,000 dead and innumerable others homeless, said Dharahara has fallen, not their pride and dignity .

There is a similar show of tastelessness that marks the `mainstream' Indian's attitude towards the country's north-easterners. Everyone is a `chinky'. In fact, in the eyes of many , the whole of NE, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Bhutan and Nepal form one contiguous, homogenous Mongoloid swathe, where everyone speaks Nepali, eats momos for breakfast and plays the guitar at night.

Going beyond, there is a boorishness being associated with us that is increasingly making the Indian a target of hatred and vilification across the world. The most reflective of this is our online world. There was a time when the slightest hint of criticism against Narendra Modi would awake hydra-headed defenders leaping from Pilibhit to the Paraganas, ready to chop your anti-national, unworthy and un-Indian head off.

Anand Soondas

They are still there, lurking, albeit a little less prickly after the great electoral triumph of last year. Not that you can say much against Sachin Tendulkar either.

There are many lessons for us in the Nepal fiasco. The biggest is that we need to respect people from the smaller countries and states. It's the same hurt we feel when America frisks our presidents.

 

 

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