Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Gods of the Copybook Headings by Kipling

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die." 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Midlife crisis

People celebrated the New Year 2014 with much fanfare. However, I am in this situation where there are no special moments or scheduled occasions to celebrate. A human life can have simple categorization: birth, midlife, and death. Birth is a beginning of life, an existence, or into a being, an entry to this suffering world. Most people will ignore your mistakes in early phases of your life. They say, “(s) he is just a child,” “leave the child behind,” “stop bullying, scolding …a child” etc. Slowly when we grow up we enter into adulthood and then become mature adults. The period when we realize that we are halfway through our lives is the period when we are into a midlife (crisis). 

However, academically, note that there is no such thing called a midlife crisis. Many do not support the claim that people can have the midlife crisis. Academically, supportive or not, this phase of my life is called: painfully struggling. Dad died. Mom cried. Friends betrayed. Got unemployed. “What are you left with?” a friend asked. Actually nothing much, except these stupid English words to play and morrow my sorrows. I have started to abhor this word ‘midlife’ as wrinkles in my face are starting to be unbearable (albeit this might be more frequent in women than men).Every life passes one way or another. But, a friend of mine does not agree with this philosophical statement. He states that life never passes, but moments in life do. Accordingly, life is a collection of moments, a little cherishing and somewhat condemning. Analogous to a collection of pictures in your smartphone camera rolls are those moments; life moves on whatever circumstances or situations we are into.

Additionally, there are three hard lessons that I have ascertained: 1) The world does not owe me anything whether I have a midlife crisis or not. 2) I see symptoms of health hazards, relationship breakdown and more hard questions unanswered, and 3) a midlife is a collection of those stressful, devastating, confusing, and depressing moments. These periods in life need a spiritual uplift from an inner self by rejuvenations and recreational activities. Should this time be spent more on remembrance and reminiscence? I remember my old wild days, when I used to shout aloud on a cricket field or when I used to whiz my motorbike in an open street. The collections of midlife crisis moments will also someday pass like the passage of seasons. Winter and dark period in our lives come along just to remind us that there is a bright, sunny, and warmer summer ahead. Let us stay positive, with the beginning of the New Year 2014 and hope that it will bring new hopes and aspirations to all of us.

Published: The Himalayan Times

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nepali migrant workers abroad

One of the primary causes of the crises in the world is unemployment. Going to office is not the luxury of hundreds of thousands of people in Nepal. Some go to fields as they are farmers, and some go for cleaning jobs as they are cleaners. A friend of mine who resides in Europe goes nowhere, even though he is highly qualified.

Life is constant, but life experiences are changing. Work is not there forever, and it’s also changing. Various types of work are done by migrant workers abroad, especially from Nepal.

The life and condition of Nepali migrant workers are something that our intellectuals should study in the longer run. This is because there are many variables to check and ascertain. Take, for example, the destination country, type of work, pay system, benefits, hourly or weekly wages, health or social benefits, and working conditions. Do you know that half of the people who work abroad are working below their capabilities? 

It is one thing to keep up with friends and family; it is entirely another thing to be a worker abroad. There are ups and there are downs, but good people are everywhere around the globe. A friend of mine who lost his PhD job some six months ago was unemployed in Europe. He told me that life is full of struggle, and he had to apply for numerous jobs every day. However, he is not only competing with third-world migrants but also with many high profile and first-world workers of the West. There are barriers for him to get a job. Surely, there are language barriers too. 

Many countries in Europe try to promote their own languages. For example, you must speak German to live and work in Germany. There is also the work type. For example, if Mr. Jack or John is applying for an engineering post, and simultaneously, Mr. Hari or Shankar is applying for the same post, then you know who will be selected or asked for interviews. This is not to say that there is racial and ethnic discrimination, no, there are none (maybe a few). How can there be such a thing in well-developed, well-educated, and techno-obsessive (or obese) society? A friend of mine also taught me a sad but an inspirational lesson. Why it’s always going like this: those who are rich and powerful can easily dominate and manipulate those at the bottom. 

The fact of the matter is: migrant workers from developing or less developed countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Ghana, Uganda, Somalia, and others are more likely to be dominated and discriminated than others. This is not a scientific result but a formal observation from an intellectual friend of mine who is still unemployed in Europe.

Published: The Himalayan Times

Friday, May 10, 2013

To bribe or not to bribe

On auspicious Nepalese new year 2070 B. S., I was on a wild tour inside the Kathmandu valley with my new Royal Enfield Desert Storm. The traffic police were doing the routine checkups, and I had to show my driving license. 

The good thing is that regular routine checkups by traffic police in our country are frequent. The bad thing is that unfortunately (for me), I had forgotten my driving license at home and I ended up in a very difficult situation. Nevertheless, the traffic police was "fair" and he requested two hundred rupees bribe, for not giving, a ticket. 

As I am not a stranger with the streets of Kathmandu, the situation was very common. However, I could have simply bribed the officer and distanced myself from any punishments. I thought of giving him two hundred rupees but refused. I rather opted for a ticket and a harsh punishment. As I simply have seen from trucks and bus drivers bribing traffic officers with Nepalese green notes (Rs. One hundred and beyond). This time I wanted to see what happens if I won’t bribe the traffic officer. 

Of course, it was not about paying simply few green notes. It was about bribery, corruption, honesty, and responsibility. It is generally well understood that to get things done timely, and efficiently one has to bribe and pay extra rupees to officers, either for governmental or non-governmental works. To take a bribe is regarded crime in Nepal and elsewhere. In my humble opinion, I think to give a bribe should also be considered as the crime. 

While big corruption and bribery cases are abundantly reported in news and media, some of these minor cases are left unheard. As per my heroism of not bribing the officer, I had to walk back home and leave my shiny Royal Enfield with the officer in-charge. While walking back home, I was left with more questions than answers. Why did I chose not to bribe the officer? What if, I would have given few hundred rupees and, everybody can have a win-win situation? Why was I acting strange? Maybe I wanted to learn that bribing is easy in our society. As they famously say in some Bollywood movies, “paisa feko, tamasa dekho” (throw the money, then see the drama). 

I am not upset that I had to walk back home alone in a moderately hot and shiny summer day. I am upset that we are the creators of corruption and bribery in our society. It is we who should take responsibility to give (or not to give) bribe. If everyone follows the written rules, bear patient, and neglect the unwritten ones, I think we can start the journey of building corruption-free Nepal someday. I don’t know what is your resolution in Nepalese new year, but I’ve decided not to give and take few extra bucks for doing (and not doing) things quickly and efficiently.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Overcharging with impunity

Private school have a monopoly in our country “Overcome defiance“ (THT, April 25, Page 8). As quality is not something that is replaceable with quantity, the opening of several private schools only suggests business-oriented outlook of education in Nepal. As a result, many private schools fail to provide quality education to the pupils (based on observations report of friends, neighbors, and families). 

Private schools should be open, collaborative, and they should provide good opportunity for both parents and children to get enough out of schools. However, increase in tuition fees, selling textbooks, and hidden costs have become common norms in the private schools. Privatization of schools has its own severe implications. For example, the unrevised textbooks and learning-by-heart (rote-learning) are a bygone concept implemented in these schools. The result of private education can be seen when a student opts for higher education in foreign countries, where new education methodologies and new teaching techniques are used.

If we want our children to marvel and excel in education, we should focus less on giving money (with a myth that increase in tuition fee will provide quality education) to private schools. Rather we should concentrate on developing their skills set by providing quality research, training, and knowledge (with a motto: “I learn, I earn“).

Nevertheless, I hope District Level Fee Fixation and Monitoring Committee will find more private schools indulging in malpractices and give justice to both children and parents.

Santosh Kalwar, Chitwan

Published: Letter to Editor