JAN 23 – The morning after the constitution was not promulgated within the stipulated time, for the second time, was like every other day. The remains of a dog crushed by a vehicle on the road to Pepsi-cola the night before stayed where it was. In Jadibuti, a man pushed his bicycle loaded with the dead body of a pig, mostly exposed. On the bridge connecting Kathmandu with Bhaktapur, buses plied and the Manohara flowed below, managing to fit in its ever-reducing width as people encroach its banks and grow vegetables and maize there. Then on the dusty road to the right of the Araniko Highway, two schoolboys returning from their karate classes observed that the cold had receded. At a nearby public tap, a child only inches taller than a 2.5 litre green—Mountain Dew—bottle was trying to lift it. The mother’s calls, to not touch the bottles, remained unheeded.
It was just another normal day.
The sky did not fall because the mythical constitution was not promulgated. Chairs, not people, became the only casualties on Tuesday. So this, according to some pundits on Twitter is a time to heave a sigh of relief. After all, people want a democratic and inclusive constitution, not a rushed exclusionary document. Well said. But this almost a decade-long political drama is not just about an inclusive document. It is as much about living in a bubble of perpetual transition.
Kalpana Dhakal, a journalist formerly with the Kantipur TV, put it succinctly in her tweet, “I have been hearing of a new constitution before I got married. Now, even my son has begun cursing leaders along with me, there is nothing I can do but stare at the TV screen,” referring to the CA meeting that continued until midnight of January 22. Her tweet, at the time of writing, had been retweeted more than the UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai’s that asked, “How can we consider those with a feudal mindset—that only consider the clean, elite and the rich to be civilised and call the unkempt labourers and the poor uncivilised/monkeys—civilised?” Perhaps, the irony was not lost on his followers. Bhattarai after all, belongs to party which is popularly called Cash Maoists, and only about a month back, he uploaded a picture of himself celebrating New Year’s Eve at a restaurant in Thamel. So while he rightly questioned the mindset that accuses the poor of being uncivilised, whether he or the party still represents the proletariat and not the bourgeoisie or if it can engage in sanctimonious elite -bashing is open to debate.
I am, however, no expert on the workings of the mind of a political leader. And this is not an attempt to explore that either. As someone who has now been hearing of the constitution since my college days, I can relate more to Dhakal’s statement. Having a child, perhaps, would have helped in making the waste of years even starker. As I do not have one, I can only express the frustration of the transition by what I have lived through. No, I do not claim to represent those who remain the most affected by it, those who live by the day. I cannot do so.
During the heat of Janaandolan II, I was an undergraduate student in a college in Kathmandu. A group of students, including me, used to wear a t-shirt that read: “Ma paribartan chananchu. And I am not alone,” and actively participate in mass gatherings then. The world, at that time, was truly our oyster and we had to do our part by fulfilling our role in history. We had to do our bit; be the product of our times.
No wonder thousands of young people who voted for the first time in 2008 put the Maoists at the top. Seven years later, the so-called must-have document is nowhere near completion and has instead been used as a convenient tool to postpone everything else, most importantly jobs for the young. In between this period, I along with my friends, have completed our higher education. Yet, everyone seems to think that perhaps another degree will help get a better job. Only last week, a friend of mine was encouraging me to apply for another post-graduate programme even as he, despite holding two Masters’ degrees from reputed foreign universities, still struggles to find employment that befits his qualifications. Meanwhile, around 1,500 young people leave the country for work in the Gulf and Malaysia each day. So these days, my favourite pastime is going through the monthly earnings of Nepali workers there, as published in newspapers. Apparently, an unskilled worker at a gloves factory in Malaysia earns around Rs 30,000. It is tough to get a job that pays here, even when you are overqualified for it.
Nothing seems to be the last straw for us Nepalis. If a restaurant owner brings us food with human hair we take out the hair and consume the food. If the number of loadshedding hours increase we will shift to solar energy, if we can afford to. If our alaichi farms are attacked by insects, we will shift to aduwa and amriso. We will survive, somehow. And if there’s a banda tomorrow, we will walk back home today, just so that we can get in the mood to walk the next day. We do not complain because we do not expect the government to do anything for us.
No wonder the only time life is actually abnormal for us now is when the sky literally falls on us. The rest, we’ll survive. We’ll manage. We will continue to be the smiling faces for the bideshi’s camera. We were just built that way.