May 19, 2014 Sujeev Shakya

Non-Reforming Nepalis

There is an email chain that has been going on for a while that has been copied from the Prime Minister to the heads of the political parties and onto hundreds of individuals. It is a discussion that I do not want to indulge in but most individuals replying press the ‘Reply All’ button, clogging my inbox with these emails. And it makes me wonder, how can you believe that people who do not have basic email etiquette will hold discourses that are worthwhile?

Perhaps it was the Panchayat days and the feudalistic societal culture that made people impose things on others, whether they liked it or not. When we talk about democratic values and the building of a pluralistic society, our means have not changed. It is important to have discussions but interested parties can do it over the internet and social media groups. There is no need to drag in every individual in one’s address book. While many people have moved out of Nepal, their Nepali ways of doing things have not changed.

Politics everywhere

In the Nepali diaspora, we therefore see a section of ‘Non-Reforming Nepalis’, who have changed their zip codes and passports but are yet to change the way they function. It is interesting to hear of the number of associations and groups that have been created abroad and the way elections take place. I was surprised to hear that elections to some of these groups in the US actually kowtow to the lines of political parties in Nepal. It is important for Nepalis to be identified with a particular political party in Nepal, whether they be a Democrat or a Republican in the US.

This love for political wrangling, factionalism and kowtowing to political or communal lines dissuades serious Nepalis—who can really contribute to change in Nepal—from engaging in the discourse on Nepal. As one of  my friends working in the US as a successful investment banker remarked, “Whenever I feel like working towards contributing in Nepal through investments and other social means, I get tired listening to speeches and the politics around organisations.” In the diaspora, there is a growing section of first as well as second generation Nepalis who are taking up good professional positions and have a good combination of disposable income and the zeal to do something for Nepal. However, the plethora of associations and interest groups actually act as a deterrent to this enthusiasm rather than promoting it.

Like someone remarked to me at the last Rotary Conference in Nepal, Nepalis generally have high political aspirations and those who cannot get into or are rejected by mainstream politics, tend to churn everything political. Elections to professional bodies, be it engineers, lawyers, accountants or journalists, have all become political. It seems as though this practice does not change when people leave Nepal. The need to have a business card so as to derive an identity from an association, rather than one’s personal credentials, is a difficult habit to change.

However, for every ‘Non-Reforming Nepali’, there are many who have changed their lives. It is interesting to hear how there are more than 30,000 Nepalis in Portugal and how it is getting difficult to visit a city in Europe that does not have a Nepali restaurant. Nepalis adapt to new surroundings and languages easily. They are hardworking and attract the attention of their employers as well as investors. We get to hear of many hard working stories and it is heart-warming when someone you meet on a flight speaks of Nepalis been polite and hardworking. Of course, we have been able to leverage our ‘Brand Smile’, leaving a mark on the service sectors, be it hospitality or nursing.

Old habits die hard

While we hear of many good stories, we also hear of habits that die hard. Someone remarked about a Nepali keen to explore laws in the US on opening cooperatives. Hard-earned money can many a times disappear in dubious Ponzi schemes and investment schemes like dhukuti. Such savings have yet to be deployed in a professional manner and the real potential of these savings has yet to be tapped. Sending money to Nepal legally is still expensive and government hurdles does not even promote money from legally entering Nepal. If Nepalis around the world could just invest in legitimate investment schemes by legally paying through credit cards, the country could raise millions of dollars. With $5,000 or $ 10,000 in their bank accounts, these people can virtually do little in their country of work but combining thousands of these dollars can create a strong investment vehicle. However, it is important that these investment programmes be created in a manner that has credibility along with structures that are legal.

It is time for ‘Non-Reforming Nepalis’ to introspect and introduce little changes into their behaviour in terms of contributing to Nepal’s progress. It could begin with a small step. Like, not starting an unwanted email chain and worse of all, not pressing the ‘Reply All’ button. Small changes will then bring in larger ones.

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