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Nepal’s brand ambassadors

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
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Kunda Dixit’s speech on 9 March 2013 to the graduating A-Level class of St Xavier’s College Kathmandu.

Our job as journalists is to report on the speeches of politicians, not to give speeches ourselves. Maybe the real reason you invited me here is because I am a double graduate of St Xaviers. After passing out from St Xaviers High School in Godavari, I went on to college in St Xavier’s Bombay.

After getting my first masters in microbiology, I decided that injecting laboratory rats was not what I wanted to do so I got another masters in journalism from Columbia University. After that I worked for BBC Radio in New York and became a foreign correspondent covering conflicts across Asia. In 1997, I returned to Nepal to start our publications.

I soon found out that covering a war in your own country is completely different from covering other people’s wars. Unlike war correspondents covering battles, we had to learn to look for the roots of conflict. The seeds of war are laid in peace time, the precursors of violence lie in prevailing inequality, injustice and intolerance.

But as we have seen in the past seven years, the end of the war hasn’t meant peace. We struggle to find leaders with vision, integrity and statesmanship and a system of governance that will ensure equity and justice into the future.

The favorite Nepali past-time is not to gamble at cards, it is to find nasty things to say about each other. Of course, not all Nepalis are like that but the loudest, most privileged, best educated and most well off among us just can’t bear to see fellow-Nepalis get ahead.

We overlook the visible faults in ourselves but spend endless hours dissecting the imagined shortcomings of fellow-Nepalis. Just look at politicians, they can’t say or do anything that gives us hope—all they do day in and day out is run each other down. And we in the media spread the cynicism by treating politics as one big endless quarrel.

This obsession with finding fault is self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling and self-defeating. It is this refusal to see any goodness in our own kind that I think is at the heart of Nepal’s present crisis. We love to whine and we love to play victim, it is as if we want Nepal to fail so that our own catastrophic predictions will be proven right. It is as if we need Nepal to stay poor because that would give us the excuse we need to emigrate, or to do nothing.

I just got back yesterday from Dadeldhura and Doti districts. In those rugged mountains of far-western Nepal ravaged by poverty and conflict, what struck me was that despite their desperation and despair the people still had faith in the future, they still had hope. It is the legendary capacity of the Nepali people to confront and survive hardships, it is our reliance on each other and our communities that makes us strong.

What a contrast to be back here in Kathmandu. It is us, the most-privileged Nepalis, who are the most cynical about ourselves. It is here in the pampered capital with all its relative affluence that we wallow in pessimism and low self-esteem.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, what is there to be positive about? But, let’s face it, it’s not original anymore to complain about the load-shedding, the shortage of water or petrol, the garbage and pollution, or the political instability, corruption and bandhs. These are all givens. When everyone faces the same problems, it’s not cool anymore to complain about them.

The real question is what are we doing, individually or as communities, to make things better? How determined are we to make a difference? Do you curse the darkness, or do you install a solar panel? Do you complain about water shortage or harvest the rain? Do you complain about the garbage, or sort and recycle your waste?

It is when the going gets tough that the tough get going. Like Dikshya Chapagain, who rescues women abandoned in the streets. Like Pushpa Basnet, a graduate of your school’s social work program, who helps children of mothers who are in jail. Like Hari Bairagi who, instead of complaining about politics, went back to his home district of Sankhuwasabha rehabilitated two hydropowerplants, started selling the electricity to finance three colleges in Khandbari. Or Bhakta Bahadur Balayar, whom I met in Doti last week, who decided it was better to give up politics than to keep complaining about it. He now runs a community-managed school and hospital in a district with one of the lowest literacy and child survival rates in the country.

All that is wrong with Nepal, our rulers, our society are a result of the collective failure of previous generations. It is tragic that we have passed on to you, today’s graduating students, a Nepal that is in tatters. But here at St Xaviers you have been given the tools to surmount the problems. It is not what you learn that matters, it is how you use what you learn.

Like any product, Nepal is a brand. We Nepalis are its brand builders. You, graduates, are Nepal’s brand ambassadors. Wherever you go in the world, whatever you do, whenever you excel in studies or sports, whenever you show simple acts of kindness and compassion, whenever you do well, the country does well. Nepal does well.

Let’s all invest our energy on making ourselves proud to be Nepali. Individually and collectively let’s celebrate what is still good about Nepal: our incredible natural beauty, our immense diversity, our dignified and hardworking people, our generosity and sense of self-worth.

All it needs is for us to believe a little more in ourselves, and to give back to society only a bit of what our society gave to us. We owe it to our motherland, it’s the only one we will ever have.

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10 Responses to “Nepal’s brand ambassadors”

  1. SamSam on Says:

    A very powerful set of words that I am proud to have seen come out of one of our own. I found the content of Mr. Dixit’s words revolving around the “live for god, lead for Nepal” mantra. Thank you Mr. Dixit for giving the speech at your (and mine) alma mater. Coming from someone with your caliber is bound to make the words stick with our younger generation just as much as they are bound to stick to the not so younger generation like ours.


  2. Richa Adhikari on Says:

    Kudos!


  3. D.Rai on Says:

    It was Kunda sir’s words that affected this girl so deep that she ventured into the world of development and radio. It was almost like a mental shake-up. That was 1998. Even after more than a decade, his words ring so true that you feel overwhelmed with these very words of encouragement. Thank you, sir!!!


  4. Dr. Nishchal N. Pandey on Says:

    What an excellent speech by Kunda dai. Being a graduate of St. Xavier’s myself, I think we need to read his words carefully, again and again. Hopefully, the political leaders too will read it.


  5. Basudeb on Says:

    Thanks a lot, great truthful expressions. It sounds like the speech is actually a call from mother Nepal itself to all of her offspring within and outside the country to come and do real work for real benefit of the inhabitants. This kind of the attitufe should be the pattern of Bhashan that the political and other leaders of the country need to imulate instead of creating confusion and chaos which is harmful to the country, people and also to themselves in a deeper and long term sense.


  6. Prasanna Dhungel on Says:

    Very nice speech. Very inspiring and true!


  7. R Rai on Says:

    Mr Dixit, I very much agree with and appreciate your diagnosis of our problems, and your recommendations are absolutely sensible.

    What really moved and struck me was the degree of passion and conviction in your tremendous speech. Khai ke bhannu ra, I can only thank you, sincerely and honestly.


  8. Janak BC on Says:

    “It is when the going gets tough that the tough get going.” Outstanding piece of writing from Kunda daju. Well, We have the answers. The only problem I see here in Nepal is the lack of articulation. Yea, we do not have a problem-free world. The problem exists everywhere. This should not overlook the people who overrule the power at the center. However i am very much inspired by Mr. Kunda’s writings. Are we here to make a difference or, to mingle with the people who fight with words only. A big thank you!!!


  9. Portlander (now back in Nepal) on Says:

    Great inspiration Dixit Sir,

    I hope to see an article on our revived bus service – SAJHA BUS and the opposition by our transportation entrepreneurs. This business has maximum demands (as a bussiness person – personal view) but the challenges is one of a kind. I am proud that Kanak Sir has taken this initiative and we – the public are there to support this organization. If we fall this time, we only need to blame ourselves. Please educate our public on this and let us fight this syndicate forever.

    Portlander (now back in Nepal trying something for my motherland)


  10. Birat Anupam on Says:

    It’s a great and strong speech I ever read in this blog of you. Your motivational words work wonders to all,i reckon. Similarly it was new info to me that previously you were science student and later switched to journalism. Academically I am student of engineering but actively a radio presenter, so your educational background is my additional encouragement from today.


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