These days, your Beed travels with fingers crossed that a fellow Nepali will not be in the seat next to him. This isn't an indictment of Nepali travellers, but the last few close encounters bruised his already shattered pride in being a second class global citizen based on his country of origin. Having finally made it into the aircraft, and upon opening to the international pages of a foreign newspaper, one finds Nepal right there next to hot spots such as Sudan, Haiti and Rwanda. Unlike in Hollywood, on the road bad publicity does translate to bad news. Some effects are tangible, like the harassment by immigration. But the other manifestation of how low our country's stock have sunk is our own lack of self-esteem.
The planeloads of overseas workers heading out with a carry-on bag full of dreams at least prop up the economy, although they are treated like the scum of the earth by Nepali immigration, stewardesses and airport officials at the other end. No, it is the parasitic professional government junketeer who gets on my nerves. In what must be a classic reversal of roles, they become the boorish and uncouth Ugly Nepali as soon as they get into the cabin. After the second whiskey somewhere over the Indo-Gangetic plains, they are already getting on the nerves. The questions begin, starting with the classic opener, "Ani, ghar kata?"
A rapid descent into a hell of minute unsolicited details follow, right down to a tacky comparison on daily allowances for the trip. Donor-funded junketeers are especially offensive: they narrate and compare notes on subjects like whether the ticket was funded, the best way to squeeze out a few extra dollars from the sponsors and the fantastic bargain shopping.
Given the faintest hint of encouragement, your fellow Nepali will tell you exactly how to wangle a different route through another city to visit the second cousin from your maternal side. It is all an extension of the ego, an unsubtle challenge to your own worth. Without any qualms they will divulge details on how much "extra" they made.
Bolstered by alcohol, the intrepid Nepali junketeer on his way home will seek to inflict himself on any foreigner within speaking distance. One incident stands out in memory: a trapped Englishman was subjected to winding narrative on the land of Mt Everest, Pashupatinath, the god-fearing natives followed by the Maoist insurgency and conspiracy theories on the royal massacre. In such a situation, the emergency exit looks like a tantalisingly tempting escape.
In the interest of upholding the good name of Nepali nationhood, we should apportion a part of our junket funds to give our roving ambassadors a crash course on travel etiquette and interpersonal skills. Travelling Nepalis are part of Brand Nepal? and we can't afford to get it wrong. But till we get it right, the Beed will continue to travel with an extra copy of
Nepali Times to act as a handy junketeer deterrent.