Nepali Times
Nepali resilience

Nepalis have never been as despondent about their future as they are now. Yet, with Dasai and Tihar around the corner, we must try to restore some of our lost self-esteem. Not the deceptive optimism in an elusive peace, but bringing back a sense of realistic faith in our own resilience and inner strength as a people.

Nepal is the oldest nation-state in the subcontinent. It has a remarkable capacity for bouncing back which manifests itself during traumatic periods of our history. True, our national institutions have been weakened by political interference, neglect and, it must be said, we have rarely had the rulers we deserved.

But this is also a society and a nation that has an innate ability to rebound in an instant. We just need the occasional visionary to tide us over bad times. The very fact that such a saviour has not arrived must indicate that things are not as bad as we think they are.

The foundations of national identity built over the last two centuries are strong. We may not agree on what that identity is exactly, but a sense of Nepalihood courses in our veins. A decade of democracy has now laid roots right down to the villages, giving Nepalis a sense that they command their own destiny.

The astounding thing is that while pampered Kathmandu moans and groans, across Nepal even people who have suffered dislocation, bereavement or loss of livelihood have taken the hardships, threats and violence in their stride while they wait for a better tomorrow.

Nepal's strength comes from the diversity that makes us a whole. We are stronger than the sum of our parts. It is like the story of the old man who asks his sons to break a stick, and then asks them to break a bundle of twigs. There is still a lot of inequity and exclusion, but we have the mechanism to mend that because the people have learnt to be in charge. In the end, it is decentralised local self-governance that is going to make possible economic progress which all Nepalis can share.

When the right ingredients (leadership, an accountable and receptive government, an energised citizenry) come together, Nepal takes rapid strides. We can see this in forestry, small hydropower, the spread of community radio, the rapid acceptance of biogas for home fuel-all fields in which Nepal is a model for other developing countries. The emergence of Nepal as a centre for medical education, management colleges and universities is a harbinger of our transition into a service economy that can take advantage of our location and climate. The professionalism of our tourist industry is of exportable quality.

The national economy will be transformed when trade with India and access to the sea gets a boost. Tibet is opening up with railways and roads, which will allow the Nepali economy to also expand northwards. And through all this, we have Nepalis abroad who are keeping this nation's economy afloat in hard times.

We can share these opportunities among all Nepalis in a way that gives the underprivileged a chance to catch up. The only way we can do that is through representative democracy. The pre-requisite for that is political peace. And for peace we have to first close the distance between constitutional forces.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)