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Lost crown and country

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Pranav Budhathoki

So it seems that former king Mr Gyanendra Shah hasn’t learnt the lesson that helicoptering to remote areas clad in Wayfarers and offering a limp hand with an inverted lower lip to listen to the public’s grievances had its days.

Doling out relief supplies, albeit through daughter-in-law’s charity shop, to help people in distress is laudable. But it is far too little, far too late. If charity was on his mind, whatever stopped him from declaring King Birendra’s assets and cash for public welfare when he ascended to the throne? It is not like the flood disaster happened only this year, the country has been burning today, and six feet underwater tomorrow, for decades.

Worshiping at strategically located temples is not going to help either. It may strike a right chord with people who still believe in the Vishnu-incarnate, both rich and poor. But if gods and godmen could save him, they would have saved him in 2006.

So is there anything else Mr Shah can do in addition to distributing blankets and rice, or going on public relations pilgrimages? How is he going to make up for the irreparable damage that he inflicted upon us all? He lost a crown — he had it coming — but we lost a country to a horde of snake-oil salesmen posing as politicians entirely because of him.

One thing he would be better off remembering in the grand scheme of things is that the public outpouring to greet him on the streets is a testament to rage against the current crop of politicians, not an approval of him. His statement turning around the monarchist slogan to “Janata au, desh bachau” was clever, but it won’t help him redeem his mistakes.

People are sick of the lies and plunder perpetrated by the present lineup of politicians. They are byproducts of transactions between senile men who have sold the country down the river. But it does not translate into a royal revival. Here is a checklist for the king wanna-be, but never-gonna-be:

– Get rid of your Wayfarer. Chuck it away, or gift it to flood victims, please. You need to muster some courage to look people in their eyes without shades, and acknowledge their existence if you want them to do the same to you.

– Get rid of your current gatekeepers and have-been hangers-on. They not only tell you what you want to hear, they also keep you away from the real Nepalis standing behind the people lined up with garlands: the really poor and the really young.

– Change the name of your daughter-in-law’s charity. Slapping a person’s name to an organisation will never allow it to bond meaningfully with the people. Jordan’s Queen Rania runs Jordan River Foundation. Prince Charles oversees International Business Leaders Forum.

– Set up a Twitter account even if there will be abuse as well as right royal sucking up. Here’s your first Twitter post: ‘@GyanendraShah Education is the silver bullet to transform our country. Schools should be run like palaces. Teachers should earn a six-figure salary’.

The country is crying out for someone to step up. But it’s not you. We Nepalis have an ethos at whose core is a healthy disrespect towards the political establishment, that’s the only reason people are offering flowers to you. But what you need to understand is that we also love burning effigies of our kings and prime ministers.

Nepalis are not the sheep you thought they were. They see through you. They don’t want someone who demolished democracy. The garlands are not meant for you, the people are still waiting for someone who deserves it more.

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