Nepali Times
Here And There
Time passes


The hot sweaty nights foretell monsoon and the rhythms of the land assert themselves inexorably. Nepal's living culture, based on the seasons, crops and family needs, flows on, unaffected by politics and earthly events.

It's easy to lose sight of the factor of time. This is a young country, not the ancient polity its Panchayat-era royal hagiographers make it out to be. The sputtering attempts at democracy in the 1950s hardly count as modern nation building. Nothing much happened to make this a 20th century place before 1990's Jana Andolan.

Who can forget the mass impatience and impossibly high expectations of that decade? Nepalis wanted everything, and they wanted it now. Democracy had arrived and prosperity was its handmaiden, the two were linked at the waist. No effort was needed, no sacrifices required, a particular political party in office was enough to guarantee development.

As a measure of national mood swings, days became significant. A place that used to track change by generations awoke each morning convinced that a new day would bring new realities, just as the politicians promised. People quickly soured on this patently false notion and began to blame the system itself.

Forgetting that all major national projects of recent years have taken decades to gel and thrive, Nepalis thought they'd been robbed of their rightful heritage in a matter of a few years by political corruption and venal elites. In part, they were right, but it was ever thus. The democrats of the pre-Peoples' War 1990s are guilty of mishandling expectations, and stealing somewhat from the trough, but they had good teachers-the royal, Rana, and Panchayat eras produced far worse outcomes.

The Maoist war sped up events and darkened expectations further. Not knowing when next the guerrillas would strike almost neutralised time. When screaming men and women with rifles and khukuris poured from the jungle around isolated police and army posts, of what use was a calendar or a farmer's knowledge of growing seasons. The downward spiral of war, royal massacre and inept monarchical meddling turned the nation away from time altogether. Things always got worse. Why measure the passage of entropy?

Jana Andolan 2 exploded with frenetic speed and remarkable success, a glowering king surrendered and Nepalis rediscovered high, instant expectations. Peace negotiations dragged on but they heightened hope and supercharged a long depressed national mood. At long last, the dark night was giving way to dawn's glowing promise, a view that promised things weren't just getting worse.

Things haven't gone according to plan. They never do. Organising and holding constituent assembly elections in June was always beyond realism. Nations aren't built in a few months. National polities take years of negotiation and patient compromise. They require leadership and broad input, co-operation and resilience. Time must pass at an almost glacial pace, at least when stacked against expectations.

Let us not be cynical or depressed by the day to day manoeuverings and perceived failures of parties and players in the constitutional process. Let us demand input, involvement, and commitment and let time be applied realistically to a complex process that can finally banish the dysfunction that has paralysed this country for so long.

Restoring realism to politics and peoples' expectations is the place to start. Just admit that it won't happen overnight, or perhaps even this year. Neither Rome nor Nepal was built in a day.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)