Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Striking while the iron is still hot


One of the signs that a country's democracy has graduated from adolescence to full-blown senility is that its citizens won't take no for an answer anymore. It is with great pride and pleasure, therefore, that I take the opportunity of addressing this forum today to announce that Nepal's democracy has now arrived at such a juncture.

Gone are the days when we performed archaic rituals like forming unions and organising fun-filled protest actions by staging pen-down strikes, go-slow strikes, wildcat strikes, walkouts, down tools, or work-to-rules. Even chukka jams and hartals are now pass?. We have moved on. As a mature democracy we have no time for such infantile games anymore. And it is a sure sign that our citizens have seized destiny by the scruff of its neck to assert their sovereign rights, that we have now taken the idea of industrial action to a higher post-modern phase.

Gas stations that perform adultery on petrol and diesel have asserted their fundamental right to break the fourth commandment by closing down all petrol pumps for a week until the government said, "OK, OK, you can resume mixing kerosene with diesel. Just don't do it in broadly daylight hours, and give us our cut."

When they flunk their MA exams, do our graduates slink home and mope? No. Do they hang themselves by the ceiling fan? Not anymore. They go to the registrar and rub Kiwi shoe polish on his face and put a garland of chappals around his neck. Then they collect an enraged mob of similarly disenfranchised students and vandalise the the vice-chancellor's office and move on, chanting aggressive republican slogans, to the English Department where they smash up the furniture and set fire to the infrastructures therein. Hee-hee. So much fun, yar.

All this is normal and perfectly acceptable in a healthy and mature democracy, it is the way society vents off steam. And if the vice-chancellor still doesn't give in to the students' demand that they all pass their tests with flying colours, then the irate students have no recourse but to issue dire warnings of "even more violent protests in which case the university management bears full responsibility for the consequences".

And if I was the registrar, I wouldn't just give them full marks in English, but also award them straight an As in Arson, in the Pandemonium Thesis, in the Bedlam and Havoc Practicals and a distinction in Chaos Theory. It is my personal opinion that the students don't just deserve to pass, they should all be given medals by the king.

And as long as we are awarding medals, this country's highest civilian decoration should go to Girija Koirala for conducting an effective monologue with the Maoists. And to Sher Bahadur Deuba for his expert disappearing act in Pat Pong this week. Seldom has a prime minister of any country distracted the security detail to vanish so completely without trace. No one back home knew where he was for three days.

Just as well because he wouldn't have been able to get into Singha Darbar because taxi drivers were exercising their right to free expression by grid-locking the capital's intersections. Anyway, some of us heaved a sigh of relief when the prime minister reappeared because that means we can use our constitutional right of dissent by staging yet another fast onto death.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)