If you are active on social media for past few years, you might not have missed this. The fortnight containing June 1st, for past decade, is always spent talking about the Royal family that was slain on 1st June, 2001.
The form of social media has changed, from msn messenger to hi5 to facebook to twitter, but the talk has not. Come June 1 and the old pictures of the then Royal family – with a tagline saying ‘rare’ – appears everywhere. It has hardly diminished, even as the years tend to deform memories. If facebook and twitter are any indicators, one gets the feeling that the respect for that family has only turned into reverence.
To note that this year’s anniversary came close in the heels of Constituent Assembly’s demise, one can understand why the massacred family was glorified so much by the commoners. People, except for the ones who have vested interests, try to seek solace from their own disappointments. Glorification of the killed family was in some ways to find an escape from the utter disappointment of not having a constitution.
There were people who said, had King Birendra remained, Nepali people would have voted for monarchy to stay, even if there was elected constituent assembly. Murmers were heard: he was pro-people. Claims were made: he could not see his subjects suffering. Fair enough. Maybe. But, maybe not. For, dead can’t do anything. And certainly, dead can’t do anything wrong at all. That’s why the charm of massacred Royal Family will remain in the minds and hearts of the people. As it grows old, the story will become more and more mystic, and the erstwhile King might look divine then.
But the question here is not whether King Birendra was good or not. The question here is: why he is considered a hero more than a decade after being killed.
At the risk of angering the slight-monarchists and pro-monarchists, I’d say, the reason is because he left Nepal a little weaker and more fractured than the he had inherited. The purpose here is not to taint him or say that it was his intention. For he and his family did not wish to go this way. But simply that a country at the peak of armed conflict is what we had, once he was thrown out of this world. It was a rude awakening to all of us. Suddenly the Shangri-la was exposed to reality. Nothing was golden anymore. Imagine being stripped naked in front of a full auditorium. It was akin to that. All of a sudden… Your worst possible nightmare becoming a reality…
But, the mind has amazing ways of trying to get back to comfort zone. We always think that the world was good when we were young. It’s a cocoon we live in. It’s our own imaginary garden – the Eden – that we sometimes rest in. That’s why ‘Summer of 69’ is a great hit. That’s why Brian Adams is etched in our minds. That’s why we remember King Birendra and his family with reverence. We know things were not great during his times, but newspapers remind us every day that nothing went right after his death either.
A lot has changed in these 11 years. The term Royal has been taken out from a lot of institutions (that has hardly changed their modus operandi). Staunch monarchists fear to admit in public that they are one. We don’t have a guardian angel (as it used to be said) looking over us anymore. It is now about what we choose as a destiny for ourselves.
It is understood that these may not be the best of times. The times when the politicians are the butt of most jokes around tea stalls. We have a feeling that we were cheated, with the failed constituent assembly and the agenda of state restructuring. The feeling that the politicians have let us down reverberates across the society.
The wheels of fortune are pointing towards us again. It’s true that that we may not solve every problem in a short time, but we might do something meaningful, when the opportunity is here. The people, who feel cheated as of now, will have to impress upon the ones they elected that they need to do something meaningful for the people that voted for them, elected them, and elevated them to a position of power. We have a responsibility to make them feel that they owe it to us.
To win people, they don’t have to do things out of ordinary. It is not about becoming Buddha, gaining the all conquering wisdom, becoming the ‘enlightened’ one, rising above the ranks of mortals. It is just about recognizing what we want. And that is simple enough.
Yours truly, during his travels in Nepal (which cannot be called exhaustive, but at least representative) has been amazed to see how modest Nepalis are, and how modest their dreams are. This is not about one ethnicity. This is constant across ethnicities, class, region and religion and gender. It’s just about being able to work for an amount that can be considered fair. An amount, by which they can live. They just want a guarantee that if they left work in the morning, their family can remain in peace that they would be back by the evening, for sure. It’s just about, not having to walk miles to fetch a pail of water. It’s just about, not having to sell their property, just when they fall sick. It’s just about, wanting a genuine education for their children. An education by which, they can lead their lives. It’s just about, wanting dignity for what they are.
It’s just about, that ‘tiny’ much!
(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s Column in The Kantipur Times, published from Australia, on 6th June, 2012)