The young Frenchmen and Americans at the end of World War I who had been completely disillusioned after their war experiences were called the Lost Generation by Gertrude Stein. The youths of my generation who spent (and are still spending) the longest phase of their formative period in the so-called never ending transition can be aptly called the fated Transition Generation. At first, I thought it was my personal crisis and there was no sense in making a fuss out of it. On a closer observation, however, things appeared otherwise. I found my case representative of so many contemporaries of mine who, since they have been able to understand something, have never known anything else except the transition, the excuses made in its name, and the heavy price they have been paying for it.
When the country entered into the multi-party democracy in the 1990s, those belonging to my generation were just heading towards adolescence. We would hear our elders holding high hopes from the long-awaited achievement. We were supposed to be lucky for being born at a time when ages-old autocracy had allegedly come to an end and the country was finally moving towards its golden era of freedom and prosperity. The first year, obviously, was called a period of transition, and we looked ahead with high hopes. But the transition seemed to prolong. It is just a shishu prajatantra (‘toddler democracy’), and is in the process of being institutionalized, they would say, and that everything would be settled very soon. And as anyone can guess, we believed that, too. But no sign of stability, peace and prosperity was to be seen anywhere, and the country seemed to be in a state of mess more than ever before. It was not much long before the country entered into the mad feat of arithmetic games of MPs’ head counting. Nothing was like before anymore, except the transition. Then there was the Maoist rising, and the transition seemed unrelenting. After much bloodshed, the Maoists came into mainstream politics, the elections of the constitution assembly were held, and the country was declared a republic. People finally wanted to believe that the grudges were finally gone forever, and the days ahead would be what they had longed for since what seemed like ages. Unfortunately, what ensued is right in front of us. We look ahead to the day when shishu ganatantra (‘infant republic’) matures and serves to the people’s expectations, but the day doesn’t seem to be anywhere near.
The Transition Generation underwent some of the greatest upheavals in the history of Nepal including the two great revolutions, the decade-long ‘people’s war’, the royal massacre, and the end of the 240-year old monarchy among others. It witnessed the largest number of deaths in the recent history, saw the largest number of protests, passed through the biggest number of bandhs, and endured the longest periods of uncertainties. Academic sessions were never so long; exams and the publication of results never so much delayed. A country which was peaceful and united, despite the existing injustices and poverty, had never before been questioned for its sovereignty or racial-cultural harmony among its people. I am sure my generation has wasted at least two decades, if not more, of its most precious time just being a spectator of the never ending, nowhere reaching conflicts and clashes, and, of course, the transition.
After a transition that seems like an eternity, and is full of impunity and disorder, you too, like me, want to believe: this time they, our leaders, our wise and prudent leaders, have really learned the lesson, and are going to behave in a sane way. No way. Except for a few faces in the parliament and the cabinet, except for a few abstract political jargons they repeat, except for a few political appointments of handpicked cohorts in the unstinted niches, and except for a few names of the roads and buildings, nothing changes. In this passage from the ‘panchayati democracy’ and the ‘multiparty democracy’ to the state of ‘democratic republic’ with the high-held dream of New Nepal, the promises have altogether remained the same. And same has been the level of commitment towards and implementation of the promises. The latest upheaval and anarchy just confirms it. Keshab Sigdel, in his poem “Will Power” portrays this reality with an acute precision:
“In new Nepal,”
“Everything will change:
economy will change
and, society will change.”
Optimistic and enthusiastic
I asked them–
“Will you also change?”
they looked at each other
and, one of them said–
“We haven’t decided this yet.”
A new government has been formed in the country. We know we shouldn’t believe in what they say, yet we want to believe them one more time. In fact we do not even have any other option except believing them. The symptoms are already here; this government is not going to be any different or any better at all, if not worse, than the previous ones. What do you expect from a cabinet filled with leaders literally rejected by people in the recent elections? Why should they bother to be responsible towards the people?
Some people have been repeatedly asking: why are youths leaving the country in such large number? I feel like asking: how come there are still some youths left in the country, which never considered them anything more than the tools that could be used to gain control upon the state apparatus? I know many of you hold the ready made answer: running away is not a solution. But I believe running away is not only a solution but a wise option indeed when the only alternatives staying back offers you is either you close your eyes and ears and remain oblivious to the impunities going around, or speed towards insanity. I think brain-drain is not a problem; it’s rather the only way out of the tunnel the other end of which takes you towards nothing but frustration and self-degradation.
Only the other day, I was talking to one of my senior-most teachers, a pioneer educationist of Nepal. What are you planning to do ahead? He asked me. What was my plan? Does my plan mean anything at all in this whirlpool of uncertainty? I had no reply. He looked at my blank face and said something I had least expected to hear from a person like him: Don’t spoil your time in this mess. Go abroad, and make your career. Do come back some day if you can. If you can’t, what can I say?
I have gradually come to believe that true academics is impossible in this country anymore, at least for the few years (if not decades) ahead. What do you expect from a system which is run by a mediocre herd of henchmen trapped in the quicksand of nepotism and corruption? If you are among the ones who don’t need to worry about working hard during examinations, carry a group of a few dozens to Balkhu and burn some tyres. You will get as much marks as you need. If that doesn’t work, smear soot on the faces of some high officials. That should guarantee the fulfilling of your demands. Probably you won’t have to worry even about jobs, good offices or promotions in the long run. But this would work only for very few and what would the rest do?
Do call me a pessimist, but this time I have ultimately failed in convincing myself that my country will ever succeed in guaranteeing my ‘life, liberty, and happiness,’ and I will be able to contribute in some ways to my country and my country-men. Would someone offer me some credible reasons why should I waste the most important part of my life in this mess? Why should I sacrifice myself to the futile battles of the short-sighted power mongers? I know I needn’t state what I have been finally thinking these days, because it’s the same thing that is going within you, too. After all we all belong to the same Transition Generation!
(Published in Republica on June 26, 2009)