‘Home away from home’ is a popular tourism refrain. It explains the importance of home, no matter where it is and how it is. This you realize once you get out of your home, as I discovered recently.
“Mama, I’m coming home”; I posted this famous Ozzy Osbourne number as my Facebook status the day before I left Delhi for home. I received nearly 20 ‘likes’ and comments from my friends, most of them wishing me a safe trip and welcoming me back to Nepal.
In my first piece for the ‘Delhi Diary’ column after I landed in the Indian capital, I talked about the developments made by the ‘metro city’. They are quite impressive, indeed. Just a little more than an hour’s flight from Kathmandu, Delhi is far ahead of the Nepalese capital – in terms of infrastructure and other developments. As I return to home for college vacation after three months, I find myself taking a different perspective on the developments in the two capitals.
Before I left home, I was full of frustration over the state of my country. A normal frustration of an average teen ager, I would assume. Political instability, ever-going bandha and chakkajam, water and power woes, bad roads with potholes every where. Problems in Nepal seemed endless. Friends, of my age felt the same way and everyone agreed that our ultimate destination would be abroad where we would first study and then settle. We could, in no way imagine our future in a country which was according to us, gradually developing into a ‘failed state’.
But, just a few thousand miles away from home -- and it changed me. No doubt, India is a rising world power and way ahead of Nepal. You cannot simply make a comparison. But I discovered that there are many things in which we Nepalese are far better than our Indian counterparts. Social and cultural aspects stand out.
Take, for instance, a social factor. Nepali people are often praised for their warm, welcoming, polite and generous behavior. How true when compared with the common Indian attitude I came across. When it comes to interacting with many Indian people in Delhi, one would be greeted with rude, harsh, manner less behavior. Also, one wouldn’t be surprised if he lands up in some other place than he intended to, after asking direction to someone on the road. And of course, how can you forget theBiharis, who shamelessly spit paan outside your door? (No, the Gandhi-giri approach as shown in Munna Bhai doesn’t work).
About security? Less said the better. Metro city Delhi is often termed as the one of the most unsafe cites -- especially for women. No doubt, Delhi is a huge city and home to more than 10 million people, almost half of Nepal’s population. Crime in such city is inevitable. But statistics show that the ratio of crime to the population is highly negatively proportionate. A joint UN organization and Government conducted survey earlier this year made a startling revelation that two out of three women in Delhi had faced some form of harassment last year. More than 45 percent of women said that they felt unsafe in the city. As of May 2010, 212 rape cases had already been registered in this year.
I guess, these figures are in themselves answers to the questions we do raise about the state of security in Kathmandu. True, the situation has not been very encouraging when compared to the past, but as compared with big cities like Delhi in the next door neighbor, we have plenty of reasons to say home sweet home.
When talking about India, how can we forget about cheaters, frauds and cons? (Remember the Bollywood flick Bunty or Babli?) I’ll tell you my own personal experience. I was asked Rupees 2000 for a replica of an ancient Indian watch in a shop. Finally, at the end of a long bargaining session, the same product was offered to me at a mere Rupees 200. When you are in Delhi, be prepared to be fooled almost everywhere; auto-rickshaws, shops, in ancient monuments sites, and even in temples. So, next time you visit Delhi, don’t be surprised (especially if you’re a fair skinned tourist) if someone comes to you and offers you to buy the Taj Mahal or even the Qutub Minar (This has actually happened once). We fare far better – generally speaking.
Amongst all these grim pictures, there is something to cheer about. Interacting with people in the Indian intellectual communities and high profile personalities provides a huge learning experience. In exceptional cases, I have also come across people, who unlike their contemporaries are helpful and supportive.
But nonetheless, home is sweet. It does not matter if there is not much sugar. What matter are the values and manners in which Kathmandu is perhaps second to none.