'May You Live Through Interesting Times’

Not an original citation: I was always told it was an ancient Chinese farewell wish. Not a bad wish as wishes go; after all if one can’t be rich or famous, surely the next best thing to be is continually interested in what is going on around you?

July 4, 2017, 2:14 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 10, NO. 18, May 05- 2017 (Baisakh 22, 2074)

Not an original citation: I was always told it was an ancient Chinese farewell wish. Not a bad wish as wishes go; after all if one can’t be rich or famous, surely the next best thing to be is continually interested in what is going on around you?

When I was a child, which believe me dates back to the pre television age, we were always told if you’ve nothing interesting to say, don’t say anything. In fact we kids mistakenly believed that John Logie Baird had invented the TV specifically for Queen Elizabeth the 2nd’s coronation. It was during this occasion that we were able to pinpoint the difference between the interesting and the downright ordinary.   

As the great day arrived, another buzz went around that the highest mountain in the world had been climbed. The popular parlance insists on the term ‘conquered’ but I have a great deal of respect for mountains and no one will ever persuade me that they can be ‘conquered’. It’s one of those macho exaggerations that have no place in the relationship between humans and mountains.

Be that as it may, we all clung to the radio broadcasts or waited for the kids’ film matinee to flash the news. Of course the wily old newsmakers couldn’t resist making out that it was a kind of special coronation present. No offence to Everest meant I am sure.

The commentator on the grand occasion was none other than Richard Dimbleby. His sons, having inherited their father’s famous voice continue to make royal occasions interesting for us. The whole family (or at least the male line) knew loads of interesting stories behind every ceremonial. This made all the difference to their transmissions. I think it’ll still take other nations’ TVs  a while to catch the knack of things, even after 50 years. Maybe it’s a nationality thing, who knows?

One thing that caught the imagination of all the younger generation was Richard Dimbleby’s description of the ‘Stone of Scone.’ Ironically, having spent 6 centuries under the coronation throne in Westminster Abbey, it had been stolen by students  taken to Scotland and then returned. One could almost feel the grief around the television as the history of the stone was recited.

Being northerners, we had every sympathy for the legend of the stone and Richard Dimbleby made it all come alive for us. He made it interesting and the time of legends came alive.   Oh if we could only live in such interesting times! 

But we do, don’t we. Isn’t Nepal interesting?

When I first arrived in Nepal as a wife and mother, my 5th father-in-law took me on a tour of the Valley. My husband insisted I see the old Rana palaces. So, off we went.   By that time most of them were government offices and I couldn’t help thinking that with a few adjustments they would have been splendid attractions for tourists. Of course that wasn’t to be!

Wild exaggeration of popular anecdotes about the absolute horridness of the Ranas meant anything they built wasn’t worth keeping. Opportunities to milk the tourist dollar slipped down the drain. Throughout the decades, particularly on home leaves, I have returned to this thought. Particularly when you tour the green lands of England and the hills of Scotland. We pay a substantial amount to look at models of the first combustion engine and a flooded out shred of an old Abbey, the decay of which was ably kick started by Henry 8th. It’s the anecdotes and stories that keep absolute ruins alive. Stones have their own songs to sing; and this was brought home to me once more after the 2015 earthquake. History lay in ruins all around us; and our government let it lie!

What is it about Nepali politicians who, unchecked by any balancing authority, continually shoot themselves in the foot? They’ve done it again this weekend. Thy impeached the Chief Justice for doing her job!  As I write questions are being asked about the land. What kind of a time are we living in?  Is it, as Dickens wrote about the French Revolution, ‘the best of times and the worst of times’?

Well, I am sure it will be pointed out, how the economy has grown. But who helped it grow if not the young laborers who send remittances home from countries who do not treat them hospitably; and who is to blame for that?

Who is to blame if not a bunch of political cronies who have made their name in the avenues of corruption in order to feed their greed?

Not all are corrupt; at least, now the rule of law has taken a thorough knock on the head, one hopes not. The situation reminds one of the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of the sinful ways of these cities, God challenges his people to

‘Search about the cities and show me one just man, for whose sake I shall save the whole of Sodom and Gomorrah’.

Of course no such person was found and God’s people are ordered to flee the cities without looking back. One woman does and she is turned into a pile of salt. Interesting times indeed, but it is a puzzling story. Would any one, having to leave all their possessions behind, not look back? I’ve posed this question to Christians, Moslems and Jews, the three world religions that have this story in their holy texts. My end question to all this querying is contained in a rap poem:

‘ Why wouldn’t Lot’s wife look back? You would too mind.

Whose going to take a man’s word for leaving everything behind?

This sin and shenanigans is only man’s fault,

 Why should the poor woman be turned into salt?

Our Chief Justice, for carrying out her job properly without fear or favour, by all reports enquired as deeply as the Chief Justice of any democratic nation would do and has the right to do in safeguarding the rule of law. I hope the impeachment move is thrown out, after which those who are behind it should be impeached and thrown out to safeguard our very fragile democracy!

 

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