Many years ago I read in a newspaper of newly independent India that all developing countries hoping to prosper must have their own national heroes. This being instilled in my mind, I accepted it as normal when during the course of King Mahendra’s reign our list of ‘Rastriya Bibhutis’ was announced. Subsequent additions, I think have been Sankhadhar and King Prithvi Narayan Shah but one is left wondering why Jung Bahadur and even King Mahendra have been left out. After going over these decisions one can never deny that they were nationalists at heart.
France with its revolution of 1789 is said to be the cradle of democracy. The French historian Ernest Renan wrote that when considering the idea of nationhood one has to be able to distinguish between existing racial and language groupings. His feeling was that a nation comprised of people seeking a “collective identity”. Another historian, Karl Deutsch stated that a nation is ‘a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbours.’
It was some years ago that I had come across this very thought provoking article titled ‘What is a Nation?’ by Renan, The fact that the European Nations of today had evolved out of the city states of mediaeval Europe is a historical fact. In our part of the world, the present day South East Asian nations have evolved from what were princely states or principalities, ruled at one time by foreign colonial powers. Our Southern neighbour India was established as a Union of States.
Looking up in Wikipedia, I was informed that:
A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. ... It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.
There is no doubt that King Prithvi Narayan Shah was the creator of modern Nepal when he, starting from his small principality of Gorkha brought about the amalgamation of the ‘Baieses and the Chaubises’ into his realm. Subsequently he and his successors were able to expand in the three directions East, West and South. They were checkmated by the British at Sugauli and had to forgo much of the territories that they had conquered and subjugated. Later, Jung Bahadur had only limited success in Tibet but he must be appreciated for getting back to Nepal the ‘Naya Muluk’ or the territories that the British had taken some years previously.
What does present day Nepal consist of or comprise East to West from Mechi and Mahakali and North to South from Sagarmatha to the Terai. Currently we comprise of seven pradeshes, each with its own government and in some cases its own language. It has been claimed with adequate proof that one’s learning should be in ones mother tongue though this trend is not being followed. True the names of all provinces and the lingua franca in each has got to be sorted out but this is becoming a long drawn out process because of inherent difficulties.
The reality is that enrolment in Government schools, where the medium of instruction is in Nepali is drastically down, whereas the attendance in private schools where the fees are much, much higher is increasing day by day. An overload of unnecessary textbooks and colourful dresses enforced for ‘one upmanship’ is hiking up costs to the beleaguered parents! Is it just because ours is a computer and internet age? Is it for the attraction of DV and IELTS that English is a favoured language by far and away? Another reality is that many so called Education Consultancies are sending students to different lands, ostensively to study but in reality to enter in that country to work for a living. It is for that region that Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean are being taught all over Nepal.
With the massive spread of Hindi and considering that it is the lingua franca in three adjoining areas of Nepal there is always the danger that our language and culture will be over swamped. One has only to look at English and its role as a connecting language in Europe. Will this trend stop if and when Brexit takes place? One is not in a position to forecast. One silver lining as far as Nepali is concerned is the increasing number of books that are being printed in Nepal. We should be able to export this to the Nepali speaking populations not only in India but elsewhere in the world. It is worthwhile to note that Ms Neelum Karki Niharika, the author and winner of this year’s Madan Puraskar with ‘Yogmaya’ is a Nepali nurse now based in the States. Another bright spot is the increasing number of Nepali cinemas being produced within the country and subsequently being screened in different parts of the world where substantial numbers of Nepalis are working or even permanently residing.
A national daily’s report on 4th December is a cause for worry. The enrolment of students for the coming academic year in the Department of Humanities of Tribhuvan University was stated to be just 22. Broken down it was: History nil, Hindi 2, Buddhist Studies eight, Population studies 20, Nepali 22, Sanskrit 22 and Geography 36. Is Nepali turning into a dead language like Latin? Are the Nepalis forgetting their mores, customs and their own culture? Perhaps no, for one reads that Teej, Dasain and Tihar are being celebrated with great gusto and enthusiasm in different lands such as Australia, Fiji, UK, countries of Europe and the Americas. At one time one used to say that the Chinese can be found all over the world. Now it is also Indians, but Nepalis are not far behind!