Recently I received a message in Nepali stating: “Self-care. Do it yourself. Lockdown is gone. Not Corona”. In retrospect, over the course of the last four months, or more specifically from 24th March till 21st July, a period of 119 days, we experienced a lock down.
Initially we were not allowed out on the streets and were advised to wear masks and observe physical distancing. Whilst our Namaskar form of greeting was ingrained, and frequent washing of hands though not with soap was usual, the insistence of sanitizer use was a departure from normal practice. There were restrictions on transport, irrespective of whether it was two, three, four or multiple wheeler as in haulage vehicles. Travelling around was therefore difficult except on one’s own feet! Obviously, the majority could not go far afield. Many eating places at restaurants and hotels were closed and staffs were either laid off or on minimal wage. Things were thus at a standstill, to say the least. Gathering of people, irrespective of whether it was at places of worship or at party palaces was also forbidden and became a norm of behaviour. All places of learning such as kindergartens, schools or universities were to function by way of Online only. The whole country was in a state of gloom.
As I pondered over these facts my mind went back to my experiences of the past. It was perhaps around 1944 when Joodha Shumsher was PM of Nepal. Because of the austerity during the time of World War II, those in mourning were advised to continue to use their everyday clothes and to wear a white cotton cap and cloth shoes to signify that they were in mourning.
I recalled the passing of the Samajik Sudhar Act of 2033 BS i.e. 1976 CE. This was enacted many years ago, possibly at a time when Kirti Nidhi Bista was at the helm of affairs. I could not remember many of the impositions made and took the help of someone who got married at that juncture of time. He too had to tax his memory for the restrictions that were laid down at that time. In gist these are:
- Janti restricted to 25 persons
- Wedding group for eating to be restricted to 61 persons. Sometimes a policeman would be there to check but he could be hoodwinked!
- Musicians to 3 - bandmaster and two others
- Saipato to have to have a Rs.10 silver coin only
- No excessive dowry or materials beds, TV sets etc.
- Samdini bhet to be done with Rs. 10/- silver ‘dabble’ being exchanged
Needless to say, many individuals tried to get around these rules it by various methods. The giving away of goods – bed and living furnishings were sent ahead to the day of wedding so as not to attract attention of the authorities. The wedding feast or celebration was held in 4 or 5 places and also in 4 or 5 days. Plea was that because of familial obligations, social prestige and what not, the implementation of such rules was impractical to say the least.
Major changes are again at our threshold. Much has to be changed in Nepal – in truth not just here but all over the world. Things are going to vastly different in future years and one cannot say whether it will be for the good of mankind or otherwise. As the lock down measures was lifted at midnight at the tail end of 21st July, the oncoming situation in Nepal is something that we cannot ignore.
The economies of all countries in the world are in the dumps. The value of money is going down and with eternal shortages of everything prices are still going to go up because of the demand. The present post World War II generation of the developed countries has literally had no experience of this. We in the developing or the least developed have never had the luxuries of living that the developed countries had, so we are in a worse situation. It is time for us to be prepared for the worst.
The truth however is that it has always been difficult to bring about changes in society. Niccolo Machiavelli, the renowned Italian writer of The Prince wrote as far back as 1513 these classical words:
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
We Nepalis have a great tendency to dance and make merry. It is a good trait and definitely better than being glum and immobile. This post Corona-19 period has to usher in great diligence on the part of every Nepali. The reality is that a lot of Nepalis who had been toiling in foreign lands for other people are now back in the land of their birth. They must be helped to the utmost to rehabilitate and settle in their motherland. They must be aided to start small industries or agricultural enterprises and our government must see to it and ensure that there is a market for their products or produce. One good omen is that many of the returnees who have come back have worked on the fallow fields in the villages and there has been a great in rice plantation this season. Let us pray that the heavy monsoons of this year will not hamper a bumper harvest. We the ‘Aam Nepali’ must support the returnees too by such actions as by buying what they have produced. The motto ‘Buy Nepali to support Nepal’ must be in the front of our brains.
There is a saying which says, ‘The morning shows the day’. Generally our hospitals are busy with stomach upsets during the summer months. But surprisingly, not so with such illnesses this year! Is it because of the lockdown, for people are cooking and eating at home? Can we also hope that because of environmental pollution being less that the hospital admissions during the coming winter will also decrease?