Let me state straightaway that my thoughts are about the language and not the people! Years ago I read the book ‘Crazy English’ but the reality is that this language has become almost universal. It has diversified to bring about nineteen versions starting with English (Australia), Hinglish in India, Singlish in Singapore and ending with English (Zimbabwe).
Nepal’s closeness to the British has been exemplified by referring to the Nepali in the British army as Johnny Gurkha. Nepalis in our army and that of British India fought in World Wars I & II. However now is the time to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as Britain no longer rules the waves? Is the sun, which once never set in the Empire finally doing so?
Before BREXIT there was a comment stating that UK has to decide whether to stay in the European Union or become the 51st state of the US. Following BREXIT Premier Johnson edged up to the Americans and tried to take what remains of the Commonwealth along a new direction. Is India moving in that direction and taking Nepal along? Is the hullabaloo about Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the State Partnership Program (SPP) in which some of our leaders seem to have vested interests just a side show? Are we already there?
There is much stress in the learning of the English language but this a language full of contradictions which are bound to baffle the individual whose mother tongue it isn’t. Some examples of very contradictory words used together are:
Found Missing Open Secret Small Crowd Act Naturally
Clearly Misunderstood Fully Empty Pretty Ugly Seriously Funny
Only Choice Original Copies Exact Estimates Tragic Comedy
Foolish Wisdom Liquid Gas Working Holiday Social Distancing
& Naked Truth
One truth for us in Nepal now is that many of our leaders are naked too! Do we need to keep these at the helm any longer? Should they not be swept aside in one fell swoop?
Because of the fact that English was imposed on all lands that the British ruled over, it is no surprise that local words were absorbed into the language. As far as Nepal is concerned the words that come immediately to mind are – khukuri and dal-bhat.
But necessity is the mother of invention and though the UK is no longer in the European Union, English is still the official first language. This is a grave concern to the French who tried to replace it but without success. That is why we must ensure that our children can write and communicate in English with it ease if they are to get along in this modern world. But this does not mean that our toddlers have got to be suited and booted with a tie or ‘kanthalagot’ around their necks to ape what is present in colder regions. Such attire is unwarranted as it is a discomfort in the hot and humid regions of the tropics that we live in. One does not have to be dressed as an Englishman to speak their language! Reason for this is that it is a perennial source of income for schools insisting on outdated concepts!
Credit must be given to the Englishman, who closeted in his castle, has come forward with the list of collective nouns given below:
Herd of cows, flock of chicken, school of fish, gaggle of geese, pride of lions, murder of crows, an exultation of doves and a congress of owls. Baboons are specially privileged to have a parliament! Does this reflect on us in Nepal?
Our own language Gorkhali or Khaskura or Parbaitiya is said to have become common usage after Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1769 CE made himself master of the valley then known as Nepal. The language is said to have Sanskrit origin, though there is strong resemblance to the Kumauni language. The Bible, propagated by missionaries in Nepal has the distinction of being the first printed work in Nepali.
An interesting point is the current controversy of implementing the use of the new embossed vehicle plates with the Latin script. The rumour is that it is a scam to gradually do away with the use of Devnagiri script of the Nepali language! Does it seem possible?
Jung Bahadur, impressed by the British started the school for his children at Thapathali with an English teacher. He perhaps was not aware of the English heritage as stated in a rhyme of 1764 CE which went:
They hang the man and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from the common,
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.
Yes, most of our current politicians have this trait too, as we have copied the Mother of All Parliaments of the UK. Surprisingly even the phrase ‘Enough is enough’ was heard in the parliaments of Nepal & UK in connection with resignations of a finance minister and a PM respectively!
Nepal has had a special relationship with the British since the Treaty of Sugauli (1816) was signed. Our citizens served initially in the Colonial British Indian army and later, following the independence of India in 1947 in both the British and Indian armies. In aftermath of this, many Nepalis have been trained under what was known as the Colombo Plan.
Countries never under British Rule i.e. Mozambique and Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1995 and 2009 respectively. The last conference of this organisation was held in Rwanda in June this year. Will taking membership of this Commonwealth be a safeguard for Nepal in future years? After all Ukraine’s quest to become a member of the European Union is also for survival as is also the memberships of Finland and Sweden in NATO. In retrospect King Birendra’s action to make Nepal a ‘Zone of Peace’ had the similar objective, which never came to fruition! Perhaps the time is ripe to re-start this process too.
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd