Last night, after a heart-wrenching conversation with a childhood friend regarding an anti-Gorkhaland signature campaign, I tweeted: New Delhi needs to understand its supremacist attitude towards its neighbors takes an intellectual and emotional toll on genuinely simple, good-hearted people.

 

I didn’t fully realize what was actually happening until I saw some new threads on my timeline. Sadly, Nepali people are now fighting “Nepali” people outside their border. Secretly they are still mourning the loss of their Greater Nepal after losing the Gurkha war (1814-1816), and there has been a deep-seated resentment against people living in these territories since: “How could they? Traitors!” It’s a tragedy to see how fragile and touchy Nepali nationalism is, how their corrupt and self-centered body politic is so easily threatened by the demands for dignity, equality and freedom, be it within their own country or beyond.

When I went to Kangra recently, I saw how briefly the Gurkhas had captured the fort among the successions of Indian lords and royalties. It helped put in perspective how vain and dangerous nationalist mythmaking is, especially at times like these. There is a strong belief that Nepal hasn’t lost a war—”कुन शक्तिको सामुमा कहिले हामी झुकेथ्यौं?”—it actually lost to the British. Time and again, it had to succumb to Indian authorities. Nepal didn’t even put up a fight with Middle Eastern countries where its people are forced into slavery, raped and killed. “Victory” is never clean or complete; history is never so black and white.

When I wrote about the quest for Nepal’s dignity and sovereignty as a young journalist for The Kathmandu Post in 2006/7, I think people were ready to talk about the nature of genuine pride or freedom in a more philosophical, spiritual, even political sense. These days, I’m afraid that kind of openness is missing. I don’t expect people so vain and insecure to make an effort to actually read history or philosophy, even if the times and circumstances are to blamed for making them so.

There is a sense of safety and security in their closed community and ignorance, and people need that sense of belonging. The tragedy is nothing unites people like hatred for the other. The USA needs its “terrorists” to unite people under a banner of false “safety”—fear doctrine?— and Nepal needs its Big Bad Brother to create a culture, identity, or a sense of community which is distinct, even superior than the other.

No one will make the hard effort to unite these communities built to exploit differences whether in Nepal or India—for India has its own mobs, and its own problems. Everyone will make every effort to be the hero of their small communities i.e. make the efforts to destroy, derail, rule and humiliate—even absorb and assimilate—the other minorities that present an alternative, often seen as a threat (which they could be).

 

So, where does my loyalty lie? As a former citizen journalist, I serve truth, and truth isn’t the property of a nation or a group. Truth doesn’t take sides. As a writer and an artist, I serve the citizens of the earth. I do not belong to one nation, nor do I have the safety or community of a group. I do not hate you, my friend, even though you probably hate me already because that’s how you can prove your loyalty, and continue to be part of your group. Yet, I sincerely hope that one day you will overcome your fears of the other, and our billion differences and reasons to hate and suffer. You know me: I’ll continue to work and pray for that day. Will you?

PS. For those who are genuinely interested to find out about my complicated relationship with Nepal, Nepali language and its people, I recommend KHAS PIDGIN, a Nepali-English poetry anthology, with videos: http://salikshah.com/khas-pidgin/. If you cannot purchase the book online for any reason, please write to me for a review copy: salik.shah[@]gmail.com. I will be more than happy to send you one. Thank you!

Note to self: I was so tempted to end this post with “जय हो!” rather than a thank you. Then I wondered how would people receive it? Is it Nepali, Gurkhali or Indian expression? Or is it a Sanskrit expression when these nations as we understand today didn’t even exist. Do such expressions and knowledge belong to individuals or a nation, or nations? How many people have time, inclination or education to think at such a philosophical or historical level? Forget it, I told myself. Don’t tease! We are quick to take offence, no?