I invite you to send/share this new year message to your friends).
My dear Indian friend,
I wish you a happy new year 2016 ! May the coming days bring warmth, peace and prosperity to you and your near-dear ones! I hope you had a great year. Unfortunately it was a year to forget for me.
The second and more depressing event for us has been for the past few months (since September 23), I along with 28 million Nepalis have been enduring a life with little or no fuel which used to come through India but doesn’t come now. Since fuel is the primary means through which other basic necessities rely upon to be transported, we have been in a state of shock for months. To put things bluntly, I believe there is a ‘unofficial’ economic blockade on us going on, sadly ‘led’ by and puzzlingly “denied” by the Indian government.Things are getting much worse day by day. I find little of everyday necessities and even when I do, it just gets pricier every week. Even some life-saving medicines are now scarce. I worry for many fellow citizens with health issues who may not get help in time or properly. Transports are increasingly hard to find in emergencies. Hospitals and doctors are harder to reach to. Sadly, hundreds have died in horrendous road accidents since the blockade because desperate Nepalis trying to reach home for the festivals cramped on the ill-fated buses. The bitter cold this year is hard on the earthquake hit districts.
Let me tell you a bit about my life since this ‘blockade’. I do away with little. To reach work and to buy everyday necessities, I walk a lot. If i have to go far, I ask strangers for a lift (ride). Many do help. My family has rationed to cooking meals only once a day. We usually eat bread and tea at night. This saves the little bit of cooking gas that we have left. My neighbors have started using firewoods to cook. Pretty soon, this will be our case. I have even taken upon warming water in my electric rice cooker to use that to take my bath 🙂 Everywhere I walk in Kathmandu, I now see lines on the roads. Lines of people, cars, buses, bikes, gas cylinders etc all waiting to get something affected by the blockade.
During this blockade, sadly my grand-aunt died. We had to go look for a transport with enough fuel to perform her last rites besides a holy river. We finally managed to find an ambulance with enough fuel to arrange for her last rites at the Pashupatinath temple. (I highly recommend you to visit it at least once in your lifetime). As I stared at her burning body, I couldn’t help contemplate the irony that her husband died bravely fighting to protect the sovereignty of your nation, India in the Indo-China War in 1962. And his wife died during a blockade by the very nation that her husband died protecting.
Many Nepali I meet these days, seem to be seething with quiet rage or sulking away depressed. In my frequent long walks these days, I sometimes wonder, what would happen if some government decided to impose a similar economic blockade on India and its citizens? I bet, a billion of you would be outraged! Not just you, as your neighbors, even we Nepalis would be outraged! As we know what it means to lose one’s dignity in such blockade, we wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.
So, if by now, you are asking to yourself, how can all this be true? Why is this not news? I also wonder the same. That is why I write to an informed citizen like you to find out the ‘truth’ on your own and to encourage the vibrant Indian media to work towards finding the reality of this ‘silent’ crisis that may soon burst into an unimaginable pain for not just millions of Nepalis but hundreds of millions of Indians living nearby.
Is it a good idea to strip away basic livelihood and dignity of millions to punish the few one is angry with? I am sure you and I both would disagree. I am sure there are grievances, neighbors have with each other. Whatever and however grave they might be, you and I both would agree that this can be dealt in a ‘focused’ diplomatic way.
If the Indian government is frustrated at our government, then they don’t realize how much frustrated Nepal’s own citizens are with our incompetent leadership. Our leadership across the spectrum continue to treat us citizens as second class forcing millions of us to live a life without dignity, and in abject poverty. They continue to divide us pitting one against another in the name of caste, ethnicity, status and what not. They poke at our historical divides rather than make us believe in our shared future. They left us so unprepared for the catastrophic earthquake that it killed nearly nine thousand of us in our earthquake unprepared infrastructures. And now we have come to learn that they have stripped our nation so naked that we were so hopelessly unprepared for this fuel crisis. (Nepal keeps a total fuel storage reserve of only 3 weeks- you would at least think we would be better prepared). As hundreds of thousand still await for earthquake relief for the winter (and few have died waiting for it in bitter cold), preparedness seems to be the last priority for our government and the ‘blockade’ another excuse to do nothing!
It should be painfully clear to you by now that we are tired of our leadership. So it confounds us, why would a good neighbor ‘prescribe’ problems instead of ‘solutions”? Has India lost faith in the power of democracy? Has India lost faith in the power of ordinary citizens to replace their incompetent leaders with better ones? If India feels the urgency to ‘prescribe remedies’ that goes on to make millions of lives painful then I for one, would definitely want to hear the rationale behind it.
As days grow into months, our personal pains are turning into a collective bitterness. I am afraid it might turn into outright rage in the coming days. Continued bitterness between good friends is a great friendship lost. I urge you as a responsible citizen of India to reflect upon this grave reality. Do this not only to help us, but for your sake and for your nation’s sake. This crisis has badly tarnished the reputation, the glory and the prosperity that a rising India craves for in the next decades as it comes closer to its goal of becoming the world’s next superpower.
We the new generation (3 out of 4 Nepali are under the age of 40) have always considered Nepal lucky to be between China and India, both projected to be one of the most prosperous nations in the next decades. I am afraid this is all turning into a curse for us. Our countries have shared so much in common since ages that I firmly believe India’s peace and prosperity is directly tied with Nepal’s. The question then remains; will your India help my Nepal rebuild its shattered dignity and economy or will it do the opposite?
Winter is upon us and this one has been particularly cold.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Your Nepali neighbor
P.s a quick way to write to your government could be to use this link that goes to India’s honorable prime-minister’s office.
( And I invite you to send this new year letter to another Indian friend).