Each of us is stuck in a vicious cycle “Chakrabyu” in Nepal. No, I’m not talking about politics or government. I’m talking about us, ordinary citizens.
For a minute, Let us imagine this scenario.
I am a branding expert. I have to rush for a business meeting with a client which is a private school who wants us to advertise them better. The meeting is at Durbar Marg in central Kathmandu. I decide to take a taxi as the traffic is bad and it’s getting late. The taxi driver happens to be a middle-aged smiling fellow. He doesn’t seem to be a bad person. But he has decided to tamper with his meter and dupe me.
Lets look at his point of view. Kathmandu is getting outrageously expensive for him to sustain his young family. He has to make enough profit to give back to his taxi owner and then some more to feed his family that night. So he feels he has no choice but to con me. So he makes a sad choice. He tampers with his meter and overcharges me. I sit silently seething at this humiliation of knowing I’m being duped but not having any immediate proof or the time to argue with him. I pay up. I feel wronged.
That evening, the taxi driver goes home to his rented room where his family of four lives. On the way to his room, he stops by the shop to buy foods to be cooked that night. His wife is waiting. The shop owner is a hard-working woman. She may not want to dupe her customers, specially this taxi driver, but she feels she has to. She feels she has no choice !
Well, her landlord has been arbitrary increasing the rent of her apartment, and on top of that, she has to send her two children to a “private boarding school” for any chance of her children to have a bright future – or so she thinks, since all her neighbors send their children to these rather fancy schools. She makes this dirty choice for the sake of her children.So she spikes up the prices arbitrarily, duping the taxi driver. He complains about these daily price rises. She replies calmly. “Ajkalko Terai hadtalle garera bhau badeko ho!” (prices have risen because of the some strikes/shutdowns in the Terai or supply problem)
Next morning, she collects her “hard earned” profits that she has saved 1 rupee at a time and goes to her children’s school.She is in for a shock! She asks the school principal (owner), why is the school increasing its fees randomly with all these added costs and hidden fees on top of the tuition fees? A standard non-emotional reply comes, “You know, teachers demands, inflation, everything is getting unaffordable, premium services etc etc” The vegetable seller isn’t convinced but what can she do? She feels helpless. She grudgingly pays off her children’s (increased) monthly dues. She silently returns to her shop. “Ke garne”
The educated Mr. X who is the school principal is a smart man and has been able to make a good profit running this school and leads a comfortable life for his family in the city. But lately, he’s been forced to exhort more and more from the parents of his students.
Well, because these days, he has to pay more and more money in the name of “donations” – open extortion by all these many youth, local, ethnic, political groups in his area. They hound him day and night. He feels helpless! They threaten to burn his school buses and more…. So he feels he has no choice but to make a bad choice. He decided to fleece more and more money from the parents of his students.
To make this happen, he needs more students to enroll for the next school year. He has decided to promote his school heavily by doing some branding that enhances his institution’s image which will in turn bring more profits. Guess who he is going to meet in Durbarmarg to get expert consulting advice from?
And guess who he is going to get overcharged or duped by?
Me, who’s duped by the taxi driver, who’s duped by the vegetable seller, who’s been duped by the private school owner. (Hence a vicious cycle of duping)
Is this the future we want our children to inherit in Nepal? Where most people have every incentive to extort others to survive. Each day, we face such moral choices to continue or end this vicious cycle.
Stopping this vicious cycle starts with me (you)!
The question is: Will you break this cycle ? Will you begin change from yourself?
Will you ? Will I ?
An old version of this article appeared in Myrepublica newspaper on March 16, 2011