Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Nepal was fabulously successful. He addressed Parliament and his speech was telecast live. An ex-serviceman from the Indian Army, an infantryman from the Gorkha Rifles who had retired and returned home to tend to his bhainsi (buffalo) and his fields had been rivetted to the TV during Modi's visit. He said enviously: “he spoke so well. If only we had such leaders”...
And then Narendra Modi had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like 'I love you Nepal'.
Sure, he does. Except that the Nepalese don't quite see it like that. They might admire Modi, but they are not the adoring crowds at Madison Square Gardens. They are not Indians. They may be poor but they are the only country in South Asia that never allowed itself to be colonised. They did worship their King - but when it was time to despatch him, they did so with a ruthlessness and comprehensiveness that was frightening. They describe themselves as a tail between two rocks – India and China – but they will not be patronised by either.
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Indian reporters can feel oh-so-tall at the brave jawans/NDRF/government of India for rescuing those poor Nepali people. Compared to India, which other country has done more , asked a reporter ingenuously of a Nepali. The Chinese are there only to exploit the Nepalese and dump cheap products in their country, commented another self-righteously. Delhi by contrast...
It was India – and thankfully, not Manmohan Singh, but Modi, who was on hand, another commented importantly.
Nepal is marginal to this discourse. It's all about I Me Myself. Just as Indians go to Bangladesh and say: 'we helped you become a country and you should never forget that”. Or go to Sri Lanka and say: “why can't you live in peace with the Tamils? Just give them their country” or go to Pakistan and say: “we were one country once. My family lost so much land we'd owned... we are so alike, why can't we come together again ?”
It was the Mukti Bahini that fought the war with Pakistan. The Tamils are a minority in Sri Lanka and the capital of Sri Lanka is Colombo, not Jaffna or New Delhi. And Pakistan is doing just fine on its own.It's got its own bomb even though there were times it thought it would have to eat grass...mistakes might have been made but then who doesn't make mistakes?
There is much that India has to be proud of. But guys, guys, flex those muscles and pump the testosterene in the US or China, not in Nepal ? No one likes to be reminded constantly that the Prime Minister of a neighbouring country has done more to ease the pain than their own Prime Minister. And let's quit with the 'they are so much like us' theme. They're not. Nepal is proud and strong and silent and stoic(even though its ruling elite might be prone to neurosis and shrill hysteria now and then). It will gather together what remains and rebuild itself anew.
An incident comes to mind. A little girl told her father importantly how she gave a man without any hands, 25 paise. Her father was silent for a moment and then said gently: “when you give away something, it must be something that is most important to you. Otherwise there's no value in giving. And your right hand must not know your left hand is giving something”
Nepal's earthquake is not about Indians belching and feeling good loudly. It is about respecting and admiring Nepal's dignity quietly.