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Spice of Life

By P. Kharel

Acting drama
While he led the Nepalese delegation to the United Nations General Assembly recently, Defence Minister Ishwar Pokharel was given the charge of the government as “Acting Prime Minister” just as Subash Nemwang was anointed “Acting Parliamentary Party leader”.
As “Acting Prime Minister”, Pokharel even addressed a number of programmes and the organisers recognised him with the temporary honorific, much to the boosting of the defence minister’s morale which slid several steps down the organisational rung in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Whenever the United States President Donald Trump travels abroad, but we don’t get to read or hear “Acting President” Mike Pence, though the latter’s position is accepted by Americans as only “a heartbeat away” from the presidency. In other words, in the eventuality of the presidency falling vacant, the vice-president takes over as the presiding deity of the White House.
At least twice in the post-World War II years, the VP of the day filled premature vacancies. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson got automatically elevated when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Johnsn’s hometown Texas in 1963. The president was dead and long lived the president! In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate wiretapping scandal that was about to invite impeachment motion against the president who was serving his second term in office. His Vice-President Gerald Ford was, as a result, sworn in as the new executive chief to complete the rest of the term until presidential elections were held two years later in 1976.
Closer in South Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for frequent foreign visits, but we do not get to hear of any “Acting Prime Minister” in the world’s “largest democracy”. His predecessor Manmohan Singh travelled to more than 90 countries—though he did not spare any time to visit Nepal during his ten years at the head of the Indian government—but no “Acting Prime Minister” was pronounced at any public function.
But then Nepal’s is a unique case, even if it might sound ridiculous to some. Lesson: Small minds nurse something small but act tall and sound bombastic.

Their Eminences, pray!
Whatever has happened to the report submitted by the Nepal-India joint team of Eminent Persons Group? The veto power is with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who apparently is vacillating over it, and doesn’t mind letting the report’s copy gather dust. His Nepalese counterpart KP Oli, so quick in commenting on anything and everything that carries his fancy, distances himself from even mentioning it in any which way. Interesting, indeed?
Meanwhile, Their Eminences on the EPG team face far from comfortable stares from one and all, as if they have proved to be a pack pawns in the larger canvas of political moves and messages between Kathmandu and New Delhi. They have to brave their way through such crowds when at public functions, and cool their heels in a state of embarrassment.

Red light!
Gandaki Province’s Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung, in an interview to Janabhawana weekly, made some candid comments. He proposed holding discussion on the aspects of introducing sex tourism. Subba, who hails from the UML faction of Nepal Communist Party (NCP), attracted support and criticisms for touching upon what a section of society considers a taboo.
Subba’s party chiefs Prime Minister KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, however, pretend not to have heard of the issue. Oli, one of the key characters of the 1970 Jhapa movement in which landlords were beaten black and blue, and some of them had their throats slit just as Pushpa Kamal Dahal skippered the decade-long “People’s War” that claimed the lives of 17,000 people.
There was a time when most Nepalese who visited Bangkok would knock on the doors of sex houses in the Thai capital of Bangkok. Sex industry, it is said, accounted for a quarter of its annual earnings in the 1970s and 1980s. Sex industry flourishes in many a Western democracy as well as otjer parts of the world. After all, it was long ago described as the world’s “oldest profession”. In nations where sex industry is recognised, taxes are raised, some of which are funelled as aid to developing countries.
But ultra-pretentious people come as stumbling blocks to the tide and flow of the times to maintain a sham that is mocked in action every hour of the day round the year.

Loose coins
Loose coins are yearning to be let free and circulate. But they can’t breathe and roll often enough. During festivals, they are an essential element, as devotees feel that money in coins have a special status and weight when offering the same to deities. People also like to ensure that coins accompany the money offerings they make to their daughters, sisters and others who are identified by tradition to be paid respect with “Dakshina”.
On other occasions, however, coins lose their luster, what with inflation racing fast. People opt for currency notes. This seems to be widespread all over the country. A knowledgeable someone with banking experience tells me that sacks of coin-laden packs get stored for months and even years at banks in many parts of the country, awaiting their transport to the headquarters.
Without comment
Radhika Ghimire, in Annapurna Post: “Democracy and republic seem to have arrived in Nepal for only brokers.”

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