By P. Kharel
Japan’s outgoing Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will voluntarily retire from public life and state duties at the end of this month. The royal couple wants a quiet and completely retired life, away from the worries of state duties and expectant crowds it served since 1989 after Akihito’s father Hirohito, the 124th Emperor, passed away. Ten days of holiday will set to mark a new era with the enthronement of Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, as the new emperor. “The emperor has retired, long live the new emperor!”
The Akihito-Machiko couple visited Nepal twice, when crown prince and crown princess. The first visit was in 1960 when they arrived via the Indian city of Patna. The second visit was on the occasion of King Birendra’s February 1975 coronation, in which more than 50 heads of state, government, princes and princesses, ministers and other dignitaries representing various countries had crowded the Nepalese capital.
When the newly appointed Japanese ambassador Masamichi Saigo to Nepal called on him prior to taking up the new assignment in Kathmandu, the emperor recalled his two visits to this land of the Himalayas. Akihhito was nostalgic about the pleasant times he had during his visits to here. According to members of former royalty and former Nepalese ambassadors to Japan, Akihito likes to mention the fond memories he had here and admires this country’s rich cultural heritage. The late Nepalese Crown Prince Dipendra and former Crown Prince Paras had also called on the emperor when they visited Tokyo at the invitation of Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito.
Such background might be the reasons why former Nepalese Crown Princess Himani is invited to various programmes organized by the Japanese embassy in Nepal. Himani Trust receives Japanese support in its social service activities.
Communists Vs Communists
Netra Bikram Chanda Biplav’s Nepal Communist Party is being pursued by the KP Oli-led NCP (NCP) government. Formerly, the two parties worked together and glorified their past violence. Today, they are at daggers drawn with each other, issuing threats and warning of dire consequences. This is something not prescribed by Karl Marx, by whose name they both swear, and hence the anomaly in Marxist call: “Workers of the world unite; you’ve nothing to lose but your chains.” Labour International was made obsolete by the end of World War II, when the first communist country emerged as Lenin-led Soviet Union.
There still are no less than half a dozen communist parties in Nepal. If they can’t work together, their call for communists to unite universally would sound ridiculous, even laughable. Perhaps partly because of lofty slogans thus mocked at by lack of substance that former Maoist Baburam Bhattarai parted company with his former comrades, and, of late, has been exhorting Prime Minister KP Oli to drop the “communist” tag in his party’s name. But the ruling party, composed of former UML and former Maoists, which has abandoned communist philosophy for all practical purposes, sticks to holding on to the tag it thinks draws votes from especially rural voters and the working class. Hoodwinking people seems to be considered an acceptable political business.
Race for messages
Whenever some event or issue comes up to celebrate or condole, political leaders run out of breath in their race for ensuring that that they are not out of step in discharging their arrogated duties. They scramble at the slightest opportunity for the prospective media spotlight. It so happens that daily newspapers indulge these politicians more than any other medium.
Some news media serve as platforms of records by giving space to such greetings or condolence messages but not without uniformity in terms of personalities, newsmakers, gravity of a given situation and the like. But this is an approach that is breached by many a news media that also complain of falling readership and viewership.
Goodbye printed books
Books at most libraries wear a gloomy look over not being ignored and untouched for long spells, if at all, for months and even years. A couple of librarians of reputed institutions the other day complained over tea and snacks that visitors to libraries are few and far between, as reading habits had taken a steep dive among especially the younger generation. They had exchanged notes with other librarians, too, and the latter’s reactions matched their own. Schools, campuses, town libraries and the like have racks of books that wear a sad look and gather dust, as very few readers venture to turn the book pages. Annual budgets for adding books to these libraries keep on being received, though.
What about e-books and other internet sites that offer vast material for intellectual pursuit? If university teachers’ assessments are anything to go by, the report card does not read impressive. Times have changed considerably. It has been so from the beginning of civilisation everywhere. It will be so for eternity. However, change does not necessarily mean for the better, as underscored by the state of libraries and readers in Kathmandu Valley.
Mohan Baidya, general-secretary of Nepal Communist Party (Revolutionary), in Nagarik daily: “The present government [of KP Oli] is not a communist government but one that maligns the name of communists.”