On cricket, Tarai, and India

March 10, 2008 at 5:09 pm 1 comment

On cricket, Tarai, and India



Nepali political psyche never freely critiqued nationalism in terms with multicultural liberalism. We need liberal political efforts to understand when peoples in the south support Indian cricket victory, such attachments are not the ideologies of less Nepaliness. Nationalism was parochially defined around what Kathmandu thought it was — fallaciously stated during the Panchayat rhetoric that being pro-cultural Indian is being alien — but such mindsets changed a little as post-panchayat democracy matured. And the rigid form of nationalism is put under erasure more prominently during the recent tarai resistance.The tarai cultural root is intensely linked with India from the attire like Dhoti to matrimonial ties. The hill cultures of Brahmin-Chetri community too have such roots, but they now are distanced by time and space for many political and social reasons. For example, the tarai youths celebrate Indian cricket victory with joyfulness and hill has nothing of such widespread enthusiasm though there are exceptions. I know a hill Brahmin family living in Kapilabastu from ages had to come to Kathmandu during the tarai agitation. The male head of the family is one of the ardent Indian cricket supporters I have ever seen in my entire sporting enthusiasm. He still refuses meal if India is defeated.In such contexts, Nepaliness may be understood differently and it is now appropriate to come up with liberal attitudes to pave ways for democratic notions of identity. A radical democratic citizen (Chantal Mouffe’s phrase) possesses patience and respect for differences. In the academia to which I belong, such liberalism is generally internalized, but arguably, such political sentiments have yet to be understood at many other cultural locations and private spaces.

Nepaliness has to be understood that closeness with India is not being Indian to the extent of not being Nepali. Such closeness also has to be non-apologetic because there are truths of association. The political failures of communication with the tarai sentiment were overwhelmingly fallacious during the Panchayat period. Even Maoist culture is not very clear on this issue otherwise the revolutionaries of the common people could have influenced the majority of common taraians. They arguably could not because they did not know how to comprehend cultural Indianess of the tarai psyche. The other democratic parties till recently had tarai support but they unfortunately have lost that privilege. One should remember that in the election after the first Janandolan, tarai-based political parties had lost to Nepali Congress.

Thus one of the important factors is understanding cultural Indianess in tarai in multiple forms like reading Tulsidas, singing Hindi songs, following similar rituals, and celebrating Indian cricketing victory in the streets of Janakpur and Surhania.

Furthermore, if Britain may be, theoretically at least, ready for an Asian Home Minister in near future, Nepaliness has to be ready for a taraian or Buddhist prime minister. It is a hypothetical proposition but readiness prepares us for internalizing democracy. It may be difficult to reason on such ideas, but readiness is all. There may not be a taraian or Buddhist prime minister for decades, but, I again say, readiness is all.

In the academic culture I belong to, if I repeatedly declare that Tagore and Premchand are my literary icons, I have no problems with my cultural Indian association, but if it is overtly Sachin Tendulkar or Saurav Ganguly, in other cultural locations, I may find uneasiness around me. One can declare Australian Bratt Lee as one’s hero, but there is hesitancy around of some kind if Dhoni is heroically praised.

Such misunderstandings cause discomforting relations among peoples in Nepal, but as the essence of multiculturalism is understood more critically, there may be less tensions and confusions in future. I know that challenging identity-essentialism brings suspicions to some extent because liberalism has still to be freely consented with ease and comfort. One at least can be aware of such multicultural nuances. Nepali opinion-media at length has come up fairly well on such matters. That is why cultural literacy becomes so important for all of us: if a Nepali is free to idolize Mao, the other Nepali is free to adore Nehru.

We all are fortunate that the tarai problem is solved, and with reservation we want to give credit to all those who banged their seemingly intelligent heads on the conference tables. But for common Nepalis, such negotiations do not allow us to escape and relax. Nepali psyche needs to know more about the constructed Nepali-others, to know why a taraian youth cheers when Dhoni hits a boundary at Brisbane.

Nepali cultural literacy has to know more about Dhoti and Pan (not good for teeth though), and Sita Mai, cultural Indianess, Indic tradition, and South Asian sensibilities, along with Gundruk achar and Gaine songs.

A student planning to write a thesis comparing Tagore and Devkota was initially unable to remember the former’s name. Tyo Kalkatta ko Budho Dariwal ko ho sir, ke nam? (Sir, who is that bearded old man from Kolkata, I forgot!). I would also ask a tarai student to learn the mannerism of recalling a feeble smoker from Maitidevi. Guess who?




Entry filed under: Articles.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bitter Truth  |  March 16, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Nice article. I have seen people of KATHMANDU supporting Brazil football and for that a sane man should not label them Brazilian. I have seen Pahade living in Terai supporting Indian cricket like a terai people. So these issues should never be
    linked with nationality.

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