Cover Story

PAHILE NEPAL PAHILA NEPALI: A NATIONAL INITIATIVE LED BY ANIL SHAH

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The improbability of a foreseeable revolution from seemingly insignificant efforts may be the reason why most people abstain from putting in any work on something that does not guarantee an impact. However, at times, a small endeavor with a good heart can bring about a tiny ripple of hope that builds into a current that sweeps over the negativity, silencing the skeptics.

Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali is such an initiation, which aims to make a difference by simply properly channeling the patriotism in every Nepali. There is no doubt that the purest of love for Nepal exists inside each one of us, and it manifests in many different ways. After seeing how close Nepal was to fragmentation, many people realized the dangerous possibility of a breach in the unity of Nepal. Anil Shah is one of the people who feel very strongly about this issue, but he does not claim that it is his sole initiative. However, having a person who is socially active and well known by the media help spread the word about Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali is a definite advantage. We met with him at his office to get a better insight.

As the country went through a shift in power after a globally exemplified armed revolution, the people of Nepal were finally daring to hope for a nation steadying its steps. Things were looking good. But amidst the glorified victories, a dark serpent reared its ugly head. Ominous voices raised issues that never really had been of any significance for our country before. One thing led to another, and soon Nepal was getting dangerously close to fragmentation. With many Nepali citizens ready to get into physical confrontations for what they perceived was a fight worth fighting, people began forming alliances in accordance with their ethnicities and castes. For a country celebrated for its diversity, it came as a real shock when one Nepali looked at the other with a coldness that had never been seen before. True, as a nation we have never shied away from lighthearted banters between ethnicities, but this went way beyond the bahun-chettri-newar etc repartee.

It was at this point that many people began to get scared. While some people voiced their opinions and fought for the betterment of “their people”, a majority of the crowd silently cowered, fearing for the unity of the nation. Soon, this silent majority began to wonder how it would be possible to voice their disapproval against the more vocal minority that was pulling the nation towards fragmentation. For people who were not directly involved in main-line politics, it was very hard to be heard and thus many had to silently go along with it.

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Fortunately, that did not come to fruition and we did not fragment as a nation. Nevertheless, it was a wakeup call and in order to prepare for a better future, you must learn from the past. Although things simmered down, it has to be realized that the nation was, in fact, on the verge of going down a rocky road. In order to never return to a point where the entire essence of Nepal as a nation would be threatened, a group of people got together to do something about it.

Ideally, a huge campaign addressing the issue might have created a huge uproar in the nation and a patriotic wave of pride would have washed over the country. Then it would simmer down and in a matter of weeks it would all have been forgotten. Tempting, yes, but it was not the impact that would bring about a well-grounded impact. Agreeing on starting something that was on a smaller scale but more sustainable, the group vaguely agreed on a yet undecided initiation.

To get the ball rolling, discussions progressed onto pinpointing the one thing that signified Nepal as a nation. Countries like India and South Africa have Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as the face of their nation. However, no solitary item or place had a strong enough case to be the only symbol that would signify Nepal. The Sagarmatha might have made a strong contention, so would have Lord Buddha or Prithvi Narayan Shah, but no unison voice could argue that one was better than the other. At this point of time, Nepal has seen a lot of great leaders but there is no single leader whose ideologies would be unanimously put above the rest. The same with the heritages; we are definitely proud of the Pashupatinath and Lumbini but we are not excited by the prospect of its existence. Sadly enough, in recent times Lumbini has been the fancy of the Nepalese crowd for all the negative reasons.

After much deliberation, the group came to a verdict where the Nepali flag was the strongest contender in representing the unity of the nation. Even during the lowest of lows that Nepal’s political scene has witnessed, no one had burned the Nepali flag in protest. In all sporting events the flag stands as the one undisputed fixation that symbolizes the passion and love for our nation. Justifiably, this would be the core of the face of the initiation. Because the flag alone would not provide a unique image to the instigation, the map of Nepal was agreed upon to be the supporting aspect that would then be the representation of the movement: Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali. This design would then be produced into stickers which would be seen in various parts of the city as more and more people would take the time to paste it to catch other people’s attention.

Of course people are expected to maintain certain decorum. So, as a rule of thumb, one can stick the angular crimson-blue statement anywhere an individual would be comfortable seeing a photograph of one’s own mother.

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But, the stickers aren’t available for free; and that’s for a reason. The stickers cost Rs.5 per piece to produce, but people who are willing to obtain the stickers will have to buy it at a price of Rs.20. Doing so would result in the generation of funds to produce 3 more stickers which could be stuck on places like taxi cabs and other public transport where the owners would not bother to get a sticker themselves. The first batch of stickers produced is the only stage where the seed money was invested, because the initiative is strategically planned to self-sustain.

Furthermore, to ensure that the stickers aren’t mindlessly sold into the public, the stickers will only be available at Anil Shah’s office at Mega Bank. Yes, selling them to the public would ensure a viral spread of the stickers, but the principles instilled into the sticker would eventually wither away amongst the mass. In fact, you will have to send an email to nepalfirst.firstnepal@gmail.com prior to receiving the stickers.

Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali is humble in its objectives. Being part of Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali does not require you to be from a certain caste, creed, region or ethnicity. Neither do you have to give up anything. You can be a part of it regardless of the religion you follow or the political agendas you believe in. It is the true manifestation of inclusiveness. Being a Nepali entitles you to the same position as any other Nepali, no conditions applied. Mother Nepal loves each Nepali equally; the question is, do you love mother Nepal?

“Nepal has done so much for us, look what she has given me. All this! (Gesturing at his office) But what have we done for Nepal? This is something tangible that we are doing for Nepal. Could we do more? I’m sure we could. But, could we do less? Yes we could.” said Anil Shah.

Now, it is natural for people to question the significance of Pahile Nepal Pahila Nepali because it solely bases its success on the hopes that the stickers carry on the idea of the love for our nation. This may be so because people overlook the necessity of starting from the basics and focus more on reaping the rewards. Pahile Nepal, Pahila Nepali is a seed that, under fairly ideal conditions, should grow into a strong movement.

There is no guarantee that Pahilo Nepal, Pahila Nepali will snowball into a massive insurgency. However, everything has a starting point, and this is exactly it. Mr. Shah explained how this small action can have great effect:

“There is a story by Loren C. Eiseley that best suits the scenario. A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

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The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”

Buying and sticking a sticker, however, does in no way prove a person’s love of Nepal in the same way that not buying a sticker doesn’t establish a lack thereof. It is just a simple reminder and encouragement to make an effort to be as Nepali as you can. And be proud while you’re at it. Furthermore, sticking the sticker is more for self gratification. Feeling like you are doing something for Nepal, no matter how insignificant it may be, is a great feeling.

Now whose initiative is it? This initiative belongs to everyone who has taken the time to buy the stickers and stick it and spread the spirit of the agenda. The idea of the sticker is to get the soul of the initiative to the souls of as many Nepalese as possible; more specifically the youth under the age of 35 as they have, more or less, not been contaminated by the ills of society such as the ideologies of caste systems. Considering the geographical nature of our country, the initiative is perfectly suited for Nepal. It may not be as effective in more rural areas but it does the job when concentrating on the most populated and urbanized areas like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dharan etc.

Pahile Nepal Pahila Nepali is a small scale initiation, but we must trust in the sheer nobility and honesty behind the motive to spur it into a national phenomenon. And it is possible. History has tested the strength of the Nepal time and again and we have persevered. And we always will.

PHOTOS: MANISH SAKYA | SHASHANK PRADHAN

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