Waiting for Nepal
The Perpetual Wait
Text by Pranaya SJB Rana
The image of Nepal today in the global consciousness is one of resilience, a stoic defiance against the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Whether it be a decade-long civil war, an equally-long political transition, rampant corruption and a wholesale loot of the country, a series of devastating earthquakes or a border blockade, Nepalis, so it is portrayed, will smile through their tears and persevere. It is a hard-won image, this caricature of a middle-aged woman in a worn dhoti staring out from the rubble of her destroyed home or that of a young dirt-streaked child smiling out in a perfect postcard picture that screams ‘third world’.
This image is our boon and our bane. It brings aid and assistance from across the world, as everyone feels compassion for the poor mother with a baby on her hip who cannot help but laugh despite having lost her husband to toil under the hard sun of the Middle East. But it also implies passivity, an indolence that seems to have crept into Nepal’s psyche and taken over, consigning us forever to a perpetual wait, for someone or something else.
Nepal has been promised many things by many people – from home-grown politicians to donors in sharp suits and unplaceable accents. They’ve sold us dreams and we Nepalis, quiet and patient, await them like manna from heaven. Resilience, thus, has become about waiting, for the next day and the day after that. Waiting for a republic, for identity, for progress, and for an uncertain tomorrow that may or may not arrive. For, in April 2015, when the ground roiled underneath us, we waited – huddled under tents and tarpaulin, seeking warmth in the press of our bodies – for an uncertain ignominious death. For many of us, that death never came. And so, we continued to wait, by the side of a road pockmarked with potholes, in wooden doorways bent under the weight of history, at ramshackle bus depots where the buses never seem to stop and under shelters made of tin, where the pouring monsoon rains sound like the staccato firing of a Kalashnikov. Through it all, we force a smile for the camera, because what other alternative is there? In the unending limbo that is New Nepal, we wait not because we want to; we wait because we have to.
All images from the series Waiting for Nepal In and around Kathmandu, 2011-12 Digital