Amazing 3 Days at Sauraha

I went to Sauraha – the eastern entry point to the Chitwan National Park to spend a couple of days with family and friends. Sauraha, a popular tourist destination, is a must if you are visiting Nepal. Accessible by road (4-5 hours) from Kathmandu and Pokhara, if offers entry to the wilderness from within the moderately developed small town.

Here is how we spent three days at Sauraha as tourists and enjoyed every second of it.

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How Kathmandu Post went online? – II

In this part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present the news that was published in the front page of the The Kathmandu Post to announce the newspaper being available online. The Kathmandu Post was put online from September 1, 1995 but the announcement was only made on September 8’s edition of the newspaper through a front page news.

Also, the small notification on The Nepal Digest by Rajendra Shrestha to announce the beta release of the Kathmandu Post on September 4, 1995 and an advertisement published in The Kathmandu Post on September 9 and 11 announcing the feat of being ‘the first Asian daily to be available free of cost on Internet.

TKPfront

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Nepal’s first online editor

In this another part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present a page (copied and pasted) from history.

When The Kathmandu Post went online on September 7, 1995, it has a link called “General Info”.

The Kathmandu Post

This is the text of what contained in the page that was linked (the text is however taken from December, 1996 archive after it moved to Mercantile’s server from Rajendra Shrestha’s college webspace):

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(Social) Media Predictions 2013

It’s not easy to predict but in the coziness of warm bed, I decided to predict how Nepali media, especially in connection with social media, is going to change in upcoming year. Feel free to add your own predictions in comments!

I’m prediction that 2013 will see introduction of mobile news applications (for iPhone/iPad/Android) by mainstream media, more social media integration by mainstream media and more media outlets!

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Observations from #SocialMedia trainings

Dhangadhi Training.

In October and November 2012, I travelled five places to train journalists in use of social media. The training was organized by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP in partnership with the Government of Japan and UNESCO.

The five training venues were: Biratnagar (east Nepal), Balthali, Kavre (central), Pokhara (west), Dhangadhi (far-west) and Nepalgunj (mid-west). Altogether more than 150 journalists attended the two-day residential training – at an average of 30 trainees per venue.

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Sadly, Sex Sells!

Nepal debates what’s acceptable and what’s not at a time when sex and foul language are key ingredients of some Nepali movies; and sexually explicit pictures are spread all over Nepali tabloids.

Nepali movies these days seems to be on two streams: the traditional types are those with well-known actors where everything is mixed and targeted for lower middle class audiences; and the experimental new ones targeted for theatres at malls for upper middle class audiences. The second type generates more hype (and most possibly profits) because they are on the theaters where audiences pays more to watch and they also get a lot of mainstream media coverage.

When there were whispers going on about the movies including unnecessary scenes of sexual motivation; the success of Chapali Height made film producers and directors to believe on age-old doctrine: Sex Sells!

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I admit defeats

I admit defeats! First, I admit the defeat of hope of an average Nepali in the hands of the politicians whom I had the misunderstanding of having some qualities of the statesman.

By extending the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) by one year, they proved true those who liked to call them the corrupt-minded and selfish. I’m sure many of the 601 CA members did not like the extension (compared to constitution) but they are more helpless than us.

They had to follow what their party/top leaders say and keep quiet. I can at least vent out.

I had always believed that no matter what the leaders say or do, they will somehow come out united to promulgate the new constitution within the deadline. For this side of the story, I debated at tea-shops/gatherings with some of the most pessimists; I wrote blog entries and I believed it would happen despite all odds.

But I am proved wrong. My belief based on hope was just a passing thought. My hope was just an arrow swishing through the dark unknown of its destination.

And, the the most importantly success in the part of the leaders (in keeping us foolish) is that they made us pray for the extension (forgetting that the mandate we gave them was for promulgation of constitution by May 28, 2010). Otherwise, they made us the believe, the country will go into deepest trouble possible.

Defeat is hard to digest; and to admit. The parties (I don’t know if they could be called political) could not even compromise (defeat is a long way ahead); not even for the betterment of the country and decided despite knowing the possibility of dirty games from extremists that the liquidity of the situation should continue rather than consolidated.

And, as I – as an average Nepali who provided mandate for the leaders to write constitution in two years – feel betrayed with the defeat, I sat to analyze where I was wrong.

The first wrong thing I thought was: Maoists are different. They proved not to be. They fought for power (not for people) as all other parties; were divided internally on personal egos and double-tongued.

The second wrong thing I thought was: the leaders learnt lessons after the Maoists’ War and the Royal Takeover that extremism can put the country in danger. They however did not. The April Uprising that people (not the parties) staged was not enough for them.

The third wrong thought I had: belief in magic. Yes, the country had never suffered much. Whenever it looked like the country going into a real danger of being a failed state, there was some magical turn that put the nation back on the track (the end of Maoists’ conflict and the end of Royal Regime).

I still believe in magic. I still believe that the leaders will do something. And, I still believe there will not be much problem. All this beliefs are there because I have no other options to believe on positively.

And, although I admit the defeat; there is no winner. I am defeated; all Nepalis are dejected; nation is beaten and the all those leaders, they too have lost. The winner: no one.

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Someday, we will find a way

These days I am almost optimistic about Nepal’s political future. True, because I believe in what the world should call ‘the Nepali magic’: when it looks like we are going to worse, something good happens and we move towards better.

Wasn’t it true during the 1990 Revolution? Everybody believed the then King Birendra bowed down too early, but it was exactly at the time when the Jana Andolan (the Popular Movement) was looking to go bloody.

It was also true for the Maoist Conflict. It took almost 14,000 lives but then after 10 years of the beginning, the so-called People’s War came to an end exactly at the time when Nepali started getting frustrated with daily news of violence.

So with monarchy! With soft-heart Birendra, monarchy was almost okay but after the Royal Massacre that killed all the royals except a few, Gynendra did not appeal much of the people. Yet he decided to become powerful playing on people’s frustrations over political parties. And, with army censoring media; leaders house-arrested, it looked like a glum future – at least half-a-dozen years.

But when other things looked like not working, the people rose. The Jana Andolan II or April Uprising was built on two things: the hope of peace (since Maoist tied with other political parties and signed a deal) and democracy!

It too was successful without much blood!

Right now, darkness looks like descending. May 28, 2010 is the deadline for the Constituent Assembly (CA) to promulgate the new constitution or to die. The Interim Constitution is silent about CA’s extension and at least legal experts believe CA can not be extended in a constitutional way (off course, the CA can do it politically).

President Dr Ram Baran Yadav is either urging the parties to complete constitution writing in time or has grown ambitious about ruling. His advisors, and he himself, is saying he would be the only man in power standing if the CA fails.

If that happens, we will have a constitutional deadlock and may be an autocratic ruler who also happens to be the supreme commander of the Nepal Army (and has a soft corner from among the army men for saving their chief from falling ‘constitutional acting’ against the Maoist government decision).

What then?

As an optimistic citizen with faith on the Nepali magic (which I believe is the result of Nepali’s peace-loving / patriotic nature), I believe the CA will meet the deadline.

I am also saying this because almost all the groundwork – the draft documentation of the constitution’s major parts that takes time – has already been completed (kudos to the CA members in the thematic committees).

The delay is due to difference in some aspect that needs the consensus / agreement among major political parties (read: top leaders) which they can garnish within a few days (and they would meet day and night, here and there, on person and on phone) to agree.

Let’s be optimistic! (However, let’s continue being concerned about it.)

[The title of the post is a line of a song that I love: Someday by Nazanin Afshin Jam who is an Iran-born Canadian Miss World runners-up and social worker. The chorus is: Someday, we will find a way, someday, someday, someday, the darkness fades away, someday. If you want to hear/watch the song, here it is; lyrics here.]

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The mockery of democracy

Believe it or not, Nepali politics is dirty. Politics in underdeveloped countries such as Nepal is always dirty, because we, the people, and leaders rarely understand the essence of it. This is also true because for the politicians, their career and party generally come before the nation.

For the Maoists in Nepal, the most important thing right now is the terming of the President’s denial to obey their decision to sack army chief as ‘unconstitutional’ – for them: it’s the prime priority; it does not matter even if the constitution is not written or the peace process does not go forward.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi

For me, a Nepali, terming the move does not matter. If they think it’s unconstitutional, ensure that it’s explicitly written in the new constitution.

For Nepali Congress, it’s ‘not unconstitutional’. Come on, what if Dr Ram Baran Yadav resigns and we get a new president if it’s termed ‘unconstitutional’.

As for me, Yadav and everyone of those 14,000 killed during the Maoists’ War are equal and, as the people’s leader, Yadav should be happy to resign if that means a great way forward for the nation’s most important tasks!

Democracy is the substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.

– George Bernard Shaw

We have proved it. Theoretically, people’s voices count loud in democracy. Not in Nepal’s democracy though. No matter how much years current Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had given for his political career, he was the ‘unchosen one’ from two constituencies.

No matter how good he is performing, he should not have been appointed the top post to lead the people.

Ditto to Sujata Koirala, the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister. What a mockery of democracy the oldest leader of the oldest party, and of the nation for that matter, has made?

Incompetent people have chosen ‘the incompetent few’ – as proven by the cry the great leaders of the party are making after she, the most applicable qualification of her being the daughter of the ‘almost great leader’ took oath of office.

The jokers (as the father had made them) were left issuing press release opposing the appointment. If the party cannot have internal democracy, how could they promise us a democracy?

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

– Sir Winston Churchill

But we have no choice! Democracy is the lone choice and those leaders are the only candidates on offer. Even if among all those 600, we have a few good one, they stand nothing more than a mere follower of the greats – as in a herd of sheep!

But, as incompetent as we are or as foolish as we are, all these things will be forgotten when the election comes and we will either be Kangressi, Yemale or Maobadi – voting for them closing eyes on what they did or who is the candidates.

The greatest mockery of the democracy was/will be made by not the ‘corrupt few’ but the ‘incompetent many’!

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In protest of protests!

(c) Bikash Karki

PHOTO BY BIKASH KARKI

The political interests, and egos, that result in protests on various – most of the times either unnecessary or on absurd issues – is doing nothing good to the nation and us – the citizens.

Yet, the political parties, their sister organizations, and others continue protests. Protests are necessary at times – when the state leaves no other options – but the aching fact of protests in my country is: they begin with blocking traffic.

Citizens, as if we are thought as, face problems; everybody knew it. Closing down schools and colleges is no way good as the children are stranded – most of the times outside their school gates.

Whenever we studied about rights, we always read that while exercising rights, we should also ensure that we are not violating other’s rights. But that does not count during protest. (So I thought maybe we are not citizens after all).

For the protest organizers, protests are wars and everything is fair in war and love, isn’t it?

A lot of such protests are absurd because there are not even demands. There are people who simply enjoys troubling others [the locals blocking road because the driver ran away after hitting a boy; the college students blocking the road for their friend was found dead; and most weird of all, a family blocking a highway for their daughter ran away – all is true stories from Nepal].

At newspaper office, every now and then, the suggestion on putting a separate column for protests/blockade spring up – more in disagreement with it than for humor.

While trying to remember things to write in protest of protests, my heart aches and I know everybody – leaving a few heartless politicians and others – same happens.

So until when are we, the citizens of Nepal, supposed to suffer? Until when, are we going to tolerate? Until when, are political interests playing on our emotions and rights?

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Changing faces of Nepal’s news sites

In last few months – three top news sites of Nepal namely eKantipur.com [the new name for KantipurOnline.com], TheHimalayanTimes.com [the online venture of APCA House which publishes The Himalayan Times English daily] and the old gold NepalNews.com changed their designs [and updating frequency].

Here are the two screenshots of these sites for comparison:

eKantipur in January, 2009

ekanjan09

Changed eKantipur

ekannow

Old face of NepalNews

nnold

And, NepalNews’ new face

nnJune

Old TheHimalayanTimes

thtjan09

And, the complete makeover

thtnow

Why the change?
Those changes on the online news site were seen on the short span of time. Why? I believe the big reason is the arrival of MyRepublica.com [I am not telling that because I am working there]. MyRepublica.com started a few months before the publication of print edition and with all the effort of the journalists, it soon climbed to the top position forcing others to rethink about their running news site.

Anyway, it’s a good news for the online media lovers and those who prefer reading online news.

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Optimistic Look at Maoists Sweep in Nepal Election

Once again, Nepalis surprised themselves. The Maoists sweep (still to complete but it is confirmed that the Maoists will establish itself as the leading party in the Nepal CA Election as they are way ahead than any other political outfit of Nepal) was something that the political analysts, media and leaders failed to predict.

Nepalis voted for change, and no wonder the new party with new agenda, was the one that the people hoped would be best for bring the change.

And, the old parties failed to understand the wave – they went for same old faces (in most of cases, ignoring youth who the large portion of the voters, youth, would have easily associated themselves with). And, they suffered as the top leaders failed to win.

The election was held after eight years in Nepal, and the large portion of the voters voted for the first time. Those grew up witnessing one of the most troubled times of the country and hearing the frustrations of parents towards the political parties.

Now that Maoists have got the people’s mandate, the worse fear for us is that they could deviate themselves from the democratic process and try to establish a communist nation (which looks largely unlikely).Otherwise, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the victory. Here are three of mine:

  • Success of Peace Process: The win of Maoists means that the exemplary peace process will not be derailed. Democracy wins here. Had Maoists suffered a heavy defeat, there could be a danger to the process.
  • Change! Change!! Change!! : If any party is likely to bring revolutionary changes in Nepal, it has to be Maoists. They are under pressure to do so otherwise when the general election will be held in two (or two and half) years, they are likely to suffer heavily as the people will put them on the same footings as of the ‘old talk-big-do-nothing parties’.
  • More Changes: Well, now Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (UML) have to look back at their policy, strategy and tactics and review it hard. They need to go back to people and reconcile and it would be good if all party started caring for the people (something that they
    seriously missed in last 18 years). And, next time, there will be new faces for all those parties.

Congratulations to Maoists! May you change the face of Nepal (after all that is going to give benefits to all Nepalis regardless of whom they voted for). And, also for all other parties and people, let’s give up the party politics after the election and join hands for the nation building! (of course, the parties can resume party things in the General Election).

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Nepal Votes Peacefully

Nepalis continue to surprise themselves… and the World. Didn’t we?

Today, Nepalis thronged at the voting booths to cast their votes in the Constituent Assembly Election that surprised almost everybody (the preliminary assessment is more than sixty percent vote casted). And, moreover, it went peaceful.

Despite the Young Communist League (YCL) behaviors, poll boycott calls by armed groups in Terai and the pro-monarchist anti-feeling (for the assembly elected by the election is set to declare Nepal a republic), it went peaceful – and that’s something that made everyone happy.

Four killed and the election suspended in 33 booths. The killing gives sad feelings but it’s less than in last parliamentary election (then it was half-a-dozen and that was not after a bloody conflict that killed 11,000 people). 33 is a small number among 20,889 total booths.

A Historic Day! A Historic Success!

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