"Winning is the only thing," so proclaims a business magazine in Kathmandu.But in today's super-heated times, when your taking an additional slice of the pie leaves me a smaller share, there is an unsavoury side to winning.
The tendency to win at any cost often comes by taking short cuts to glory.
Consider the case of Rajendra Bhandari (pictured), a talented runner from Tanahu, who trained with the Nepal Army. When Bhandari won two gold medals in the recent 10th South Asian Games (SAG), Nepali sports fans were delirious with joy.
But he ended up testing positive-not once but twice-for apparently having used banned performance-enhancing drugs.
True, there's a tiny chance that Bhandari's test results might have been wrong. But that's beside the point. Bhandari wanted to win at any cost, and succeeded in the short run, only to have his SAG records declared null and void. His trainers and sports officials can keep blaming one another. But the conclusion is unmistakable: no international tournament will allow Bhandari to run competitively for some time. And that is his loss and ours.
Consider too the case of the Maoists, who expanded their terms of reference unilaterally to launch Operation Crime Control. Last week, they hauled up around 60 Nepalis for "various criminal activities." It's one thing to genuinely want to win the people's hearts through good work. But this glaring instance of the pot calling the kettle black was hardly reassuring. It smacked of a process of eliminating competition in the guise of assisting ordinary Nepalis.
Besides, in a free society like ours, from where did the Maoists derive their authority to arrest innocent-until-proven-guilty Nepalis? And if we allow the Maoists to win at carrying out such activities, who and what is to stop them tomorrow from arresting anyone they dislike?
Winning at any cost takes other forms too. Businessmen borrow millions from state-run banks, and do not bother to settle their loans. Politicians won their privilege in April to lead the nation out of its deadlock. But since then, they have been busy acting as though their privilege to govern were their inalienable right to stay in power. Likewise, rich and influential Kathmandu parents desperately want to win in the game of having their kids obtain admissions to selective US and UK colleges, even if that means requesting teachers to fudge records, thus destroying the chances of other, more deserving students.
One reason winning at any cost has become an obsession is that there's this growing perception that competition for everything is fierce, that the pie has become smaller, and that winning alone brings disproportionately large rewards to a few. It's the visible results that seem to matter, not the quiet, honest means to achieve them.
Still, such an attitude is hardly surprising in contemporary urban Nepal. This is a society filled with losers-as in those made unable to win by completing primary education, passing SLC exams, getting decent employment, and ranking high in most comparative international indices. Here, winning at any cost by those in positions of power and privilege distorts everyone else's behaviours and ruins the game for all.
Winning is not the only thing, if the means to achieve are those of losers.