Nepali Times
FAY ADAM
London Eye
Lure of the land


FAY ADAM


Londoner, asked randomly about Nepal, will mention mountains, Buddhism and possibly the royal massacre. Then they will express vagueness. Like clouds obscuring the peak of Machapuchare in the monsoon, Nepal, the roof of the world, is surrounded by a mist of uncertainty and supposition, thickened by shrouds of ideological mystery. A holiday brochure exclaims 'Nepal: the very word evokes images of magic, spiritual elation and adventure!.timeless wisdom.medieval life-style.emotional peace'.

Nepal's tourism industry has looked expertly into the minds of Londoners (and other Western visitors) and has responded to demand. Hotels are called 'Sanctuary Lodg&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'Pokhara Peace Guest House' and 'Sacred Valley Inn'. Travel agents offer Buddhist respites, shamanic treks, and 'Never Ending Peace And Love' (N.E.P.A.L). Tour guides are well versed at acting the untainted, authentic local, who know a direct path to enlightenment for their clients. The guides exploit their inherent knowledge of their tradition, culture and religion. They know that dharma tourists are hungry for this spirituality-so they rework it into a consumable package. Ironically in this encounter between tour guide and tourist, the identity of the former becomes more and more entangled with that of the latter and less and less like that of their forefathers. Londoners then, can be said to have self-fulfilling expectations.

I was shocked to discover that, for the average Londoner, the "darker picture" that Joti Giri spoke in an earlier London Eye column, has not penetrated this dream of Nepal as somewhere "out of this world" (quote from a Londoner). The royal massacre is generally a hazy recollection, but it too does not impinge on enduring imaginings. News of the Maoist insurgency comes as a harsh jolt to Londoners, a conflict so incomprehensible in Shangri-la Nepal. Maybe this is the reason that apart from a documentary almost a year ago and a couple of isolated articles in broadsheets, our media have not mentioned the diseased politics that is ransacking Nepali lives.

The Shangri-la may be dead in reality, but it lives on in Londoners' imaginations, still unearthly, still enticing and still beckoning. The haven of peace of the hippies and backpackers of bygone era no longer lies nestled in a celestial skyscape of snowcaps. Are we being beckoned by a mythical hand of our own creation to the land of a lost time that no longer exists.if it ever did? If so then what is this place that us Londoners so crave, to the point that we project our need of it onto Nepal?

By retracing the footsteps of people's imaginations we can find out what it is that has made this illusory Nepal look the way it does. The source of such imaginings is not only internal. Each picture we create is a ragged collection of images gathered from the media, from books, geography lessons, conversations and postcards, mixed together with our own tint added. Vincanne Adams, an anthropologist, suggests that often Nepal's visitors are "in pursuit of themselves through the Other". She means that they are looking for something so nameless, so ethereal, so alien to the consumer-orientated materialism of home, that difference and distance seem to pave the way for them.

Nepal is not the only place that fits this bill, but it is certainly one of the most suitable. Moreover this strong ache for something 'Other' in the hearts of Londoners is countered by the longing for all things Western, found in the man (heart-mind) of Nepali youth. Little surprise then that the two parties have entered into a seductive relationship where the closer one gets to the other the more it can only see the reflection of each other's desires.

I have talked with friends in Nepal about my student debts and London's homeless, but my descriptions of such things as the Underground and double-decker buses meet with a much better reception. Just as selective, Londoners have safely bottled their picture of Nepal within their imaginations and what may break in is dictated by what is deemed desirable. It will take more than intermittent arrows from our media to bring it down.

Fay Adams is a Community Researcher in London.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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