Nepal's future normal

Nepalis have come up with ways to cope with the COVID-19 because we are inherently laid back


Who would have thought that a time would come when the price of oil would be below zero, once mighty countries would crumble, and humankind would be brought to its knees? And all because of a microscopic strand of RNA.

The contagion has provided individuals, communities, countries and the world a chance to mend our ways, to live more frugally and sustainably, to be humble about our inventions and gadgets, and realise how ephemeral our preoccupations are in the eternity that is nature.

Pandemic is a chance to rethink development, Ivan G Somlai

We naturally appreciate doctors and nurses knowing that we may have to see them some day, but we need farmers to grow our food in all seasons. One way to change after this crisis would be to bless our grandchildren to become farmers. Not just engineers and doctors. The other way to transform ourselves and the nation would be to go back to the village and change our attitude towards the land and natural resources.

There is cash in the city, but not much else. This crisis has woken up urban consumers to the fact that there are producers of food and essentials in a supply chain that they took for granted. The cheese for the pizza that was home delivered came from Jiri or Langtang or even Gujarat’s Amul cooperative. The walnut is from Jumla, the large beans from Khumbu, the mutton is from the hills, and rice from the Tarai.

This pandemic gives us a chance to identify where the supply chain is weak and what we need to do to secure them for the future. Not just for a future crisis, but for a future normal. Where is food we consume grown? How do we pay for its import? What is the real cost of producing it? Where are the warehouses, the cold stores, aggregation, processing plants, management of wholesale markets. Who are the ‘middle men’ who control the supply and prices?

The world is now learning from people like Kamal Tuladhar that Newa traders who went to Lhasa 150 years ago had to be quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Kathmandu because of the diseases that they might have brought back. Our ancestors survived famines and knew the value of sun dried and fermented food for difficult times. Gundruk, sinki, churpi, achar, tama, lentils and beans were literally life savers during food shortages following epidemics.  We need to protect these recipes, and the processes to make them. Food does not grow in a supermarket. Milk does not come out of a carton. Chicken does not live in a freezer.

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has become wildly popular for daily press show where he mixes his warnings with hope. He appeals to people to take this opportunity to re-imagine the future. This applies as much to New Yorkers as to Nepalis: every crisis provides us a chance to do things differently. At least one member of the family henceforth should be a farmer. Or a barber.

The butcher, the grocery store keeper, the dairy and bakery have all become mini-Amazons overnight, doing home delivery. This resilience in the Nepali is what makes us confident about the future. Classes on Zoom, homework and grades on line, and even virtual heritage tours have become normal in just one month. If we can bridge the bandwidth divide of mobile telephony so the digital economy is accessible and affordable, we can leapfrog into a future normal.

Once again, missing in this future is government. Yes, we get electricity and (occasionally) water, but little else. The way the government distributed relief to the needy was a farce, no one believes the numbers they claim to have served. Volunteer groups did a much better job. The way the district administration gave out passes for ‘essential service providers’ and emergencies is a joke.

Philanthropy in the time of pandemic, Shristi Karki

The opening of supermarkets while arresting the neighborhood Mom and Pop store owners has once again reminded Nepalis that some are still  more equal than others.  After all these years of ‘capacity building’ the government has only built its capacity for kickbacks, and increased dependency on outsiders. It bungled procurement on test kits and equipment, ordered the wrong kind of kits and colluded with businessmen to inflate the cost.

Once more, citizens rose to the rescue by improvising PPEs in Nepal from plastic sheets and transparencies. But just count of number of ICU beds in the country, minus the number of politicians and you can decide for yourself why you need to self isolate.

A theory says that if you want an easy solution to problems, find a lazy person for the job. It makes sense: work from home, online orders, online payments -- they all look like innovations that have invented by the lazy for the lazy. It could be that Nepalis have come up with ways to cope with the COVID-19 because we are inherently laid back. If that is the case we will survive the post-pandemic world as well.

Introverts have flourished in the age of physical distancing, so that artists, writers, poets, chefs have been spending the most creative weeks of their lives. Cooking, baking, design work will all flourish in the future normal. The fact that we all wear masks means we do not need to smile at anyone we do not want to, and thank goodness those messy handshakes and awkward hugs are a thing of the past.

And, oh yes, the rains have come. Happy farming.

Read Also:

Work for food, Anil Chitrakar

Back to the future of farming, Nepali Times

Anil Chitrakar is the President of Siddharthinc.

Anil Chitrakar


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