Skip to main content

MY TRYST WITH COMMUNISM



Communism has been a bogeyman of sorts in my life since my childhood. "If the Communists win in the elections, they will pack us old women off as we cannot perform to their expectation", Nimbu Didi would wail giving me pangs of anxiety. I could never fathom where the communists would send her but I was sure it would be to an unpleasant outpost in the kingdom to grow vegetables or worse, and I would miss her. This was during the first general election held in Nepal in 1959 and which the Congress Party of Nepal won handily. I was not going to lose my Didi who nurtured me from my birth after all.

Then came our school days. I was the first person in the family who was able to get a good education inside the country instead of being packed off to an Indian hill station. The Jesuits had got a special permission from the last Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher to open a school and Father Moran, S. J. had come here from Bettiah in Bihar and set up a school at Godavari in the summer palace of the Rana prime ministers. Godless communism was anathema to our fathers and I remember Father Souboulle, fists clenched, reddening with righteous anger as he lectured us on the evils of this particular creed. Communists were hypocrites; George Orwell's Animal Farm, which was made into an animated film, was a favorite. The climax of the film was the revolt of the lean and hungry farmers toppling the Stalinist nomenclatura from the leadership of the farm.

Those were times when good and bad were black and white: we did not perceive any shade of gray. During the Panchayat days, when multi-party polity was a far cry, Communism was indeed furthest from our minds. Like omnipresent Gods monarchy straddled heaven and earth. Politicians of that era sang paeans to the far-sighted Shah kings and blamed all the present ills on the 104 years of the Rana regime, the dark period of Nepalese history. The irony of the fact that all of His Majesty's Government's ministries had to occupy Rana era buildings throughout the Panchayat period, even the Parliament until recently was a private theater of the Rana prime minister, was lost on our political leaders. Panchayat was rich on promise but fell short on delivery.

College education in the erstwhile Soviet Union followed. Arriving in Moscow in the unseasonably cold and early winter of 1973 A.D. I saw huge banners extolling the wondrous achievements of the workers' paradise in unreadable Cyrillic. I could recognize the bearded Germans Marx and Engels and the bald Lenin in every billboard across Moscow. Suddenly I had come to a country where being Communist was virtuous. People addressed one another as tovarish, comrade, in a show of genuine egalitarianism; there seemed to be purpose in their stride. Workers were selflessly productive giving each to his utmost capability and receiving each to his basic need. Intellectuals were making sense of it all in robust defense of dialectical materialism. My anatomy teacher Vera Lubova was a Belgian Communist with an adopted Russian name who had migrated to Russia to contribute to Communist Internationalism. I had a great opportunity of juxtaposing my fervent anti-Communist Belgian priest Father Souboulle with my selflessly Communist Belgian anatomy teacher and I was bemused to find that it takes all sorts to make this world! Suddenly things were not as black or white anymore.

Latha my classmate with Paulo my room-mate

with Boat

I could empathize with the young Communists who had come to study in Russia from all over the world. Surely they were not all brain-washed. They had genuine grievances back home that propelled them to take up an alien credo to fight for their just cause. I started to look at the world with crimson shades and found much of Asia, Africa and Latin America exploited by the Capitalists, neo-colonists and expansionists. Religion surely was the opiate of the people, it retarded social advancement by endorsing arcane rituals and beliefs.

But my exposure to the virtues of Communism was as short as the Prague Spring. When I started reading Cyrillic I was amazed that the party was still mouthing the Lenin era slogan, "Communism is Soviet power and electrification of the whole country", an unintended testimony to failed state policies that had still kept much of the country in darkness, literally and metaphorically. I also realized that the problem with Communism was that there were too many intellectuals splitting hair on what Marx actually meant, whether Lenin applied it correctly to Russia, or whether the Maoists of China were the true inheritors. Communists like fighting the exploitative bourgeois enemy classes but even more so they like fighting among themselves. When my two room-mates in Moscow, one from Brazil and another from Guyana, argued all night and nearly brought closure with the former trying to throw the latter out of the 6th floor dormitory window, I intrinsically felt that this creed would get us all in more trouble than we had vouched for.

Fast forward to Moscow September 2008. The huge billboards exhorting the proletariat of the world to unite had been replaced by equally huge billboards advertising $10,000 Rolex watches. I could not find Marx Avenue or Kirov Street on the metro map as they were renamed the Russian equivalents of Hunters Row and Butchers Street harking back to the Tsarist era. The swank Kalininski Prospect is renamed Novy (New) Arbat. And today you would not want to embarrass a young Russian by addressing him or her as comrade.


This brings me to the present state of affairs in Nepal. After a decade and a half of failed parliamentary politics the same old faces have emerged from the ashes of the Maoist debacle. The former Communists are the good guys now as the latter day Communists are even worse. The former Communists might even revive the idea of a baby king. The latter day Communists would surely want to crown their own omnipotent leader. The former Communists can rely on the backing of the erstwhile royal army, the latter day Communists own their own army. Communism might have lost its battles everywhere else but the deciding one is being fought right here before our eyes.

Comments

  1. This is just a test to see whether comments are uploaded. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is excellent. Very presonal experiences but drives home the point about the fuitility of this old, tattered form of government that is also wholly impractical. Splitting hairs and forming a new party is what they are really good at.

    Very relevant for us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Subodh a well written piece on communism up close and personal.
    Like many countries have in the past Nepal too is going through its communism/socialism phase.As the majority of people are poor and rural the slogans of communism are attractive but it is of little use to run the economy.
    In Nepal I believe communism is a ladder for the party to get power .
    Govind

    ReplyDelete
  4. WELL SAID,

    BUT, EVEN TODAY COMMUNISM IS APPEALING TO MULTITUDES OF THE WORLD, AT LEAST IN A CULTURAL WAY.
    NEPAL COULD HAVE BEEN SUCH A HEAVEN OF CULTURE AND HINDU RELIGION IF FOR 104 YRS ONE RANA PM HAD THOUGHT OF NEPAL AS THEIR MOTHERLAND AND FELT SOME SENSE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THEIR SUBJECTS, IN TRUE HINDU ROYAL MANNER.
    NOW, IT'S HABITUAL TO COMMON NEPALI TO HAVE A WISHFUL THINKING OF A LIBERATED LIFE IN NEW NEPAL. WHICH IS SELF EXPLANATORY BECAUSE OF THEIR PLIGHT AND WRETCHEDNESS.
    ANALYZING PSYCHOLOGY OF A SIMPLE FARMER, STUDENT TURNED A COMMUNIST, COMMUNIST DOCTRINE PROVIDES THEM SOLACE AND GIVE THEM A SENSE OF DIGNITY (WHICH IN ITSELF JUST AN ILLUSION), THAT NEITHER RELIGION, MONARCHY AND ARISTOCRACY HAD PROVIDED.

    CHIANG KAI SHEK RIGHTFULLY QUOTED THAT COMMUNISM IS THE CANCER OF THE SOUL

    & I SAY PEOPLE WHO DELIBERATELY CREATED THE PLIGHT WHERE COMMUNISM GROWS ARE EVILS AT THEIR PRIME.

    SO LONG

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

THE SATI WIVES OF JUNG BAHADUR, MAHARAJAH OF NEPAL

If only the Tudor King Henry VIII of England were as lucky as Jung Bahadur Rana, he would have had male heirs aplenty and he would not have had to behead a few of his queens in the hope of his next one presenting him with an heir. All the Maharanis would live together at Hampton Court Palace in seeming harmony at least until the death of the Maharajah. If England had the tradition of Sati, who among Henry's wives would have had the macabre honour of being buried alive with him? Would her be Catherine of Aragon his first queen? Or Anne Boleyn? Or the fair Jane Seymour, his favorite queen who gave him his only male heir, had she not died in her postnatal illness?

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana had many wives because he did not have the Catholic Church to worry about. He had at least a dozen sons and innumerable daughters from at least 13 recorded wives. He married some for love, others for political alliances with various noble houses, including a sister of Fateh Jung Shah, one of th…

JUNG BAHADUR RANA AND THE DANCING DAMSELS - THE SOJOURN IN FRANCE

Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana left England for France with a rich treasure trove of memories and an ambition his experiences in Britain had fueled for his own poor and backward nation. He was heartbroken too as he had to leave behind his paramour Laura Bell. Far from the complexities of ruling a highly destabilized country coming so soon after the tumultuous Kot and Bhandarkhal episodes, Jung had truly relaxed in England and had grown fond of the young Irish lass. He wanted to stay longer but the situation back home was unfavourable. Jung was seething with anger that his brother Bom Bahadur who he left behind as officiating prime minister had not been able to take a firm grip on the affairs of state. Even in faraway England he got reports that his enemies were again trying to rear their ugly heads, he would have to smite them with the power of his ingenuity once more. He knew he could not trust his ambitious third brother Badri Narsingh and the one after that Ranoddip was an indeci…

FEATHERS IN THE CROWN

As a kid I used to gape in wonderment at the magnificent crown my father possessed not knowing that the jewels were only for show. The dark green emerald drops were made of glass, the sparkling diamonds were probably zirconium and the pearls were not of the best sort. Every Rana general had his personal crown in those days and my father was no exception. I did not recognize the difference between this personal crown of father's and the other more valuable crown of the Nepalese Commander-in-Chief of the Army that my father was seen wearing in many a portrait displayed about the house. Little did I know that my father was the last person to put on his head the army chief's crown from the Rana era, real glittering diamonds, snow white pearls and thumb-sized emerald drops and all. The feather in the crown was the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave it such a majestic look.

Nepal had only three crowns that were genuinely the real stuff bedecked with expensive pear…