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FAUX PAS

After a season of faux pas highlighted by the foreign minister's itchy throat preventing her from joining the prime ministerial delegation to India and the prime minister raising a toast to "Prime Minister and Madam Manmohan Adhikari of India" in New Delhi, it is a timely exercise to try to recall some more in our history.

The first Vice President of the Republic of Nepal took his oath of office in Hindi. This faux pas could not be overlooked by serious minded Nepalese who took it as an affront to Nepali nationhood. The Supreme Court ordered him to retake the oath in Nepali. The Vice President refused to do so keeping the President and most of the cabinet members waiting in vain at the anointed place and time. To draw on an analogy often used to describe Nepal the country, the erstwhile VP is now like a yam between Madhesi militancy and Nepali righteousness; not a comfortable spot to be boxed in.

I recall Maharajah Juddha's own faux pas in his time as the prime minister of Nepal that I had heard as a child. Not fluent in English he had a translator around while meeting with foreign dignitaries. During a meeting with an Englishman a word escaped him. He turned to his translator and asked, "What is the English word for 'sancho'?" Not knowing in what context he was asked, the translator replied, "Key, sire." Juddha turned to the Englishman and confided, "You speak key, sir!" Alarmed that he had given a wrong translation of the Nepali word the aide quickly interjected, "That 'sancho' is 'truth', sire"! "Forget it", waived off the Maharaja, "I have already spoken". I wonder whether the Englishman wrote his memoirs.

Another apocryphal story comes from King Mahendra's first state visit to China. During the state banquet hosted by the Chinese head-of-state, Queen Ratna's mistimed attempt at cutting through her chicken breast with a knife landed the dish straight onto the host's plate! In a land of crouching tigers and hidden dragons, perhaps a flying dead chicken was taken in good stride too!

There is another revealing anecdote from history: Maharajah Chandra Shumsher was known to imbibe a healthy potion of imported brandy regularly but one day during a military parade at Tundikhel parade ground under the famous Khari-ko-bot, the shady ficus tree, he was visibly sozzled. The British resident present was said to have rebuked him in no uncertain terms. Perhaps out of shame or with dire vision of personal calamity the loss of British support might ensue, deeply chastened, Chandra Shumsher became a teetotaller thereafter.

After his Coup de main ousting democratic polity in Nepal King Mahendra was as feared as any Rana prime minister. While forming his first cabinet the king sent two of his aides to a certain politician for consultation. Fearing his immediate arrest, the would-be minister was supposed to have climbed to his roof in crowded Asan Tole and fled into political oblivion.

The biggest faux pas of them all was undoubtedly committed by Prachanda by gloating over the falsification of the People's Liberation Army head count and how the Nepalese Maoists had hoodwinked the international community and its watchdog UNMIN. Unfortunately for him there was a camera around catching the act for perpetual replay by the bourgeois enemy media. Things have gotten rotten for him thereafter. We await more gems to be revealed.

Comments

  1. As Don Hewitt, the producer of American TV CBS programme entitled 60 Minutes, who recently died used to say, "To tell a story" is the mantra of 60 Minutes success. He implied there are many ways to tell a story.
    Few people in today's Nepal tell a story better than you. And the stories are balanced with no axe to grind.
    Above all they are magnificently entertaining. This last blog is a great example of the above! Keep em coming and thanks a lot.

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  2. The lack of repercussions against the comrades regarding the head count video is simply unbelievable! Tolerance, ignorance or just who-gives-a-damn - maybe the comrades are able to fool all the people all the time.
    I second that comment about 60 Minutes. Your stories can fly in that excellent show anytime.

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  3. ReaderInNewOrleansOctober 17, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    "Fearing his immediate arrest, the would-be minister was supposed to have climbed to his roof in crowded Asan Tole and fled into political oblivion." .. This is funny! Will you mind revealing his name? I assume he is dead already! Did he come back to politics later and became scion of Nepalese politics or he indeed vanished into political oblivion? Thanks for interesting reading!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear New Orleans Reader, I heard this story when I was young and found it very funny too! Sorry, I don't know the name of the politician. If any of my readers know, kindly shed light on this. Happy Diwali good wishes!

    ReplyDelete

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