--BY MADAN LAMSAL
The novelist Indra Bahadur Rai once wrote a book called ‘There is a Circus Today’. But today, there is always a circus at Baluwatar every day. In the old days, they would say – ‘He who holds the sword will rule the world.’ Among the swordsmen, the most skilled would be the king or ministers; those less skilled than them would be courtiers who would have their own courtiers as well. There is no fundamental difference between the courtiers of the past and the politicians of the present.
In the past, to rise to power, you would need courtiers who could swing the sword to kill for you. Today, you need hired crowds who have tongues sharper than swords with the skill to shout slogans in your favour!
There is also another difference between the past and the present. In the past, the courtiers would gather at the armory and slaughter each other. The winner would get the crown while the losers would pay with their lives. However, today’s kings and ministers don’t have to fight themselves; they have their gangs for that! Haven't you always noticed the crowds of henchmen always ready to do their master's bidding?
In the past, the courtiers would engage in a ‘zero sum game’. In other words, it was winners take all. But that’s not the case anymore; now, the losers, too, get a faire share of the pie from the winner. When one big politician has a fever, others like him can’t sleep the whole night! You must have noticed how our world-famous uncle from Jhapa promised to bear the treatment expenses of and provided millions of rupees to rear snakes to the equally-famous uncle from Ilam though the latter curses the former day and night!
Similarly, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t know that Baluwatar did appoint those recommended by Budhanilkantha as ambassadors. Though they always fight with each other in public, they scratch each other’s backs behind the scenes!
Yes, the fights would be real back in those days; today, they only act as if they are fighting. But the sheep that follow them think the fight is real and start confronting and spewing venom against each other, and in most cases, even stop talking to each other. But their political bosses are hand in gloves with each other when it comes to making money.
The losers back in those days would be forced to leave either the country or, at least, the Kathmandu Valley. Today, ‘that’s not needed’. Both the winners and the losers live a lavish lifestyle in the Valley itself. And the losers are quick to congratulate the winners.
You may think, how cultured! But that’s not the case. In fact, that’s a reminder to the winners to keep a fair share of the pie safe for the losers as well! There is a reason why the saying ‘you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours’ exists.
Just a few weeks ago, a new set of people entered Baluwatar. Whenever new people enter Baluwatar, some people expecting miracles to happen jump into the air for a couple of days before they fall flat on the hard ground of reality. But when have really new people entered Baluwatar? Those who give donations are the same. Those who get the contracts are the same. Those who reap the commissions are the same.
It’s just the case of filling an old bottle with yet older wine! Those who have entered Baluwatar now were there three years ago as well. And many more times before that. Those who recently exited Baluwatar were there five years ago and seven years ago. For them, Baluwater is just a revolving door!
The uncle from Jhapa was in Baluwatar until recently; now the uncle from Dadeldhura is there. Both are uncles. What’s the real difference? Still some ‘courtiers’ are on cloud nine, thinking it’s their time to make hay while the sun shines! A few of them will be able to do that. But for many others, the excitement will last only a few days. When they will realise that the people who both the uncle from Jhapa and the uncle from Dadeldhura lend their ears to are the same, their inflated pride will pop like an inflated balloon pricked with a pin and they will face the harsh reality!
Those who are now happy that the uncle from Jhapa has been replaced with the uncle from Dadeldhura have something in common with the ancient tales. Eons ago (as the ancient stories tell) Prahalad finished off his own father and Bibhishan his own brother Ravana to become the king. But here, we have a case of people setting their own houses on fire just to sell the ash! The ‘kingmakers’ who kicked out the uncle from Jhapa from Baluwatar and put the uncle from Dadeldhura in his place are happier than the ‘king’ himself.
Baluwatar is a strange place whose occupants vary from those ‘feudalists’ who had just a goglet and a tin box when they exited to those ‘communists’ who exited along with a procession of cars that cost millions of rupees. Different times but the same fate and the same end result.
Baluwatar in fact is a place where you get what you want depending on who you are and what you are capable of. That’s why when you enter Baluwatar, you see some people collecting silver in one corner and others gathering gold, diamonds and pearls in the other. Is there any other place as amazing as Baluwatar in Nepal?
Not as far as I can tell. And that’s why there's always a circus at Baluwatar!