BY Madan Lamsal
Not very long ago, our cities were like beehives on caffeine — buzzing, bustling, and bursting at the seams with people. But now? Well, it's a ghost town out there. Young people are ditching the cities as well as the villages faster than you can say "urban migration". The only thing getting a workout is the lock on the shutters, and hotel rooms are lonelier than a sock without its pair! Meanwhile, in the halls of these hotels, it's like a party apocalypse — full, vibrant, and pulsating with more life than the city streets.
Apparently, there's a chief guest epidemic sweeping the nation. The competition for chief guest status is so fierce; it's like the Oscars for small towns! Every nook and cranny has a handful of local celebs, ready to grace any event with their chief guest charm. As I watch these honor-laden shawl ceremonies, I can't help but feel like the odd one out — the only worthless potato in a bag of VIPs!
Some people cannot be the chief guest even if they want to be. Because not every person can afford daura suruwal and coat! But whoever can is eligible to be honored as the chief guest of a function. Nowadays, apart from MPs and ministers, daura suruwal is sewn either for the groom or for the chief guest! A professional chief guest usually has two or more daura suruwals and coats in stock. Even if one goes to the dry clean, it should not stop him from being the chief guest. He can wear the second one.
But again, in the fast-paced life of a chief guest, who has time for laundry? That is perhaps why the daura suruwals of the chief guests usually have a special smell. The smell of the charm of the chief guest! This aroma is a unique blend of the smells of bouquets of flowers, garlands, shawls, liquor and cigarette smoke. And this smell keeps coming.
The chief guests are either chosen or made. In fact, there is a whole syndicate for this. One by one, they take turns to be the chief guest! But the real chief guest is neither chosen nor made. They are born by themselves. However, now Nepali society is bearing with hundreds of chief guests every day. People might be dropping like flies, but the chief guests? They're the real immortals, gracing funeral meetings while sipping on tea or coffee and giving life advice!
The chief guest is a serious creature or has the power to maintain the illusion that he is serious. The chief guest of a programme, who has to be hosted, starts the practice to be serious at least two-three hours before reaching the venue. Some people start getting serious from the previous evening. A person who has been serious since the previous evening, by the time the programme starts, becomes listless or sick, which is the first quality of being a chief guest. A person who makes a good chief guest is kind of sick. Or let's say a sick person can make a good chief guest!
In our part of the world, the chief guest is usually a man. Therefore, being the chief guest has become a manly business. There is no subject that the chief guest does not know. That's why he talks about everything from evicting squatters to setting up a settlement on Mars! And after becoming the chief guest, the great knowledge that others do not know anything will also spread. Sometimes, the programme coordinator has to hand the chief guest a chit in the middle of his speech, requesting him to keep it short!
Once someone becomes the chief guest in a programme, it is difficult for them to accept invitations for roles lower than the chief guest in another programme. So a professional chief guest goes to a meeting only when he is invited as the chief guest, no less. Because he can't sit in the audience or in the applause gallery. If he is invited to any programme, he goes there thinking that he is the chief guest of the programme!
And, in every programme, the commencement seems contingent upon the installation of both the chief guest and the microphone! It appears imperative to have a chief guest positioned before the mic for the programme to kick off. However, in today's fast-paced world, where everything unfolds in an instant, one could easily envision a scenario where the mic-wallah takes the initiative to bring the chief guest along, seamlessly placing them on the stage after a while.
How do the chief guests sit on the stage? Well, some are surprised, some are shocked, and some are comfortable. Some are shy or smiling like a bride, while others sit stiffly like a headmaster! Some sit with their heads bowed as if the bride's father is sitting in the mandap (wedding canopy). On the other hand, the feeling of the audience seems to be that what the chief and other guests are saying, why they are saying the same thing again and again and how long they will keep saying it!
Those who arrive on time are not worthy of being the chief guest. So, only the fashionably late deserve the title of chief guest; arriving on time is a cardinal sin in the grand event playbook! Therefore, the chief guests usually arrive at the event venue at least a couple of hours late. But as soon as they finish their long speeches, they say that they are in a hurry! In order to uphold the notion of ‘Nepali time’, a great arrangement is made in such events - the chief guest usually arrives late but if he arrives on time, the audience fashionably strolls in late. Should both arrive punctually, the organizers, in a brilliant twist, tactically delay the whole shebang!
A special quality of a good chief guest is that he is more revolutionary than other speakers. He must look and sound different! For example, when a speaker mentions that darkness blankets the country, the chief guest raises a question and says, "Where is the darkness? What is darkness? The sun has already set. But can this be called darkness? Rather, I see the country moving towards the light of socialism! In fact, it is too late for us to redefine darkness as light and light as darkness. The previous speaker labeled the present time as dark. So, what is light? Anyway, thank you to everyone present for making me the chief guest and listening patiently. Since the programme started very late, it is now dark. So I will end my two words here!”
No matter how public the intellectual impotence of the chief guest is, the country still flocks to speeches like moths to a flame. In the grand carnival of verbosity, the real heroes are the shops and sects masquerading as political parties, running speech programmes that are the unsung champions of the nation's entertainment scene. Forget economic policies or social reforms; the real roadmap to socialism is paved with podiums, microphones, and a parade of chief guests. This humble scribe proposes a revolutionary agenda: let's breed a new generation of chief guests and fast-track the country's journey towards the elusive goal of socialism!