Why FIFA World Cup Title is Beyond the Reach of the Runt

Croatia didn’t lose the Final. It was not France even. It was FIFA which defeated Croatia because FIFA simply doesn’t want any other country except rich, big and powerful take hold of the 18-carat gold trophy.

France never deserved the win. The free kick and penalty awarded to France were not what they were supposed to be. Last year’s corruption scandal at FIFA, resignation of Blatter and the eventual election of Infantino as the honcho speaks volume about the dynamics of collusion and conspiracy going on around such big and important events as World Cup.

Croatians victimized. It’s as clear as the broad daylight. Sadly, this Croatian defeat doesn’t bode well for other similar aspiring nations. This carefully orchestrated ‘Croatian Defeat 2018’ spells the end of hope of winning the title ever for any other underdog or runt out there.

Football is the poor’s game. Ordinary, common people’s game. All those running, jumping, sweating, falling over, tripping,  and injuries: the rich don’t like it. But why it is always the powerful and rich to take home the WC trophy?

Lately we’ve been seeing multiracial European teams. Blacks have dominated European football now but Europe has never been a black continent, has it? It’s easy for the rich to buy up the poor for their own comfort and petty benefits. This grotesque act of buying and selling of the poor is hidden beneath the veil of ‘encouraged immigration’.

Someone has said somewhere, ”If you think Blacks are physically more robust and fast, then you’re opening a door to a very racist and lopsided idea that Whites are innately more intelligent and reasonable.”

Very rightly said.

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WHY I DON’T SEE MANY NECKTIE-WEARING NEPALESE

Rarity of Wearing Tie in Our Society

men wearing suit and tie

In many occasions I’ve been confronted with a question: so you must be some Christian or Jewish preacher or some high-level employee elsewhere; are you? Their inquisitiveness springs from the fact of my being suave and neatly dressed in suit and necktie on most of my workdays. It’s quite a bit of an unfamiliar sight of a man in tuxedo walking on his feet or using a public vehicle.

Sometimes it feels suit topped off with necktie is reserved only for special occasions like formal parties, private school and college students and a handful of high-level executives such as those in banks. Other ordinary folks who try to maintain their appearance neat and suave with necktie don’t easily attract no-strings-attached endorsement from the public.

Why?

What you say about Former Iranian President Muhammad Ahmadinejad who never wore tie during his time in office? Was he right to portray necktie as a symbol of western imperialism? And, it would not be very wise to think rarity of necktie in our society is because we are the huge fans of Mr Ahmadinejad.

Western culture has long dominated our lifestyle. We find ourselves more modern and at higher level of civilization upon the replication of western ideas, values and tradition in our daily businesses. In a sense western culture has become a model to all to follow or replicate. But, we’ve failed to mimic some important aspects of the western culture like their industry, refinement, suit-wearing tradition (in daily businesses) to name a few. Deliberately or inadvertently, I’m not sure but our failure to mimic these essential western characters has certainly made a big dent in our overall replication.

Let’s get back to our discussion (of necktie). Why has necktie (coupled with suit) seemingly been confined within the realm of the well-heeled and white-collared? Even not all high-level executives go for wearing necktie. Last time I wrote an article for my blog. I talked about cars and SUVs being a target of vandalism in times of strikes and violent political movements. Even today cars represent the rich and powerful in our society and most of the vandals or political dissenters/protestors are from the lower class. Cars then fall easy victim to the dissidence of the protestors. So can we draw some parallel between cars and neckties as regards their exclusivity to the upper class?

Christian preachers have tried to some degrees to commonize the wearing of suit and tie. I admire their display of suit (and tie) because they wear it to look neater and more attractive as God has willed his people to be neater like him. But, I’m not implying one can’t be neater in other dresses. On the other hand, private school and college students do wear necktie but their wearing (of tie) is rather under a sort of enforcement by their institutions, not out of their free will. And, I don’t think Nepalese do regard necktie, even remotely, as a symbol of servitude hanging around a neck of a man like the manacles from the bygone slavery era.

And, for special once-or-twice-in-a-year occasions like wedding parties, necktie coupled with suit has become a sort of dress code. But this too is not done spontaneously and out of free will. People fear if they don’t throw on suit and necktie on such occasions, they will risk attracting undue attention from the rest. It’s because of this fear I see so many people attending parties without correct knot, tightening and proper selection of color and design of necktie and corresponding outfit. And, with this they make no less than a clown of themselves! It’s better not to wear at all than to wear it incorrectly and incongruously.

Our society is relatively primitive also in terms of dressing. Our traditional dresses like Daura Suruwal, Sari, Kachhad, etc. lack polished features like the use of buttons, complex stitching, folds, zippers, etc. In order to use these features one needs to have advanced level of industry and machinery and craftsmanship which our ancestors lacked. In contrast, western societies long ago rid themselves of Greek-era tunic or garb and began making clothes with complex features like the buttons, zippers, etc. as their industrial prowess and craftsmanship progressed concurrently. And, the result is suit and necktie along with other complex clothing items like trousers, jackets and so forth.

To put it short, our way of life and thinking are still very simple and our lifestyle doesn’t quite match with wearing elegant suit and tie as it demands a relatively higher level of sophistication (in thinking, doing, etc.). This means we still have to traverse a long way before we feel comfortable enough to make this common western attire a commonplace here.

ANSWER TO MY CURIOSITY: STEPHEN W. HAWKING

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            [8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018]

How this wheelchair-bound Englishman came to impact my view of the cosmos, God and other seemingly inexplicable cosmic phenomena may not be a thing of interest or inquisition if you’ve read or listened to some of his lectures on cosmology and physical science. ‘A Brief History of Time’ is more than enough (a glut?).

I always found myself a curious child before him. I think I first learned about this English physicist in my mid-teen through a magazine (must be a monthly one). But it was not until I read his seminal yet popular ‘A Brief History of Time’ some years back did I begin to develop serious interest over cosmology. I was never a science student nor a man of science; yet Hawking provided me with his ground-breaking ideas about God and cosmology a safe refuge whenever I was tortured with the ever-lasting curiosity of the origin, development and the ultimate fate of the universe.

I have deep respect for major religious scriptures of the world. They are a beautiful guide to understanding the God to some extent if not in entirety. And there was this scientist who gave me an option whenever I couldn’t slake my raging thirst (of curiosity) only with the help of the scriptures and (with) my own reasoning. It’s like a child running to its parents for safety when it feels it is under threat. My curiosity poses a threat to me and I rush to Mr Hawking for refuge.

I conclude with a statement from him: “If we find the answer to the question why the universe exists, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God”

Some famous quotes of Mr Hawking:
On black holes:
Einstein was wrong when he said, ‘God does not play dice’. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen” 

 

On God:

It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going” 

On humanity…

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special” 

On space colonies…

“I don’t think the human race will survive the next 1,000 years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars”

On death:
“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first”.

 

On the end of the universe…

“It will take about a thousand million million million million years for the Earth to run into the sun, so there’s no immediate cause for worry!”

[Quotations copied from theguardian.com and bbc.co.uk. Obituary written by U. Khanāl]

MY INDIFFERENCE TO TEACHERS

WHY DON’T I REGARD THEM VERY HIGHLY

Well, some of you could come lunging straight at me with the intention of arguing heatedly regarding the topic of this essay. Or you could laugh at my stupidity at discounting those people who hold seemingly high reputation in our eastern society as our society has been dominated by the long-held tradition of venerating teachers of every realm as ‘Guru’.

But, wait! We need to be mindful of changing times and consequently the changing roles of teachers. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or ungrateful to my teachers, for I know I value their time and energy they sacrificed to their duty. In today’s times, however, teachers are largely undermined in their roles on account of easy availability of materials beyond the teaching-learning spheres/institutions. Proliferation of printing, electronic media including the new media, widespread and within-easy-reach communication systems have rendered the roles and jobs of teachers largely nominal, especially in terms of textbook teaching. This is specially the case in upper level education.

Well, here I’m summarising some of the causes behind my little regards to my teachers- both school and university (but strictly not those from my elementary levels). The ideas expressed here are my very own and are genuinely grounded on my experiences both as a student and a teacher.

1. Besides your degree how much knowledge you do possess?

Well, it’s not possible to have (sound) knowledge on everything on Earth or beyond. Unlike God we’re not omniscient. If to borrow the words of English theoretical physicist Steven Hawking: ”In Newton’s time it was possible for an educated person to have a grasp of the whole of human knowledge, at least in outline. But since then, the pace of the development of science has made this impossible. Only a few people can keep up with the rapidly advancing frontier of knowledge, and they have to devote their whole time to it and specialize in a small area. The rest of the population has little idea of the advances that are being made or the excitement they are generating.”

Granted, you can’t keep up with all the knowledge being discovered, invented every moment or two. But this doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be a teacher just because you’ve a university degree. Striving for having as much knowledge as possible is a must for a teacher. In my schooldays (and later in college) my teachers lacked any substantial knowledge in their subjects. They were mostly confined within the textbooks. I recall one of my Social Studies schoolteachers in Grade 5 who upon being asked why the Moon looked white replied it was because of having white-coloured rocks and soil there! In Grade 8 there was a lesson about different holy men in Civics book. Jesus was shown crucified but my teacher never bothered to explain why he was crucified and I was too timid and shy to ask. I still feel bitter to recall this. I can state very assertively here that I learned very little of mathematics from my schoolteachers; I learned most of mathematics largely myself.

Later in college, there was a lesson about hydraulics (or mechanics); it was all about more numerical and less theory. I never understood hydraulics (or mechanics) even in its most bare sense. Teacher would come, give his lecture or solve some numerical and leave. Only after many years I came to know about hydraulics (or mechanics) in its broader meaning all on my own.

In retrospect, I think they were just doing their jobs (of teaching) as they were required to do.

In essence, I was hardly impressed by my teachers ever. The only remarkable thing I’ve learned from my schoolteachers which was not in the textbooks was about LTTE rebellion in Sri Lanka. I remember Mr Ramchandra Naral for this.

2. Remote and cold: In order to maintain discipline and silence, most teachers avoid cultivating any sort of closeness or proximity with the students. This is the reason why children view their teachers not as their mentors and guardians but as lords lording over them. Most even avoid touching their students. Respect begets respect, love begets love. But my teachers were largely remote and cold to me.

As a small and timid child, I longed for affection, care and attention from the teachers but to my great dismay I never got them. Teachers wouldn’t even look at me (they would often look at the few prominent boys/girls) while lecturing. I craved for attention and glances from my teachers but there was no such thing in store for me. How poor and miserable little Mr Khanal was!

Teaching course materials is one thing but cultivating a close connexion with the children also matters a lot (to the children) in their elementary or formative years. Fondling or patting in respectable manner certainly proves positive to them. It can give them encouragement. We teachers often avoid being polite to our children. Instead we love appearing like a lord, preferring to lord over.

In college, teachers were even more remote and colder as is the custom in higher level education. They have very little or no share in whatever I’ve achieved in my academic journey.

3. There was something I could’ve learned from my teachers?

Whenever my schoolteachers visited my parents, I would often become pale with fear and apprehension. If they had been a model to me I wouldn’t become so. I now think my respect for teachers was expressed largely out of fear and apprehension. It was not genuine.

Being democratic in classroom activities is important for winning the hearts of the children. But my teachers were like either dictators or too ineffective to be effective. I seldom got any encouragement from them. In schooldays, I recall being the leader of the ‘Mangal House’ (houses were named after planets) as I was the second boy in my class (top four boys/girls from Grade 10 used to be made leaders of four different houses). As a leader I had to preside over the things and it was like a Herculean task to a timid, shy and self-effacing boy back then. But I got no encouragement; I was never assisted and groomed to be a leader. I wonder what it would be if I had been duly assisted in taking leadership.

At this stage I’m still searching for my glory and success seems to be nowhere near. Instead it looks evasively elusive. I think success wouldn’t be this much elusive (to me) if they had taught me to be brave, to take leadership and take chances.

But, alas! There was no such thing. They were confined to teaching textbooks only. They had made prisoners of themselves, imprisoned within the big, impregnable walls of the textbook teaching.

4. Do my teachers have any claim in whatever I’ve achieved in my academic pursuit?

Well I was one of the few first-rated boys in school in terms of discipline and good behavior. Being a small boy I would often sit either in the front or second row. I cannot exactly remember how much attentive I was as I have no strong memories left from those days. But what was true is whenever exam would come I needed to shoulder it all on my own with no aids from no one. Teachers were no help. I wouldn’t understand most of the things teachers said in the classroom and as a timid and introvert boy I didn’t have no stomach to be inquisitive with them. This would put a great pressure on me especially during exam times. In retrospect, I often came to overcome the pressure virtually all on my own thanks to my ability to improvise and inventiveness (in writing answers).

I’m still trying to resolve the question: Where was the flaw, in my learning or in their teaching? What is tellingly true is it is not possible for a teacher to make all the students in a classroom with diverse backgrounds and different levels of understanding understand him.

So what I can derive from my personal experience is learning in its true sense is largely an individual undertaking. And, children in their small age should be attended to individually for their effective learning.

For me books (of all sorts) came to be my real teachers. Nonetheless I hold teachers from my early school years in high esteem. I especially remember Mrs Junamaya Shrestha and Mrs Durga Khanal (who happened to be my aunt) with honor and respect who proved to be the trail blazers in my learning.

5. They had little or no interest in children!

It’s said interest in children is the sine qua non of school teaching.  Here I’m not delving deeper on why most people before the serious beginning of their job career dabble in school teaching, for we all know something or more of it. As school teaching involves children from their early years to mid-teen [years], without having enough interest [in children] it’s going to be not a cakewalk but a stumbling block for anyone trying to be successful in this field.

In retrospect, most of my schoolteachers lacked interest in children. As I’ve already mentioned, as an innocent child I craved for their attention but it was hardly granted. Maybe it was their compulsion- like it is for many today- to take on school teaching to earn their living. I’m not saying they’re not responsible and good in their job. What I want to emphasize is without serious interest in children you’re not going to be closer to them, hold sway over them and without this teaching is going to be anything but effective.

Generally we grown up people do have tendency to brush aside the children and their inquisitiveness as of little worth as we feel more comfortable to remain reclining on our high armchair of maturity than to descend down and be a part of their world.

How Muhammad has put Buddha and Jesus in the Shade

With this remark: ‘The ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr. The man reading is handsome in the side of God. So learn to read and after you’ve learned, teach.’

I chanced upon this remark upon the viewing of 1976 historical epic ‘The Message’ from the director Moustapha Akkad just a while back.

They’re f**kin’ up Everything!

Previously there was a nice little traditional resting platform (चौतारो) dated not later than early 2000s (BS) . Sandwiched between two equally old-looking houses, the platform was not without the two big sacred fig and banyan trees; a rare sight of greenery and abundance of oxygen in the thick of the suffocating human settlement.  Now the old heritage razed to the ground, trampled on by the monstrous machines and converted into a beastly car park. And they call it modern and they are more than modern.

Feel pity for those cocksuckers. O Almighty God, rain upon them the baddest of the hellfire and rid this mother Earth of those devilish creatures.

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                                                  Now

 

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                                               Then

Road to Ruin

Pristine Countryside at the Mercy of Marauding Modernity

Do you remember the track ‘Long Road to Ruin’ from Foo Fighters – an American hard rock/heavy metal band? The title of this essay is inspired from the very track.

Well, here I’m not talking about thrashing and thundering hard rock music though I’ve been an ardent fan of AC/DC –other renowned hard rock artists from Australia. Their music is like a tonic to me: whenever I feel low and down I find my solace in their thundering guitar chords and crashing cymbals. You know some people dismiss hard rock music as nothing more than ‘pollution’- noise pollution. To respond to the critics, AC/DC then had to prepare the track ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’ for their best selling studio album ‘Back in Black’ in 1980 as a counter argument.

During the week-long election holiday I was on a day-long hike to the hill of Kahu in the northeast of Pokhara valley. I loved the hike very much. But together with the joy of hiking, I came to confront, much to my chagrin, the harsh reality the development efforts had brought to that place. The beautiful hill of Kahu, however, was not the only and the first place where I witnessed the local development effort at its most brazen and crudest form.

As we reached the crest, we found a drab-looking viewing tower there- which looked as if it was hastily- built- closed and the area littered with plastic wastes. Later we also found the hill was criss-crossed by a dusty country road which leads from Phoollbari area to the very top of the hill. The road snakes through the scattered settlements on the steep eastern side of the hill with sharp bends and countless potholes.

Some vehicles, mostly motorcycles, were parked on the crest of the hill which had some level grounds- I don’t know whether those level grounds were bulldozed so as to make room for parking or naturally occurring. Seeing those machines at the top of the pristine hill, a strong feeling of repulsion took hold of me. Didn’t those roaring modern machines look like a sacrilege to the tranquil, pristine crest? Didn’t those machines disgrace the rustic feel of the hill? Oh I felt so bad to see those ugly machines resting at the top of the beautiful hill like a victor standing proud at the top of the pile of the corpses of his defeated victims. Here those ugly machines appear as the victor and the poor hill as the victim.

The white-washed watchtower, on the other hand, was a sorry sight, not in any way in harmony with the rustic surrounding. The tower appeared to be hastily and badly built with no attractive features and in no way matching up to the bucolic environment there. The tower could have been built using local materials using local style of architecture which would be compatible with the pristinity of the hill. But, alas! the tower was nothing more than a pitiful sight of a lone ugly pile of concrete completely alienated from its surrounding.

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                             (A moment during the visit)

With development comes destruction. This newly-coined refrain quite well exemplifies the development practices in our country. We know road building and other infrastructure works have taken their damaging toll on the natural state of many places. So far I think in the name of promoting tourism, bringing road to every [possible] tourist destination is not a wise idea. First, it kills the pristinity of a place as more people flock to the place. More people mean more pollution – of every sort- and undue pressure on the natural environment. Big number of tourists alone doesn’t ensure tourism development. What matters more is spending capacity of tourists. A few tourists with taste for refinement and luxury can spend more than a thousand backpackers. Some places like the hill of Kahu are better suited for a small number of epicurean tourists, not for mass tourism.

Second, tourists travelling on vehicles have little interaction with local people and local culture thus preventing them from having the better understanding of the locality. They are also less likely to contribute significantly to local economy. Third, it discourages hiking or trekking which is one of the major forms of recreation/tourism. Examples are already evident in major trekking areas like Annapurna Circuit. Previously several weeks- long Annapurna trekking has now been shortened to a mere week thanks to the road building efforts in many of the places there. As a result, there is a massive drop in the number of trekkers. The other disadvantage of building roads in such places is it becomes an easy means for bringing in alien and incompatible things like concrete in the remote, unspoilt countryside.

Granted, local people do need basic facilities like roads. But the problem we have here in our country is we have already become too much infatuated with roads that we see the building of roads as the foremost condition for development. Efforts for building roads even in the most impossible landscapes like Mid-west and Far-east have not only guzzled financial resources but also have overshadowed other vital aspects of development like water supply and sanitation, health services, etc. I don’t think early 19th century English people were less developed with no motorways or only a fewer railway lines than we 21st century ‘modern’ Nepalese today are with all these black topped roads and vehicles.

The pristine Rara Lake is also facing the same problem. Construction of a country road which passes from near the lake can in future bring in more travelers resulting in mass tourism and killing the pristinity of the lake for good.

Well, do I look like a neo-Luddite? I’m not opposing the construction of roads or use of vehicles as it has become inalienable part of our lives. What I want to emphasize after my visit to the hill of Kahu is some places are better left with no or little human intervention so as to preserve their pristinity and attract the epicurean tourists.

But the marauding modernity in Nepal, it seems, is all set and determined to rip through the remaining bastions of natural beauty and pristinity.