Early morning of September 20, waiting for the 8th Kathmandu Marathon runs to begin reminded me of a sad practice prevalent in Nepal and other developing countries: the practice of kissing ass (in Nepal called chaplusi garnu)!
The program called for the runners to arrive at 5 and the races to start at 6. Apparently, we were about 3000 in the stadium.
There we were…itching to run…standing around on the tracks…with nothing to do…at times listening to some inane blabbering by the MC blaring from the speakers…at other times being periodically reminded not to go onto the grassy area…and still at other times listening to some song about education…feeling like I were in some communist State…just waiting…with no information for the delay and with no information for when it would start!
When it got a little too much, asking around, I discovered the chief guest hadn’t arrived! When the culprit — some minister — finally arrived and the first set of runners took off, it was about 7:10 am, over an hour later!
3000 people wasting a whole hour on the tracks had to do with — you guessed it — kissing ass! Nepalese (and many in other developing countries) have a different sense of time from that of developed countries, but ass-kissing culture warps it even further!
For what? To pander to the vainglorious! The worst of that lot, as you may have also guessed already, are the political leaders and government officials/bureaucrats. I have also had some experience with other VIPs and self-appointed VIPs who can also be pretty bad!
A government school jubilee celebration function I attended with Jayjeev way back in June, 2013, where the chief guest was the President of the Republic, for instance, started two-and-a-half-hours late! (The entire episode could be the subject of another post.)
As bad as those two examples sound, I have had worse experiences in the last 17 months!
I have had incidences where I showed up for an appointment on time only to be asked to wait until he — yes, pretty much always a he — was ready to see me!
I have had individuals show up anywhere from half-an-hour to two-and-a-half-hours late to OFFICIAL — not personal — appointments!
I have had to call an hour before an appointment to — wait for it! — re-confirm it! And when duly called, have had them rescheduling it…more than once!
Here’s how and why it all works (!) the way it does.
On the one hand we have those (politicians and other VIPs) who, believing — and probably also thinking — that they are deserving of the attention, respect and subservience from others, patronize individuals and people that willingly give them all that.
On the other hand, we have those who believe — rightly it turns out — that kissing ass will get you ahead or will get you whatever you seek. These people are more than eager and happy to invite the VIPs to their functions as chief guests and/or are happy to grovel, wait around (when they are expected to, like I had to) and, some times, even inconvenience the rest of the others involved when it’s a public function (as at the 8th Kathmandu Marathon for instance), and/or are happy to oblige and follow every inane protocol (such as calling to re-confirm an appointment)!
So while most Kathmanduites on the city streets are always in a hurry to be late for everything driving recklessly, the VIP’s are in no hurry to get anywhere, at any time, for any reason, for anything or anyone! That of course is an abuse of their power and position! I don’t think they see it that way however.
On the contrary!
The VIPs appear to wear this “privilege” — of arriving late and making others wait and waste their precious time — as a “badge of honor” and an exercise of their power and position!
As for me, I am handicapped. Having spent pretty much all my adult life abroad, I never learned to kiss ass in the way some Nepalese voluntarily do, or feel compelled to do. It’s not that there is no ass-kissing abroad — most of the time, I just didn’t have to do it, or the odd times when required or expected I just didn’t do it.
Leaving Nepal as a student to learn about the rest of the world and their ways, being educated in four developed countries and spending most of my career abroad as an international professional, I learned instead to place a lot of value on personal merit and time.
When I have brought up such issues with people, I get the standard answer:”You are back in Nepal now and this is how things are!” In other words, as a Nepalese, I should/must do things the way most others do, even if it means displaying a behavior that is negatively impacting the majority and thus the society, forget about doing the right and appropriate thing!
What a waste of education and experience it would be if I were to think, act and behave in Nepal like most Nepalese. I might as well have not left the country at all!
Be that as it may, the casualty in all this is efficiency, productivity and opportunities etc., which the concerned parties don’t seem to care about or ponder over, or, if they do, insufficiently.
What can we actually do?
I don’t recommend being a slave to time!
While at the same time, as I have stated elsewhere, to expect them — the VIPs — to change is an insult to our own intelligence. They benefit personally — and immensely — from this! But they are unworthy and undeserving of so much of our time and attention!
So why not change our ways so that we are not slaves to the whims of such individuals who seek ass-kissing and sycophancy to stoke their own egos?!
Next time when the VIP chief guest arrives late to a function, just leave en masse! You got to plan this ahead of time of course! That ought to send him the message we-won’t-let-you-take-us-and-our-time-for-granted!
Another tactic that might be effective is to take a video of the VIP arriving late and publish it online, naming and shaming him. Citizens of Pakistan, whose flight got delayed by some politician, did exactly just that recently!
Only behavior such as these could force the VIPs to change their attitude and their own despicable behavior.
What do you think of kissing ass (chaplusi garnu)? If you believe it should be eradicated from Nepalese culture/society, how do you suggest we do it?