Remarks at book launch of
Global Citizen from Gulmi
by Kul Chandra Gautam
Kathmandu, 7 August 2018
I feel genuinely humbled and touched by the kind words and warm sentiments expressed by all our esteemed previous speakers. Thank you.
Thank you, Ani Choying, thank you Gokarnaji, Nilamberji, Pradeepji and Valerie.
And my deep gratitude for the blessings of our most respected and beloved Satya Mohan Joshiji.
If the book is worthy of all the compliments that have been showered, I feel blessed and gratified. But let me request all those who have not read the book yet, to please read it critically, and share your candid feedback.
I have no doubt that besides compliments, there will be some critical comments and reactions in the coming days.
After all, we live in a vibrant democracy of differing views; not in a monolithic society of unanimity. And that is the way I like it!
In the Prologue of the book I acknowledge that I often get more compliments and credit for my humble efforts and achievements than I deserve.
Actually, much of my personal and professional success is a by-product of my association with many great and caring people – my mentors, my colleagues, my family and my friends. I mention some of them in the book.
Alas, most of them – including my parents – are no longer in this world. They have left us – as we all must do – sooner or later.
But there are three people still around whom I wish to acknowledge this afternoon.
One of them is not here right now, she is abroad. But without her, I would not be standing before you today – as I would have been dead and gone many years ago.
I refer to my loving sister Rama Bhusal who gave me a true gift of life – one of her kidneys – because of which I am alive and able to bring this book to you.
None of us can give a better gift than that to anybody.
I know Ani Choying Dolma would agree with me, and so would Dr. Rishi Kaflé and Dr. Pukar Shrestha who are here with us today.
Another person who deserves credit for bending the trajectory of my life – is my uncle Baburam Aryal.
As a little boy in the late 1950s, I was studying Sanskrit in Benaras, preparing to become a pundit. That certainly would have been an honourable profession.
But Baburam mama counselled my parents that the world was changing fast and so was Nepal. Democracy had arrived in Nepal with the general elections of 1959 that brought a certain euphoria as the visionary BP Koirala became Prime Minister.
It was time to switch me to a modern, so-called “English” education. He convinced my parents and even volunteered to bring me along with him to Nepal. Let’s recall that for those of us living in the remote hills in those days, Nepal meant Kathmandu!
Baburam mama would not have imagined – nor did I – that that fateful step would be the beginning of my long journey from the hills of Nepal to eventually the halls of the United Nations and beyond.
So, thank you, Baburam mama!
One last person I should acknowledge is my wife Binata.
Binata and I are an odd couple with widely divergent views.
She is very spiritual, I am rather materialistic. She is guided by intuition, I am generally guided by logic. These differences may seem very incompatible.
But incompatibility sometimes adds spice to life. Some spices can be very hot and fiery. But in our case, they have brought some beneficial balance in life.
So, thank you, Binata.
The most inspiring person with whom I had the privilege to work, was a man named Jim Grant – a charismatic and visionary leader who was the head of UNICEF in the 1980s and 90s.
Most of you will not have heard of him. But let me cite one statistic that will explain to you why I found him inspiring.
Nicholas Kristof, a well-known columnist for the New York Times, said of Jim Grant that his work and leadership probably helped save more lives than were killed by Hitler, Stalin and Mao Ze Dong combined.
He remains one of the great unsung heroes of the 20th century.
Among the many things I learned from Jim Grant was to always look for a silver lining even in the darkest clouds. That has truly been the guiding light for my optimistic outlook in life.
You can read the rest of my story in the book.
But before I conclude, let me share 2 observations.
I see quite a few young people in the audience. For young people these days – in Nepal as elsewhere – the contrast of daunting challenges on the one hand, and glittering opportunities, on the other – has never been greater than it is today.
Our youth today face not just the age-old problems of poverty, unemployment, inadequate health and education services, but also the modern spectre of extremist ideologies, terrorism, and temptations created by our ready access to the digital world of information technology.
The revolution of rising expectations – and the reality of poverty – and especially inequality, makes young people feel angry, unhappy and deprived.
It is a fact that humanity as a whole is much better off today than ever before.
Fewer children die; more children go to school; more people travel around the world; we live much healthier lives than our parents and grand-parents.
But all that is of little consolation to the younger generation, because their needs and aspirations have escalated.
When they see their neigbours and our leaders living a vastly more privileged life than they do, it is natural to feel deprived and discriminated.
But in this fast-changing world, while our patience is thin, the opportunities for progress are boundless.
Nepal today is not confined between Mechi and Mahakali or Himal and Tarai.
I bet that everyone in this hall – without exception – has one or more family members living outside the political boundaries of Nepal. But our economic frontiers encompass the whole world. And our wish for prosperity requires us to become competitive global citizens.
Our national development planning must, therefore, be one that empowers Nepalis to excel in whatever we do and wherever we venture in the whole wide world.
So, one of my key messages is: let us keep Nepal in our hearts, but let us spread our wings to the whole world.
I would commend to the young people the last three chapters of the book.
Chapter 18 is entitled: The ‘Secrets’ of my relative success.
Sorry, it is not a manual for how to become successful. In fact, I say, there is no ‘secret’ formula for success. Everyone of us has to chart our own unique course.
But there are a few pointers from my life’s experience that might be useful for your consideration.
Chapter 19 is entitled: “My dream for a sundara, shanta, bishal Nepal”.
Now, we all understand what sundara, shanta mean – beautiful and peaceful.
But what is this bishal Nepal concept?
In the 21st century, it surely does not mean we want to expand Nepal by conquering the territory of our neighbours or recapturing parts of Nepal that we lost in the past. That would be a foolish and futile adventure.
What we mean by bishal is a change in our mindset, of thinking Big, and not bemoaning that “Nepal is a small and poor country”. It is not.
Nepal becomes bishal by embracing the positive forces of globalization; and exerting our presence and influence in the world.
As our moderator Sujeev Shakya often emphasizes: We Nepalis need to learn to Think Big. Let us dump our narrow rashtrabad. And let us follow global best practices and broadly accepted universal norms. That is my other key message.
The last chapter of the book is entitled: “My Dream World – Markers of some momentous changes for humanity”.
There, I review some global mega-trends, and express my hopes for the triumph of a humane and pluralistic democracy all over the world, including in China. I also dream for the emergence of a Commonwealth of South Asia; a prosperous Africa and a vibrant Latin America. These are all feasible, if not in our life-time, certainly during the life-time of our children.
As Valerie Juliand mentioned, I also speak about a drastically reformed United Nations fit for the 21st century with some specific proposals.
The book concludes with some observations on how – not just peace and prosperity – but equity must become the defining issue of our times.
Empowerment of girls and women is the best catalyst for an equitable world order. It is as valid in Nepal as it is in the rest of the world.
To make a small contribution for that noble goal, I have decided that proceeds from the sale of this book will go to a girls’ education project assisted by UNICEF in several educationally deprived districts of Nepal.
So, when you buy this book you will not be helping to enrich Kul Gautam or Nepalaya Publication, but helping an innovative girls’ education program in Province number 2, and the far western region, where we still have many girls out of school.
Harnessing the power of technology for the common good, and fostering an inclusive democracy in the spirit of human solidarity – are the final markers of my dream world of the future.
Interestingly, Nepal’s new constitution embraces most of these values and norms in principle. I wish and hope that we would all be more sincere and steadfast in implementing them in practice.
Dear friends, I think I have said enough. For more, please read the book.
And thank you all for joining us today and for your good wishes, and blessings.