Busy Days, American Politics and Our Leaders

I have been extremely busy in the past two weeks. Blogging was the primary (or caucus? ha ha ha) casualty. I was completely into journalism, my primary profession. Reporting, writing, managing and editing.

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came as a shock and I found myself in our newsroom tracking the sad and dramatic development as it unfolded in Rawalpindi. Pakistani newspapers Dawn, the News, American papers NYT and Wash Post, wire services and the web sites of BBC and CNN. And Wikipedia too. All were my sources for the report that I prepared and was published on front, almost entire, page. The only other news report, also written by me, on the front page was about the until-then-top-secret-number of the Maoist combatants released by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). The front page of Kantipur, the next day, had belonged to me, as one colleague at the business bureau put it.

Ironically, I am the coordinator of the last page of the paper that is titled “Kala Ra Shailee” (Arts and Style).

In addition to that, I was recently given the responsibility of coordinating Koseli, the weekly supplement of Kantipur.

Plus, I have also started covering the foreign affairs beat as my colleague Devendra Bhattarai is going to Quatar as Kantipur’s correspondent. Kantipur is publishing its Doha edition (weekly) soon. The edition will be coordinated by Girish Giri who used to oversee Koseli until two weeks ago.

So that’s it. Even during the new years time I was working like an ass. Actually I enjoy every bit of the work. Reporting, writing, editing and managing. All. Yes, all. Conceiving a fresh and new idea for a new story is difficult and implementing that fantastic idea into words and photos is even more difficult. Writing is challenging. Actually editing is fun but only when you read the entire story with patience. Some stories, my experience tells, are horrible. I mean they are horrible even by the Nepali journalism standard. Some are with wrong angle, wrong perspective. And some are really good. I have seen them all during my career as the ‘Arts and Style’ coordinator of Kantipur and, before that, Feature bureau chief at Nepal Magazine. And yes, I have seen some of those during the past two weeks as I went through various feature stories. The problem with many is that they don’t seem to be reading twice what they have written. (Just like my blogs? :))

Since we accept feature stories and contribution to other interactive columns for Koseli, I would like to make it clear to prospective contributors that please make sure you know hundred percent about what you are going to write about (you don’t have to be expert and do PhD on the topic but should know how you are going to present the subject in the story.)

I am planning to introduce new columns in Koseli and hope they will be appreciated well by readers (they have already been appreciated by my editors actually!). Suggestion as to how can the quality of the supplement be improved are welcome.

Oh… by the way, how can I just sign off without mentioning a word about the US presidential election campaigns? That’s impossible! Last Thursday (the day of Iowa caucus) I wrote an op-ed for Kantipur and the article was talk of the town (I am not boasting or blowing my own trumpet here)! And the most talked about word from the story? “Pro-American like Sudeep Shrestha and myself…” Almost all of my friends and colleagues whom I met that day greeted me by saying “hello pro-American!” I was in the parliament that day and a parliamentary reporter started the conversation with “our pro-American is here.” At least three people asked me to clarify what did I mean by pro-American.

I was happy for Barack Obama when he won Iowa. I was still elated, though slightly disappointed, when he finished second in New Hampshire today. (One can imagine how busy I was when I couldn’t find time to blog about that victory!) But I disagree with this NYT headline today: From a Big Boost for Obama to a Sharp Blow. Yes, that was a big boost for Obama in Iowa but a sharp blow in New Hampshire? Hell no. Everyone (except the two polls by CNN and USA Today- released about a day before the voting) thought Hillary was going to win the race in NH. I still think whatever Obama got in NH could still be considered the boost for him. Look at the gap between Obama and Hillary in NH. Considering the fact that he was an unknown entity until four years ago, this is a great achievement for Obama.

I appreciate the fighting spirit of Hillary and that should inspire struggling women all over the world. I also appreciate this American tradition of congratulating and appreciating the rivals. After the ‘defeat’, Obama said: “First of all, I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire. She did an outstanding job.” This culture of appreciating rivals and competitors makes me the fan of American democracy though I must confess I have very limited understanding about American democracy. One thing I can say for sure is this: you can’t imagine doing a Nepali leader the same. They will not just accept the other’s victory with such ease and politeness. We need to learn.

Of course, Nepali leaders are also working with the team spirit (I can cite those ‘countless’ agreements to corroborate my claim!) But most of the time, they act like fighting kids, cats and gods. And such public spats, baseless statements and unfounded claims reduce their seriousness to jokes. The other day I read a NYT report that cited candidates making untruthful statements, stretching truth to support their statements etc. That was a good report and we in Nepali journalism should publish reports like that pointing out factual errors in leaders speeches. By the way, today in canteen, while we were talking about electricity transmission lines, Bikash Thapa, the energy reporter for Kantipur said that once Makune (that is Madhav Kumar Nepal of CPN UML) had said that he would transmit the electricity from Mahakali to foreign countries via satellite. Even after saying such a foolish statement, he is still our leader!

And yes today I didn’t ‘work’!