Oh Tis the Season….
In the past few months every Nepali with a facebook page probably had this msg, (that’s message for Ye olde folks) which went along the lines of, “Like” and “Share” if you are a patriotic Nepali with Ms Nepal 2012 Shristi Shrestha’s glamourous pictures cascading on their facebook wall.
The amount of interest that has been generated around her is staggering. So, why has this Ms Nepal become the darling of the populace? Ms Shristi brings glamour, poshness, and finesse in celebrity deprived Nepal. Her chiseled face, raised eyebrows, and semi curled hair, a throwback to the 90’s, seems to have captured the nations imagination. This is not to say, we don’t or haven’t had celebrities in Nepal before she came along, but a new standard has definitely been set. She has that oomph, that others have lacked. But the aforementioned, all to familiar, blue screen, has played a massive part as well. Facebook, has been an important catalyst in generating this tide of interest which shows no signs of abating. It is perhaps safe to say we may never see another Shristi for a decade or so.
However, there is more at work here. Our infatuation with a pageant, betrays more than it ostensibly suggests.
For a country struggling with political impasse, stagnating economy, soaring unemployment rate, poverty, and a sense of hopelessness in some quarters, this is perhaps our psychological defense mechanism hard at work to divert our attention to something as superfluous as a beauty pageant. It is the same mechanism that has controlled India’s Bollywood for so long and limits Nepal’s Kollywood today, dreams and escapism sell well, not hard hitting movies that tell the real human story. The Nepali audience would rather watch romantic love stories, with a hero and heroine dancing with bright balloons and helicopters hovering around rather than a teenage kids struggles growing up on the streets of Kathmandu. Shristi is beautiful, successful, intelligent, going places, wearing the finest clothes, center of attention, but, she most importantly is, an escape.
Another real problem which no one wants to talk about is the fact that Nepalis deep down are faced with an inferiority complex. And it this lack of self worth which flares up whenever anything perceived as “anti Nepal sentiment” surfaces from any segment. Take your pick from Colbert’s misunderstood satire to any notion questioning the birthplace of Buddha or Indian books falsely claiming Mount Everest as part of India. The evisceration and vitriolic attacks which follow is mind boggling. And Ms Nepal herself was on the receiving end of it.
The hungry net savvy youth wanted more of Shristi and when the now infamous video of an old off hand interview surfaced on YouTube. Shristi went from a beloved Nepali to (insert the nastiest Nepali words for women here). Ms Shristi and her media consultant ( if she has one) surely did not see this coming. An old interview before Shristi’s crowning, in which she simply brushed away a few questions about her origins to protect her families privacy was perceived as an anti Nepal gesture. Damage control was conducted and order seems to have been restored.
But the backlash for such a nonstarter illuminated the Nepali mindset, and we are talking of the young educated netizens of Nepal and not the older generation shackled with religious bigotry and traditions.
Well, at the end of the day, no matter what happens when the contest does get underway, one thing is clear Nepalis will be keeping a close eye on it. It will fill them with pride and joy. The mundane struggles of daily life and hawkish politicians who are omnipresent will be forgotten. If, and that’s a big if, she does manage to charm the judges to find herself on the winners podium the world will remember her. However, if she does fall short she should take comfort in the knowledge that her fellow Nepalis will never forget her, because just for that little moment in all our lives, we Nepalis shared a dream and hoped together, something that is, unfortunately, hard to come by these days.
Good luck Shristi.