Kathmandu, capital of Nepal
I am sure that you wondered before how personalities are shaped, but, have you ever wondered the same thing about countries?
In India, undoubtedly, religion is the factor that helped to mould the way its people are. One religion, Hindu, that is exactly the same now than millions of years ago. Immovable. Just like its people’s destiny. If they are born in a caste, they die in that caste, no matter what they do, no matter what happens. Everything is marked by it. Where you will live, the job you will have and the person you will marry. Only death liberates you from that circle to enter in a new one.
Settled in their destiny, many Hindus seem to survive instead of living, watching the days go by and expecting a better new life after death. If their existence is now a bitch is because they were dogs in their previous life, but if today they behave, they will be awarded in their next life. That is their only consolation, because, just in case you can remember what you earned in your previous life, who is going to claim anything to the typical guru who fooled you? The purpose of this system is to mould a conformist country, a society where there is a non-effort culture, because, what is the point in breaking your back working if you’re not going to get your reward until the next life? Future and past hopelessly united. An endless deja vú that impregnates everything in India. From head to toe. From head, because you can see in their faces the misery that seems to be unavoidable for them; and to toe, because rubbish piles up in the street waiting for somebody to pick it up.
Last week, when we flew to Nepal, we were expecting to see the same, but to our surprise, it was different. It was an amiable and sweet country, where men and women work non-stop, while kids use any spot to do their homework. It is curious that these two countries, being so close to each other, are so different form each other. Buddhism, more present in Nepal than in India, influenced them positively, but I think there must be another reason for that.
Throughout history, India has been dominated by all kinds of Empires, most of them foreigners. Some of these invaders tried to destroy the Indian culture, but most of them saw a way to maintain their power over the Indian people. The more conformist the people are, the easier it is to dominate them. That is what happened. Actually, Indian people only achieved their freedom when characters educated with occidental values leaded them to get rid of the British Empire, and that happened less than a century ago. Besides, Gandhi y Nehru, achieved the independence for their country, but they were never able to put an end to the caste system, much less to the inequality, racism, and poverty that it’s been causing all these centuries. Not even when they tried with all their might, and paying the high price of their lives and their love ones’. However, three millenniums of inertia is too much, even for so exceptional leaders as they were.
Nepal, on the other hand, it’s been inexpugnably for foreign armies thanks to the mountains surrounding it. It has been always ruled by local petty kings. They were as tyrannical as the ones in India, but with one big difference: they had the same skin colour as their vassals. Some of them were fair, others ruthless, but most of them acted with “enlightened absolutism”, always looking for the best for their people, even when that meant going against their own religion. In a democracy, necessary but painful reforms find barriers to keep going, whereas in authoritarian countries there is no other choice but to comply with them from the first moment. This dangerous argument has been commonly used hundreds of times by dictators anxious to “legalize” their power, but it does not mean that sometimes, it makes sense. While Gandhi y Nehru were failing in India with one of these transformations, several centuries before, in Nepal, the king Janak could change his subjects forever. He was convinced that education was the key for success, so he established a system, which is still current in Nepal, based on three main facts:
1) Ensure social equality in education.
2) Create and promote the student social responsibility.
3) Develop and preserve culture within education.
Having said this, it does not seem to be a great discovery, but, read it carefully: “Ensure social equality in education”. Hundreds of years ago, saying that education would be the same for everybody, whether you are a prince or the son of a peasant, and through it, the opportunities to carve a future of yourself would be the same, was not only the most revolutionary thought ever seen since Jesus times, but it was also the complete opposite of what their Hindu neighbours were advocating.
Could one decision of one king change the fate of a whole country forever? Is it possible that a river, a valley, or a mountain range too high to be overcome by foreign invaders, could protect some and abandon others, being crucial not only to their future, but also to their personality? If that happens to countries, what about with people? What kind of experiences we lived as children that made us be as we are now? If that teacher wouldn’t have asked Pedro to count all the books in his house, maybe he would have never discovered the Salgari collection. Without those books, maybe he would have never dreamt about travelling to Asia. Without those and Belen’s dreams, maybe we wouldn’t be here today, in Kathmandu. Maybe then, our trip around the world would be somebody else’s and our book would be waiting to be written. Without that book, there would not be a reader either. And if there is no reader, who are you?