A cab ride to Balmiki to attend the National Assembly of Dalit Citizens – 85 Nepali Rupees. The cost of a bottle of water to prevent dehydration at this outdoor event – 15 Rupees. The price of a newspaper which summarized and highlighted the speeches of Dalit leaders and guest politicians (which included Prachanda, the leader of the Maoists) – 3 to 5 Rupees. Being dragged onto a stage and forced to spontaneously dance to live Nepali music in front of a crowd of 400 people – priceless.
It is no secret that I was a bit uninspired for the last week and a half. I was recovering from an energy draining illness while still trying to develop a workable routine here in Kathmandu. At the JMC office, I felt slightly removed. There was much excitement generated here about the upcoming Dalit Citizens’ Assembly that JMC was helping to organize… but I found it difficult to muster the desire to get out of bed. I was seriously questioning why I was here and what I would be able to accomplish.
Luckily, my experiences this past weekend at the National Assembly of Dalit Citizens gave me a much needed boost of energy and motivation. In the course of 36 hours I heard numerous impassioned speeches, spoke with Dalit leaders from all walks of life, got a taste of the vibrant Nepali Dalit Culture(s), and became more knowledgeable about some of the nitty gritty details about the Dalit movement. What was even more mind-blowing for me, though, was the fact that I had the opportunity to experience history in the making. There had never been a Dalit assembly of this magnitude in the past – the sheer size of the event, the influence of the speakers, and the local media coverage that followed can attest to that fact. Also, considering the current era of change in Nepal (where a new constitution and government are in the works and the importance of representing marginalized communities is finally becoming an issue for many national leaders) the timing was impeccable.
It is only a day after the closing ceremonies and I am still trying to digest all of the information I gathered while playfully trying to predict how the accomplishments of this event will impact the “New” Nepal. (Just to warn you, I will write more entries about this past weekend!)
And yes, my energy is back and the motivation is stronger than ever. I think that being forced to freestyle dance in front of a large crowd toward the end of the assembly had a little something to do with that. Though I made an absolute fool of myself, I can always rely on my Nepali friends and colleagues to make me feel like I actually have some nice moves.
Posted By Ted Samuel
Posted Jun 18th, 2007