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Feb 17, 2010

A culture of extortion

Though it has already days since Maha Shivaratri, a major festival of Hindus has passed; an aspect of it has been itched in my mind till now.  When the adults are busy in the massive marijuana consumption, and hundreds of thousands of them swarm to Lord Shiva’s temple, children amuse themselves with blocking roads with ropes and extorting money from the passersby.  It’s the child’s whim that determines whether even the on foot traveler also gets extorted.

What was supposed to be another merry making aspect of a festival has turned out to be a nuisance for travelers on this day. It’s a formidable task to travel the city roads on Maha Shivaratri day. After every bend you find some children blocking the road with some ropes and it’s very hard and unpleasant to pass without discharging some rupees from your pocket. What bothers me most is the way our culture is acquainting our children with extortion and instilling the thought on them that it’s okay to extort. It’s the way they learn from their childhood that it’s okay to use force or any other means of nuisances to earn money. And I believe when it comes to teaching values to our children, culture cannot be an excuse.

Even sadder is the fact that, in many cases, this little amusements turn into serious tragedies when vehicles try to ignore the blockades by speeding past. If you think, the general environment of Nepal is getting unbearable; revisiting our culture looking for such tell-tale signs might be interesting.

We could have instead taught our children to earn by helping others on such festivals and thus instill on them the fundamentals of civilization and a free society. Would it have been better if we could teach our children to make money on Shivaratri by maybe selling bottled waters, Pooja Samagris on temples or by making them help the devotees during the festival? Wouldn’t such a practice make them learn that in a civilized society a person is supposed to earn by benefitting others and by providing what others need instead of by causing nuisances for others?

But again, if children sell goods or do any productive works its child labor and how dare I talk about promoting child labor, ain’t I?


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