Every country has its heroes and martyrs who have made singular contributions to their nation at different epochs in its history and whose memory inspires future generations. The sterling achievements, political or sociocultural, of some such people of Nepal who propelled the nation's existential ethos, have been highlighted."
The author belongs to a well-known family of Nepal. His unique vantage point makes this book an insider's account that has been written with deep understanding of Nepal. It is peppered with fascinating personal accounts from the author which give the reader insights into the socio-political milieu of the years in discussion.
`Veer Ganesh Man-Amar Hos!!!' they chanted as the procession twisted and turned slowly through the narrow lanes and broad avenues of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The route was planned so that the cortege traversed the lanes of the old city as dictated by ancient custom and also the broad avenues of parts of the expanded city as deemed appropriate. It was, in a way, symbolic of the continuation and transition of historical events and the lifelong pursuit of Ganesh Man Singh to thrust his countrymen from the medieval past to the modern era.
His Majesty King Birendra, while expressing his condolence, show-ered fulsome praise most aptly calling him `...an ascetic of democracy'. King Birendra probably remembered the time when Ganesh Man politely declined to take up the post of Prime Minister which His Majesty had offered. Such an offer had never before been refused by anyone in the entire history of Nepal. Indeed, Ganesh Man could have, if he had so desired, been the Prime Minister of Nepal during the time of His Majesty's grandsire, King Tribhuvan and also of His Majesty's father King Mahendra.
Therefore, His Majesty commanded the government to accord Ganesh Man Singh state honors of a level higher than that of an incumbent Prime Minister. Hence, to the somber tones of the hymn `Harley Ram, Harley Ram...' played by a full complement of the Royal Nepal Army silver band, two companies of the Royal Nepal Army-arms reversed-with a Colonel in command, escorted the cortege to the ghats. As the flames gently engulfed his body, the contingent of the Royal Nepal Army fired volley after volley while a 19-gun salute thundered into the firmament.
A singular tribute and honor bestowed on a commoner, unprecedented in the entire history of the Kingdom of Nepal.
`Never before and never after!' was how most people described the funeral. Ganesh Man himself would have been pleasantly surprised at the massive turnout of people. Many, impulsively joining the innumerable thousands following him on his last journey and the many more thousands lining both sides of the streets, filling verandahs, windows and doorways, covering every platform, wayside shelter, temple, park, tree and rooftop. In fact every vantage point, from which a glimpse could be had of him. He rested serenely, on the military flatbed truck, covered except for his face, by flowers and garlands laid in respect and showered from windows and balconies along with abirvermilion powder and rice grains as a last accolade by countless women as per ancient custom.
This was, of course, not the only time he had been so feted. Many a time throughout his tumultuous life during moments of triumph and even during periods of tribulation, wherever he went, people thronged to greet him and at least listen to him if not do immediately as per his bidding. What was he and who was he to the people? What were his country-men to him? Later on towards the closing years of his life he would say, `I draw (my) strength from the people and voice their aspirations'.
They called him the 'Iron Man'. Fearless and immovable, unflinching and resolute, he would roar out against his opponents and make the masses boil. The next moment he would have them rolling in laughter as he used his sharp wit and rustic humor to cut down his opponents. His opponents were anyone whosoever impeded or opposed democracy. Many a time, his opponents would also join in the general laughter glad perhaps because they had become his targets and therefore protected from the general ire of the people.
They called him Sarvamanya Neta. Towering above all other party leaders, he skilfully persuaded them to form a united front. He and he alone, made even the communists join him and his party, in the historic non-violent 'Peoples' Movement of 1990', to establish a constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy-both of which are against com-monist ideology. They called him Veer Ganesh Man because his exploits were heroic. They called him Loknayak because he was 'The Leader' of the people. They called him Krantinayak because he led revolutions. He was the harbinger of change.
Of himself he would say, 'I consider myself a "watchdog", a "sentinel", a "guardian angel" of democracy. My only concern is to protect, preserve and foster democracy.' Reflecting on the achievements of the `1990 Peoples' Movement', he said ...the subjects of an independent king of an independent kingdom have now become the citizens of an independent king of an independent kingdom.'
As a young boy, while playing with his friends from the neighborhood, local elders would come up to him and biting their tongue, exclaim, Kazi! How could you, a scion of such an illustrious clan, spend time playing marbles? Don't you also want to be a Sirdar or Kazi?' He would say 'No!' `Then what do you want to do?' they would ask.
`I want to serve the people', he would reply. 'What do you mean by that?' they would query. Naturally, he was unable to answer, as he really did not know what serving the people meant.
`Do you mean feeding and clothing the poor?' they would prod and encourage. Very seriously and proudly, he would nod in affirmation. Born as the eldest grandchild of Bada Kazi Ratna Man Singh, in November 1915 AD to Srimati Subhadra Kumari and Mulki Subba Gyan Man Singh-the Bada Kazi's nephew-Ganesh Man was brought up under the doting tutelage of the Bada Kazi as both his grandfather, Kharidar Hari Man Singh and his father, had died quite young in their early 30s.
Ratna Man Singh, the eldest son of Dittha Jit Man Singh, joined government service at the age of 14 as a junior clerk in the General Survey Department. From this humble beginning he rose in rank slowly and steadily by sheer diligence and hard work. Possibly, his father's influence as Dittha (Sessions Judge) may have smoothened his climb but by the age of 25, Ratna Man made it to Dittha himself, thus proving his own merit. Thirty-five years after he joined government service, he rose in rank to Sirdar and eight short years later, at the age of 56, he was promoted to Kazi. Over the years, in this post, he had to shoulder the responsibility of attending to and reporting directly to the de facto rulers of the country. Eventually, in recognition of his long years of service and unbending but diplomatic espousal of justice, he was elevated at the age of 74 to Bada Kazi-the highest civil rank in the Kingdom, attended to by soldiers from the Purano Gorakh Gana.
Fame and fortune came his way. However, the Bada Kazi was a lonely man at heart. His younger brother Hari Man Singh had died quite young during his early 30s while still a Kharidar. As if this was not enough, Mulki Subba Gyan Man Singh, his eldest nephew by his brother, and on
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