All countries aspire to exceptionalism. No country has perfected it better than the United States of America, with its resolute spurning of the metric system being but one little example. But, countries like Nepal are not immune to such a belief either. In fact, exceptionalism serves as the raison d’etre for many non-democratic regimes to cling to power. Remember the ‘national songs’ tradition from the Panchayat era, which extolled the virtues of king and country (in that order) through verses penned by some of the best-known litterateurs of the day. The intended message was that Nepal was an exceptional country and even more exceptional for being under the benevolent guidance of the monarchy.
As a popular genre, nationalist songs have died an unnoticed, and seemingly quite unmourned death in the two decades since 1990, but exceptionalism as a national trait is still very strong in Nepal. One area where it manifests itself quite strongly is when we try to explain our contemporary history, especially conflicts, past and present, violent or otherwise. There seems to be a strong view that what Nepal has been undergoing does not have any precedence and that it is our particular history, culture, society and geography which give our country’s present travails a unique tinge.
There are those who are very well informed about the world at large and understand that the experiences of other countries can only serve as a template and are not to be borrowed wholesale for anything we do here, whether it be integration of combatants or micro-credit. But there are many more who would like to believe that Nepal is like no other and this colours their understanding of issues of great pertinence to our present times, whether it be negotiating through the country’s social mosaic or seeking redressal for centuries of discrimination against particular groups. As bipeds who evolved out of a common ancestor in Africa, it is only to be expected that there would be parallels in more than one place in the world to almost anything that we can think of as being uniquely Nepali.