When able-bodied young men who leave the country to ensure half-decent lives for their families have to be brought back home in wooden boxes, there is little the government can do to compensate the irreparable loss of their family members. But prime minister KP Sharma Oli made a good fist of it on Wednesday by personally receiving the dead bodies of 12 Nepalis killed in the deadly suicide bombing in Kabul on Monday. He was there at the Tribhuvan International Airport with the bereaved family members, consoling them, promising them every help. Accompanying the prime minister were his home and foreign ministers. The cynics might interpret their gesture as self-serving, intended solely at earning public sympathy from the somber occasion. How Oli and his ministers felt as they attended to the grieving families at TIA, only they can tell. We are more concerned with the symbolism of their gestures. By personally receiving the dead bodies of those who through the money they remit have virtually sustained the Nepali economy over the past two decades, the prime minister was showing that he and his government are well aware of the great sacrifice some Nepalis have to make for the sake of their family and their community back home.
It was an acknowledgement of their indispensible contribution to the Nepali economy. The prime minister being in attendance was also a source of support for those who had lost their loved ones, a sign that they were not alone in this time of tragedy, that the whole country was with them. It is these small, seemingly inconsequential actions that collectively contribute to building a strong national psyche. Now the government must offer more substantial help for the families of the 12 killed workers. This will be important since these families have not just lost one of their members but also their main breadwinners. Perhaps the children in these families can be offered free schooling. Perhaps one member from each family can be offered a job. But why just the government? The private sector can also offer to take care of some needs of the bereaved families. The deaths of these working-age men, after all, represent a collective loss of the whole society. So it is the responsibility of people from all walks of life to do what little they can to help these grieving families.
There is so much that is wrong with present-day Nepal. Most of its politicians are self-serving; cartels and syndicates rule the roost; the level of official corruption has never been higher; inflation is near an all-time high; 50 people have already been killed in bloody clashes in Tarai-Madhesh over the new constitution; and its able-bodied men continue to die abroad at a troubling rate. In this dire situation, it is easy for people to feel hopeless, about themselves, about their societies. But little actions like the prime minister’s presence at TIA to receive his fallen brethren offer some hope: hope that if the whole country can come together to mourn its fallen everyday heroes, perhaps they can also unite to build a strong and resilient country. A country so economically strong that its able-bodied men and women don’t have to anywhere else to ensure decent lives for their families.