What the fake ?

Published On: August 3, 2018 09:18 AM NPT By: Gunjan Upadhyay

These days, it’s getting increasingly hard to tell what is genuine and what is not. Now we have instances of ‘fake rescues’ being carried out by trekking companies in collusion with helicopter operators and hospitals in order to swindle insurance companies. Insurance fraud is not really anything new or even remotely ingenious. Actually the reverse is true due to built-in monitoring mechanisms for most claims payout but, viewed in conjunction with other goings on in our country, it makes for depressing reading. 

Our country is arguably being run by fake communists and, as I write this, we are preoccupied with debating the fake/dubious credentials of the nominee for the Chief Justice. Fake is everywhere apparently. It feels like I’ve been dropped into the middle of a shopping mall in China (only joking). I suspect even the Chinese will have been inured to that joke by now. 

Anyway, fake bills, watches, and fake currency are so 19th century that it is almost laughable that anyone still dabbles in it. The 21st century is the age of the fake it till you make it culture and it has gone from being a corner street hustle to elaborate schemes similar to the one the Indian couple who faked their entire ascent of Everest – photos and all – pulled off. Although it was more dumb than ingenious, there was no small amount of effort behind all of that fakery. 

In most cases, faking it is also an art form personified by the modern day ‘Instagram’ celebrity hopeful. It’s no bother if you’re not a celebrity (or even someone with any discernible talent) as long as you can take beautifully staged photos and videos in an effort to make complete strangers aspire to your ‘lifestyle’. In this world, there’s no such thing as keeping it real. A few well-choreographed photos and a couple of hundred followers and you’ve apparently made it, monetizing other people’s longings for what they think you have. 

And if you thought that fake stuff was restricted to items of vanity, as in fake nails, lashes, hair, breasts and other stuff, then you haven’t really visited Nepal. Here we have all sorts – from fake earthquake victims to fake disabled Maoist fighters to fake food and fake medicines. Actually, the only thing genuine here – and don’t laugh – might just be our politics. At least with our politicians the incompetence that you see is often what you get. Nothing fake about that. 

As for us Nepalis, just when we think that we’ve seen the worst of all these imitations and shams with fake doctors and judges, something comes along to shatter that perception – like someone trying to sell you fake weed in Thamel. Just pulling your leg! It’s actually something that our parents tend to bemoan endlessly and point to as a sure sign of the disintegration of our society as we know it – fake marriages. This disease of western society has apparently caught up with us and now we marry for reasons other than love or to appease our parents – like going to Australia or settling down in a third country. Never mind the fact that in the old days, there were more marriages of convenience (that’s what caste based marriages are – convenient for your family) in Nepalis society than you could shake a stick at.  

Our parents would think nothing of slapping on a fake birthday to get us into schools at an early age or get us ahead of the curve (a good many of us have official birthdays and then actual ones), but marriages are a different thing entirely and not to be messed around with.  

Jokes aside though, one of the most insidious things of this century is fake news and it’s not distinctly an American or a western problem as a lot of people seem to think but a problem wherever social media exists. Even in Nepal, many people, rather dangerously, form their opinions from social media news feeds and this means that any idiot with an agenda can share just about anything to get the masses worked up. A case in point is the photo being shared of the policeman apparently responsible for the Kanchanpur rape without any substantiating evidence (as I write this) or official statement from the police. Another deeply disturbing case is the baseless mass hysteria that led to the recent Whatsapp lynching in India. 

While we often joke around with all this faking going on, most of these instances, whether they are obvious or not, are in their own way causing harm to us, our professions, institutions, and the society we live in. As these cases become more frequent and diverse we tend to get numbed to it and start developing a blasé attitude to it all. And, as a demographic, that can be an extremely unhealthy outlook in the long run because while the occurrences may themselves be fake, it’s quite another thing when it comes to their consequences.

The writer loves traveling, writing, and good food when he is afforded an escape from the rat race. He can be contacted at gunjan.u@gmail.com

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