All work, no play

The push for time off.

On a random Wednesday in June this year, my 13-year-old cousin was not in school. This was not due to one of the many bandhs or another addition to one of the all-too-many public holidays celebrated in Nepal. Instead, every 10th grader in her school had passed the all-important School Leaving Certificate examinations – 'Half with distinction', she added. This is certainly quite an achievement – apparently, enough of one to give every student, 10th grader or not, the day off. Indeed, declaring a holiday for simplistic reasons has become a frequent occurrence in Nepal, to the extent that days 'off' sometimes feel more like the norm than days 'on'. Yet before we raise our eyebrows at the school administration for the example they are setting for schoolchildren, we need to consider a few additional issues.

Recent political progress in Nepal, from an era of insurgency to a period of democracy and political manoeuvring, has been reflected in the country's calendar. With the christening of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, many of the birthday-cum-holidays of the monarchs of old have been replaced with the likes of Democracy Day and Republic Day. In addition, the three-year-old secular state is now struggling to prove its multicultural credentials, a case in point being the 2009 addition of Christmas as a public holiday. Imagine all the days that could now be declared holidays if the country was to acknowledge the myriad minorities that are today asserting their rights and identities, on and off the official calendar.

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Himal Southasian