Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Nepali academia syndrome

This is based on my observation of the sector of the supposedly the bright and the best among us academically. In the Nepali context, that is. Most, but not all, of the people of the subject matter being discussed here are among the hundreds of thousands who have now called overseas their homes.

This is probably not going to go down so well among those whom I am going to challenge. That, however, should not be a reason not to talk about it. Just because we don’t bring up the topic does not mean the elephant is not in the room. So here we go. And oh yes, this is entirely my personal view. This is not, by any light years away, that of a few excellent organisations I am associated with.

Last year, I received an email about Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) International Coordination Committee (ICC) Workshop. The workshop involved presentation of theme papers. Some specification required for the theme paper as in the email was as below:

“ … The first-order headings should be in Times New Roman 12, bold, upper/lowercase letters with the text in Times New Roman11, 1.5 spacing. … The deadline for Abstract Submission is June 27th and for Camera-Ready paper July 30th. The full paper should not exceed > 6000 words and written on abstract format….”

The point I’m trying to make and deliberately ridicule by the example above is – what is the purpose of such academia gibberish for NRNA ICC workshop where most delegates, at least among the audience other than the presenter themselves, are probably common Nepali like you and I. This is mere an example but a really good one which shows how things go wrong when one’s expertise is used in the wrong place in the wrong context. Readers might appreciate that my sole intention of providing the example above is to discuss the “act”, not the person(s) behind it. I have got nothing against the people behind it. They are all my very good friends. However, I will raise and keep playing the issues and matters, NOT the people. 

That sort of specific academic requirements makes sense if you are appearing in an academic conference or writing for a scientific journal, PhD thesis or postdoctoral paper(s). You bring that style in a normal situation to a normal audience you make a mockery of yourself and your abilities. You then end up being seen as a show off whom people loath but won’t say a thing in front of you coz you are that “daktarr saap” everyone is supposed to respect. Now, this is what I call height of ridiculousness!

Among many other organisational challenges, this sort of activities and parochial behaviour from the academia, in my observation, is one of the reasons behind NRNA miserably failing not being able to rise above petty matters and internal conflict. There has been significant trend in people distancing themselves from the NRNA in recent times. A few write-ups and other evidence about which prop up now and then.

I seem to be heading off-track here bashing the good old NRNA. So I’ll focus back to my yapping about the academia. Science, technology and knowledge should be for the purpose of advancing the human kind and to serve the humanity. Knowledge for sake of knowledge is… I don’t know for what? That service to humanity by academic exercise should, at minimum, be to quench the thirst of human inquisitiveness. Which in itself is an excellent service to mankind. For example, the search of extra terrestrial life.

A PhD obtained for sake of being “daktaar saap”, to facilitate and speed up immigration eligibility or simply to show off is waste of time and resource not only of the student itself but that of the entire academia and the general public. The student may be better off investing the 3 to 5 years of productive years either in family or professional practice. Or else (s)he may just be serving the vested interest of the Universities and companies who want cheap labour to conduct their research.

An effective writing course I attended had the following four tips –  
  1. Write for people
  2. Make your point
  3. Write less
  4. Be precise
Whenever I see my academically enlightened colleagues write, be it blog like this or even a social media post (even a 140 character innocent tweet), they tend to be million years away from the above simple tips of effective writing. Moreover, I see an arrogance and naivety in their write up (and equally in oral exchange as well) that they don’t care about their audience. As if they have to make a statement in very piece of communication that they are the learned one. After all they are the “daktaar saap”.

This is super generalisation and not all PhD’s I know are like the ones above I dared to ridicule. Most of them are down to earth gentlemanly. They may have lost hair while earning a doctorate but haven’t lost their mojo. There, however, are a few rotten tomatoes around who brings the whole fellowship to disrepute. Those characters are so super pervasive that it is hard to ignore.

I would love to hear constructive criticism of my opinion above and any response on the subject matter I have raised.


  1. राज, तपाइको लेख को जबाफ नै छैन l मलाई त लाग्छ, हामी कहाँ डाक्टर साहेब, बिज्ञ/विद् (द्वोंद, शान्ति, अनि के - अनि के) हरु आबस्यक भन्दा बढी छन् l तिनीहरुको पट्यारलाग्दो बिश्लेसन सुन्न / पढ्न हामी अभिसप्त छौ l तिनीहरुका अधिकांस बिश्लेसन र धरातलीय यथार्थको बीच गोरु बेचेको साइनो पनि भेटिन्न l

  2. Ramesh ji dhanyabaad. Thanks for reading and for your valid comment.