Sunday, April 26, 2009

Girija: Memory lapses or senility

Girija: Memory lapses or senility

Girija Prasad Koirala led the April 2006 uprising which culminated in King Gyanendra’s relinquishment of power. It was again the Koirala-led cabinet that tabled a motion in the reinstated parliament to clip the king’s wings. His cabinet also tabled a motion in the Constituent Assembly that led to the removal of the institution of monarchy itself.

In course of all these meanderings, Koirala must surely have taken Gyanendra’s name everyday. Though it would be impossible to tell exactly how many times he must’ve uttered the ex-king’s name, it is pretty obvious he did it a lot.

Then all of a sudden Koirala forgot the ousted king’s name while addressing a press meet in Birgunj. “I have dealt with Tribhuvan, Mahendra, Birendra … ,” he said and then paused awkwardly. “Uh, what was the name of the last king?” he turned and asked an aide. The journalists’ faces lit up at this habitual forgetfulness of the old leader but some of his critics claimed that the 85-plus leader was senile.

The ones who took kindly to Koirala’s forgetfulness by insisting that those were momentary instances were themselves taken aback when Koirala forgot Rishi Dhamala’s name. The man in question happens to be the most-talked-about journalist in the country at present and coincidentally the Chairman of Reporters’ Club, who is in prison right now. This bout of forgetfulness struck when Koirala was trying to rile up the government for his release. “What is the name of that journalist who was arrested?” he turned to ask his ever-present aide once again.

His forgetfulness was not limited to names of much-talked about people. “What’s the name of the hilltop temple?” he was heard asking his aide. He was asking the name of one of the most famous temples of Nepal – the Manakamana temple. When the aide said it was Manakamana, Koirala quipped, “The priests there are from the Magar community”. (As if that was something new!) In a similar case, Koirala couldn’t recall the name of the temple in front of Singha Durbar. Though, he could recall it had a Pode, a lower caste Newar, as its priest. His aide had to tell that the name was Bhadrakali Temple. Koirala also forgot the name of Mahankal temple. He knew the location though , if we are to go by this remark — “What is that temple near the hospital?”

During the ten-minute-long press meet in Birgunj, he cited old events and provided additional information in a defensive manner. It was obvious Koirala was trying to prove his memory was in good condition. I don’t know whether he succeeded in doing that but it obviously was an awkward ten minutes riddled with memory lapses and feeble attempts by the octogenarian leader at smoothening the damage.


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