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LIFE : As Good As It Gets!
Dr. Singha Bahadur Basnyat is former ambassador to the United Kingdom (1997-2003) and former Deputy Chief of Mission to the Nepal Embassy in Washington D.C (1975- 1979 and 1984-1989). He has also held numerous positions with the Government of Nepal in international affairs.
He is a person who has lived and travelled the world and met with success in various areas of life. Dr. Singha Bahadur Basnyat, besides being a member of Bihani Social Venture, is also Chairman of Jayanti Memorial Trust and Yeti Travels. He believes that “One must die young, as late as possible!”
Read on to learn about his thoughts on ageing in Nepal and living life to the fullest, engaging in activities and keeping oneself as active as possible through the years.
What is ageing to you?
I believe that I am aging gracefully. I think the key to staying active is exercise. I used to be a national badminton and tennis player, now I play golf several times a week. I also keep myself busy by continuing with things I have been doing for a long time such as music, writing and charity work. I have recorded three albums of my rendition of old Nepalese folk songs. I have also written a biography awaiting publication called ‘Lifeworks and Legacy of Khagendra Bahadur Basnyat (1928-1978)’. Khagendra Bahadur Basnyat is my late brother who is the namesake for Khagendra New Life Center. I am the Chairman for this organisation which aims to help people with disabilities. Charity work is quite close to my heart. I am also involved with the Jayanti Memorial Trust. I keep myself busy with vocations I have interests in. For me I believe, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” (As quoted from Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening which was first published on March 7th, in 1923.)
How has your perception of life evolved over the years?
The life expectancy of people is definitely increasing and with that the perception of aging is evolving as well. People do not regard old age as a disease anymore and have started to take aging in a positive light. We all have to understand that aging does not disable you. However, an important fact to remember is that the proportion of older generation to the younger generation is increasing. There will be me more elderly population than before. We all need to start understanding that life is what we make of it and therefore, I keep myself busy with activities that help me realise that the best is yet to come. Life for me is as good as it gets!
Ageism may now be more pervasive than racism or sexism. How do you see this in the context of Nepal?
Currently, in Nepal, according to the 2011 census, 15 per cent of the population is above 50 years of age and it is growing. This phenomenon is also called the ‘Silver Tsunami’ waiting to happen globally since we are expected to see a rise in the elderly population growing to two billion by the year 2050. As a society, we are not prepared for it, especially in Nepal. The shift in population dynamics result in economic and medical implications. We do not have the facilities, geriatricians and other trained personnel to take care of a large aging population. I am lucky that I have a secure home and support system to spend my life comfortably in. There are many people who are not as lucky as me and my heart goes out to them. The Nepal government has recently increased the allowance for senior citizens to Rs.2000 per month and it is appreciated, yet there is still a long way to go in terms of privileges or policies. We need more initiatives and organisations like Bihani Social Venture which is doing a commendable job in highlighting this issue and empowering and engaging the elderly. There is no silver bullet to see how long you will live; it is in our hands to tackle the issue of ageism whether in Nepal or elsewhere by seeing to it that we live a productive and meaningful life which inspires others to look at ageing in a positive manner
The older generation are keepers of heritage in any culture. Who are your role models or inspiration?
I look up to many Nepalese poets, musicians, sportspersons and academicians besides others. In particular, I would like to mention poet Madhav Prasad Ghimire and scholar Satya Mohan Joshi. I invited Madhav Prasad Ghimire to the UK while I was there to provide a platform for others to get the privilege of witnessing his work. He performed at the Millennium Dome and received a standing ovation. It was a great moment for me personally as well because his writings have influenced me to a great extent. Another individual who has had an impact on my life is, Satya Mohan Joshi. Inspired by him and his works, I wrote a song titled Jureli and when I got a chance to perform it, it was a life changing experience. I would like to call the song an orderly hallucination which explores the varied terrains of Nepal along with our wonderful heritage and touches upon the meaning of life. Jureli is based on folklore and is about my dialogue with the bird on why she is so happy… is it because she is in love or trying to impress me? It is based on the fact that the villagers were trying to express their life and hardship through the bird, Jureli. I am lucky I had the chance of meeting wonderful elders who I consider living heritages and I still continue to look up to many individuals that I have the honour of meeting and learning from.
What would you say to the younger generation or what is important for them to value?
There are lots of experiences and learning I have had in my life. One of the main things I would like to see is the bridging of generations. We should have a reciprocal approach and it is important that we promote it. The elders have a lot of experience and the world is changing faster than we can fathom. In such a scenario we should all learn to respect each other and every generation whilst, learning and sharing with one another.
Preema Ranjitkar is a team member of Bihani Social Venture and is a recent graduate of Bachelor in Social Science (Environment and Development) from Ritsumeijan Asia Pacific University, Japan. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bihani is a social venture born out of the need to create a positive outlook to life and living meaningfully with focus on individuals above fifty years of age (but not restricted to it) who want to re- engage, re – explore and re – live a new beginning or create a rewarding second half of their lives.
www.bihani.com.np /www.facebook.com/bihanisocialventure/ www.twitter.com/bihaninepal, 00977-9813228579.