Chaos is Beautiful
SATISH BAJRACHARYA, Daayitwa Fellow 2021
The quest to understand life itself seems to be a bit difficult. One tends to often question themself: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I so useless? Am I doing the right thing? Beneath these questions lies the ultimate reality, which is the conflict that each and every one of us is facing in everyday life. Chaos, ambiguity, and conflict seem to be a part of everyone’s life. With chaos, conflict and distress come pain, and with pain comes growth and progress. When I came back from India in 2015 after the earthquake, I was agonized by the unsettling and unnerving situation that prevailed. The historical monuments and artifacts that I used to see when I was a child were no longer to be seen. Images of people grieving, digging in the rubble to find their loved ones, or just to have a glimpse of the ones that they had lost were disheartening. One of my relatives lost his son in the disaster; his son was buried deep within the rubble of an old house where he had his clothing store in Asan. He was digging the rubble with his own bare hands to find his son in the rain with eyes full of tears. Later they found the body and he was no more. Running for safer grounds during the aftershocks and coming back to dig the rubble was the only option he had during the time. Chaos and distress prevailed throughout the country, and I felt as if I had been useless, unable to do anything. Locking myself in the room with the lights out and self-reflecting had been the only option I had during that time. In that mere instance of hopelessness, I decided to do something, to take some action to make things better even if it led to a minuscule change. After much thought, the idea was to connect these emotions of conflict and distress through art and help people connect with each other at an emotional level, who had similar experiences, to know that they were not alone in the journey. Through art and blogging, I was able to find an audience who empathized with each other and shared similar views or experiences.
Soon after, I was able to sell my first piece of digital artwork at a freelancing platform, while others pieces were gradually sold. My motto has been art for change. With the remuneration, I decided to contribute to the destitute, especially those who were begging near the New Road, Tundikhel area. The tearful and joyous eyes of the people who received food was a sight I could never forget. It seems we write and study a lot about rich people, but I learned so much more from poor people in the field. They have so much to teach us, especially about being happy with the least amount of resources that they have at their disposal.
That was the beginning of the journey, as I wanted to do more, and soon I got the opportunity to join Daayitwa as a Public Policy Fellow for the Ministry of Finance. The Daayitwa platform provided me with the necessary foundations to promote change and help society, especially to youths like us who want to do something for society and the country. As a research fellow, I am currently working on research related to informal micro-enterprises in Nepal with a focus on policies for their formalization. Whenever there is any talk about informal micro-enterprises, in the current context of COVID-19, the image of poor individuals with their bags packed, walking back to their home due to lock-down pops up in front of my eyes. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the informal sector the hardest, especially the micro-enterprises. Informal micro-enterprises are mostly small-scale businesses run by a sole individual and their respective incomes also tend to be very low and are struggling to survive during these dire times. The problem with these enterprises is that they lack social security and are vulnerable when external shocks such as the current pandemic hit the economy hard.
Research suggests that easing just the regulatory framework for firm registration will not bring informal enterprises to formalize. Imposing strict regulations or closing down informal enterprises also does not seem to be a viable option as it is one of the main sources of livelihood for the lower strata of our society. These micro-enterprises require support from the government during such times. Moreover, informal enterprises, especially in the context of Nepal, don’t find it feasible to formalize as it increases their costs and it raises questions about their sustainability. Rather, there is a need for a more holistic policy that would take into consideration the different perspectives of the stakeholders involved. This will help to come up with a plan to formulate an innovative policy based on ground reality.
Moving forward, the journey as a fellow is fraught with challenges. Challenges that are more inclined towards changing and adapting the norms and culture, which looks difficult in the beginning but will be possible over time. Looking back, the Leadership Innovation (LPI) course offered by Daayitwa has taught me about recognizing the nature of challenges that are in front of us and the importance of self-reflection. We as fellow human beings seem to be designed in such a way that our brain signals us to correct our actions only after we have made a mistake. However, LPI has taught me that we need to be proactive and always self-reflect before carrying out any activity. I believe it provides us a vision or a framework to deal with chaotic situations in a more manageable manner. Indeed, if we are equipped with the right mentality and tools, chaos seems to be more beautiful rather than distressful, just like a piece of art where all the different disharmony of colors creates a perfect artwork. Although each stroke of paint may look imperfect, those same imperfections tend to create a masterpiece. The overall objective of my journey in this fellowship program and beyond it is to serve and help society in some way or the other. In addition, it seems the research process is itself more of a chaotic process, whereby you have to consider different views of the different parties involved, but it fosters a culture of adaptability within us. It is like moving forward recognizing each of our flaws and deficiencies, accepting them, and creating a better outcome through this rigid system.
The Daayitwa Nepal Public Policy Fellowship journey is just a small part of a broader picture of serving the society in the long run and through it, I have learned that a chaotic and distressful situation can also be viewed as an important opportunity for growth and change. We often tend to break down during such times but it is important to keep the limits in check so that we can view chaos as a beautiful process rather than a perturbing one. There are yet more challenges to be faced in life with lots of uncertainties. The whole research process also seems to be a process of failing forward, where we learn through our mistakes and adapt to overcome our weaknesses. The amalgam of curiosity, uncertainty, fear, and vision has so far led to a fruitful journey. At the end of this journey, I hope that my research will be able to provide insightful alternatives to formalizing and helping the struggling informal micro-enterprises in Nepal. I hope that the emphasis on the holistic approach for the formalization of micro-enterprises provides a new way of thinking towards policy formulation in the future. Finally, after going through the chaotic and conflicting processes in life, at this point, looking from a different perspective, I truly believe chaos is beautiful!