– by Isha Gharti (for ECS Friday)
Bal Bahadur Thapa (Balu), Keshab Sigdel and Prakash Subedi, represent the Nepali poets/writers of the new generation. Over the last decade, in addition to their powerful writing, they have been very active in the literary scene. They have contributed to the theatre and film scenario and have been active through organizations such as Society of Nepalese Writers in English (NWEN), Literary Association of Nepal (LAN) and Devkota Study and Research Center (DSRC).
Apt with skills, substance and a will to contribute to national literature, they are a strong force to be reckoned with. Steadily gaining national and international recognition, they are slowly changing the scene of English writing in Nepal.
What made you get into literature?
Bal Bahadur: “I used to read a lot when I was young, everything from Hindi comics, like Bankelal to Prakash Kobit to Thomas Hardy, which is what inspired me to write, though I only started writing after I graduated.”
Prakash: “I use to be a voracious reader as well, so much so that I read all the books in the library of my school in Baglung. This habit naturally turned into a passion for writing.”
Keshab: “I grew up in a political family, so from a very young age, I was naturally sensitized towards social and political issues. I remember reading Maxim Gorky’s “Mother” and having a powerful surge of emotions. I got into writing so that I could voice such issues, from my own perspective.”
Can you tell us more about your writing styles?
Prakash: “I mostly write poems, prose and essays. I enjoy religious or philosophical base writings.”
Keshab: “As I mentioned earlier, I like writing ‘issue based’ stuff, mostly as essays. I don’t have much patience for long descriptive details, so I enjoy writings that are in a more concise and precise format.”
Bal Bahadur: “Fiction stories are what I mostly write”. I enjoy writings with a gritty, dark essence and meticulous details.”
What is the first book you read that had a significant impact on your life?
Keshab: “Sumnima by B.P Koirala was my first book. Apart from that Anne Sexton’s writing inspired me in the early days.”
Prakash: “I can’t remember my first book and there are a lot of inspirational writers to choose from, for instance, Wallace Stevens, Fredrick Nietzsche and B.P Koirala.”
Bal Bahadur: “Dostoevsky‘s Crime and Punishment, was the first book to have a major impact. Leo Tolstoy and other Russian writers along with Thomas Hardy are my favorites.”
What do you think of the English writing scenario in Nepal?
Bal Bahadur: “Undoubtedly a lot is happening lately due to the increase in the numbers of writers and readers. Some of the writers have been enjoying considerable international success, as well. Nonetheless, my concern is there is an essential problem of a lack of ‘Nepaliness’. Most of the writings don’t seem representative of the Nepali society and the ‘Nepali flavor’ seems to be missing.”
Prakash: “English literature is growing exponentially in Nepal, but, as Bal said, a vital aspect of it is missing. I do not see the integration of class as in the case of Indian literature in English, which seems to have integrated the various classes in it, making it all the more distinctly Indian. Our English literature speaks mostly of elites and some of the working class, but the stories of most Nepalis is left untold.”
Keshab: “I agree with them, but in spite of these drawbacks, documentation and research are on the rise, which is very positive and serves the Nepali literature activities very well.”
Being an academician yourselves, what views do you have on the academic scenario of literature?
Bal Bahadur: “There are a lot of issues with the academic sector of literature, the most prominent among them is the politicization of universities and colleges and also the irregularities of teachers, students and terms/sessions, are disappointing.”
Keshab: “The political hold within the faculty as well as the campuses is so strong, that it becomes almost impossible to get ahead based solely on ones potential.”
Prakash: “The growing brain drain issue in the area of Humanities poses a huge problem. The best minds, not just in Nepal, but worldwide are choosing technical or financial fields, for better financial rewards; leaving the humanities sector, which shoulders the responsibility of producing thinkers, visionaries and humanitarians with limitations.”
Why do you write?
Keshab: “I feel that there is a lot of formality everywhere. One has to play the role they see you in. Through my writings I try to break away from these pretensions and formalities and for that moment just to be myself.”
Prakash: “Writing is my means of maintaining sanity. I write in an attempt to make sense of it all; the chaos, the everyday, all of it. It is my search, a relentless quest for rationality.”
Bal Bahadur: “Through writing I try to look for vitality, the fundamentals and rationality. It is my medium to connect the mind with the body, to find the essential life force and also connect to my roots.”
What does the future hold for you and your organizations?
Prakash: “The three of us along with Jeebesh Rayamajhi have formed an organization called Asian Center for Humanities (ACH). All the different organizations we are associated with, we are attempting to bring together under its wing. ACH will work in various branches of Humanities; Keshabji will take charge of work concerning International relations and social sciences, Balu will focus on research, Jeebesh on performing and visual art and I will focus on literature. It is still a work in progress and hopefully you will hear a lot more about ACH in the future.”
Keshab: “Apart from that, we are all also working on our individual upcoming books and other writings. We will also be participating in various conferences and literary festivals, like the one being held in Agra on the second week of March.”