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The Writer ‘Abroad’ and the Readers ‘Back Home’

To be a non-white writer in the west today is probably very different from it was, say, fifty years ago. Books and ideas travel much faster now, and even if you are writing and publishing in the west, there are more and more people back home who have access to your works. And while this was always the case to some extent, it is now truer than ever that the most passionate responses and vociferous objections to your work are likely to come from readers at home. More often than not, by virtue of being based in a western country and writing about your home, your writing is treated with wariness and your motives with suspicion.

Books Collage

Samrat Upadhyay’s debut short story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu and Manjushree Thapa’s first novel The Tutor of History were both published in 2001. (Picture credits: Authors’ websites)

With few writers of international fame writing in English, and a smaller readership at home, Nepal’s case might be a little different from other South Asian nations. Samrat Upadhyay and Manjushree Thapa, the two best-known Nepali writers writing in English, command a less numerous as well as a different kind of readership than say Salman Rushdie or Arundhati Roy. Their writings, even when published by western publishing houses, find a larger and much more engaged readership at home.

Samrat Upadhyay’s Arresting God in Kathmandu (2001) was the first English book of fiction by a Nepali writer to be published by a western publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US). The book not only garnered instantaneous fame in Nepal but also faced a lot of criticism, especially for the way it allegedly highlighted the negative side of Kathmandu, projecting it as a poor, corrupt and dirty city rampant with sexual promiscuity. Upadhyay became an overnight celebrity in Nepal, but readers questioned whether, while he was treated with indulgence in Nepal, he had any real international recognition. Manjushree Thapa, another well-known Nepali writer writing in English, has faced similar treatment: while she is hugely admired, her representativeness and authenticity are often questioned. As the two most well known Nepali writers living in the west (Upadhyay lives in US, Thapa in Canada) and writing in English, each of their works becomes not only the instant talk of the town but also the recipient of sometimes vicious criticism, quite often for ‘extra-textual reasons.’

 There is an interesting double standard at work in their reception at home. While many writers have written about poverty, corruption and sex in their works of fiction in Nepali, they have rarely been criticized for doing so and in fact writers are expected to write about issues that society shies away from.But this expectation gets turned on its head when the writer lives away from home and is courted by international publishers. The criticism, if any, isn’t as harsh when the writers are based in Nepal: Sushma Joshi’s End of the World (Fine Print, 2008), Rabi Thapa’s Nothing to Declare (Penguin, 2011), Prawin Adhikari’s The Vanishing Act (Rupa, 2014), and Pranaya Rana’s City of Dreams (Rupa, 2015), all expose murky aspects of Kathmandu/Nepal, but they have rarely been criticized in the same manner as Upadhyay or Thapa.

 Is it because we don’t want ‘outsiders’ to know about our dark side because that hurts our ego? Or is it that we resent the writers for capitalizing on our suffering for what we think of as their personal gain, without necessarily sharing in it by staying in Nepal? Or is it simply a version of the tall-poppy syndrome, as prominent a cultural phenomenon in Nepal as elsewhere. Thus, for writers from Nepal, at least from the perspective of readers back home, it is not so much having “cultural cache” but having your perspectives treated with suspicion that becomes a bigger problem, especially since, as far as I can tell, they want to write about Nepal and its cultural specificity because that is what they feel closest to.

 In response to the charge that Midnight’s Children portrayed an inauthentic picture of India Rushdie writes in “Imaginary Homelands,” that writers in his position, “exiles or emigrants or expatriates,” are haunted by some sense of loss and in their urge to come to terms with this loss “create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.” Yet no reader will be content with the thought that it is a “[insert country] of the mind” that is being presented to her/him, and not a ‘real’ place. For readers at home, fictional representations constitute a misrepresentation or a partial representation of home, while for readers elsewhere it is ‘information’ about a foreign country and culture. Neither is entirely willing to take a work of fiction seriously for its imaginative and poetic force, and not its portrayal of an actual place. If this were the case the discussion might be focused on the writing and not the writer.

 As things stand, almost all the non-white writers writing in English, and especially those based in the west, feel this discomfort: western readers expect them to tell ‘exotic’ stories, whereas their readers back home disparage them for this very ‘exoticization.’ To be a non-white writer in the white literary world is to be a living dilemma. You are expected to write in English with native command, yet without that native ‘sound,’ otherwise what’s the point of a non-white writer. Similarly, you are supposed to write about a world you don’t live in anymore because the world you inhabit now is not really your world, and therefore your subject. Moreover, there is a general tendency among ‘metropolitan’ readers to read white writers more for style (and content) and non-white writers for content (or, an ‘exotic’ style).

 As a non-white writer writing in the west, then, you probably are expected to write about the unfamiliar, the strange, yet in a language and style that doesn’t sound too unfamiliar. This is a terrain where you can’t be who you are and should try to be who you probably aren’t anymore. And, the moment you don’t sound strange anymore and your style and diction sounds too familiar, you have lost that fertile ground of conflicting identities, languages, cultures and realities, and probably lost a chunk of your readers who ironically like you for being conflicted and unsure. Do we even think of someone like Rushdie when we think of a non-white writer anymore? And, should we consider that as an achievement on his part or the ultimate failure?

 A non-white writer, thus, faces constant pressure, a simultaneous push and pull, while trying to please two otherwise diverse and contrasting audiences at the same time. And, even when you are writing in English, you have to give proof of your distinctive culture, on the one hand, and not have your writing fall into that category of writing that has already been stereotyped as South Asian, on the other.

 So, if you are a Nepali writer living in Australia and writing in English, for instance, you are supposed to do these three things (some for your publisher’s/readers’ sake, and some for your own): first, tell a Nepali story for the Australian/western audience; second, don’t offend your Nepali readers back home by the story you told to ‘outsiders’; and, third, sound Nepali/South Asian through your content and style, without sounding clichéd.

Quite a tall order!

(Published in SouthernCrossings: http://southerncrossings.com.au/arts-and-culture/the-writer-abroad-and-the-readers-back-home/)

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मार्केसको ‘बुढो मान्छे’ र डा. गोविन्द के.सी.

befunky-collage

नोबेल पुरस्कार बिजेता कोलम्बियाली लेखक गाब्रियल गार्सिया मार्केस (१९२७-२०१४) को एउटा अनौठो कथा छ: “अजङ्गका पखेटा भएको बुढो मान्छे” । समुद्र किनारमा बस्ने पेलायो र एलिसेन्दाको आँगनमा एक रात एउटा अनौठो जीवको अवतरण हुन्छ । कपाल खुइलिएको, दाँत झरिसकेको र दुबै तिर निकै ठुला पखेटा भएको एउटा वृद्ध मान्छे । उसलाई देखेर शुरुमा त उनिहरु डराउँछन । तर आँगनको हिलोमा गाडिएको अत्यन्तै कमजोर र निर्दोष लाग्ने त्यो बुढो मान्छेलाई अली बेर नियालीसकेपछि भने उनिहरुको डर कम हुँदै जान्छ । त्यसमाथी छिमेककी एउटी महिलाले “यो पक्कै पनि आकाशबाट झरेको बुढो देवदुत हुनुपर्छ” भने पछि त उनिहरुको डर पुरै हट्छ । भोलीपल्ट देखी नै त्यो अद्भूत बुढोलाई हेर्न उनिहरुको आँगनमा विशाल भिड जम्मा हुन्छ । यो देखेपछि एलिसेन्दालाई एउटा जुक्ती आउँछ । उनिहरुले आफ्नो आँगनको वरिपरी बार लगाउँछन र त्यो अलौकिक बुढोलाई हेर्न चाहने प्रत्येक ब्यक्तीसँग पाँच-पाँच सेन्ट उठाउँछन । यो अनौठो समाचार सुनेर धेरै टाढा-टाढाबाट समेत मान्छेहरु आउँछन, उनिहरुको आँगन बाहिर सानो-तिनो मेला नै लाग्छ । र, एक हप्ता पनि नबित्दै उनिहरुको घर पैसाले भरिन्छ । त्यती मात्र नभएर उक्त बुढोको आगमन पछि ज्वरोले निस्लोट भएर थलिएको बच्चा पनि अचानक निको हुन्छ । यसरी, त्यो बुढो उक्त गरीब परिवारका लागि साँच्चिकै देवदुत साबित हुन्छ ।

बुढो मान्छेको अवतरण भएको केही समय पछि शहरमा अर्को त्यस्तै अनौठो घटना घट्छ । कतैबाट मान्छेको टाउको तर माकुराको शरीर र खुट्टा भएकी एउटी “टारान्टुला” केटी त्यहाँ आइपुग्छे । बुढो मान्छेलाई हेर्न पेलायो र एलिसेन्दाको घरमा जम्मा हुने रमितेहरुको भिड अब भने बिस्तारै त्यो अचम्मकी “टारान्टुला” केटी भएतिर सर्छ र उनिहरुको घर आँगन पहिला जस्तै सुनसान बन्छ । तर यो बिचमा जम्मा भएको पैसाले उनिहरु बरण्डा र फुलबारी सहितको आरामदायी दुई तल्ले घर बनाउँछन । कुखुराको खोरमा कष्टकर जीवन बिताइरहेको उक्त बुढाको भने उनिहरुले कुनै वास्ता गर्दैनन । उनिहरुका लागि अब उ केवल बोझ र परेशानी बाहेक केही रहँदैन । कष्टकर हिउँद सकिएर बसन्त ऋतु लागेपछि अचानक एक दिन त्यो बुढो खोरबाट बाहिर निस्कन्छ, आफ्ना खुइलिसकेका वृद्ध पखेटा फडफडाउँछ र बिस्तारै आकाशिन्छ । कथाको अन्तिम  दृश्यमा क्षितिजमा बिलाउँदै गरेको त्यो सानो बिन्दुलाई हेर्दै एलिसेन्दाले आफ्नो जीवनबाट एउटा झन्झटको अन्त्य भएकोमा सन्तोषको सास फेर्छे ।

जब मेडिकल शिक्षा र समग्र स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्र सुधार्ने उद्घोषका साथ डा. गोविन्द के.सी.ले आफ्नो पहिलो अनसनको घोषणा गरे, चारैतिर एउटा तरङग फैलियो । उनको सेवामुखी  पृष्ठभूमि, सरल निस्वार्थ जीवनशैली र बलियो अडानले सबैलाई अचम्मित पार्यो । जस-जसका बिरुद्द उनी लडेका थिए, तिनिहरुले त उनको सत्तोसराप गरे, बाँकी धेरैले उनको प्रशंसा र समर्थन नै गरे । माग पुरा भए, अनसन टुट्यो, तर कागजमा गरिएका सम्झौता कार्यान्वयन भएनन । डा. के.सी. फेरी अनसन बसे । र, जब यसरी अनसनको क्रमसंख्या बढ्दै गयो, शायद बिस्तारै डा. के.सी.को “न्युज भ्याल्यु” घट्दै गयो । यतीबेला दशौँ पटक अनसन बसिरहेका डा. केसीको समाचारमा शायद अब कुनै ‘चार्म’ छैन, न मिडियालाई न त सर्वसाधारणलाई नै । धेरैका लागि उनी एक ‘इरिटेसन’ बनिसकेका छन । उनको दसौँ अनसनकै दौरानमा ‘तरकारीवाली’ देखी कन्चन शर्मासम्म आइपुग्दा उनीभन्दा धेरै ‘आकर्षक’ र सनसनीपूर्ण कथाले पत्र-पत्रीका, टेलिभिजन र सामाजिक-सन्जाल भरीइसकेका छन । अस्पतालको चिसो कोठामा अनसनका पन्ध्रौँ दिन बिताउँदै गर्दा  डा. के.सी. बिस्तारै एक्लिँदै गएको आभाष धेरैलाई भएको छ ।

एक्काइसौं शताब्दीको समाज मिडियाको आँखाबाट आँफु र आफ्नो परीवेशलाई हेर्छ । बदलिँदै गएको प्रबिधीसँगै हाम्रो स्वभाव फेरिँदै जानु कुनै अनौठो कुरा पनि भएन । १४० क्यारेक्टरको ट्वीट, १६० क्यारेक्टरको एस.एम.एस., मिनेट-मिनेटमा सोसल मिडियामा अपडेट हुने न्युज-लिङ्क र घण्टा-घण्टामा फेरिने ब्रेकिङग न्युजका दृश्यहरुमा अभ्यस्त भएको हाम्रो पुस्तामा कुनै पनि कुराप्रती निरन्तरता र धैर्यताको अभाव एउटा स्वभाविक प्रब्रित्ती बनेर आएको छ । त्यसमाथी साना-ठुला प्रिन्ट र अनलाइन मिडिया यती धेरै छन कि कुनै पनि बिषयप्रती आफ्नो जे धारणा छ त्योसँग ठ्याक्कै मिल्ने समाचार र टिप्पणी मात्र हेरेर आफुलाई सही साबित गर्ने सुबिधा पनि सजिलै उपलब्ध छ । त्यसै गरी मिडिया गृहहरुलाई पनि देश भित्र र बाहिरका अनेक थरी प्रतिस्पर्धीहरु बिच आफ्नो “हिट काउन्ट” बढाउनै पर्ने चरम दबाब छ किनकी कुनै पनि मिडियाको अस्तित्व र बजार मोटामोटी यसैले निर्धारणा गर्छ । त्यसमाथी, समाचारको सामान्य चक्र (न्युज साइकल) पछ्याउने मिडियाको परिधीमा बर्षौँ लगाएर दशौं चरणमा पुगेको आन्दोलनको कथा संभवत सजिलोसँग फिट हुँदैन । र, त्यसपछि संभाव्य एउटै मात्र कुरा हुन्छ: जती नै महत्त्वपूर्ण किन नहोस्, त्यस्तो समाचारको बेवास्ता । पछिल्लो समय डा. के.सी.को सत्याग्रहप्रती आम नागरिकको मात्र नभएर मिडियाको पनि उदासिनताले शायद यही कुरा पुष्टी गर्छ ।

तर डा. के.सी.को सत्याग्रह धेरै हिसाबले हाम्रो समाजका लागि एउटा प्रतिनिधि घटना हो । एकजना निष्ठावान व्यक्तीले कुनै राजनैतीक दल वा पदको आड बिना पनि परिवर्तनका लागि कत्रो लहर सिर्जना गर्न सक्दो रहेछ भनेर प्रमाणित गर्न सक्नु यसको अत्यन्त सकारात्मक पाटो हो । तर, नौ पटक ‘सफल’ अनसन बसेर पनि आफुले उठाएका मुद्दा जहाँ को तहीँ रहनु र सम्झौता भएका कुराहरु कार्यान्वयन गराउन हरेक पटक पहिल भन्दा झन धेरै जटिलता सिर्जना हुनु भ्रष्टाचारको जरो कती गहिरो, बलियो र व्यापक छ भन्ने कुराको ज्वलन्त उदाहरण पनि हो ।

तपाईंलाई डा. के.सी. फेरी अनसन बसेको समाचार पढ्नमा कुनै रुची छ ? छैन, मलाई थाहा छ । तर, हाम्रो मेडिकल शिक्षा र हाम्रो समग्र स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्र सुध्रियोस भन्ने चाहना छ ? अझ, डा. के.सी. जस्ता ब्यक्तीहरु अरु क्षेत्रमा पनि निस्किउन, अरु क्षेत्र पनि सुध्रिउन भन्ने कामना छ ? अबश्य छ । त्यसैले पनि डा. के.सी.को आन्दोलनलाई साथ दिनुको कुनै बिकल्प छैन । यहाँनिर बिर्सन नहुने कुरा के हो भने दशकौँ चलेको भ्रष्टाचारको चक्रलाई तोड्नका लागि डा. के.सी.ले छेडेको आन्दोलनलाई तार्किक निस्कर्षमा पुर्याउन हाम्रो समाचारको प्रब्रित्ती र चक्र तोडिनु पनि उत्तिकै आबश्यक छ । डा. के.सी.ले जिते भने उनले सुधार्न खोजेको क्षेत्र त सुध्रिने नै छ, त्यसको साथ-साथै अरु क्षेत्रहरुमा सुधारका लागि प्रयासरत ब्यक्तीहरुलाई हौसला पनि मिल्नेछ । तर उनी हारे भने उनको आन्दोलनबाट आजसम्म हासिल भएका उपलब्धीहरु शुन्यमा झर्ने त छँदैछन, यसले करोडौँ जनताको हितको बिरुद्दमा मुठ्ठीभर व्यापरीको जित सुनिस्चित पनि गर्ने छ । क्रान्ति बारबार हुँदैन, डा. के.सी. जस्ता मान्छे समय र परिस्थितीको जटिल आवश्यकताले मात्र जन्माउँछ । उनको आन्दोलनबाट अहिलेसम्म जे जती उपलब्धी हासिल भएका छन, तिनका लागि धेरै समय र परिश्रम लागेको छ । तर उत्कर्षमा पुग्न लागेको आन्दोलनले कठिन मोडमा हाम्रो पर्याप्त सहयोग र साथ पाएन भने हालसम्मका उपलब्धीहरु पूर्ण रुपमा निष्प्रभावी बन्न समय लाग्ने छैनन । यो एक्लो लडाईं हारे नै भने पनि डा. के.सी.ले ब्यक्तीगत रुपमा गुमाउने कुरा संभवत: धेरै नहोलान । तर उनको सत्याग्रहका उपलब्धीलाई समयमै संस्थागत गर्न सकिएन भने हामी र हामी पछिको पुस्ताले त्यसको ठुलो मुल्य चुकाउनु पर्ने छ । र, त्यो हाम्रो मेडिकल शिक्षा र स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्रमा मात्र सिमित नभएर समग्र जनकल्याणकारी ब्यबस्थाका बिरुद्दमा मुठ्ठिभर व्यापारीको स्थायी जित बनेर संस्थागत हुनेछ । डा. के.सी. जसका बिरुद्द अहिलेसम्म लडे, तिनीहरु यतिखेर यस्तै परीणाम पर्खेर बसेका छन ।

परिवर्तन सजिलै आउँदैन । त्यसमाथी दशकौँ देखी कुशासनको जालोमा जकडिएको हाम्रो जस्तो समाजमा सडकमा नारा लगाएकै भरमा परिवर्तन आउला र त्यसले आम जनतालाई सुख देला भनेर कसैले सोचेको छ भने उ अझै सपनामै छ । डा. के.सी.को आन्दोलनबाट हामीले सिक्न चाहेमा सिक्न सक्ने एउटै कुरा हो: अडान, निरन्तरता र धैर्यता । तर केही समय यता आएर आम नेपाली मिडियामा डा. के.सी.प्रती देखिएको उदासिनता र अझ सामाजिक संजालमा फाट्ट-फुट्ट अभिव्यक्त हुन थालेको चिडचिडाहटले उनको आन्दोलनबाट हामीले केही पनि सिक्न नसकेको कुरा बिस्तारै प्रस्टिंदै छ । डा. के.सी.को आन्दोलनमा शुरु देखी नै लागेको एउटा सानो तर निष्ठावान र कटिबद्द समुह छ, त्यसले अहिले पनि उनलाई त्यत्तिकै साथ दिएको छ । र, उक्त समुह हामी सबैको साधुवादको पात्र बनेको छ । तर त्यसभन्दा बाहिर रहेको आम जनसमुदायबाट जुन खालको व्यापक साथ र समर्थन उनको आन्दोलनले पाउनु पर्थ्यो, त्यो पाउन नसकेको छर्लङ्गै छ । हामी सबैमा डा. के.सी.मा जस्तो आँट र हिम्मत छैन, उनको जस्तो अडान, एकाग्रता, धैर्यता र निरन्तरता पनि छैन । उनी जस्तै गरी हामी अनसन बस्न पनि सक्दैनौ । तर हाम्रा लागी र हामी पछिको पुस्ताका लागि उनले गरिरहेको निस्वार्थ सत्याग्रहलाई साथ दिन त सक्छौं कि ?

अस्पतालको त्यो सानो  कोठामा आज पन्ध्रौँ दिनसम्म एक्लै सुतिरहेका यी बुढा डाक्टरलाई देख्दा सारा जाडोको याम कुखुराको साँघुरो खोरमा बिताएको त्यो मार्केसको बुढाको झल्को आउँछ । उक्त कथामा त पेलायो र एलिसेन्दाको परिवारको लागि बरदान बनेर आएको त्यो बुढोको ठाउँ “टारान्टुला”ले लिइसकेपछि उ एक दिन चुपचाप क्षितिजमा एक बिन्दु बनेर हराउँछ । के हामी पनि कृतघ्न बनेर त्यही क्षणको प्रतिक्षा गरिरहेका छौं ?

– प्रकाश सुबेदी (मंसिर १३, २०७३ )

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Delhi Montage: Women, Home and the House

qutub-minar-new-delhi.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Q9njQ1EccnThe Times of India had the following as its headline on March 9, 2010:

“These men win battle, will they win war?”

The news referred to the Indian government’s bid to pass the bill which sought to amend the Constitution and reserve 33% seats in all legislatures for women, and the occasion was the 100th International Women’s Day. There were apprehensions within Congress, too, that reserving seats for women might hurt Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha. But the real obstacle was the strong opposition led by Mulayalam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, who chose unparliamentarily tactics to prevent the ballot they would surely lose. It was at these men the headline was targeted. At the end, the government dallied and put off the bill for the day.

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Half a day, half a life

kathmandu-patan-temple

Though our individual day starts much earlier, our journey together usually begins at 10.20 in the morning. Balu finishes his classes at a private college in Kamaladi, and I finish mine at a community college in Dillibazaar. We then meet at Putalisadak Chowk, and speed towards Kirtipur on his motorbike. Our classes at the University Campus begin at 11.

“Have you eaten anything?” I shout into his ears as I adjust myself comfortably behind him. “Nothing yet, dai,” he says, “but we’ll eat something in the canteen before the class.” “Yeah, if we ever manage to reach there a few minutes earlier,” I shout back. We laugh, as we move ahead. We repeat this routined exchange every day, and both of us know very well that we don’t usually reach there before time to stuff our rumbling empty bellies.

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No time to read?

Big_book_thoNo time to read? Let’s read short poems, then!

Size matters.

It matters even more to the time-starved individuals of the so-called modern times like me.

This April, I downloaded an Android application called “Poems. Emily Dickinson” on my smartphone. It contained a total of 1082 poems by the reclusive 19th century American poet. I read all the poems in a period of two months, and that I did on a micro-bus from Ratna Park to Hattiban and back, on the way between the university where I work and home.

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Monsoon Memories

erosionlands

In the hills where I grew up, rain, first and foremost, meant flood, and when I think of rain even now, it still means a flood for me…a flood of memories.

I was born in a remote village of Parbat, and since my parents wanted me to get a better education than was available in my village, they had sent me to a boarding school in Baglung, the headquarters of Dhaulagiri zone. The school where I studied was far away from home, and I could go home only during long vacations or festivals. Monsoon was much awaited by every single boy and girl in the hostel since it meant the end of the mid-term exams, and the beginning of a one and half month long vacation. My father would come to take me home, and we would cover a five-hour long walk which involved climbing up and down hills and crossing a couple of rivers that could have turned wild after the recent downpour.

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Torments of the ‘Transition Generation’

The young Frenchmen and Americans at the end of World War I who had been completely disillusioned after their war experiences were called the Lost Generation by Gertrude Stein. The youths of my generation who spent (and are still spending) the longest phase of their formative period in the so-called never ending transition can be aptly called the fated Transition Generation.  At first, I thought it was my personal crisis and there was no sense in making a fuss out of it. On a closer observation, however, things appeared otherwise. I found my case representative of so many contemporaries of mine who, since they have been able to understand something, have never known anything else except the transition, the excuses made in its name, and the heavy price they have been paying for it.

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When the country entered into the multi-party democracy in the 1990s, those belonging to my generation were just heading towards adolescence. We would hear our elders holding high hopes from the long-awaited achievement. We were supposed to be lucky for being born at a time when ages-old autocracy had allegedly come to an end and the country was finally moving towards its golden era of freedom and prosperity.  The first year, obviously, was called a period of transition, and we looked ahead with high hopes. But the transition seemed to prolong. It is just a shishu prajatantra (‘toddler democracy’), and is in the process of being institutionalized, they would say, and that everything would be settled very soon. And as anyone can guess, we believed that, too. But no sign of stability, peace and prosperity was to be seen anywhere, and the country seemed to be in a state of mess more than ever before. It was not much long before the country entered into the mad feat of arithmetic games of MPs’ head counting. Nothing was like before anymore, except the transition. Then there was the Maoist rising, and the transition seemed unrelenting. After much bloodshed, the Maoists came into mainstream politics, the elections of the constitution assembly were held, and the country was declared a republic. People finally wanted to believe that the grudges were finally gone forever, and the days ahead would be what they had longed for since what seemed like ages. Unfortunately, what ensued is right in front of us. We look ahead to the day when shishu ganatantra (‘infant republic’) matures and serves to the people’s expectations, but the day doesn’t seem to be anywhere near. (more…)

The question of recognition  

Doris Lessing dies aged 94

(Dorris Lessing)

Unlike many other awards, nominating someone posthumously for Nobel Prize was not a practice right from the beginning. Previously, if a person had already been nominated for the Prize before death, he/she could be awarded with it. Effective from 1974, however, the provision was made that it may be given to a deceased person only if it was already awarded but he/she had died before receiving the Prize. This tradition of honoring a person if he/she is still alive became more conspicuous as the Nobel Prize for Literature this year was given to the British writer Dorris Lessing. Apart from her contribution to literature, described by the Swedish Academy as “that epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny”, one more reason behind awarding her with the Prize was her age too: she was already 87, and it was almost a now-or-never thing, which Lessing also mentioned in a humorous note during one of her interviews. Hence, she has been the oldest person to receive the literature prize and the third oldest Nobel Laureate in any category. She also stands as the eleventh woman to be awarded in the literature category in the 106-year Nobel history. (more…)

Of the Almighty Money

75cJYBgVWhy would an octogenarian leader with a “golden political career” want to defend a detested millionaire convict fleeing the arrest order? Or, why would the cadres of a “revolutionary party” with a mission of “social transformation” want to spare other similar corrupts simply because they get a good share of that booty in the form of donations? These questions shoved me into a soliloquy on the power of the omnipotent money.

When did the decadence of human civilization begin? There may be diverse answers, but for me it was the day man conceived money.

Culture reflects itself through scores of ways—in songs, in folklores, in foods, and in fashion. But it is reflected in language more than in anything else. Have you ever noticed the metaphor, tone and matter pervading the language we use today?

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Ritual, pastiche, or something else?

tribhuvan-universityStudents studying for a Master in English at Tribhuvan University are required to write a thesis in their second year, which equals to a hundred-marks exam. The normal tendency, so far, has been to choose from some high sounding Western philosophical theories (different versions of deconstruction, post-colonialism, and feminism, among others, are in vogue these days, for that matter), and to ‘apply’ them on some Indian or English novel in which a certain trait is thought to be obvious and conspicuous. In most of these cases, no creativity or originality is involved in the ‘research’, and its not very unlikely if the student visits some websites, gathers lines and paragraphs  from here and there, and completes the ‘research’ by using them as her/his own ideas. The result normally is a volume of around seventy-pages in average between two black hard covers with golden prints on them, looking alike not only from outside but also regarding the content—similar to the bricks made out of the same mud and mould—and ‘signifying nothing’. For those who expect something worthy after all the fuss, the height of disappointment becomes conspicuous when, during the viva-voce, the student cannot explain a single issue s/he has eloquently discussed at length in her/his research.

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Reservation

Safa_Tempo,_Kathmandu,_NepalHow often do you use the public transportation?

If you do, you must have become aware of the fact that few months back, as if out of nowhere, a new notice appeared above certain seats of all the public buses, microbuses, and safa-tempos: ‘seat reserved for the ladies’, and ‘seat reserved for the disabled’ (I doubt the latter as even being politically correct).

Then, more often than never, instead of a lady or a ‘disabled’ person, you must have found a ‘perfectly abled gentleman’ comfortably settled in those seats and snoring. Snoring over the ‘rights’ of the ladies and the ‘disabled’?

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