Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nepali Literature Sans Center

Nepali language and script have always been surrounded by controversies. The first literature in Nepali language is considered to be ‘Baaj Parikshya’ written around 1700 BS which is conflicting in itself. Though the historical evidences depict that Nepali language is derived from ‘sinjali’, it was also not in the Nepali form initially; it was in ‘khas’. Its region of birth is Jumla from where it got propagated all over. Research has excavated copperplates and some folk songs of that time, written in 1393 BS. Moreover, Nepali language used to be written in ‘kalaukshyari’ script which afterwards was slowly replaced by Hindi script ‘devanagari’ because of the people who went to Banaras to study. The ‘devanagari’ script which we use today is a progeny of ‘brahmi’ script. Therefore, even if ‘khas’ is accepted to be the mother of Nepali language, some facts indicate that though ‘khas’ exists in history, it didn’t fall into a scriptural group that is proven by the non-scriptural names they used like ‘krachalla’, ‘chapilla’, ‘chap’, etc. Thus, researchers claim Nepali language to be independent of ‘khas’ language.

Current debate

Nevertheless, there are plenty of such arguments regarding Nepali language and presently, another topic that has heated the debate table is about the center of Nepali language. Nepali students who went to Banaras to study then, influenced by Hindi and Sanskrit literature, established the press culture of Nepali literature - many years before and after Bhanubhakta’s ‘Ramayan’, no substitute of Banaras could be seen. Above this, the literary movement initiated by Motiram Bhatta fueled its momentum to a phenomenal extent. Later, because of a more educated class living in Darjelling and Pastor Gangalal Pradhan’s translation of Bible into Nepali followed by activities of ‘SuDhaPa’ slowly shifted the command of Nepali literature to Darjelling. Balkrishna Sama hence could say without hesitation, "What Darjelling thinks today, Nepal thinks it tomorrow" but the end of Rana regime, rapid literacy awareness in Nepal and the dignity of capital city finally transformed Kathmandu as the center of Nepali literature. The era after this transformation gradually increased the number of writers focusing on the centralised system of state governance that established Kathmandu as the only center of Nepali literature and the fertile land for writers in the coming several decades.

Literature from diasporas

But today Nepali literature has crossed the geographical boundary and has established itself as a language spoken and written in almost every continent of the world. If we calculate the number of magazines and books published in Kathmandu in Nepali language, it’s just 10 per cent of what is published around the globe. In this estimate, north-eastern states of India alone cross the count of the overall books and magazines published in Kathmandu. What about the publications in other Asian countries along with Europe, America and Australia? Presently, after Africa joined this bandwagon and because of the excessive use and easy access to Internet, the focal point of Nepali literature has been completely upset.
This interpretation has practically been justified even more after Tribhuwan Univesity, realising the importance of Nepali literature produced by the diasporas, recently decided to start its study incorporating two Nepali novels, one from Hong Kong and the other from United States, into its Masters level curriculum. From the coming academic session, these novels will be studied as the 9th Paper Nepali literature course namely under ‘Diasporic Studies’ in the Humanities and Social Science faculty. All these amendments indicate that Nepali literature is now going beyond borders and the conventional notion of regarding Nepali literature from the diasporas qualitatively low has been defeated, giving rise to a new philosophy that seriously needs to be contemplated in the days to come if we want to understand Nepali literature more sincerely and accurately.

Off the Center

Kathmandu, after reigning for ages, has now no hold over the dominion of Nepali literature. And also the fact that Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal doesn’t necessarily validate that the bridle of Nepali language and literature should also be in its hands because a lot of Nepali language speakers are now living in diasporas. This reality of Nepali literature should be realised properly by the ones ensconced inside this bowl of Kathmandu valley rather than the writers outside.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

my blog

world of random thoughts, i reflect
amid chaos, my contemplation
vague and irrational
words drop but by a hair's breadth
without rules, without borders
stirring an uneven stillness
and silently surpassing
my refraction of life
to a resurrection.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Worlds Apart

I met him at a roadside tea junction of New Bus Park where he and his mates, in the biting cold of January, were trying to fit themselves inside an old jute sack. I and a friend, after the hangover of exams had started out at that solitary hour of night just to relish a cup of tea and cigarettes. The whole world was asleep and the only hope of slaking our nicotine dosage was that hubbub of bus terminal. We ordered a cup of tea each and started making clouds of smoke.

My eyes wandering slowly to the activity of the place stopped at these small kids covered under a rag. Altogether three in number, two were in deep sleep while the third was struggling to find his space. The dew drops hitting their rugged face from the branches of the tree they had chosen as shelter were left unnoticed. But this very struggler was sprawling with discomfort as the cold wind peeping through his torn shirt was making him tougher every minute. With sympathy, I lent him a voice. It went unheard. I made a louder try. His ears, hard of hearing humble voices, first were confused at my call but my gestures finally fetched him to us.

“Do you want some tea?” my friend asked.

“Yes,” he said, without much hesitation.

We ordered the tea-shop Didi another cup of tea. Looking at us, she giggled but again set her hands busy on the stove.

“Boy, where are you from?” I voiced my curiosity.

“Jhapa.” His answer dropped.

“Where from Jhapa?” My friend added since he also hailed from the same place.

“Sitaganj.” He answered with bigger amplitude.

“How have you come here?”

“By bus.” His straight reply annoyed my friend.

“I know that… I mean why did you come here?”

He kept quiet for sometime as if he was thinking something but my sound broke his meditation.

“Tell me boy.” I caught his hand and brought him close.

He grew restless and trying to free from my grip, snapped, “It’s none of your concern.”

“Is this the way you talk to your elders?” My friend gave a hint of his changing mood.

“If not this, teach me how… I… I have left my home.” His assertive answer came as expected.

The tea was ready and Didi handed three cups to us. We pointed one towards our guest. No sooner did the cup touch his grubby fingers, he hurried up and bounded straight for his habitat. We watched how he went near to his sleeping friends and woke them up. Instead of having the tea by himself, he gave it to his friends. They finished it in the wink of an eye leaving the cup empty for the boy to deliver back, and they took to their sleeping caps again. He returned sad, but satisfied. I was surprised at this humility of our gentleman.

“Are they your friends?” I tried to clear my doubt.

“No, they are my brothers.” He chuckled.

“Are they your own?” I again inquired.

“No, but does it make any difference?” He retorted back.

“Then why did you let them have your tea?” My friend asked.

“Because they are my brothers.”

His words of wisdom left us dumb-founded. We hadn’t finished our tea yet. He started staring at us with his blank yet innocent eyes. I again ordered for another cup of tea.

“You are having it alone this time, understood?” My friend’s command bumped.

He nodded but angrily. Suddenly everyone’s attention converged to the sharp siren of the police van patrolling on the road until the sound faded away. The tea was ready but this time, Didi handed it directly to the boy and looking at us, giggled again. We started our second cigarette and the boy, looking at me asked for one.

“Do you smoke?” I expressed my surprise.

“Yes, nicely! Give one and I’ll teach you.” His sharp delivery came again.

“How old are you?”

“Twelve,” he said, hesitantly this time.

 “Don’t you know smoking is bad?” I tried some moral classes on him.

“Then why do you? If you can, I also can.” He threw his swift piece of wit.

Instead of being angry, we started laughing at his words. As we were feeling hungry, we ordered for boiled eggs. “For me also,” he quickly said. Didi understood, and she finally opened her mouth, “These rogues are like this only. Give them an inch and they will ask for an ell.”

“Why did you run away from your house? Don’t you have anyone there?” I resumed the conversation.

“Yes, I have a father but also a step-mother. My mother left me some two years ago when my alcoholic father one day beat her to death and….” He now gradually got comfortable with our queries. He paused for a moment and again continued.

“…and next day, he brought another woman home. She used to scold me, beat me and didn’t feed me for days. When I reported this to my father, he also in return thrashed me. This continued for months and one day, I managed to escape from that hell. I boarded a bus from Damak not knowing where it was for and finally arrived Kathmandu.” I could see the sadness in his eyes and hatred in his tone as he was narrating this.

“So, how did you meet your friends… I mean… your brothers?”

“I arrived here in the morning, hungry and tired. I was wandering here and there when they spotted me. Knowing I was hungry, they shared their stuffs with me and from that day, they are my brothers.” He was a different person now.

“So what do you do to make your living?”

“We collect plastics, and transport it to the factories. They give us… “

“Brother, here are your eggs.” Didi’s voice punctuated his sentence.

As soon as he got his share of egg, he again ran to his friends. After a while, we could see silhouette of three figures enjoying their dinner happily under the shade of cold night. Another minute, on hearing some voices approaching them, our boy with his siblings grabbed the rag and took to their heels. On our turning back, we found two policemen poking a nearby vendor. After Didi explained it to us, we came to know that they had come there to claim their share of night business. The children ran away because the men in uniforms harass and beat them.

Till then, our gentleman was out of sight but his vacant eyes kept asking me, “Do we share the same world?”