Hindi Belt History & Culture

Hindi journal Samkaleen Teesari Duniya’s latest issue offers a detailed view of Nepali literature

Cover of Pragativadi Nepali Sahitya Visheshank of ‘Samkaleen Teesari Duniya’.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It’s a sad reality that most educated Indians know much more about the history and culture of the United States, Latin America and Europe than of their immediate neighbours like China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan or Sri Lanka. We are much more familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Orhan Pamuk and many other such writers than with the works of those who have been active in our own neighbourhood.

To fill this gap, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya (Contemporary Third World) recently came out with a special issue on the progressive literature in the Nepali language and this initiative will go a long way to familiarise Hindi readers with the literature of protest written in Nepali. The journal, founded in the early 1980s by its chief editor Anand Swaroop Verma, has been focusing primarily on resistance movements in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Arab world.

The issue offers a panoramic view of the progressive literature in Nepali with representative poems, short stories, one-act plays, essays, interviews and reminiscences. One can also get acquainted with discussions on the relationship between Dalit aesthetics and socialist aesthetics, and also of the problematic concept of ‘nation’. It also has an annexure that places the chronology of all the major historical events from 1846 up to June 2017 on view for those readers who may not be familiar with the Nepalese history. Well-known Nepali journalist Naresh Gyawali is the editor of this special issue.

Writer-martyr

Anand Swaroop Verma has written an editorial that would immediately resonate with Indian readers. He pays tribute to Krishnalal Adhikari who is known as the first writer-martyr in Nepal. Born in 1887 in Ramechhap district, he was a government officer who wrote a book to arm peasants with scientific knowledge about agriculture and also about their exploitation and oppression. The Rana rulers threw Adhikari behind bars and he died in prison after contracting tuberculosis.

Gyawali reminds readers that Nepal has made a historic and successful transition from monarchy to democracy and has made considerable progress by drawing up its new Constitution. The prose and poetry compiled in this issue offers a view of the kind of literature written during the difficult decades of this systemic change.

The journal opens with a long poem, ‘Paagal’ (Madman), by Lakshmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959). Even after more than six decades of his death, Devkota is considered the greatest modern Nepali poet-playwright-novelist. He had to spend five months in a mental asylum and that unusual experience inspired him to pen this long poem in free verse. The poem is a testimony to his poetic imagination as well as mature artistic expression. Since the madman sees the world’s success as failure and questions every social norm, people think that he has lost his marbles. Rebellion is dubbed as madness.

Here are a few lines from ‘Paagal’ (my translation) wherein the mental asylum of Ranchi, now in Chhattisgarh, has also been mentioned:

One day

I began to sing with the storm

and the elders sent me to Ranchi…

I have called the Nawab’s wine blood

the prostitute neighbour a corpse

the king a pauper

I have abused Alexander

bitched about the so-called mahatmas

but,

I have praised the inconsequential man

to the seventh sky…

Down memory lane

Writer-politician Modnath Prashrit’s poem ‘Nepali Bahadur’ had been translated into Hindi several decades ago and had appeared in Hindi literary magazines. Reading it again in this issue brings back many memories. The poem describes the life of a Nepali who works as a domestic help as well as a watchman in Nepal and India. It’s a fact that most Nepali workers in India are not called by their names but are addressed simply as “Bahadur”.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that a poem by Padam Gautam carries the same title ‘Janata Ka Aadami’ (People’s Man) as one of the most famous poems of Hindi poet Alokdhanva. And, its tone is also iconoclastic as it ends with these lines: “People are breaking statues and members of parliament are erecting their own statues at the same place.

In a country that witnessed a prolonged guerrilla war waged by its home-bred Maoists, it’s to be expected that the poetry of resistance will reflect ultra-Left ideological inclinations. Therefore, a poem titled ‘Charu Mazumdar’ by Keshav Silwal does not surprise the reader when it talks of the Indian Maoists-led tribal resistance and its repression by the state’s coercive machinery in Chhattisgarh. Bhupi Sherchan, a well-known poet, writes a letter to Ho Chi Minh and Parijat devotes his poem to ‘Manushi’ (Woman), wherein a woman challenges men to assert that she is capable of doing everything they can do. The issue also has a collection of 20 short stories.

Editor Gyawali has interviewed poet-critic Ahuti on the aesthetics of Dalit literature and Ahuti places it within the ambit of socialist aesthetics. Yuga Pathak, also interviewed by Gyawali, provocatively declares that ‘nation’ is inherently a “racist” concept. Chaitanya has written an essay on the way Marxist aesthetic thinking has developed in Nepal and Amar Giri has offered a bird’s eye view of the contemporary progressive literature in Nepali.

The writer is a senior Hindi poet and journalist who writes on politics and culture.


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