Isolation

I have included some strips of the manga Koe no Katachi by Yoshitoki Ooima in this blog. Please read the strips from right to left.

When I watched Koe no Katachi aka A Silent Voice/The Shape of Voice, watched several video essays on it on YouTube, and later read the manga, I could relate the most to Shouya Ishida’s character. I was not a bully but I used to be nasty at times. However, the similarity lies in the ways he isolates himself. That took me back to my own school days.

I grew up pretty fast during my childhood, psychologically as well as physically. The problems of my home changed me from a carefree, outgoing boy into a worrying introvert. I spent my childhood trying to maintain good grades under the expectations of my parents and teachers. I hit puberty faster than most of my classmates, and that made me feel distant from the rest. Until I was 12, I had a few best friends, but none of them stayed long. I believed that I could have only one best friend, but that best friend was never permanent. After 6th Grade, I could not even tell who my best friend was. I had imaginary friends since I was 8. I spent most of my adolescence with them.

Koe no Katachi took me to those days and made me think: Why didn’t I have no friends then? My house was in the end of a small goreto beside a stream now turned into sewer. I never brought anyone home. I never went to anyone’s. I was scared I might get lost if I went anywhere other than my home and school. At the age of 3 or 4, I had actually lost at Ason. Had the Lamini Aama, who lives in our neighbourhood not found me, I don’t know what would happen to the proud Ankit/Sandeept that is today. But these were all secondary. The primary reason was my pride.

As long as I remember, I have always been proud. I was proud of my good-looks. I was proud of my high-pitched voice. I was proud of my memory. I was proud of my hard-work. I was proud of my timeliness. I was proud of my ability to speak well in public.

The first blow to my pride came in the form of the crooked tooth that somehow changed my good-looks. The second blow was the change in my voice-pitch. The pride of my memory ‘poofed’ when I realized that my brain could not remember everything and that the memories were ever changing. My pride of timeliness, hard-work and my ability to speak up facts from memory got kicked away once again in March when I did my worst presentation ever. But I still did not let go of my pride.

With pride, I had cultivated ego, and I enclosed myself within its walls. This wall has stayed ever since I realized I was different from my classmates, and that I could not easily mix with them. I had several problems. I could not stand them shouting out obscenities, I could not stand them fighting for petty things, I could not stand them taking my note-books, I could not stand them talking about ‘Street Fighter’, I could not stand them joining social media, I could not stand their aggression. In short, I could not stand the adolescents being adolescents. My “matured outlook” was actually my ego. I grew it in such a way that I did not frankly talk to anyone. I pushed them and have always tried pushing other friends and people away from me. I shoved some of them so hard that I have never had life-long friends.

In Koe no Katachi, the anime, Shouya Ishida shuts his ears, and crosses out everyone. That’s who I was, and still am. While my classmates had fun in the class, enjoying the never-returning times of their lives, I ignored their voices, canceled them out and concentrated on books. I used to be in the classroom, but I used to be aloof from whatever they did. Whatever they did, I thought, was nonsense. What I did, always right.

Looking back, I was never sad that I did not have much good memories with my childhood friends. I had my biggest lesson on large-group friendship when I was in my Bachelor’s. That was the time I enjoyed with my friends the most. But back in my head, I still had a doubt like Ishida has at the midway in his character arc, “Is this what friends are like? Am I allowed to be in their friendship, and to be happy?”

By now, I have again been hit by a realization. Even the largest groups of friends dissemble at some point of time. People who used to spill out all secrets, get along with awkward smiles when they meet after a long time. The dimensions of friendship changes with time and it’s natural. Nobody remains the same. I am, however jealous of some of my friends who can keep more than one best-friend in their life and respect each one of them. I am jealous that they can maintain the same dynamics that they created in their childhood. They are the polar opposites of someone like me, one who believes that there can only be one best-friend, and loses even that best-friend eventually.

Koe no Katachi, the anime, shook the walls of my ego; the manga cracked it further. As I dug deeper into my psyche, I realized that I could have been more accepting. I could have enjoyed a bit of “the trifles” of my friends. I could have a bigger heart and accepted many best-friends in my life. I could have been proud of the fact that I valued friendship over my own pride-generated ego. I apologize to you all, my friends, that I could never see anything beyond my ego. That I never tried to understand you; that I did not try to accept you, not even once.

Will I be able to break the walls of ego? I don’t know. Even after the blow it got, it still stands. I have come to a realization that only I can break it. The wall, however, is many-layered and has made my personality. Breaking that wall means that I will have to change my personality to some extent. But am I ready for that alteration? Am I ready to face my demons? Am I ready to move out of my comfort zone? I don’t know. But I am inspired by Ishida when he says in the manga: “There is some things you just can’t change. …I think it’s the time you spend trying to change. …That’s more important.”

I want, my friends, not to push you away; I want to understand you, your perspectives; I want to be more accepting of you; I want to be no more jealous of you; and I want infinite joy whenever I interact with you.

Lockdown or locked up ?

My thoughts exactly!

linguaphile

Surveillance is of high importance at this time of emergency but shouldn’t people be allowed to buy essential commodities ? Or State authorities presume that it’s better to starve to death than to die from pandemic.

COVID - 19 ,the pandemic that enforced government to declare a week long on March 23 ( it’s been extended for one more week). As death toll was soaring high in the countries with robust health system , it was a no brainer for country like Nepal to undergo lockdown.

Police arrests impatient pedestrians using multifunctional rescue and arrest canes on the 5th day of lockdown.

Realizing the consequences of dread virus ,people have been co – operative . Yet , when the lockdown was announced many people asked a question: Can everyone lock themselves in home ? As country went lockdown even shops of essential commodities were closed , contrary to the…

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Memories

I have lost hundreds of photos and documents due to hard drive crashes and memory card failures. Crashes are inevitable. Electronic devices can fail anytime without any symptom. I backup some of my important data online but I don’t backup everything. Over years, hard drives turn into parts of my own memories, and they even represent my personality. I feel I lose myself every time a crash occurs. Sudden crashes have hurt me at least five times now, the recent one occurring on February 14, and I have not been able to recover everything yet.

Our brain captures our sensory perceptions and makes memories. The brain also erases the ones that are less significant. It is so spontaneous that we don’t care how the construction and deconstruction of memories occur. I have come to realize that when we actively interact with the environment, we make sharper memories compared to times when we are passive. Undivided attention helps produces better memories than when my mind is divided. My memory becomes the weakest during the times I have to multi-task. As I am writing this, my mind is trying to run quickly, but it is also interrupted by the talks of my sister and mother, and the loud TV. I am trying to understand what they are talking about but my mind processes only bits and pieces. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be able to remember anything of this evening except that I was typing something on my laptop.

This lack of proper memory construction a frightening situation for me. It was not always this way. I used to do home-works while watching TV in the past. My brain might not be as effective as it was 10-12 years ago; I don’t know. I might not have been able to grasp information from different senses at the same time. I can’t say for sure. Did my brain change the way it worked as I grew into an adult? I can’t say for sure. What I know for sure is that the volume of information my brain has to process is huge, and it has tired. All the things from trivial to complex calculations have affected it for a few years. The fatigue has lingered for a long time as I have not been able to give it a proper rest.

Unrested mind is unstable. It fears more, lacks confidence, and kills enthusiasm. It has so much to do but does not want to do anything. Moments of laughter decrease as worry grips every thought. Such a mind does not make good memories. It takes one deeper into abyss. Images of Riley from the movie “Inside Out” run in my mind as I write these lines. Sometimes, I see myself in her place, trying to keep myself happy against all conditions and making myself sadder as time passes.

The TV is making me listen to Yog Gurus who are focusing on happiness and Pranayam (breathing techniques) that help in the removal of all thoughts. After that, they say, we can enforce happy thoughts. I have not tried them yet, but as I look the paragraph above I become doubtful. Are we composed only of happy thought? We definitely are not. We are made up of several different kinds of emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on that have roles in defining our personalities. And as the movie “Inside Out” showed, these feelings are ingrained in our memories.

Do memories make us human? Do they drive humanity? As long as I know, we learn a lot of things from the individual experiences of our parents, teachers, friends, and our own. We also have collective memories in the forms of communities, societies, rituals, libraries of books, and archives of different forms of media. Humanity relies on these things so that we don’t have to start from the beginning of the civilization. Humans are in a sort of relay race where the older generation passes the baton of memories to the younger generation can continue from what they have. A new generation always more privileged. Look at the progress in technology, for example.

Progress in technology means that we are relying more and more on it to keep our memories. Will a time come when the machines understand the meanings of our memories? That they will empathise with us? We are already astonished by the answers given by Siri and Sofia, aren’t we? Will they be more human than we ever are? “Blade Runner 2049”, the sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” movie triggered the question within me. Both the movies focus on memories implanted in factory-made humans; the sequel on the memories of automated programs as well. I don’t have the answers to the questions but the possibility of the machines becoming more intelligent or more human could be possible. For now, I am happy with the machines helping me put a part of me into them. It’s a risk as they may crash any time and I might lose those bits of my memories again. It’s okay because, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”[1]


[1] Quote from Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in Blade Runner (1982)

पुस्तक समीक्षा: झोला

‘झोला’ कथासंग्रहमा प्रसिद्ध आख्यानकार कृष्ण धरावासीका बाह्रवटा कथा राखिएका छन् । यीमध्ये केही पछिसम्म सम्झन सकिने खालका छन् । सबै कथाहरूको छोटो चर्चा गर्दछु ।

पहिलो कथा ‘झोला’ सर्वप्रिय कथा हो । सतीप्रथाको विकराल दृश्य प्रस्तुत भएको यो कथा ‘श्रुति संवेग’मा प्रस्तुत भएको थियो । त्यसपछि नै एउटा अनलाइनमा भेटेको थिएँ अनि बाबाले पढेर सुनाउनुभएको थियो । यस कथामा आधारित चलचित्र पनि बनिसकेको छ जसलाई धेरै प्रशंसा गरिएको थियो । यो कथासंग्रह को सबैभन्दा उत्कृष्ट कथा पनि ‘झोला’ नै हो ।

‘ठेकुवाकी आमा’ पनि मन परेको अर्को कथा हो । ठेकुवाकी आमाले ठेकुवा (छोरा) लिएर राजेन्द्र साहुसँग पोइल गएपछि कथा सुरु भएको छ । उसको विगत बुझेपछि उसले लिएको कदम ठीकै लाग्छ । तर पछि उसले गरेको गल्तीले ल्याएको वियोगान्तले रुवायो ।

‘ती दिन कहिले आउलान ?’ लेखनको दृष्टिकोणले अनौठो छ । यस्तो किसिमको कथा पहिले पढेको थिइनँ । पात्रहरूको नाम नदिई संवाद मात्रै दिइएकोछ । कसले बोलेको भन्ने बुझ्न चाहिँ बुलेट पोइन्ट हेर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । कुनै आन्दोलन या द्वन्द्वकालको अवस्था छ भन्ने बुझिन्छ यो कथाका संवादमा तर पात्रहरूसँग कनेक्सन नभएकाले खासै मन परेन ।

चौथो कथा ‘उनीहरूले कहिले गीत गाए?’ म पात्रले सानैमा गरेको सोही प्रश्न र उमेर ढल्किएपछि पाएको प्रश्नमा केन्द्रित छ । यसले सामान्य कुरा देखाएर गहिरो भाव बोकेको छ । अर्को कथा ‘साँघु काट्नु’ले क्रान्तिकारीहरूले साँघु (पुल) काटेको कुरालाई एउटा बच्चा ले कसरी बुझ्छ भन्ने कुरा देखाइएको छ ।

‘भो छाड्नुस् ती पुराना कुरा’ले एउटी महिलाका निर्णयहरू प्रस्तुत गरेको छ । यद्यपि पात्रहरूको विकास राम्ररी गरिएको छैन । घटनाहरू कथाकै लागि मात्र भएजस्ता लाग्छन् ।

‘इस्कुस’ कथाले अनौठो यौन मनोविज्ञान समेटेको छ । बिहे गरेको छ महिनापछि श्रीमतीसँग भेट्न हिंडेको ‘म’ पात्रले इस्कुसलाई ‘विशेष’ देखेको कुराले हास्या सिर्जना गरेको छ । ‘विश्वास’ कथाले भने वर्षौंदेखि सँगै रहेका जोडीले पनि कसरी एकअर्कालाई शंका गर्न सक्छन् भन्ने देखाएको छ । यो कथामा शंकाले लंका जलाउँदैन । यो कुरा मनपर्यो ।

जातीय भेदभाव सानै उमेरदेखि कसरी सुरु हुन सक्छ भन्ने कथा हो ‘एउटा सानो केटो’ । ‘म’ पात्रले एउटा ब्राहमण केटोलाई कसैलाई पनि भेदभाव गर्न हुन्न भनेर सिकाएको यो कथा ठीकै लाग्यो ।

‘मह’ कथाले सोझालाई बाठाले कसरी झुक्क्याउन सक्छन् भन्ने देखाएको छ । त्यस्तै माथिल्लो पदका कर्मचारीको मूर्खता र सफाई गर्न पनि तल्लो पदका कर्माचारी पर्खिनै पर्ने “बाध्यता”लाई व्यङ्ग्य गरेको छ ।

‘मास्टरबाबु’ पनि मन परेको कथा हो । यसमा बाहिर एउटा र भित्र अर्को रुप भएको एउटा पात्रको बयान छ । यसको आश्चर्यजनक अन्त्यले मास्टरबाबुप्रतिको हेराइ नै परिवर्तन हुन्छ ।

संग्रहको अन्तिम कथा ‘बसकी केटी’मा बस यात्राका दौरान ‘म’पात्र र उसकी छेउमा बसेकी एउटी केटीको बारेमा छ । ‘म’पात्रका मनमा खेल्ने कुराहरूमा पुरुष मनोविज्ञान देखिन्छ ।

समग्रमा, ३.५/५

View my other reviews on Goodreads

7 Days 7 Books

7 Days 7 Books is a challenge on Facebook that has been running among Nepali book-lovers for a couple of years. The aim was to promote reading culture. This year, it got an extra agenda-“Make books tax free!”

The addition of tax on imported books and those printed in India/overseas should have affected the publishers and distributors, but it looks like they won’t be affected. Instead they would hike the price and make things difficult for parents and students (who are in compulsion to buy textbooks from abroad), and for book-lovers. “The total removal of tax in books would help a lot of students,” a lot of us argued. #Makebookstaxfree got into the internet, and there were campaigns against the taxes at several places, of which Patan was the first. I could not go there because the time clashed with my language classes but I gave my moral support.

The 7 Days 7 Books Challenge says, “Post a book’s cover everyday for 7 days without any review or explanation.” But when I was challenged by my friend Gauri Bomjan, I had a strong urge to at least explain why I chose those books. I thought, ‘Anyone can Google book covers and post them. If I don’t explain, people will not be attracted.’ But later I accepted the challenge as it was to see if I can be wrong. Since the challenge is completed, I now list the 7 books that I posted (all of which are Nepali) along with answers to “Why I chose them?”

Day 1: मोती र गुलाफ (My Translation: Pearls and Roses) by Shivahari Adhikari

I received this book when I was in Class 1 as a prize in a poem recitation contest. This book has 6 folk tales from 6 countries. This book is close to my heart, and since it came back to me after remaining at one of my neighbours for several years, my mother did not allow anyone to take it away.

Day 2: बनारसमा बेचिएकी बहिनी (My Translation: A Sister sold in Benaras)–Nagendra

We did not have book-shelves as there was no space in our house. (We still don’t have much space but we got our first book-shelf last week, thanks to my parents.) So, those days, books were stored in an old carton box. I used to extract books and magazines from it time and again. I found this book in that box when I was in Class 8 while we were shifting to our neighbour’s on rent (we were building a bigger house where our old small house was). Before reading this book, I thought essays were always factual with very little chance of bringing in fiction or personal opinions. This book changed my thought.

I have a deep respect for this book as a Guru for my essays and blogs. It has inspired the way I evaluate situations and people, and I have no shame in saying that Nagendra’s writing style has inspired some of my writings.

Day 3: धुवाँ (Translation: Smoke) by Atma Ram Sharma

My father got this book from his friend (the author). I read this book several times during my vacations during my childhood. I had forgotten it completely until I found it while looking for books to post for the challenge. The story collection has several stories of sorrow. I have never read it as an adult. So, the challenge has reminded me that I should read it again.

Day 4: एउटा कथा भन्नु न हजूरआमा (My Translation: Grandma, Please tell a story) by Ramesh Bikal

Ramesh Bikal is a writer who has written stories for all age groups. This books for children are noteworthy for their mythical and magical elements. My mother gave this book when I was in 15. I fell in love with the stories instantly. But as I haven’t read it for a long time, I have forgotten them. Another book in the to-read-again list.

Day 5: जंगबहादुर (Junga Bahadur) by Shree Krishna Shrestha

I read parts of this book in Sadhana Magazine. I read it last year in free times during my trip to Japan and wrote a review in Nepali. I looked for information on the author but could not find him then. After I posted this photo for the challenge, my teacher Nir Shakya wrote that Late Mr Shree Krishna Shrestha was a chemist and was also the Head of Water Resources Department. I had a mixture of emotions as I got some real info about the author after so many years, but after his demise.

Day 6: घनचक्कर (Ghanachakkar) by Sanjeev Upreti

Ghanachakkar is a crazy ride with one of the craziest narrators of all time. Set during the insurgency period Kathmandu, this novel is a psychological experience. I got this book as a prize in Class 9. I finished the book within five hours the day I got it, leaving me in hallucinations and confusion. I have read it several times since and each time I have found something new.

Day 7: लिखे (Likhe) by Sharad Poudel

I read some chapters of this book in Nawa Yuwa magazines of the late nineties. As with Junga Bahadur, I bought it immediately when I saw it in a book store. This novel shows real struggles of the so-called “untouchables” in a small village in the Western District of Baglung. The dialect, the life-style and the social problems have been captured so well that Likhe’s struggles in his young age can make one cry.

At the end, I realized that it is possible to attract readers to books by just showing the photos. So, why a long post as this? Because, (1) I can’t find peace until I write this and (2) I hope I can attract more readers through this article.

७ दिन ७ पुस्तक

फेसबुकमा केही वर्षदेखि नै ७ दिन ७ पुस्तक च्यालेन्ज देखेकाे थिएँ । नेपाली पुस्तकप्रेमीहरूले पठन संस्कृतिकाे प्राेत्साहनका लागि ७ दिनसम्म ७ वटा पुस्तक कुनै पनि व्याख्या वा समीक्षाविना पाेस्ट गरिरहेका थिए । समीक्षासहितकाे चुनाैति पनि देखेकाे हुँदा केही नलेखी फाेटाे मात्र राख्दा कसैले ‘ढर्रा पारेकाे’ भन्ने हाे कि भन्ने शंका जाग्थ्याे । गुगलबाट खाेजेर किताबकाे फाेटाे राख्न पनि गाह्राे छैन । व्याख्या वा समीक्षाविना पाेस्ट गरिरहँदा अरूलाई पठनप्रति आकर्षण गर्न सकिन्छ र ? भन्ने प्रश्न पनि मनमा थियाे ।

साथी गौरी बम्जनको च्यालेन्ज स्वीकार गर्नुअघि माथी उठेका प्रश्नहरू बारे सोचेँ । व्याख्या गर्न मन हुँदा पनि नगरेर फोटोहरू हालेँ । ती पुस्तकहरू यहाँ प्रस्तुत गरेको छु । अनि ती पुस्तक किन छानेँ भन्ने कुरा पनि समेटेको छु (च्यालेन्ज दौरान नलेखे पनि) ।

१. मोती र गुलाफ (लोककथा सङ्ग्रह)- शिवहरि अधिकारी

कक्षा १ मा छँदै पुरस्कार स्वरूप पाएको यो किताब धेरै नै प्रिय छ । यसमा भएका ६ वटा कथाले मन छुन्छन् अनि केही नैतिक शिक्षा पनि दिन्छन् । धेरै वर्ष छिमेकमा बसेर फिर्ता आएकोले गर्दा पनि यो किताबप्रती आशक्ति अलि बढी छ ।

२. बनारसमा बेचिएकी बहिनी (निबन्ध सङ्ग्रह)– नगेन्द्र

आठ कक्षामा छँदा किताब र पत्रिका राखेको बक्सामा एकदिन यो पुस्तक भेटेको थिएँ । टङ्कनमा धेरै गल्ती भए पनि यसले सुरुमै आकर्षित गर्‍यो । यी निबन्धहरूले निबन्धप्रतिको दृष्टिकोण नै परिवर्तन गरे । मेरा कतिपय ब्लग पनि यी निबन्धबाट प्रभावित छन् ।

३. धुवाँ (कथा सङ्ग्रह)–आत्माराम शर्मा

बाबाले ल्याउनुभएको यो किताब ५ कक्षादेखिका धेरै बिदाहरूमा पढेको थिएँ । सामान्य मान्छेका असामान्य कथाहरूले रुवाउँथे । नपढेको धेरै भएको हुँदा धेरै कुरा याद छैनन् । फेरि छिट्टै पढ्नुपर्ने पुस्तक हो यो ।

४. एउटा कथा भन्नु न हजूरआमा (बालकथा सङ्ग्रह)- रमेश विकल

रमेश विकलका कथा र उपन्यासहरू विभिन्न उमेर समूह लक्षित छ्न् । बालबालिकाका लेखिएका यस सङ्ग्रहका कथाहरूले कल्पनाको संसारमा पुर्‍याउँछ्न् ।

५. जंगबहादुर (ऐतिहासिक उपन्यास)–श्रीकृष्ण श्रेष्ठ

साधना मासिकमा जङ्गबहादुर उपन्यासका अंश पढ्दा आङ सिरिङ्ग हुन्थ्यो । सानोमा धेरै पटक यी अंश पढेको थिएँ । पूरा उपन्यास पढ्न भने पोहोर साल मात्र जुर्‍यो, त्यो पनि जापान टुरको दौरान । यस उपन्यासको समीक्षा पोहोर साल लेखिसकेको छु ।

६. घनचक्कर (उपन्यास)–सञ्जीव उप्रेती

७. लिखे (उपन्यास)–शरद पौडेल

पागलपनको कथा बोकेको घनचक्कर पहिलो चोटि पढ्दा कायल भएको थिएँ । कक्षा ९ मा एउटा प्रतियोगितामा पुरस्कारको रूपमा पाएको दिन करिब ५ घण्टामा पढिसकेको थिएँ । त्यसपछिका वर्षहरूमा पढ्दा हरेक पल्ट नयाँ कथा र सोच भेटेको छु । पढेका नेपाली उपन्यासमध्ये सबैभन्दा माथिल्लो तहमा घनचक्करलाई राख्ने गरेको छु ।

नवयुवा मासिकमा लिखेका केही अंश पढेको थिएँ । “जङ्गबहादुर”झैँ यो किताब पनि देख्नेबित्तिकै किनेको थिएँ । बाग्लुङको सानो गाउँमा अछुत भनेर ठूला जात भनाउँदाले दिएका दु:ख र लिखेले सानै उमेरमा गर्नुपरेको संघर्षले मुटु कुँड्याउँछ ।

अन्त्यमा, मेरा प्रश्नका जवाफ पाएँ । व्याख्या नै नगरे पनि पुस्तकप्रति आकर्षित गराउन सकिँदो रहेछ । त्यसो भए यति लामो लेख किन ? किनकी यो नलेखी चित्त बुझाउनै सकिनँ । अनि यो लेखमार्फत अझै धेरैलाई आकर्षित गर्न सक्छु कि भन्ने सानो प्रयास (आश) हो ।

रणहार: अन्तिम मल्ल राजाको मनोदशाको कथा

रणहार [Ranahar]रणहार [Ranahar] by Yogesh Raj
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“रणहार” मल्लकालिन ‘सो नगरहरू’ (कान्तिपुर, पाटन र भक्तपुर)को कलह, र तीनै राज्यका आन्तरिक कलहले गर्दा गोर्खा राज्यसँग पराजित अन्तिम मल्ल राजा रणजित मल्लको कथा हो । उपन्यासले रणजित मल्लको मानसिकता पर्गेल्न खोजेको छ र केही हदसम्म यसमा सफल छ ।

उपन्यासमा तात्कालिक नेवा: राज्यको सजीव चित्र छ । ‘जुजु’का क्रियाकलापदेखि जनताका दिनचर्यासम्म अटेका छन् । भक्तपुर दरबार, चाँगुनारायण नारायण र न्यातपोलको बारेमा धेरै थाहा नभएका कुरा उपन्यासमा पढ्न पाएँ । भक्तपुर दरबारका अनगिन्ति चोकहरुको बारेमा सबैलाई थाहा नभएको र भित्रबाट कसैले सहयोग नगरेसम्म भेद्न असम्भव भएबाट विश्वासघात भित्र बाटै भएको थियो भन्ने सङ्केत गर्दछ । पृथ्वीनारायण शाहलाई कुमरीमाजुले कमलको फूल दिएको इतिहास पहिले पढेको थिएँ । यसमा आउँदा खुशी भएँ । पछि पृथ्वीलाई गोर्खाका राजा भनेर पटकपटक भनिएको छ । मितछोरा भए पनि उनले गरेको छल देखाउन प्रयोग गरिएको सम्बोधन लेखकको चातुर्य हो । युद्धमा हारेपछि रणजीत मल्लको जुन वर्णन छ, त्यसले स्थीतप्रज्ञको आभास दिन्छ ।

रणजीत मल्लको रणहारको कथा जसरी प्रस्तुत भएको होला भनेर सुरु गरेको थिएँ, त्यस्तो पाइनँ । प्रस्तुतिको शैली अलि अल्छिलाग्दो लाग्यो । कुनै पनि संवाद उद्दरणभित्र छैन, जसले अल्मल्याउँछ । नेपाल भाषाका सबै शब्दहरूको अर्थ दिइएको छैन । तिनलाई पछाडि राख्नुभन्दा फुटनोट बनाएको भए हुन्थ्यो । रणजीतको अपहरणको प्रसङ्ग अधुरो छ । यसले सम्पादनको कमी देखाउँछ । कथा क्रमबद्ध नभएकाले कतैकतै अलमलिएँ । विचारप्रधान उपन्यास भए पनि मदन पुरस्कार पाउन लायक चैं लागेन ।

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Book Review: Dr Sanduk Ruit’s biography could have been brilliant but it lacks lustre

The first time I had heard the name of Dr Sanduk Ruit was in 2006 when he was awarded with the Magsaysay Prize. As uncommon his name sounded to me, the determination to help the poor by treating their eye diseases at an affordable price was also uncommon.

Despite his revolutionary work in treating cataracts and establishment of the famous Tilganga Hospital, Dr Sanduk Ruit is not as famous as he should be. This is probably due to his low-profile attitude, his appreciation for his team, and insufficient media coverage from Nepal. This is a book that helps one understand Ruit and appreciate his hard work in helping the helpless. It gives insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the beloved doctor. It tells about his family, his beliefs and his passion. These factors make the book valuable.

The book is interesting at first. The early life of Ruit engaged me. The hardships of his and his parents’ lives tells a lot about the struggles the blind have to go through in the rural Himalayas. However, their journey to Darjeeling, Dhankuta and later to Kathmandu makes them more privileged than most people in the area. The book has not emphasized this, however, which seemed quite odd to me.

Dr Ruit’s greatest achievement lies in the establishment of a cheap and efficient method of cataract surgery, and the book does wonderful work in capturing that. His work in the Upper Mustang is the best because the team had suffered a lot to reach there and establish a camp. In spite of all the hardships, they were able to restore sights of hundreds. This and several other camps are inspiring.

The non-linear narration gives the feel of watching a documentary. In some places, it is good but in many places, when the timeline shifts from one to another, I felt like I missed an important matter. The non-linearity also means that sentences, paragraphs, and at one instance, a case are repeated.

There are some issues in the book that disappointed me. One is the exaggeration of the caste issue. In the part where Ruit’s parents get married, class could have been an issue instead of caste. But it does not matter because it does not take the narrative anywhere. The wedding is accepted by both the families and there is no pride in them. In the chapters of his childhood in the school at Darjeeling, he is said to have been bullied and he was left alone because of his caste/race. A picture in the book itself, however, tells a different story.

When the doctors of Nepal Eye Hospital refused to follow Ruit’s method, caste system is blamed directly. The reasons are obvious: (1) Ruit’s method had not gone through a proper clinical trial, and (2) people are always sceptical about new technologies that have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals. To bring caste, in this case, was absolutely unnecessary.

This one part of Ruit’s life that made me sad and furious. Ruit pulled off a cheap Bollywood style stunt in order to make Nanda talk to him. This is the worst part, and the most uninspiring. The fact that Nanda, despite being great at nursing, left her job “to look after the family” is also uninspiring. She did what is traditionally expected of women in Nepal. But I felt they could have done so much more, had she and Ruit been together in all their camps.

I wish Nepalese journalists gave more emphasis on inspiring works of common people instead of conspiracy theories and political figures. It’s a wonder we did not have a Nepali book on Dr Ruit before this book came out. The translation of the book has also arrived, but Khagendra Sangraula has not been able to deliver an interesting retelling in Nepali. There is literal translation in most places, including titles, that put me off.

Summary

Book: The Barefoot Surgeon (Sanduk Ruit in Nepali Translation)

Author: Ali Gripper

Rating: 3/5

The Deserted Landscape

Down below is a river valley that widens in the southwest as it mixes with the Sunkoshi. This terrace is fertile, as evident from the cultivated farms. Less than 50 metres higher, where we stand, there is a different scenario. The soil is red, hard, and clayey. Trees, here are rare. Bushes are scanty and prickly. Cacti have reached heights of more than 3 metres.

A view from Ratmate

Are we walking on a desert?

When I say “desert”, the first image you usually come up is that of arid, sandy land with little to no vegetation, no water, mirages, and camels. You are not wrong. Your mind has what popular culture has engraved in it. The popular culture shows just one picture of desert that is actually a rare phenomenon. Only one of the things that you thought of is common in deserts: scarcity of water.

Does this area lack water?

We survey this area close to Ratmate[1] Bazaar, Sindhuli. The surface has been scoured by running water. These rills imply the relative impermeability of the soil. (We also confirmed the very low permeability by a simple infiltration test). This almost impermeable soil does not allow water to infiltrate (and so the rills form!). Thus, there is no possibility for occurrence of spring or well.

The redness suggested otherwise. We theorized, “Some time back in the past, the area could have been a lake, providing water required for oxidation of iron present in the soil.” Can we find iron here?

On examining the origin of the soil, we find allochthonous granite boulders. These boulders apparently settled here during a landslide event. When we produced “fresh” samples, we saw that the boulders themselves were stained in red. Only one of ten samples was unstained. A little further, we found quartzite, and saw similar scene. The red soil, the granite, and quartzite samples, all had high specific gravity. We could conclude: “The iron comes from both the granite and quartzite. This iron reacted with oxygen and produced haematite, a red and heavy iron oxide.

Later when I searched for the properties of red soil on Google, I found some useful information: 1) The red soil is generally acidic; 2) It is low in nitrogen; 3) It is suitable for rice plantation (because of water holding capacity) and some beans; and 4) The soil is naturally infertile.

The land we studied hosted some bushes, as I have mentioned earlier, but the lack of water, acidic nature of the soil and general infertility helped us conclude: “We were on a desert or were seeing some sort of desertification.”

What can lack of water do to villages? We observed this two days later.

That day, we climbed a peak of about 1400 m in Ramechhap and came down a trail. We had thought it would lead us down safely. But that was not to be.

A small landslide had occurred near the main trail. From there we could see a path that went downhill. As we walked, it suddenly ended into what looked like a same baari[2]. There was nothing but colluvium, but it was definitely cultivated in the past. (We had seen a cultivated baari some 10 metres above). We looked around and saw a heap of stones. This, we assumed, where the house was. After the owners left, people nearby might have demolished the house, taken doors and windows for fuel and heaped up the stones in order to take them later.

As we roamed around in despair looking for the main trail, we found four more similar scenes. This, we concluded, was a nice settlement until something forced them out. In our topographic map (some 26 years old), there are some clusters of houses. This, we concluded, was one of those clusters.

Finally, we found the trail but instead of taking us down, it took us up! Sometime later, it disappeared. On observing, the trail was still there but the grasses had made it invisible and slippery. Helping each other, we went down and finally reached the trail we had used to climb up earlier that day.

A Trail that Vanished

What drove off people from that place? The immediate thought was: landslide. But the slide looked younger than the desertion. Lack of water was another reason we discussed about. In that hill and in most of the hills in that district, there is scarcity of water. But was there another reason?

It did not come to me at that time, but the whole of Ramechhap was important place for the Maoists during the 10 years of civil war in the last decade. Many people in the district undertook the ideology and carried guns in the name of revolution. Some families were involved in entirety. Some families were driven away. Some left to safer places to avoid the war. Did the village we walked through die because of nature or politics? While I feel that the nature pressured the desertion, politics could have also played some role. The definite history, however, cannot be drawn unless we find the people who left the place.


[1] Red-soiled.

[2] a small land usually cultivated for flowers, fruits and vegetables by a single household

हतार

बिहान कलेज जान समयमै निस्कन खोजे पनि कहिले के मा कहिले के मा अल्मलिन्छु । हतार गर्दै निस्कन्छु । आफूलाई चाहिने चीजबीज छुट्छन् । ‘छुटे छुटुन् है !’ भन्दै पुग्छु गाडी चढ्न । गाडी चढ्ने कुनै निश्चित बिसौनी छैन । भित्री सडकमा न ट्राफिक चाप न त गस्ती । जहाँ गाडी भेट्यो त्यहीँ हात दियो, गाडी रोकिन्छ तर यति हतारमा हुन्छ कि पाइला राख्न नपाउँदै हिँडिसक्छ । लड्दैपड्दै सीट सम्म पुग्छु । बसमा तै बिसेक, माइक्रोबसमा त कहिलेकाहीँ बस्ने ठाउँसम्म हुन्न । कोच्चिन्छु । गन्तव्यसम्म पुग्न हतार छ ।

मैले मात्रै हतार गरेर भएन । चालक दलका दुई सदस्यलाई आराम छ । अघि म चढ्दा हुइँकाउने चालक दाजु अहिले कछुवाको चालमा अघि बढाउनुहुन्छ । “मान्छे नै छैन,” सहचालक भन्नुहुन्छ । म चाहिँ घडी हेर्छु अनि आत्तिन्छु । ढिला हुन लागिसक्यो ।

गाडीले वेग लिएपछि दङ्ग पर्छु । अचानक घ्याच्च ब्रेक लाग्छ । अगाडि हुत्तिन्छु । धन्न नाकको डाँडी भाँचिएन । “के गरी चलाको हौ ?” यात्रुहरू आक्रोशित हुन्छन् । “पचासी आइसक्यो” सहचालकको आवाज सुनिन्छ । पछाडिको गाडीले उछिन्यो भने पेसेन्जर पाइन्न । चालक दललाई हतार भयो अहिले चाहिँ । यात्रु चढाउने र ओराल्ने काम तीव्र गतिमा हुन्छ । वेग बढेको गाडी कतै जाकिने हो कि कसैलाई ठोकिदिने हो कि, सातो जान्छ ।

टुँडिखेल पूर्वको पुरानो बसपार्क नयाँ बनाउन हटाएपछि खुल्लामञ्चमा पुग्यो । केही महिनापछि भृकुटीमण्डपमा माइक्रोबस र अधिकांश गाडी रोक्न प्रतिबन्ध लाग्यो । अचम्मको कुरा चाहिँ के भने ती स्टपका प्रतीक्षालयमा प्रतिबन्धको केही दिनअघि मात्रै नयाँ रङ्ग लगाइएको थियो । अब जमलदेखि सुन्धाराका बीचमा कतै गाडी रोक्न पाइन्न । तर हामी यात्रुलाई नीतिनियमले कहाँ बाँध्छ र ? घण्टाघर ओर्लिनुपर्नेलाई जमलमा ओर्लिन हुन्न । अरू बेला ‘नियमसियम बाल’ भन्ने चालकदल सकेसम्म जमलमा नै ओर्लिदियोस् भन्छ । तर ढिट यात्रुका सामुन्ने प्रायः लाचार हुन्छ अनि झारिदिन्छ जहाँ यात्रु चाहन्छ । यस्तो दृश्य वागबजारको आकाशे पुल, भृकुटीमण्डप अगाडिको प्रतीक्षालय र शहीदगेटमा सधैँजसो बिहानपख देखिन्छ । दिउँसो ट्राफिक प्रहरीले बढी निगरानी गर्ने हुनाले यात्रुलाई गाली गर्दै र यात्रुको गाली सुन्दै भए पनि जमल र सुन्धारामा नै गाडी रोक्छ चालकदल ।

“कति हतार हो हामीलाई ?” आफैँलाई प्रश्न गर्छु । ज्यानलाई हत्केलामा राखेर, असुरक्षित तरिकाले बाटो काटेर, ट्राफिक नियमको पालाना नगरी हामी छिटो ठाउँमा पुग्ने नाममा यो के गर्दैछौँ ? यस्तो बेतुकको हतारो केका लागि ?

हामीलाई हामीले खोजेको ठाउँमै गाडी आइदिनुपर्ने, जहाँ भन्यो त्यहीँ ओरालिदिनुपर्ने, ट्राफिक प्रहरीको लागि मात्रै नियम पालना गरिदिनुपर्ने, आदि इत्यादि समस्याको मूल जरो अनुशासनको कमी हो । सरकारले सबै ठाउँमा एकै किसिमको नियम लागू गराउन नसक्नुमा सरकारको कमजोरी त छँदै छ, कतै न कतै हामी आम जनता पनि त्यस्तो कमजोरीका कारक हौँ । ट्राफिक नियमका सामान्य काइदा पालना गर्न नसक्ने हामी नेपालीहरू अरू नियमकानून पनि लत्याउँदै उन्मुक्त साँढेझैँ हिँडेका छौँ । यस्तो हिँडाईले हामी विकास र समृद्धिको गन्तव्यमा पुगौँला ? म त सम्भावना ज्यादै कम देख्छु ।

हतारिनु र हतासिनु कमजोर मनस्थितिको उपज हो । हामीभन्दा पछि स्थापना भएका देशहरू अगाडि बढेको देख्दा हामी छ्ट्पटिन्छौँ । उनीहरूले समातेको बाटो पहिल्याउन खोज्छौँ । तर तिनका योजना हामीले लागू गर्न सक्दैनौँ । उनीहरूका र हाम्रा चुनौती र अवसर नै फरक छन् । स्काइस्क्रेपरहरू उनीहरूका समृद्धिका प्रतीक हुन् भनेर हामी पनि समृद्ध देखिने हतारमा त्यस्तै गगनचुम्बी भवन बनाउन थाल्छौँ । यस्तो देखावटी अनि योजनाविहीन प्रतिस्पर्धाले कतै हामीलाई भड्खालोमा जाक्ने त होइन ?

अनुशासन बिना कुनै योजनाको सफल कार्यान्वयन हुनै सक्दैन । जसरी पनि अघि बढ्ने नाममा सोचविचारै नगरी बाटो खन्दा पहिरो खस्ने सम्भावना बढ्छ । त्यस्तै अरूलाई उछिन्न खोज्दा हाम्रा मूल्यमान्यता परिवर्तन भएका छन् । जो धनी देखियो उसलाई सम्मान गर्ने समाज अनि संभ्रान्त बन्न हतार गर्नेहरूका कारण भ्रष्टाचारको चक्रव्यूहमा हामी फसेका छौँ । आफूलाई अनुशासित राख्ने मानिसहरू कागको हुलमा बकुल्ला बन्ने अवस्था रहेसम्म हामी हत्पतको काम लत्पत गरिरहने छौँ ।