Shree Panchami

Yesterday was Shree Panchami, also known as Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Pooja. Shree means wealth and prosperity. Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity; Saraswati, that of knowledge and art. Is something wrong? Absolutely not.

Goddesses Saraswati and Laxmi

Knowledge is wealth. Art symbolizes prosperity. Laxmi and Saraswati are different. Laxmi loves red, Saraswati is clad in white. Laxmi is the spouse of Vishnu, Saraswati that of Brahma. They are different. Yet both represent the same thing: Shree.

Shree Panchami is one of the most auspicious days in Nepal. It’s the day for Aksharambha (अक्षराम्भ)- commencement of learning words. Bratabandha and wedding can be conducted even without the advice from the jyotish (astrologer).

This is also the day, we believe Spring (Basanta) begins. Priests organize Basanta Shrawan singing hyms in the praise of season of joy. The Royal family used to attend the ceremony, which is now attended by the President.

Yesterday, Lata Mangeskar, one of the most celebrated female Bollywood singers, passed away at the age of 92. In India, Basanta Panchami/Saraswati Pooja was celebrated on Saturday, a day before in Nepal (I don’t understand why). Yesterday was Saraswati bisarjan there. I saw a few tweets which said that Goddess Saraswati took her favourite disciple with her. I don’t know if it is so. The singer lived a long life. Her melodies are going to live longer.

कलाकारको सम्मान र सम्पदा संरक्षणमा उदासीनता

एकाबिहानै एउटा समाचारमा आँखा पर्‍यो । मनमा चस्स बिझायो । स्वर सम्राट नारायण गोपालको घर सङ्कटमा रहेछ । समाचारमा लेखिएको रहेछ–देवकोटाको घर पुनःनिर्माण हुन लागे पनि स्वर सम्राट नारायण गोपालको घर वेवास्तामा परेको छ । देवकोटाको घर पनि संरक्षण गरिएको चैं हैन । पूरै भत्काएर गरिएको पुनःनिर्माण हो । नयाँ बनाइएको घरमा पुरानो जत्तिको महत्व नहोला । वास्तवमा, हामीले सम्मान गर्दै आएका साहित्यकार र कलाकारका अमूल्य सम्पत्तिको रक्षा हामीले गर्नै सकेका छैनौँ ।

हामी साहित्य र कलालाई सम्मान गर्नै जान्दैनौँ । प्राचीन र मध्यकालीन कलाकार (मूर्तिकार, चित्रकार, वास्तुकलाविद्, साहित्यकार) हरू को सूची हामीसँग छैन । एकजना अरनिको प्रसिद्ध छन् मूर्तिकला र वास्तुकलामा, त्यो पनि चीन गएर सम्मानित भएकाले । सानै उमेरमा चीन जाने टोलीको नेतृत्व गर्ने अरनिकोले नेपालमा सिर्जना गरेका कलाहरू केके हुन् ? अरनिकोको वास्तविक नाम र ठेगानाका बारेमा पनि अझै अन्जान छु । अध्ययन भएको होला तर कुनै पाठ्यक्रममा पढ्ने मौका पाएको छैन । विदेशमा ख्याति नपाएसम्म आजपनि राज्यले चिन्दैन । परम्परा किन छोड्नु, हैन ?

मल्लकालका केही साहित्य र साहित्यकारका नाम सामान्य ज्ञानका किताबमा भेटिन्छ । त्यसबेलाका राजाहरू नै साहित्यकार ! पढ्ने लेख्ने राजाहरू मात्रै भएर हो कि ? जसले लेखेपनि ती महत्त्वपूर्ण ग्रन्थहरू र तिनमा के छ्न् भन्ने कुरा विद्यालयदेखि नै पढाइनु पर्ने हो । तर पाठ्यक्रम निर्माण गर्नेहरू आफ्ना कमसल लेखहरू पाठ्यक्रममा राख्न तत्पर छन् ।

आधुनिक नेपालमा (पहिले पर्वते या खसकुरा भनिने) नेपालीलाई केन्द्रविन्दुमा राखियो । सुवानन्द दासले लेखेको “पृथ्वीनारायण” काव्य नेपालीको पहिलो साहित्य भनेर घोकेको छु तर त्यसमा ठ्याक्कै के छ थाहा छैन । मोतीराम भट्टले नभेटेका भए भानुभक्त आचार्यलाई कतै गुमनाम हुने थिए । महत्त्व दिइएको भाषाका साहित्य पनि संरक्षित छैनन् । नेपाल भाषा, मैथिली, अवधी, तामाङ, किराँती लगायतका भाषा र जनजातिका साहित्य संरक्षण हुने कुरै भएन ।

सरकार त उदासीन भयो भयो, हाम्रा केही साहित्यकारहरू क्रान्तिकारी बन्ने नाममा इतिहासको संरक्षण नगरे पनि हुन्छ भन्ने विचार राख्छ्न् । देवकोटाको घर भत्काइएको विषयमा एकजना “लेखक”ले त्यो घर जोगाइयोस् या भत्काइयोस् मतलब भएन भन्ने आशयको ट्विट गरेपछि एउटा लेख नै लेखेको थिएँ । नारायण गोपालको घरको संरक्षण गर्ने विषयमा पनि उनको विचार जान्न मन लागेको छ ।

Finishing the Fifth Draft of a Story

I want to write every day but I don’t. Most of the times, I am so lazy that I don’t want to lift my pen. Sometimes, the things I’m writing is too personal and sometimes, the stuff I write makes me uncomfortable.

Right now, I am writing a story. I’m still not writing daily but I am more regular than before. I finished the fifth draft (fourth complete draft) today. Every draft has changed the way I am looking into the characters and the plot. The overall theme and plot has remained the same but the way to get to them have been varied.

I also found a way to calm my inner editor. Every time I see a problem, I promise myself to look into it in the next draft. Following expert advice, I used to wait for some time to revise. This time, however, I am not waiting. As soon as I finish one version, I begin another. It’s helping me a lot in remembering the things I wanted to change and it has also helped me regain confidence in writing.

I hope to complete the story in the next couple of drafts. Then I will move on to the next thing I have on my mind. Wish me luck!

Invisible

Until recently, I had not realized that I have become invisible on social media. I am there but I am not. As someone who finds it difficult to chat or call on regular basis, it has always been difficult to maintain friendship on social media. I have also been tired of thankless favours they ask me. Still, I’m scared of losing them.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown in Chait 2076 (April 2020), a lot of things have happened. These one-and-a-half years have been mostly unproductive. I have not written much. Neither did I make any progress in academics. I invested my last six months to qualify for government services but the exams have been stalled and now I feel like am in a limbo. I learnt a few stuffs related to art and animation but I haven’t turned them into anything productive.

But maybe I am thinking productivity in terms of monetary gains only. My parents say knowledge never goes to waste no matter how difficult gaining it might be. My lack of knowledge on simplest of the things related to my thesis work was one of the reasons I decided not to complete it within Bhadau this year. On top of that the errors I had made were fatal. They should have never made way into my research. I’ll be improving on it for sure so that my step back can help me leap forward.

Despite my fears, I am hoping for the best. I have more time for preparation of exams. I have more time for my research. I have more time for family. I have more time to make connections. All I want to do is not become invisible.

नेपाली साहित्यमा देखिएका केही निराशाजनक दृश्यहरू

यसै साता महाकवि लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटाको घर प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठानले भत्कायो । तर्क थियो, “घर जीर्ण थियो । सबलीकरण गर्न भन्दा भत्काएर नयाँ बनाउन सस्तो पर्ने भयो । नयाँ भवन सङ्ग्रहालय बन्छ । के नराम्रो हुन्छ र ?”

वाहियात तर्क गर्न, कानूनका छिद्र समात्न र दलका पछि लागेर विद्वान हुँ भन्दै हाँक दिन नेपालका प्राज्ञिक भनाउँदाहरूको विशेषता नै हो । उनीहरूमा न इतिहासको चेत छ न त भविष्यको सही योजना नै । ध्यान छ त केबल आत्मरति, अलिकति धन र नचाहिने कुरा गर्न ।

आम सर्वसाधारणलाई महाकवि देवकोटाको घर भत्काइँदैछ भनेर सचेत नगराउने “अभियन्ता” र मिडिया अर्को ठूलो समस्याका रूपमा अघि बढेका छन् । नेपालीमै लेख्ने एकजना “साहित्यकार”को ट्वीटले नेताहरूले रोपेको जातीय/भाषिक द्वेषयुक्त राजनीतिको प्रभाव प्रष्ट देखाएको छ । वर्तमानमा सुधार चाहने, अरू भाषाको उत्थान चाहने उनलाई नेपाली भाषासँग चैं समस्या किन छ ? नेपाली भाषालाई मात्रै महत्त्व दिने नीति कुनै बेला राज्यले लिएको थियो तर अब अरू भाषा संस्कृतिको संरक्षणको कुरा गर्दा नेपालीलाई बाहिर राख्नुपर्ने हो ? कुनै यो विषयमा नाम चलेका “फुल टाइम व्यावसायिक” लेखकहरूको मौनता अर्को दु:खद पाटो हो । इतिहासको सम्मान नगर्ने उनीहरू वर्तमानमा सम्मान पुगेन भन्न कसरी सक्छन् ? भविष्यमा तिनका नाम मेटिँदैन भन्ने के छ ?

अघिल्लो साता मदन पुरस्कारको छनौटमा परेका उत्कृष्ट पुस्तकहरू मध्ये एक पुस्तक यस्तो पनि थियो जसले वर्ग विभेदलाई प्रश्रय दिएको थियो । एक चोटि मात्रै छापिने र प्रिअर्डर गरेकाले मात्रै पाउने भनिएको उक्त कथा-सङ्ग्रह बजारमा सहजै पाइन थालेको सुनेको छु । प्रकाशक र पाठकसँग सिधै सम्पर्क बनाएको, वितरकलाई बीचमा आउन नदिएको भन्ने प्रकाशक अझै पनि नयाँ छापिँदैन भनिरहेका छन् । तर “आउट अफ स्टक” भनिएका ठाउँमा पनि फेरि बिक्री भइरहेको छ । अर्थात् प्रकाशकले प्रिअर्डरबाट मात्रै बिक्री गरेको भने पनि अलिकति सचेत पाठकले त्यो पत्याइहाल्ने स्थिति छैन ।

अनि लेखक भक्ति पनि मज्जैले देख्न पाइयो यो हप्ता । आफूलाई मन पर्ने लेखकको किताबको कमजोरी अरू पाठकले औँल्याउँदा लेखकमाथिको आक्रमण गरेको भन्ने विद्वान् पनि देखियो । पाठकले प्रतिक्रिया दिँदैमा कुनै लेखकका फ्यान त्यसरी उत्रिनु नै अनौठो लाग्यो । यस्तो भक्तिले त लेखकले सधैं पोजिटिभ रिभ्यु मात्र पाउँछ । जे लेखे पनि हुन्छ भन्ने मानसिकता उसमा हाबी हुन थाल्छ । लेखनको गुणस्तर स्वाभाविक रूपमा घट्छ । यो साहित्यको लागि कदापि राम्रो हुन सक्दैन ।

पाठक प्रतिक्रियालाई व्यक्तिगत आक्रमण ठान्ने, प्रकाशकले दिनदहाडै लुट्ने अनि प्राज्ञहरूले प्राज्ञिक धर्म पूरा नगर्ने प्रवृति नेपाली साहित्यलाई अधोगतितर्फ लान उद्दत रहेका छ्न् । सचेत पाठक, पाठकलाई सम्मान गर्ने लेखक/प्रकाशक र सही एजेन्डा बोकेका प्राज्ञ नभएसम्म नेपाली साहित्यलाई सही बाटो देखाउन गाह्रो पर्ने देखिन्छ ।

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)

भेडा (भाग-२)

डेढ वर्षअघि भेडा शब्दलाई चुनावी सन्दर्भमा मात्रै बुझेको थिएँ । हिजो साँझ बल्ल यो शब्दको वास्तविक अर्थ बुझेँ ।

कुनै व्यक्ति वा दलले आफ्ना कुरा मान्नेलाई वा (मनाउनु पर्‍यो भने) जनताजनार्दन भन्दा रहेछन् । जब जनताजनार्दनले अरू कसैको पक्ष लिन्छ, उसलाई दुत्कार्दै भन्दा रहेछन्, “भेडो कहीँको!!

जतिसुकै आशावादी भए पनि नेपालको राजनीतिले आशालाग्दो बाटो कहिल्यै देखाएन । कुनै राजनीतिक पार्टी एनजीओ (NGO) शैलीमा काम गर्छन् त कुनै अधिनायकवादी सोच राखेर । पदको कुन हदसम्म लोभ छ भने पूर्वपार्टीप्रमुख र पूर्वप्रधानमन्त्री भएर देश हाँकिसकेकाहरू, जसले पार्टी बाहिर रहेर बृहत्तर हितका लागि लाग्नुपर्ने हो, पार्टीभित्र मर्यादाक्रमका लागि जोरी खोज्छन् । अनि तिनै तप्काका “व्यक्तित्वहरू” विदेशी मन्त्री/सचिवलाई हतारिँदै होटलमै ढोगभेट गर्न जान्छन् । तिनलाई चुनावमा जिताउनेले प्रश्न गर्‍यो भने जवाफ दिन्छन् (तिनीहरूभन्दा पनि उपबुज्रुक तिनका कार्यकर्ताहरू), “किन जान्ने हुन्छौ, भेडा हो ?”

जनताका झिनामसिना कुरा सुन्ने फुर्सद छैन उनीहरूलाई । ठूला सपना देख्दा आँखा यसरी टट्टिएका छन् कि नजिकको समस्या देख्दैनन् । आफू अघिको समस्या समाधान गरौँ अनि ठूला सपना साँचेको सुहाउँछ, मज्जा पनि आउँछ । तब कोही बुर्लुक्क उफ्रिन्छ, “सपना देखेको पनि देखी सहँदैनन् भेडाहरू ।”

साधारण नागरिक पलपल मरिरहेको छ । देशभित्र ऊ काम गरेर खान सक्दैन । यसका केही कारण छन्:

१. उसलाई विदेशमा पारिजातको फूल झरेझैँ पैसा झर्छ भन्ने सुनाइएको छ ।

२. नेपालमा काम गर्न उसलाई लाज लाग्छ । समाज नै त्यस्तै छ । काम गर्नेलाई खिसी गर्छ अनि काम नगरी फूर्ती देखाउँदै हिँड्नेलाई खुट्टामा ढोग्छ ।

३. कुनै उद्योगमा राजनीती घुस्यो भने धराशायी बनाएरै छोड्छ ।

४. जसरी पनि कमाउनुपर्छ भनेर लागिपरेका छन् मानिसहरू । भ्रष्टाचार नभएको ठाउँ छैन ।

५. भुइँमान्छेका बीचबाट नेता बनेकाहरू तिनको टाउको टेक्दै अघि बढेर आकाशमा पुगे । भुइँमान्छेहरू पातालमा भासिँदैछन् ।

मान्छेसँग जब विकल्प बाँकी हुँदैन, कि ऊ नयाँ कुराको खोजी गर्छ, कि भएका सर्जामलाई अलि भिन्न प्रकारले चलाउन खोज्छ । विदेशिनु नयाँ कुराको खोजी हो (किनकी नयाँ भनिएका पार्टीहरू जनतामाझ पुगेकै छैनन्) । त्यस्तै, दुईतीनवटा पार्टीलाई पालैपालो जिताउनु पुरानाप्रतिको नयाँ आशा हो । यो चलन नेपालको मात्रै होइन । अमेरिकामा प्रायः डेमोक्र्याट्स र रिपब्लिकन पार्टीहरू पालैपालो सत्तामा जान्छन् । त्यस्तै बेलायतमा लेबर र कन्जर्भेटिभले पालैपालो बर्चस्व बनाइरहन्छन् । हुन त ती पार्टीकै समर्थक बीच पनि दह्रो रस्साकस्सी चल्छ । तर जनतालाई “भेडा” भन्ने नेताको बारेमा चैँ आजसम्म सुनेको छैन ।

चेतनाको स्तर पनि एउटा मापक हुँदो हो । नेपालका सबै मानिस पढेलेखेका छैनन् । पढेलेखेका सबै विवेकी र नीतिवान छैनन् । यसर्थ पढेलेखेका चेतनशील र अनपढहरू अचेतनशील भन्ने छुट मलाई छैन । किनकी “भेडा” उपमा जन्माउने र फैलाउनेहरू शिक्षित भनाउँदा नै हुन् ।

हालसालै पत्रकार रवि लामिछाने जेल पर्दा उनको समर्थनमा जनसागर उर्लियो । ती जनतालाई फेरि पनि भनियो, “भेडा”; भन्नेहरू थिए जसले उनको कार्याक्रम हेरेका थिएनन्, कार्यक्रम मनपराउँदैनथे वा चिढिएका थिए । कार्यक्रम नहेरी मूल्यांकन गर्ने अन्तर्यामीहरूलाई त के भनूँ ? उनको शैलीमाथि बहस हुनुपर्छ भन्ने कुरामा म पनि विश्वास राख्छु र उनलाई देउता मानेर पुज्नु हुन्न भन्ने कुरामा म अडिग छु । तर उनलाई देउता मान्नेहरूप्रति दुराग्रह छैन । कुन परिस्थितिमा उनी कसका लागि उनी देउतातुल्य भए, म बुझ्छु । अनि उनले त्यत्रो वर्ष कार्याक्रम चलाउँदा चुइँक्क नगर्नेहरू उनी तल पर्दा कुर्लिएको देख्दा लाग्यो, “ओरालो लागेको मृगलाई बाच्छाले पनि खेद्छ ।”

आफूलाई अनुकूल हुँदा जनतालाई “भगवान” भन्ने अनि आफूलाई प्रतिकूल हुँदा “भेडा” भन्ने मानिसहरू विवेकका दुश्मन हुन् । जनताको शक्तिको आडमा सर्वोच्च सत्तामा पुगेकाहरूले जनतालाई यो हदसम्म गिराउन कसरी सक्छन् ? ताजुब लाग्छ !

200th Post: Feeling a Little Lost

I am feeling a little lost since it’s been so long since I wrote a blog post. I am more nervous now than two years ago, when I wrote the first post on this blog. But I think everything will be fine once I hit the Publish button.

I had been planning to write something else but saw from my Dashboard that this was going to be my 200th post. I had been away from blogging for quite a long time (probably the longest since I began my WordPress blog) as well. So, I wanted to reconnect to all of you out there and express a few words of gratitude.

Thank you WordPress for providing this platform. 

Thank you readers, followers, friends and relatives. You all have been a source of inspiration. I don’t know how many will see this post but I want to shout out again: Thank You! Without your support through likes, comments, admirations and encouragements.

Thank You!

​Listen, will you?

“Are you listening?” I asked myself as my sister was talking the other day.

“No,” I confessed. 

“Why weren’t you listening?”

Honestly, I didn’t have the answer. I did not feel like talking at that time. When I came back contemplating over the matter, I understood I did not want to speak because I was not listening well.

I am not good at making conversations. I wanted to know the secrets of better conversations. I sought the help of YouTube. I don’t remember most of the advices I got through speakers at TED Conferences, and some psychology related channels but the one I remember is “Listen!” And this was the only advice I could listen when I thought why I was not conversing with my sister the other day.

Why is listening important? All the videos I watched agree that by listening properly one can decide what to speak with ease. If I had been listening to my sister, I might have easily understood her talk and would have carried it on further. Because I got selfish and stopped listening, I had to make her repeat the same thing twice, which in turn bored both of us. Hence, no conversation!

One speaker on one of the videos said, “These days we listen things so that we can argue and react upon some particular words.” She said something like: “Listen so that you understand. Listen to learn and listen to talk well.”  If we listen just to react upon things, we are not good listeners. We must react, of course, but by listening properly, we can decide whether we need to react or not. People say, “We have two ears but one mouth so that we can listen well and talk less. ” It is also said that those who talk less, speak precisely when they must.

I remembered a Folk tale as I was writing this. I am going to keep it as short as possible.

Once upon a time, a king brought three human skulls to the court and asked his ministers, “Can you tell me the price of these skulls?”

‘What could be the price of human skulls?’ The ministers thought. None of them came up with a solution. The king gave them three days to come up with a solution. Three days passed. The king said, “Have you come up with the answer?”

The ministers hung their heads in shame. One minister, however stood up and said, “Your Highness, I got curious when you asked the question. I took a trip to my teacher’s house far away from the city. He gave me the knowledge in discovering the price of a human skull.”

The minister asked permission to demonstrate. He took up a skull in his hand and poked a stick into its right ear hole. The stick went in a and was out through the other ear hole. He inserted another stick into the right ear hole of the second skull. This time it bended towards the throat. He repeated the procedure with the third. This time, the stick went in through the ear hole, and snapped. A larger part went to the cranium and a small part to the throat.

The minister explained, “The first skull is worth four annas. It is the cheapest one because it does not listen to anything. Whatever it listens from one ear goes out through the other.

“The second skull is worth eight annas. It listens but reacts without speaking. The third one is worth sixteen annas or a rupee. It listens, keeps most of it in its mind and speaks only what is necessary. Such skulls are rare.”

The king was happy. The minister was granted his prize for being able to explain the price of the skull.

Here’s what the story wants you to know just like the people said in videos I watched: ‘Listen and understand before you speak, will you?’

The Loud Midnight Birthday Party

1.

Poush 8, 2073 (December 23, 2016). About 2 p.m.

Along the Siddhartha Highway section between Dumre Khola Bridge and Dumre Bazaar.

Samir and I walked down about five hundred metres and stopped at a temporary hotel (ghumti hotel?) close to the Dumre Khola Bridge. We decided to fetch some fruit drinks and some snacks. Anish came along. “Take the drink,” he said. “It’s great!”

Samir asked five packs of the fruit drink. “Let’s take some pakodas,”he added.

“Some potato chops as well,” I said.

“They too are delicious,” Anish said. “We’re around here all day. Have bought them several times already.”

“Shall I warm them up?” The lady at the hotel said.

We said, “Sure.”

The pakodas and  chops were drowned into hot oil. They came out oilier than before. Samir paid for the items we bought.

A few paces back to our designated area of study, we met Padam dai. We had met him on Mangsir 15, the day we had come Palpa. He was the son of the owner of the buses the Department of Geology had reserved. We had first mistaken him for a teacher. Then we knew that he was almost the same age as us but had already graduated in Engineering. We had called him dai (brother) in the beginning. We continued to do so.

So, we met him. “Can you do us a favour?” Anish asked. “Can you get the best cake for us?”

“Are you celebrating someone’s birthday?” Padam dai asked.

“Yep.”

“Whose birthday?”

“Prasmita. I guess you know her. She is fair.., tall… has a mark on her forehead.

“The girl with curly hair, isn’t she?”

“See? I told you know her.”

Padam dai agreed. We all went away.

2.

Poush 10, 2011 (December 10, 2016). About 8 a.m.

In our room at Shree Masyam School.

No more field work. The rush had ended that day. Everyone was lazing about. We did not even want to get out of our sleeping bags. “Tomorrow is Prasmita’s birthday,” Anish told Bimal in course of talk. “We are celebrating at midnight.”

“How?”

“I’ve ordered cake.”

“Through Padam dai?”

“Yo!”

About thirty minutes later, we were still idling. Having lunch help not helped in removing our laziness. We basked ourselves in the sun looking down at the Bhaisekati Khola, the surroundings and all, gossiping trivial matters. Prasmita and Sarita came down. They were just going for lunch. Bimal said, “Prasmita, Happy Birthday!”

“Today is not my birthday,” Prasmita said.

When the girls were out of sight, I said, “Didn’t you listen earlier that tomorrow is her birthday?”

Puzzled, Bimal said, “I thought it was today.”

Anish was a little angry. “Wouldn’t we have already celebrated had it been today?” He chuckled, “I think she knows we are planning something. You have ruined the surprise, idiot.”

3.

About 6:30 p.m. the same day.

I came back to the room after the dinner. We had been busy writing reports. Nothing but reports. Some teachers had been to Palpa and some of us had been very much disapointed at that. All I needed was rest. I went into the room and placed my plate leaning against the wall.

Anish was lying down on the floor. He seemed tired, looked like he needed some air. I did not think of anything, though. All I wanted was to lean on to the wall on his right. I sat down. “Don’t press on to that sleeping bag,” Anish expressed his caution. I understood. Under the sleeping bag was a box of cake.

“Got it in ten minutes,” he said. The next day, in presence of Deepak sir, he told the complete story, “I was having dinner while I got a call (from Padam dai). Then I rushed down. (What about the plate?- I didn’t ask.) In ten minutes, I got down, took the cake and climbed back. Up here, I nearly got caught. I had to go the other way around.”

He showed us the box. Nanglo was printed on the box. The brand name did not surprise me. I had seen the Bakery Cafe of Nanglo at Tansen.

4.

About 11 p.m. the same day.

The evening turned into night before the presentations were over. Our room was the first to go out. Those who had been told to be in our room never came out. We waited, saw other groups coming out, made some laughter, danced, sang and all did all we could do without getting into our room. Work had ended. Only fun remained.

As we went to the other room and as others came into ours, Anish had asked not to stay in the corner of the room. Sandeep came and covered the cake with a mound of bags. When we came back, nothing had happened to the cake thankfully.

5.

5 minutes before midnight.

Boys had poured into our room to sing and dance. Some of us had packed up clothes into our bags as we were returning Kathmandu the next evening. The dance had continued for almost an hour. Anish had slipped out five minutes before us. Bimal and I asked Sandeep, Prafulla and Samir to go up. Only Samir assented but he did not come up with us. We slipped out quietly.

The birthday party was in the girls’ room. Last year was different. I had frequently visited the girls’ room but this year, I had not been in their room once. Now I was getting in their room in the midnight. I felt a little awkward. “Whoever comes has to dance,” Nirusha and Laxmi said. Bimal and I just nodded. Samir came in. Pooja called Badda (Sandeep Poudel). He was reluctant in the beginning but he agreed to come. He came up with Hem Sagar. I had never believed he would come. He surprised me.

The box of cake was opened. Six (?) pieces of cake showed up. Candles were inserted. The birthday girl had been sent out. We waited for her.

At exactly 12 o’clock, Prasmita entered the room As soon as she entered, the room chimed, “Happy Birthday to you.” The birthday girl herself sang the birthday song. She laughed heartily. She was overwhelmed with joy.

The candles were lit and put out. The cakes were cut with spoon and distributed. It was delocious. Girls cake-painted Prasmita. Manisha and Yuvraj took photos. The cake was still being distributed. Bimal whispered to me, “We might have to dance. Let’s go.”

We slipped away. The party began. We could listen to them jump two floors below. The dance continued for an hour. We knew it had ended when Badda and Hem Sagar came back. The other day heard that other boys too had joined the party and had woken up teachers as well. No wonder they were scared by the loud noises of the midnight birthday party.

All that mattered was happiness. The happiness of the birthday girl the most. Prasmita, May happiness always enrich your soul!