Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Nepal

I was born in a remote village in the mountainous region of western Nepal. Until I grew up as a school boy in that remoteness and learnt that a bigger world existed beyond what I could see around, my entire understanding was that of the mountains, meadows, vegetation, the cattle, wild beasts and birds, my parents and villagers who toiled hard day in and day out, their pains and pleasures, and the images of human condition in the stories narrated by my peers who “bet villages” in their games.

I still recall how the village children sat around the fire at a resting place on the nearby ridge, told fables, shared riddles, puzzles and  jokes, and giggled unaware of the running nose  sopping the shirt front. After over forty years I recall those formative years, the topography of the village, the folk songs people sang and the folk stories elders narrated. I now feel that the folk knowledge that I gained, the intimate understanding of the place that I had, and the exposure to reading literature I had primarily shaped my creative sensibility.

 Over the time, I have continued walking in two lanes: one leading to the high halls of academia and the other to the sublime heights of creativity. I must confess that balancing the both has been an extremely arduous task. However, I have tried to present myself with humility in both the realms. Professional engagement in the academia has been demanding. Owing to this constraint, my writing has yet to make readers “behold with strange surprise// New distant scenes of endless science rise” (Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”). I do feel that creativity needs a location that remains undisturbed from mundane interventions. A writer solely devoting to writing alone can, I assume, produce literature which with “(t)he increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes” and exposes readers to writings in which “(h)ills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise”.

Writing has been for me a way of knowing people, places, objects and the ways they exist, experience life, face human conditions. Every incident I encounter, every scene I see, every person I meet has something unique to reflect upon. As such things evoke certain emotions, I write at times capturing those images in verse; at times I narrate them in my stories; and at times I engage myself with the factual incident to produce an essay with a persuasive intent. Many topical social and political issues urge me to write essays, whereas the human conditions and worldly predicaments provide impetus for poetic and fictional reflection. 

I have often realized that writing does not require any grand idea, theme and subject. From every common and immediate experience, a writer may speculatively create a thought provoking world which is unique, engaging, pleasant and elegant. I remember an incident that urged me to write a short poem. One evening, I was walking down the lane in Kathmandu when I saw a smartly dressed couple hurrying to the main road, probably, to get a taxi. The woman had a bouquet in her hand and understandably both of them were going to a party. I imagined what they would do and scribbled these lines: Behold the wondrous shades of civilization:// Humans pluck flowers and frame bouquets// To present to the loved ones//And say, “Our love shall remain// unharmed and fresh ever after”. Later I gave the poem a title “Human Civilization”. I thought of the incongruity between human actions and words and I assume that I could make some sense to the readers.

Currently I am working on a novel. It is a story of a young son leaving home for work outside the country. It shows how the old parents dependent on this young son are left alone at the mercy of their destiny; how the age old social tradition of a combined family breaks down; how Nepali politicians’ slogan of ‘nationality’ turns into a mockery; how Nepal as a nation becomes nobody’s choice, and how the young man lives in a homeless house far from the place of his origin sans name and identity. I see a collective history of human kind in it, not that of the Nepali alone.

Writing on subjects that appeal me in different genres namely poetry, fiction and prose has been my current sporadic occupation. My career has an academic at the university demands lot of academic writing and thus I am divided between creative and critical production. When I look at my work through critical lens, I despise it. Such a situation makes me realize that questioning the creative writer is easy, but being a creative writer is to be SOMEONE. To create a world truthfully and/or to resemble the future world with utter simplicity and appeal is a task. I cherish the artists who do it and I constantly try to do it despite my recurrent disappointment. In doing so, folk knowledge and intimate understanding of the place play a pivotal role.