Category Archives: Guest Column

Intellectual Honesty & “A Big Fish in a Small Pond” Syndrome in K-town

If one is not intellectually honest about small things, one cannot be honest about bigger things

Ashutosh Tiwari

Not at all surprised that people are finally up in arms about CK Lal’s supposed intellectualism.

I had my first newspaper ‘fight’ with him in 1992, when he unfairly criticized my article published in the then The Independent. His criticisms were personal, and NOT at all related to whatever the demerits were of that article on education.

I had my second newspaper ‘fight’ with him in 1999, when, upon reading one of his newspaper pieces, I realized that he had shoddy understanding of the ‘laws of war’ (i.e. jus in bello and jus ad bellum), and was (ab)using these international legal terms to write about the then raging Maoist war. [I even showed his article to a professor in whose course on international law I had received an A, and for which I had written a 20-page paper on the laws of war, with applications to the then Maoist war. The professor agreed with my characterization of CK's misunderstanding of those Latin terms.]

I had my third ‘fight’ with CK in the early 2000s when he wrote that Narayan Gopal, the singer, was a taxi-driver. Continue reading

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Tomorrow: Thoughts of a Nepali Student in New York

The real question is what will each of us give back to the country to which we owe our identity? Or will there be no members of our generations to shoulder the responsibility – will there just be a void?

By a Nepali student
This article titled was originally published in the Nov 1-15 issue of New York Nepali Samachar.

Still cannot get to sleep, I turn lazily to the other side of the bed. I open my eyes to glance at the alarm clock; the green digits read 2:00. Five more hours and it is going to come to life, force me out of bed to go to school, then work, and back home late at night. Time never stops, does it? Time passes away with each blink of an eye, and it is up to us to utilize it. The feeling of uneasiness grips me again; and the reason is suddenly clear. I have been thinking about my conversation with Dikshya di and Dipendra dai over tea this afternoon. I have been thinking about what next after graduation.

There are many Nepali students like me in the United States, and many more scattered in countries all over the globe, who have left Nepal in pursuit of higher education. The number is definitely substantial, as I myself have only a handful of friends back home. As students we make immense sacrifices to get that degree we came here for. We think of graduating as our salvation. We hope for an American dream, to get rich and have that perfect house and the perfect job. But what are the chances? And what about Nepal, the essence of who we are? So, when Dipendra dai and Dikshya di both voiced their decision to go back to Nepal after graduation, I had an array of emotions. Shock, admiration, confusion, respect.

Continue reading

Reading Palpasa Café in English

By James Sharrock

Palpasa CafeThe English language translation of the best-selling Nepali novel Palpasa Café by Narayan Wagle is out now. Palpasa Café is the story of an artist, Drishya, who falls in love with a Nepali American returnee, Palpasa and also, via a college friend, sees the effects of Nepal’s conflict in the hills.

Wagle’s book stands out primarily as an alternative account of the war in Nepal and an embodiment of what the central character, Drishya, calls ‘the stand…of the people who resisted the war-mongers on both sides.’ In broad brushstrokes, like the artist Drishya, Wagle too uses the novel to protest ‘against both warring sides…., my colours showing my support for the third camp.’

Wagle best features are in the broader canvas he paints – firstly in the disappearances and general tension of post-royal massacre Kathmandu and then, of the conflict in the hills. Wagle’s descriptions of schools being blown up, emptying villages, indiscriminate bombs, Maoist attacks on district HQs and mourning Nepali families are extremely hard-hitting and powerful. Novels in this form have a resonance than goes beyond anything produced from Wagle’s journalistic day job. Palpasa Café, almost incidentally, also neatly observes the individual stories in many other aspects of Nepal e.g. diaspora Nepalis, Gurkhas, Nepali-foreigner relationships and internal migration for school and work.

There are faults and things perhaps lost in translation. The descriptions and dialogues between Drishya and Palpasa seem, at times, highly stilted. Their awkwardness is intentional but maybe loses something in English. At their first meeting in Goa the repetitive description of Palpasa’s eyes as ‘fresh, juicy’ like ‘slices of pineapple’ sounds downright corny. The vocabulary improves later though. For example Drishya writes a beautiful letter to Palpasa via her Grandmother:

Your hopes are pinned on the gods, the farmers’ on the mountains and mine on you. I made you dance and you were happy.
The day I saw you dance was the happiest day of my life. It was as though the snow on the mountains was melting in the sun and a magnificent rainbow had appeared on the horizon.

Later too the Maoist underground figure Siddhartha and Drishya argue engagingly around the age-old debates of art and politics and whether it is ‘possible to create without destroying’.

Siddhartha, the old college friend and confirmed Maoist, sums up the difference between him and Drishya saying ‘You give too much weight to the importance of the individual.’ Drishya believes ‘in the supremacy of the free individual’ and cannot accept violence and deaths in the name of a supposedly greater communal good. Wagle too runs with this thread and privileges the individual victims’ stories above all other narratives.

There are times when the story comes apart. The description around the killing of Siddhartha, who is alone at the end, appears more much vivid than the bombed bus episode later. We are also asked to believe that Drishya is spectacularly unlucky in terms of being affected by the war. The individual tragedies and conflict inside the main protagonists is not always well connected with the outer violent conflict in Nepal. In general the Maoist figures and security forces have no real role in this novel and are intentionally shadowy, almost non-human ideologues. However, Wagle himself, in his final cameo appearance within the pages, acknowledges with a wink that he might not have done his characters justice and that ‘all written works are incomplete. Something’s always missing. There’s always more to add.’

Wagle’s message throughout the novel seems summed up by a simple boatman who rows Drishya away from death:

The boatman strained against the current. ‘It’s so sad to see war in our country,’ he said. It’s terrible to see our own people die. Don’t you think so, bhai?’

Diamond Jubilee Part of the Grand Design Gimmicks

Gyanendra, sidelined by people, is planning to organize a lavish party and a procession to mark his birthday that the nation celebrates no more in the next few days (23rd of Ashad) in Soaltee Hotel and in Narayanhitti Palace. No EPA leaders and any sensible person should attend that cursed party and procession.

By Prakash Bom

It would be utter humiliation of EPA leaderships if they even think to attend this diamond jubilee of a king who had freshly attempted to murder the democracy to become an absolute monarchy against the aspiration of people of Nepal. It would be disgraceful if an individual of the organization such as civil society’s or human rights’ or journalists’ or lawyers’ or teachers’ or workers’ or students’ who played active rule in people’s movement II participate in this jubilee that is nothing but the part of the grand design gimmicks. The gimmicks are intended to down play the democratic achievements of people’s movement II. Those political leaderships and professionals who will attend this jubilee their intellectual and political integrity for democracy will be shattered.

We have to understand a monarchy is an institution not an individual. But the feudal monarchy of Nepal has deliberately exercised the personality cult as easy gimmicks to subdue the people of Nepal. Monarchy’s practice of personality cult began most dominantly since the autocratic Panchayat regime. The oligarchic rule of Ranas did not make any fuss about the king’s birthday jubilees. Rather kings were confined in the palace. On the contrary, the palace was inspired by the communist dictatorship era to exercise personality cult to induce the people of Nepal with the politics of fear of the almighty king. As a matter of fact, people were frightened to death to speak against the king until just before the people’s movement I (1990). As a result, people’s movement II has been successful to transcend people of Nepal from this personality-cult-fear of the almighty king. Continue reading

Nepali Politics: Brahmin and Chhetri Everywhere

While for some this article might be yet-another-Bahun/Chhetri-bashing-crap and for others a voice that needs to be much more louder: When certain people willingly or unwillingly control too much share in a nation, it is very likely that that would bring long-term political instability and long run economic damages to the country. When 10% whites controlled the 90% of farm in Zimbabwe, we know what happened. Black market is exchanging 1 US dollar for up to 300,000 and economic pundits are predicting that the rate could well and truly reach up to a million by the end of this year. Less than 30% Brahmin and Chhetri enjoy more than 80% portfolios in: Bureaucracy, Scholarships, Business, Media, Army, Police, Customs, and Judiciaries etc.

By Krishna Giri in Australia

Few days back, a news item on nepalnews caught my eyes. It was a media release about writing the statute of the Nepalese American Journalist Association within six months and complete their legal registration process. President Girish Pokharel, vice president Sushil Neupane, general secretary Krishna Sharma, treasurer Gunraj Luitel and members Parl Regmi and Sharmila Upreti control this association. The list is not over yet. Manoj Acharya, Chandra Prasai, Hari Shiwakoti – and three advisors- Tara Baral, Krishna Kadel and Dr. Dharma Adhikari. Why I am telling these names? From the structure of this committee, I can see a topological view of Nepali politics and dominance of Brahmin and Chhetri in our society. (Even in the US, the Brahmin/Chhetri domination prevails!) Rules made and adopted by these people are Laws even today and they are not giving up yet.

Lets look at the most powerful interim ministers, who are responsible for making new Nepal, as described by them, where they exercise inclusive democracy- leaving behind no minority groups unheard: And the (Brahmin/Chhetri) list is:

• Giriaja Prasad Koirala – Prime Minister
• Ram Chandra Poudel – Peace and Reconstruction
• Krishna Bahadur Mahara – Information and Communication
• Pradeep Nepal – Education
• Ram Sharan Mahat – Finance
• Krishna Sitoula – Home
• Hisila Bhattarai (Yami)– Physical Planning
• Giriraj Mani Pokhrel– Health
• Ramesh Lekhak – Labour and Transport
• Gynendra Karki – Water Resource Continue reading

Nepal Comment: Catch Phrases and Road to Nowhere

By Chattra Bahadur

The catch phrases in Nepal change frequently. Usually, metamorphosis is almost invisible; however, it spreads uncontrollably like a wildfire. The media, knowingly and/or unknowingly, creates frenzy. We are instantly consumed by the season’s catch phrase and our reactions are often extreme, defying any logic and reaching a point of insanity. Then, we see, hear and read in the media from a new breed of self-professed experts, who seemingly have knowledge of everything. They often propagate radical, intense and idealistic conceptions that make one suspect whether these experts suffer from some delusional syndrome. Perhaps, the experts understand that radicalism does sell very well, given the Nepalese social milieu; at the same time, it is hardly a feasible proposition. Despite their shortcomings, they must be appreciated for pointing out that Nepal is in dire need of transformation in all spheres. Unfortunately, we are also witnessing a trend wherein the experts present a variety of piecemeal packages aimed at transforming one sphere (usually political environment) only at the cost of and/or neglecting other spheres. The rationale for this practice is that ‘correction of the political environment precedes correction of all the other environments’. It is myopic approach because the political environment influences, for instance say, the economic environment and, in turn, is influenced by it. In other words, one particular environment acts as the both cause and effect concurrently, and unidirectional relationship does not exist in the context of societal influences. Thus, only a comprehensive package of transformation, inclusive of all spheres, will be successful. Continue reading

Tale of Two Movements

Future of Nepal has gone in the wrong hands

By Mahesh Poudyal

After the euphoria of the so called April Revolution, the nation and its citizens seem to be slowly getting back into the reality of the situation. Especially their belief (if they ever truly believed) that the same incompetent and corrupt politicians would take the country out of the quagmire towards a brighter future is being shattered—those they helped into power have started showing their true face. The leader of this pack of incompetent politicians—no matter what his supporter would like to believe him as—is undoubtedly Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. He has been the one who is trusted at every crucial period in the country’s political landscape post-1990, and he is without a doubt the one who has betrayed the peoples trust in him the most. Let us go through a few of his political sins— so to speak. Continue reading

Eight Point Something

Maoist Maneuver of June 16

UWB received this article by Jabarjast who has not revealed his identity but beautifully pointed out few shortcomings of eight-point agreement between SPA government and Maoists on June 16.


(Pic via Kantipur)

Last week, the Maoist strongmen, Pushpa Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai, emerged triumphantly from daylong negotiations with SPA leaders. An 8-point agreement was declared that effectively placed a stamp of approval on 12 years of methodical murder, political cleansing and intolerance for anything that remotely resembles western-style, liberal democracy. Continue reading

A Nepali Girl's American Experience

By Kanchan Burathoki
Saturday BlogDiary of a Nepali student

Every now and then some girls who take politics classes ask me about Nepal and express their sympathy, but I wonder if they really care…. On a recent bus ride, an American asked me, “I know you think we are dumb because we don’t know anything about other countries.” Sick of being undermined just because I am from a poor country, for the first time I dared and said, “Because you are.”

I work in the dining hall of my college twice a week on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 8. On Tuesdays I am the checker and the job is easy; just sit and swipe the students’ cards for two hours and at the end, clean up the salad bar and sweep the dining hall. Wednesdays, I clean up the “Pots”—literally huge utensils used for mass cooking. It is the most dreadful work, but well, I get paid. Continue reading

A Nepali Girl’s American Experience

By Kanchan Burathoki
Saturday BlogDiary of a Nepali student

Every now and then some girls who take politics classes ask me about Nepal and express their sympathy, but I wonder if they really care…. On a recent bus ride, an American asked me, “I know you think we are dumb because we don’t know anything about other countries.” Sick of being undermined just because I am from a poor country, for the first time I dared and said, “Because you are.”

I work in the dining hall of my college twice a week on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 8. On Tuesdays I am the checker and the job is easy; just sit and swipe the students’ cards for two hours and at the end, clean up the salad bar and sweep the dining hall. Wednesdays, I clean up the “Pots”—literally huge utensils used for mass cooking. It is the most dreadful work, but well, I get paid. Continue reading