May 7, 2009/NEW DELHI
Kathmandu was back on front pages here this week. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t make big headlines in our profession. What surprises me the most is the attitude of our intelligentsia — they sound so optimistic all the time. Why do I only talk about such small things? Because with each big headline, our people are forced into believing that we are actually growing up as a nation. We are told to perceive each misstep as a giant leap in our non-functioning democracy. Perhaps, it takes distance to understand the meaning of change that our people pine for; changes that I notice here everyday that herald India’s arrival. When I raise my head to look into the direction of home, there is only disbelief: Are we really moving towards real democracy with each fatal blow to the tradition?
The leaked video of Prachanda disclosing details of the Maoist strategy to become the sovereign in the country didn’t shock me. We need no evidences to prove that the red rebels would stop at nothing until they install their dictator at the center. The virtual abortion of the slow-paced peace process is a reality check. The people’s war is also an excuse for the radicals to rule the poor. However, the indoctrinated Maoist cadres might feel it’s the only way of their livelihood and perhaps a better future. My only concern isn’t those misdirected youth, we must find out what the real strength of the guerrillas is if we want to save this nation. We must devoid them their greatest strength before they fracture our unity beyond repair.
QUESTION OF WILL
Is there any other way to stop the Maoists from consuming themselves and the country in their quest for power? There might be other difficult choices we can make as a nation. But as an individual there is very little we can do to fight the hopeless use of being. The relationship of an artist from this turbulent country with this torturous country to me cannot be an ordinary one. The more we think about the country the more we are bound to suffer. I have no idea if this is a common pang of today’s generation, or just my personal problem.
What does it mean to grow up in a country full of lies and longings? If only I could get rid of the crisis of national identity, I could tell you how it feels to be carefree. In my profession, there is no escape from the identity. After the first twenty years in Nepal, you’re a Nepali no matter if you want to be or not. Even if it disgusts you, you’re a Nepali. Even if it torments you, you’re one of these patient people. Contrary to what they say, as I have discovered recently, we do get tired of loving our country and start loathing it. Our personal pangs collectively form the popular consciousness. Do we realize how difficult it is to be Nepali today? It’s easy to be a writer, a reporter or a social entity. It’s easy to be anything but Nepali.
Is it true that we — the younger generation of the country — are running away from the problems of our country? Recently, during an intimate conversation with one of the Nepali Embassy officials here, I was confronted with this question. He said when he was in Japan as a government official, he was once invited to a popular flower festival. His heart cried when he saw beautiful blossoms on Paiyu (cherry) trees. He recalled those slow days when he would hopelessly walk under the cherry trees in the capital looking for a job during his early youth. They seldom bloomed for him in Kathmandu. His was a story of struggle and the following victory. He insisted it was possible to stay within the country and become somebody and do something.
However, once you’re out of home, the umbilical cord is cut. There might be a way back home but you cannot be at home. The chaste idea of home is already lost. There is little you can do for home away from home. All my writings about the country have been a polemic. I’m afraid I have already become a mouthpiece. When I went last month to attend a meeting about political cinema, I found my experience was way too different than other cinephiles of my generation in India. We come from a background where we cannot be too direct or expressive about political issues. It has lost the effect. Many would disagree but to me this is the truth: We aren’t a free country. We have to find metaphors to express our angst in public.
All we are doing is trying to find a way to give a sense of normalcy to the people, aren’t we? As for now, I’m preparing for my next departure. A drifter — that’s what you become when you’re away from home. I’m going to Bombay after a month-long film appreciation course in Pune next month. Emotions aren't easy business. After the cinephile meeting, Sushmita Dasgupta, a film scholar, wrote in an article that we “come from political regimentation in which politics strictly defines art. Art, in Salik’s country need not seek the form, the form is already given to it. This makes art collapse into some kind of a folklore, which is not art.”
Right now, we are still a generation humming ‘Ek yuga ma ek din ek choti aauchha, ulathpulath uthalputhal herafera lyauchha.’ We don’t want to trade tragedies but our country doesn’t permit any celebration today. We must deal with what we have become in order to do justice with the idea of home. Or being homeless. Does it ever occur to anyone that we, as a nation, are living in constant delusion? Why not admit that we are a generation lost? Do we see we are in a quagmire? If we do, why are we still waiting for that one day to come? It might never come. We cannot afford to build a new Nepal at this price. We can only do folklores — and perhaps, find art in them.
Published on the national daily, Republica, on May 27, 2009.
June 22, 2009
May 7, 2009/NEW DELHI