Kathmandu Literary Jatra

Kahi nabhayeko Jatra Patan Durbar Square ma!

Every year when Nepalis return home after attending the biggest literary festival in South Asia, The Jaipur Literature Festival, people bring with them the hope, one that is mostly tinted with nostalgia— of Nepal having a festival to boast of its own.  The wait, is seems, has come to an end as Nepal gears up for the inaugural ‘Kathmandu Literary Jatra’. Inspired by its Indian counterpart that has already hosted the likes of Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk and Ian McEwan among other high profile names in English literature today, the Kathmandu Literary Jatra is going down a similar path with writers and publishers like Namita Gokhale, Mohammad Hanif and Tarun Tejpal in line to attend the country’s first literary jatra of such an international stature.

The three-day Literary Jatra (September 16-18) or litjatra as it has come to be known will be held at Patan Durbar Square and the surrounding area. Some of the writers who will be speaking in the event are  Alecia Mckenzie, Alka Saraogi, Buddhi Sagar, Deepak Adhikari, Deepak Thapa, Devendra Bhattarai, Indran Amrithanayagam, Kanak Mani Dixit, Karna Sakya, Kesang Tseten, Kiran Krishna Shrestha, Kunda Dixit, Manjul, Mohammad Hanif, Momila Joshi, Namita Gokhale, Narayan Wagle, Nayanjot Lahiri, Patrick French, Poorna Man Vaidya and Pratyoush Onta.

While Nepali readers and writers are excited about the possibility of hearing and learning from international writers, the organisers defiantly assert that the organisation of the jatra has the sole purpose of promoting the works of Nepali writers rather than glamorising international writers. Furthermore, the jatra will give international exposure to Nepali writers. This will help encourage Nepali writers by giving them the idea that they have the potential for an international breakthrough, said Subani Singh, Festival Director. ‘It will be a better platform for the Nepali writers to showcase their works both in Nepali and English.’

Ujwal Prasain, the Kathmandu Post journalist who has contributed to the development of the sessions to showcase the works of Nepali writers, acknowledges the effort of the organisers to particularly support and promote Nepali writers. Prasain, who is himself an avid reader and promoter of Nepali literature, has been writing about Nepali literature in an attempt to help people cultivate an interest in it. ‘The kind and quality of works that are available today proves that we have both the literary mass and the writers whose works deserve international appeal,’ he said.

However, as optimistic as it can get, it needs to be brought into light, especially when the literary fest is just a month away, that there are sections of writers and publishers whose professional lives have been nothing short of one hurdle after another. ‘It is even much tougher when a publisher is a woman,’ lamented Archana Thapa who is the founder and editor of Akshar Creations. Launched last year, Akshar Creations’s first publication Telling a Tale, edited by Thapa, is a collection of personal stories of over 30 Nepali women. In three ways, Thapa said, she has been dominated; first as being a woman, second as a beginner publisher, and third as someone whose choice of books to publish differs from the mainstream.  Telling a Tale brings to light personal stories of women, and this is something which has ‘not been done before’, and that is where ‘I suffer convincing the reader’. In addition, the publishers have financial burdens to take care of. Fine Print is a publishing house which has over 20 books to its credit including the critically acclaimed books of Buddhisagar’s Karnali Blues and John Wood’s Microsoftdekhi Bahundadasamma. The latter has the highest sale figures of 18,000 copies while the former 13,000. But, the figures do not really compensate for the cost of publication that are often done in India informed, Niraj Bhari, one of the founders of the Fine Print.

The litjatra can offer many lessons, confirmed Thapa. The range of programs from workshops, readings and panel discussions will surely help build proximity between national and international writers, publishers, journalists and academics. ‘Nepalis can learn lessons from them with everything related to publishing,’ she said. Thapa is mostly interested in and believes others would similarly take interest in ‘knowing how publishers select the works of new writers’, and the process of ‘bringing out a new book and brand new writer to the readers.’

Devendra Bhattarai who is the author of the critically acclaimed book ‘Registan Diaries’ is also renowned for his indelible efforts to pen the stories of hardships and sentiments of Nepali migrant workers in the Middle East. It was while he was serving his tenure as a Kantipur National Daily journalist based in Qatar that he came in direct contact with thousands of Nepali migrant workers who were insignificant to the dry desert and whose hardships were oblivious to all those that may care. One thing that pulled Bhattarai towards the Nepalis were their human sentiments and feelings ‘that is often heart rending and poignant’. Bhattarai protests that these issues are seldom represented in Nepali literature. ‘The only thing that continues to dominate the headlines in the papers is remittance, and hardly there is anything that would tell people about their personal lives, their hardships and emotions of being so far away from home and their loved ones,’ he explained. This is what compelled him to write in a way that has never been written in Nepali about migrant workers. The product is a book that has touched thousands of hearts.

As a speaker for the Jatra, he is planning to read a section of his book ‘Registan Diaries’ and relate what he saw and experienced being with the many migrant workers in the Middle East. He cites that it is important for people to explore soft lines of emotions in order to understand the hardships that Nepalis working abroad in difficult and dirty environments often suffer. This will enable readers to better understand the socio-political and economic structures of our society. ‘There are larger implications to how they suffer in the desert, to the extent that some either lose their hope or their lives,’ he said, highlighting the need for the representation and reflections of these stories , which are often full of human interest, poignancy and pain. He agrees the last and the most popular book related to these themes to have emerged in Nepali literature was Muna Madan, by the great Nepali author and poet Late Laxmi Prasad Devkota. ‘That was just that,’ he said, ‘we need more of these issues in our literature so that we can depict reality and still make people aware about the situation of Nepalis living elsewhere.’

The Jatra will be attended by writers, academics and journalists and thus is expected to brew a good amalgamation of discussions, readings and issues where people can engage themselves in the discourse of Nepal after it was freed from the Rana Oligarchy in 1951. Since then Nepal has been a vibrant country with discourses of inclusiveness, rights and democracy. It was also the time when the country’s literature scene really developed and engaged a wider scope of readership as well as publishing books. ‘In a way it is also a way of recollecting the literature vis a vis the political development of Nepal,’ said Prasain.

Adding to the discourse is also Sanjeev Uprety. Uprety has authored the famous, ‘Ghanchakkar’ which was also made into a play. Ghanchakkar was of a huge political and social importance in the context of Nepal as it depicted the scenes after the Royal Takeover of February 1, 2005. Uprety’s second book ‘Sidhantakaa Kura’ will be read, and he will speak on the recollective period of literature, in addition to the socio-political aspects of Nepali literature. ‘The Jatra will be an important platform for writers as there will also be international writers sharing the same platform. Ideas and knowledge can be shared and exchanged between the countries,’ he said.

The Jatra will altogether host 30 national writers and poets including those who have been writing in their mother tongues and 10 international writers. ‘It will be a good platform as people will open up to the fact that there are people who have been writing in their own languages other than in English and Nepali,’ said Singh. Prasain further added that including the works that have been written in native languages and bringing them to a bigger audience through the Jatra is an important realisation Nepalis can have. ‘Our culture and languages need to be preserved and showcased as much as there are works that have been written in Nepali and English.’

The Kathmandu Literary Jatra will not just promote works of Nepali writers but it will also highlight the importance of music and art. There will be reading sessions during the daytime and musical performances in the evening which will help garner a larger section of people; not just those interested in taking part in discussions but those who would also like to listen to local music, sipping tea in the lap of Patan Durbar Square; Similarly the addition of art will add much needed zeal and zest. Something that Nepalis have been looking forward to since they heard that the jatra is being held.

Warning: Do not take it otherwise

W A R N I N G!
Tapaile dial garnu bhayeko number ma ahile samparka huna sakena. Kripaya kehi samaya pachhi puna prayas garnu hola.
D H A N Y A B A D!

Alas, this is not an unusual warning as you many of you are already aware how horrible and painfully inefficient our phone services are. For years Nepalis have been dealing with similar seemingly insignificant but otherwise momentous problems such as poor phone connection.  This is momentous because these frustrations have mounted into a larger wave of discontent that can have far reaching implications. While most of us have accommodated these inconveniences into our lives, others continue to find a source, an impetus to take these frustrations and anger to a new height.

Rainbow Warrior and Mr. K, as they call themselves, decline to reveal their identities and just refer to a patch of lettering W A R N I NG on the wall of the library opposite Biswojyoti Hall in Jamal. But this was not the beginning of their defiant artsy protest. Earlier, the pair collaborated on a project where they distributed the infamous warning sign stickers ‘with grunts in between to their friends’. The same warning message was later printed on t-shirts that made a few sales. The little money raised from the t-shirt sales bought them the paints and brushes to take their frustrations further into the public space.

W A R N I N G was the first creation. Noticed by commuters, students and other passersby’s, the street art generated a buzz as to who might have created the work. People also started noticing the art as more of it appeared on the walls every day. ‘Our intention was to bring smiles on the faces of those who pass by,’ said Mr. K who is Nepali, and an avid lover of art. ‘I think we have been very successful in doing this. It can be reflected in the way people have taken interest in it,’ added Rainbow Warrior who is an alien in Nepal. Warning, however did not limit the potential of the message they had to spread. Making an individual stance amongst the hordes of slogans and announcements too many times frequent with political agendas, Mr. K and Rainbow Warrior’s work can be seen around the capital and on its walls, especially in the hot public spots like Jamal, Ratnapark, and Thamel.

Mummy told me not to do politics appeared early one morning and was similarly noticed by all who passed largely due to its quirkiness and child like manner of addressing a serious issue. The message was simple: politics is not a thing in which one should get involved. A caricature of a small Mr. K, the child who is speaking these words, is to be found standing beside these letterings at Lainchour.  Rainbow Warrior, on the other hand, has his own project where the letter boxes in the streets are given a colourful makeover. These letter boxes, in their old and dry state, are painted in the hues of rainbow and are given a new life. He intends to take this project seriously and continue in other parts of the city the next time he visits the country.

Quipped if there is any political inclination to what they have been doing, Mr. K asserted, ‘even if there is that is not our intention at all. We did because it’s good way to bring changes in the walls of Kathmandu.’ He added, ‘it is fun too.’  Similarly Rainbow Warrior acknowledges, ‘I wouldn’t take it otherwise even if some kind of authority came and wiped the paints from letter boxes,’ he quickly then said, ‘I could paint it all over again.’

Made in Nepal : Arniko Skateboards

[blockquote]
‘If there is any place in the
world where I would want to
live and work —it has to be Nepal’
[/blockquote]

When, in 2007, Marius Arniko Arter, came up with the idea of manufacturing skateboards in Nepal he had already tried making boards out of bamboo in Vietnam. ‘The skateboard has to be strong and flexible at the same time,’ he said, adding that he ‘dropped’ the idea of a bamboo skateboard because it didn’t qualify for the quality he envisioned his boards to be. Besides, he wanted to be home away from home. Marius, a Swiss citizen, was born in Nepal in 1984 and lived here until the age of four before permanently living in Switzerland. At that time his parents were working in hydropower projects in Nepal.

But, for Marius Nepal remained his home even until today. ‘If there is any place in the world where I would want to live and work —it has to be Nepal,’ shared Marius who is accompanied by Nils Amar Tegmo who similarly comes from what he calls a ‘mixed background’. Nils has been living in Nepal on and off since 2000, and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Human and Natural Resource Studies from Kathmandu University. What brought them together as friends was their sheer love for skating. ‘Cruising’ is how they would describe the sport they both learned as kids and loved so much that Marius went on to manufacture them with his own hands. Nils has since supported his mission hoping to make it an accessible part of a Nepali’s lifestyle.

‘I hope to work full-time for Arniko Skateboards in a few months time,’ Nils announced. Arniko Skateboards Nepal was first launched in May 2009 on the second floor in the Mandala Street complex, Thamel. ‘Even though 80 percent of the customers who buy these boards are foreigners purchasing them for themselves or friends back home, the number of Nepalis who have been showing interests and enthusiasm over the new sport is quite good,’ he said, having seen locals skateboarding on the bumpy streets of the capital.

While the busy roads of Kathmandu are not entirely skate-friendly Nils and Marius, who are also neighbors, manage to find their way around Jhamsikhel and other spots in the city to skate. ‘Nepal bandhs give ample space and an easier ride in the otherwise chaotic streets of the city.’ During these current episodes of Nepal bandas Nils and Marius had can be seen skating around Jhamsikhel, hanging out at their spot or just doing their groceries.

In addition to selling skateboard s and various board parts, Arniko Skateboards Nepal also designs its own t-shirts, hoodies, pullovers and accessories. Asked why he added clothing to the skateboard store Marius said, ‘at a small scale, skateboards alone wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, the  clothing is sold more than the boards, and I like to design them.’  Nils added, ‘skateboarding is a lifestyle and it perfectly fits with the clothing Marius designs.’ Nils has also recently begun designing prints and motifs for t-shirts and boards hoping to provide Arniko with a mix between traditional Nepali and contemporary prints and designs.  The boards then, with a well crafted fusion of designs etched into the plain wood, are uniquely Nepali.

Using this idea of a mix of contemporary and Nepali art, most designs are made in Switzerland by Marius’ friends and colleagues involved in Arniko Skateboards Switzerland. The skateboards are made from thin plies of Canadian Maple wood which he imports from Canada, informs Marius. ‘It wasn’t possible to make boards with Nepali wood and maintain the quality to be sellable throughout the world,’ Marius made it clear.

Before establishing himself as an entrepreneur, Marius was working as a carpenter in Switzerland. ‘Carpentry gave me the knack in the craft,’ he said, ‘building skateboards was just an outlet’. Today, the skateboards made in Nepal are sold all over the world via the Arniko website (arnikoskateboards.com), and are also for sale in his store in Zurich, Switzerland, which also bears the Arniko name. ‘People really are excited about the skateboards manufactured in Nepal as they are different and uniquely designed,’ Nils said showing the image of TENZING NORGAY engraved in one of the 1980’s style boards on display in the shop.

There were other unique designs such as one that was influenced by thangka paintings, and other motifs from Nepal’s traditional art which is so very unique to the world. ‘More than anything, it was the joy of skating that led me to cut and press my own skateboards,’ said Marius, ‘but that was not all. To make the boards beautiful and to at least be sellable in the hordes of skateboards that conquer the global market today, it needed to be different and unique from rest of the boards, and that is how and why we incorporated the great skill of Nepal’s wood carvers, some of the world’s best craft.’

It’s the unique feature of these hand-made skateboards that has left its many buyers awe-struck around the globe. ‘It’s the concept that matters,’ said Nils who is also excited to put his energy in making world-class products in terms of designs and quality. Apart from that he is also keen to contribute to the well-functioning of the store. He and Marius really feel that Kathmandu should have a skate park which would enable the Nepalis to come together and skate. ‘There are Nepalis who skate but there has not been any group or organization that has really united the skaters in the city,’ remarked Marius.

The craftsmen eagerly take up the challenge of chiseling designs out of the plain boards as it requires immense coordination and coordination because the wood is extremely thin. The recent buzz among the skaters was that Nepal’s first National Skating Festival was to be organized in late May but nothing substantial seems to have taken place. Nils and Marius believe that, ‘only if skaters could have a place to meet, skate, and share their lifestyles, could this dream be possible. It would be great if anything of that kind of festival was to take place in Nepal,’ Marius stated.

There is hope that a skate park and then perhaps a skate festival or competition would bring Nepalis, as well as foreigners, together to interact through skateboarding. But, in Nepal’s case, it remains to be seen whether such efforts will actually be taking place any time soon. The poor infrastructure backed up by the growing land prices, has mounted the frustrations of those who would want to create spaces of interaction and an environment for learning to ride the skateboards in Nepal. ‘Until skateboarders work together to meet this goal as a community or collective, the wait will just be longer’ Nils believes. The problem, it seems, is not only the high price of professional quality skateboards Nepalis would have to buy, but also the unavailability of the space and a platform where they could actually learn skating.

The Arniko Skateboards range from Rs. 20,000- Rs. 23,000 with the full setup and necessary hardware. ‘The reason why these skateboards are expensive is because everything except the board has to be imported,’ informed Marius. The deck (or wooden part of the board) costs around Rs. 7000. ‘The boards are still expensive because of the Canadian Maple wood, special glues required, and other necessary tools which are all imported items,’ he said arguing that it is still a good bargain compared to other skateboards produced from giant factories. The skateboards are manufactured in Hattiban in the outskirt of the capital where they have their own studio for also stitching the clothing.

The skateboards produced here are designed for cruising, the professionals said. ‘These aren’t meant for freestyle skating or tricks,’ claimed Nils, who showed the basic technique to get onto the boards. ‘In order to balance, your weight should be on the leg that is on the board,’ he said demonstrating while his other leg was on the floor to push. These cruising boards are influenced by the 70s and 80s retro-style decks and are perfect for beginners, or anybody who enjoys skating around rather than doing tricks.

Nils pointed out three tips to begin skating.

1. Stand with one foot on the board

2. Balance the body perpendicular to the ground, and

3. Push with the foot on the ground to move forward.

He said these are three easy steps to learn to skate but, there is no room for overconfidence as this might just get you flat right on your chest.

Arniko, anyone?

Skateboarding Tips

No Comply Over Block Things

No Comply’s are a fun, old school trick. Back in the day, they were very popular. Nowadays, not so much. Anyways, the no comply is where the skater brings their front foot off the board, pops the tail down, and slides their back foot up the board to level it out while in the air. It’s like an ollie with your back foot doing all the work.

Wallrides

Wallrides are a simple, yet complex maneuver. Simple in motion, but complex in weight shiftment, and timing. They are a very fun trick once learned, and eventually mastered. You can do them on virtually anything you want as long as the wall’s surface is rideable. You can take them to stairs, into banks, over flat gaps, over transfers, and much more! There are many ways to do wallrides. Usually done with the aid of a ramp, bank, etc. I find that being the cheap way to do them.. So I’m going to teach you guys how to do them the not-so-easy way, which is being done from flatground.

BS Pop Shove into FS 50-50 Grind

Anybody who skates enough to where they have learned a handful of flip tricks and a handful of grinds/slides is eventually going to want to try to combine the two. Obviously there are countless options when it comes to this.. But honestly, some of them are pretty hard. The backside pop shove it into 50-50 is likely the simplest trick-to-grind combination. Thus, it’s likely the one you’ll begin with when it comes to this stuff.

 

His beautiful Journey

The Man behind Thangka Painting in Nepal

Before meeting an experienced and prominent Thangka painter of Nepal, our friend Yanik who had readily slipped into the role of the gatekeeper that day told me that somebody is going to translate things the artist we were going to meet would say. I dreaded thinking about it. ‘Now that sounds like playing Chinese Whisper,’ I snapped back. We walked ahead in silence till we reached one of the many blue gates to let ourselves be welcomed by his daughter-in-law to his abode in the inner residential area of Boudha.

Sitting on the lounge bed in the living room in his house, he was silently waiting for us. We exchanged greetings waving our hands not knowing what to say exactly in Tibetan. So we greeted each other with Namaste. As I went closer to sit next to him, he said something which I could neither hear  properly nor understand what he wanted to tell. I heard him say ’81’ and his daughter-in-law added right there in time ‘age’. How did I not get this? He was as though a child trying to introduce himself to us that he is a man of 81 years. Wow! It got me hard when I saw in him both the eagerness of a child and creases of an old man, and knew in an instance that he had experiences probably older than him to share.

Dharyyal Gngsur, who prefers to be called by his first name ‘Dharyyal’ is probably the biggest and reputed name in the field of Thangka painting in Nepal. Although at this age he has already retired to spiritual living and home-stay, he has however not
stopped painting Thangka. Given the good condition of his health which is rare these days he wouldn’t mind sitting down to make diagrams of Gods and Goddesses on the canvases so that his pupils could easily apply colours on them.

Born in an affluent artistic family of Thangka artists, his life took a different turn as his country did in 1950 with the invasion of China in Tibet. Dharyyal, who is the 6th generation Thangka painter of his family, is a witness who carries the legacy of the 7th generation Thangka artist— his son Wangdi with him. His son is not just a witness to the legacy but his family along with others had been left back in Tibet before fleeing to Nepal, in a search for a hideout from Chinese who confiscated
invaluable properties and jewelries and were only left
with rags. He further lamented that many of his contemporaries and friends had to end up in jail because the Chinese thought they were rich people and were hiding their precious jewels.

This could not go on for long. Tired of living a life of the oppressed, and the constant fear of Chinese who would ‘beat us, lock up us in jail even if we wore something little nice’ compelled him and others to leave the country for better. Before escaping to Nepal in 1964, he had already served for three years in jail in the Eastern part of Tibet. By then he already had a family of his own and was the father of four sons and a daughter. But, it was out of question to even think that he could escape to Nepal with his family members. And, because of religious and other matters like home and land, his family remained there while he silently fled, leaving back his family and country behind to an unknown land.

By then, he was already a good Thangka painter. But due to political upheavals his country had to go through, he was not able to practice it as his fathers and grandfathers did in their time. Unlike the many Tibetans who fled their home for safety and good life, they were not able to accomplish as Dharyyal could. As a child, he was taught the craft of Thangka painting by his father and grandfather who were all successful painters of their time.  It took him time to practice his skills in the new place.

Before reaching anywhere in a safer place, he along with others had to cross the treacherous mountains for seven long days and nights almost without food to reach Solukhumbu. Solukhumbu was the resting point for most of the Tibetans as it provided many resemblances of their home culturally, religiously and geographically.
He decided to live there for some time and wait and see what would happen to his country because he had his family members waiting for him there. But nothing really changed. And, it didn’t take long for seven years to pass by as he stayed there looking for food and home. ‘I used to paint Thangka in the monasteries there and fill my hungry stomach,’ said the revered artist in a childlike manner without any inhibition.

This was the time when he could actually paint Thangka in the monasteries and exhibit his artistic skills to the people around and get work to do and earn his living. The people he met, made friends with and worked with knew his true potential of an artist which would take him to greater heights in the future. It was also the time he earned praises not just for his artistic abilities but his measurements found in ample amount in his work which was rare in others arts. ‘Measurement is very important to Thangka painting because it determines the beauty of Thangka art,’ shared Dharyyal, ‘every image of Gods and Goddesses have their measurements that tell good posture from a bad one.’

So, measurements and lines are what that helped him stand out from the rest in the time when struggles were what everybody was doing. After spending seven years of his life in Solukhumbu he moved towards the valley only to settle down here for the rest of his life. Around 1971/72 he entered the valley and felt a breath of new breeze breezing in the city. He knew he could do many things here through Thangka painting. Given his contacts and people he knew, he soon started working with Lamas of various monasteries in Kathmandu and built stronger bonds with them to work forever here. But, things didn’t go as he expected. His family members were still in Tibet while he was here alone working for and only for himself with no one to look forward to in the times of happiness and sadness. This was not what he wanted, but there was no choice than to resist the hard life.

Unable to live away from his family for a long time, in 1980, he mustered up enough courage to go to Tibet to be with his children and wife. He did for some time. But what little hope he had of his country and himself faded away with the time, and it was still not a safe place for him to be there. So, this time he had to run away, leaving back his family once again to Kathmandu where he had a different life waiting for him. The only difference this time was that his third youngest son was with him. He took his son Wangdi with him giving an excuse to the rest of their family that he was only taking him for a vacation. He would come back with his son after a few months. But, this never happened. They have ever since been living in Kathmandu.

Wangdi has a family of his own and it is his wife Tsering Chokey who translated the things being said by her in-law, Dharyyal. Wangdi does thangka painting and also runs a Thangka painting school opened by his father in the late 1970s. The school was opened with the intention of helping empower the youths in those days so they could earn their living out of Thangka painting. Dharyyal who then got busy with paintings of thangkas in the monasteries started getting more contracts to beautify the walls of monasteries that had slowly started to grow in those days. As a result, Dharyyal in capital has Sichen Gumba, White Monastery, Thangdu Gumba, Tusal Gumba, Swoyambhu Gumba, Kapan Monastery and Tamang Gumba to his credit. Likewise, he also painted the walls of Tangboche Gumba, Namche Gumba and Solukhumbu Gumba in Solukhumbu with beautiful images of Gods and Goddesses. And, there are several in India which he can’t name all.

At present, he along with his other team members are researching the Thangka painting in Nepal to build a seven-storied monastery with all the images of Gods and Goddesses in Tibet to reestablish the Gumba in his village in Eastern Tibet which was destroyed by Chinese in the time of invasion.  He shares heart-rending news that he would not go to Tibet for the project. Asked why, he lightly answered in a childlike manner that he just ‘cannot go’ flapping his hands in the air. But, his valued works of Thangka paintings will go there and embrace the walls of the monastery bringing the dilapidated state of the place into life once again, and the paintings would once again breathe his love for his country and his family even though he is far away from them all.