Coffee with Anil Chitrakar

Anil Chitrakar is a successful social entrepreneur, a cultural historian, a social activist, and the list goes on. I was told that he was intelligent, knowledgeable and intellectual, what I didn’€™t know was, apart from all his wonderful traits, he is also a very warm, humble, and approachable person. For many years he has been working diligently for the development of the country, and has inspired many with his vision of change. As he sits next to me I feel there is so much to learn from him. His wife smiles quietly from the other side of the table, ready for us to begin.

At the young age of 28, Anil became one of the few Nepali Ashoka fellows determined to bring positive change to the rural Nepalese community through technology. After having received his graduate education from one of the best universities in the world, The University of Pennsylvania, I couldn’€™t help but wonder what brought him back to Nepal, when he could have easily had a fine paying job anywhere in the world. With a soft smile, he says that he returned to Nepal because he believed that he could do so much here compared to just having a comfortable life in the States. ‘€œWe live in a globalized world now, you can fly from Nepal in the evening to have breakfast in the States, so it’€™s not very difficult to travel when you need to. But when you decide to come to a developing country like ours, you need to be prepared for the challenging environment. In fact, I came back for the challenge. You need to figure out whether you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a smaller one.’€

As our conversation continues, he talks about the importance of Nepal in the Geo-political paradigm, and sustainability. Our ‘€˜location’€™ is of prime importance; and we need to capitalize on this magnificent advantage. ‘€œGive incentives to help conserve and it will happen’€ he remarks. He recalls the time when he worked with policy makers to conserve the national parks of Nepal. After making amendments to the law, fifty percent of Chitwan National park’€™s revenue was allocated to the local community. Thanks to wise visionaries like Anil Chitrakar, our forests increase by 2% every year. This has become a unique phenomenon in a world where deforestation is more prevalent than afforestation.

Most of us may also know Anil Chitrakar as one of the founding members of the movement Nepal Unites. On asking about his ideology behind the movement, he says, ‘€œwe all might have excelled as individuals but we still lag behind as a team. So Nepal unites is a movement to give reasons to dissolve our differences and unite as a team striving for excellence. On being quizzed on how he mobilized masses for change, he stresses ‘€œit’€™s easy to mobilize people against something but uniting a group to create is something totally different’€. He expresses that the need of the hour is changing gears from the individual to the collective. The division into individual power dilutes the sum effect. He is a bit cynical about the media when it comes to creating a rift between ethnic groups. Help people see the future; give them a vision and then they can be motivated to bring about change. Incorporating a game plan ensues. Do your own bit. Whether it is digging a local well, or establishing a community school or even organizing trifle festivities. Start small, but start something.  ‘€œHalf of the solution is taking responsibility’€. It was a very interesting take on where to start. Due to issues of moral high ground we tend to demand accountability from others.

After coming back to Nepal, he out shone his contemporaries with his extensive knowledge about the places and faces of Nepal. He has been leading famous Heritage Walks that has fascinated walkers from all backgrounds with his in-depth interesting stories of history, and culture. On asking him about what he thinks about our urban planning, he says, ‘€œFor a city like Kathmandu to have lived through eons of change and still be alive in our ancient temples and courtyards is awe-inspiring. You have the advantage of living in a city that was built 3000 years ago. You walk around Mangal Bazaar, and see dhunge dharas (stone water spouts) that have been supplying water for the past 2000 years. Compare that to western countries like America that was built only 300 years ago, and you’€™ll find how rich we actually are in preserving our heritage and culture’€

With the interview drawing to a close I asked him about what the youth should integrate as their mantra. To this he stated that having personal values is very important. He gives examples of people like Gandhi, Ashoka, and Buddha. Those who had tremendous value systems and for that very reason, they went far beyond only riches. He suggests that we internalize these values so that mere monetary gain becomes insignificant. The need for self-empowerment cannot be overstressed. Mr. Chitrakar also emphasized a fundamental trait that everyone should have- being observant. There is no lack of inspiration to bring about a change, however minuscule it may be.  Looking around you can initiate sparking that brilliant idea which would, otherwise, be lost in oblivion. And remember, it’€™s easy to learn skills, but values you can’€™t learn, you have to earn.

In our final segment, as I looked for more wisdom from him, he encouraged people to always question and be inquisitive. ‘€œDon’€™t fight gravity, work with it. If there is a problem, understand it and also keep in mind that there has to be a solution.’€ if our country is mountainous don’€™t let this be a drawback. We cannot deny this fact but it also doesn’€™t mean we need to limit ourselves because of this supposed handicap. Self-pity only holds us back. ‘€œThink volume, not area,’€ he said which summed up his keenness for frugality and efficiency.

Reinvigorated, as I took final sips of my coffee, I brought our tête à tête to a close. It was an immensely productive hour and I was buzzing with ideas and zest. Half an hour after the interview, Anil Chitrakar’€™s words echoed in my ears as I was walking through Durbar Square. I looked at Kathmanduists from a distance, busy with their daily chores. I feIt as if I was entering a whole new city, a city that was transformed by our old kings who had strong values, and experts that did not need a PhD or master’€™s degree to create strong ars for their children’€™s futures. I was reminded of the great minds that united to build this nation. The old bricks, the shimmering wind chimes, the floating dhwaja, the communal courtyards, the akhejyaals’€¦everything looked brighter, richer, and most importantly precious. These might have been things you probably are already familiar with but when visionaries like Mr Chitrakar remind you, your realization double folds. With more people like Mr. Anil Chitrakar this country will find a way out of this melee. All we have to do is join the walk together. best casino online

He grew with the river of Bagmati, the holiest and the dirtiest of them all. Alongside Bagmati, began the life of the slum-dwellers, the poorest of the poor with hungry eyes and empty stomachs. Everyday as the city folk drove their posh cars with their windows closed and air conditioners on, a little boy watched them in awe, wondering why he couldn’€™t sit on the same polished white leather seats. They make him angry; they sit comfortably with their big sunglasses perched on their noses, flipping through what looked like a book! The big round black glass looks strange to him, and he wonders why they always hide their faces.

‘€œPerhaps, they are devils’€, he wonders, devils that hide their face during the daytime so nobody can find them and kill them. He has heard these stories from Drug dai. He often tells Ram these stories before they go to sleep.

When he watches these devils read books, ‘€œA book! A book! Why?’€ he wonders.

Seven-year-old Ram opened one once only to find strange squiggles and curves staring at him. ‘€œHa! How stupid can these folks be’€, he thought. He would rather spend his time running across Bagmati, jumping over her stones and the white foam of the river that burnt his legs. It smelled disgusting, he admits, but it was home for him, the only place where the police wouldn’€™t force him to scamper from. He slept under the stars night after night, next to Bagmati, his mother. When it rained, he hid under the large sheets of plastic he had collected with his tiny hands. They would have sold for 5-10 rupees, and the kabadiwala would have bought them gladly, but he couldn’€™t sell it, not his plastic, his only home.

‘€œRam! Eh Ram’€, it was the drug dai waking him this time.

‘€œHazur dai!, he got up almost instantly. Drug dai was one of Ram’€™s favorite slum dwellers. He too slept next to Bagmati on some days, and whenever he did, he made sure Ram’€™s stomach was full with hot food. Ram didn’€™t dare call him drug dai though, he wasn’€™t supposed to know. It was the shopkeeper who often sold him 5 rupee noodles that told him to stay away from Drug dai.

‘€œEh Pucche! Don’€™t hang out with that druggie Bahadur! He will make you like him.’€

‘€œYou understand don’€™t you?’€ he said pulling his ears.

Seven-year-old Ram perfectly understood. ‘€œHyatteri! Ok I won’€™t, Let me go now’€, he pulled away.

‘€œEh Ram! Do you have any money’€, said Bahadur.

‘€œNo dai. Only two rupees in my pockets’€

‘€œSHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!, Bahadur was stamping his feet.

‘€œIts alright pucche, go sleep.’€

His body was hanging by the tree, as it swiveled in harmony with the blasting wind. Ram rubbed his eyes, once, twice, ‘€œno it couldn’€™t be’€.

‘€œAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH someone help him. Bahadur dai, Bahadur dai’€, he ran.

He touched his feet. COLD.

‘€œHELP, HELP HIM’€, but no one heard him.

He ran all the way to the city.

‘€œPOLICE DAI, POLICE DAI’€

‘€œWhat is it now. You want to get arrested is it?’€

Ram was sobbing now.

‘€œPolice dai, Bahadur dai, tree, hanging’€.

The policeman listened carefully. He understood.

‘€œWhere’€

‘€œHome. My home. My tree’€

‘€œWhere?’€

‘€œI’€™ll take you’€

No one knew what happened to Bahadur. No one cared but Ram. Ram cried under the tree, praying for his soul to be at peace. Bahadur had told him once that he was abandoned in the same river as Ram was. He, like Ram didn’€™t remember anything other than the river. ‘€œHow did we survive? Who fed us?’€ no one seemed to know.

The shopkeeper dai said they were abandoned when they were old enough to talk but they remembered nothing, no woman, and no man.

15-year-old Ram came everyday to visit his mother. She was dirty, discarded and untouchable like him. He worked nowadays as a labourer mixing cement, and building concrete homes for the touchables. With the little he made, he had rented a room with four other young boys like him. They had enough to eat one hot meal a day, and a place to sleep when the thunder shook the skies. Sometimes work dragged on till 8:00pm, sometimes 9:00 but never did he go home without visiting his mother. It was also the place he had cremated Bahadur dai, alone.

Watching the burning pyre of dead twigs from the very tree Bahadur had stood hanging, he felt he understood life better. ‘€œI was born alone, I will die alone’€, and everyday as he watched human-relations, the mother and the child, the husband and the wife, the girlfriend and the boyfriend, he only felt sorry for them. He had loved once, unintentionally, his brother he would never recognize but only feel for, Bahadur.

Sometimes, he felt like he was waiting for his death, the day he would be liberated from the task of feeding his empty stomach.
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Then one day sitting on the shores of foaming Bagmati, he met Peter.

The man touched his diseased mother like she was precious. The strong sting of rotting garbage didn’€™t bother him, and he didn’€™t make an effort to scurry as she rushed to touch him.

Stubbing out his cigarette, unbelieving of what he had just seen, Ram rushed to the shore where the stranger stood.


‘€œWho are you and why are you here?’€ he said with a certain authority.

‘€œPeter, and you?’€ he said calm and unthreatened by his tattered clothes.

‘€œWhat are you doing here?’€ he repeated

‘€œOh! I’€™m just a traveller who loves nature’€, he said

‘€œBut this is not nature. This is hell. Disaster’€, said Ram.

‘€œ No its not. I can see she was beautiful once, and like everything beautiful, she has been ruined’€, he said.

There was a certain truth to his words that Ram understood with his heart. He didn’€™t feel so cold anymore.

‘€œShe still is, if you look at her and the all the tears and sacrifices she’€™s given’€, he said unaware of the sprouting words from his heart.

‘€œIndeed’€, said the stranger.

‘€œLove is a terrible and beautiful disease. It makes us give up all we have for those we love the most, and live with nothing but all the peace in the world’€, he said.

Ram was shaken. All this while, he had assumed his mother to be only his, realizing little that she was the mother to this country, this nation who had stolen all her beauty from her.

‘€œMy mother, my mother, oh she gave all her beauty for the comfort and satisfaction of her children. She is sick, disease-ridden, discarded by her own children, yet gushes in their happiness and fights for their livelihood’€, he said.

This time he peered into the face of the stranger, only to see that it was so white, unlike anything he had ever seen before. He noticed that his clothes were tattered too, not as much as his own, but not the best either.

‘€œPeter, where are you from and what do you do?’€ he asked.

‘€œLets sit down’€, said Peter as they both crouched down watching Bagmati gush tears of love.

‘€œ A Long time ago, I was a famous businessman. In a place called New York, I owned corporate houses, banks, and lived the richest life you can imagine. I worked relentlessly, day and night and became the source of envy to everybody. My life looked perfect to everybody. I had done everything I had dreamt of, owned everything that I wanted but inside I was hollow- empty and had begun to question my existence. Suddenly, I wanted to die. I was ready and before I could kill myself, I wanted to see the city I had given my life to for the last time. I dressed as a hippie-tourist and left to see the places I had never seen. I walked after a long time in my life, and saw things I had forgotten about. I saw poverty, children under the influence of heavy drugs in little alleys, petty thievery, and sick people with no money to pay for their medical bills and beggars. This was supposed to be New York, the city of dreams and here I was watching dreamless lives. I knew then that I hadn’€™t done anything. All the money in the world was pointless when there was a starving child sleeping hungry in some part of the world. I couldn’€™t be in New York or any famous part of that world for that matter, so I quietly shifted to Nepal where I have started a few schools today’€, he said beaming.

‘€œAre you saying that life is only worth living if you live for somebody else?’€ asked Ram, comprehending the rush of excitement in his dead-life.

‘€œPrecisely’€, said Peter. ‘€œThat is why Bagmati lives’€.

‘€˜Acharya’€™ is not just a movie that covers the glorious musical career of one of the most acclaimed veteran singers, composers and songwriters of Nepal.  It is a tribute to a singer who recorded more than 450 songs in 16 years and a compelling personal story of a passionate music lover who defied all odds to achieve a dream that ended tragically, in such a short period of time. Produced under the banner of Silk Route Pictures, ‘€˜Acharya’€™ is a biopic based on the life and struggles of Bhajan Siromadi Bhakta Raj Acharya.

The Biopic has succeeded to set a definitive landmark in the scenario of Nepali movies that has seen some varied examples and a few different dimensions of movie making lately. Directed by Prashant Rasaily, assistant director of the Hindi movie ‘€˜Kites’€™ and screenwriter of ‘€˜Kagbeni’€™,’€˜Acharya’€™ has received considerable acclaim and was screened at the 13th Mumbai Film Festival. The movie stars Satya Raj Acharya (son of the acclaimed musician) who plays the role of his father.

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The biopic begins with a journalist (Sunil pokhrel) interviewing Bhakta Raj Acharya after he is admitted to hospital following cancer of the tongue. Bhakta Raj Acharya then unfolds his story to the journalist in front of his wife and two sons. It is from then on that the biopic fulfills its purpose of allowing one to find out a lot about a man whose life certainly gave people reason to reflect on the meaning of life.

Bhakta Raj Acharya’€™s musical journey began with him singing old Hindi songs and gazals under the guidance of an Indian performer in the small tea estate of Dooars, India after his family migrated from Dhankuta, Nepal. Following his father’€™s death, financial struggles and determined to sing for Radio Nepal, Acharya set off on a journey to Kathmandu and thus, was on his way to seeing his dreams come true.  Acharya went on to win the Rastriya Geet Sammelan in 1973.

Sadly, life had only started giving him what he truly deserved when an unfortunate incident involving some drunks (led by Saugat Malla in the movie) and a beating changed his life This was in fact only a catalyst for an even more tragic event – the amputation of Acharya’€™s most prized possession (his tongue). The turning point is poignant emotionally and adds a compelling despondency to the whole film.

Throughout the film one has the sense that it was in fact destiny that cut short a brilliant musical career and also stopped some fine music from being composed there after. This further causes one to contemplate whether it may have been fate that decreed such a heart- rending tale and that too, one that prompts the viewer to question whether Acharya was one of the luckiest or the most unfortunate humans born to this world.  It may be the distinctive irony of the story that causes one to really ponder the very question of man’€™s existence and karma giving the movie noteworthy leverage.

As for the actual construction of the film, the music is without doubt excellent, but fails to adapt to the plot in some scenes. Some lengthy establishing shots could have been shortened, and some other additional instances in the life of the protagonist instead, would have added significance. Also, in my opinion the intense post-amputation scene would have had a more profound impact on the audience if it had been shot for longer and wasn’€™t censored.  Furthermore, the authenticity of some scenes is questionable. But that said, it is just like those small dots on the moon that you see on a clear night and don’€™t know much about ‘€“ If you want to know more about Bhakta Raj Acharya’€™s life, the film will clarify certain aspects yet leave you room to question.

As for the acting, Satya Raj Acharya is the highlight of the film. Although he may not be an acclaimed actor in Kollywood, he has proved himself truly worthy and has very much justified the character of his father. There are also cameo appearances by Legendary Gazal Maestro Ghulam Ali and a special appearance by the protagonist himself Bhakta Raj Acharya. To me, it is one of the best tributes a son can give to a father and a musician to his guru and inspiration. Overall, it was definitely worth the watch.

Moksh: Salvation through food, drinks and music

Moksh doesnt need any introduction. It is a brand name in itself. Established in the October of 2002, it has come a long way. Nine years since it first opened for service, the place has bettered itself with each passing year. For those who have been at this eatery know why it is one of the most happening place in town. It is indeed the perfect combination of food, drinks and music. It has become the destination for many, to spend quality time with friends.

Although, located in the premises of Gyanmandir in Jhamsikhel, Moksh actually introduces the area instead. The restaurant has a beautiful, serene garden with huge Kabanas and campfire which works equally well for either a sunny afternoon or a cold evening. During the day, the huge garden is perfect to have a cup of coffee and read a book, or even better use the internet because the restaurant has free Wi-Fi. In the evening, the place is perfect to gather around one of the campfires with some pals and enjoy barbecue.

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Moksh has a spacious indoors as well, which includes a bar and a party room. The bar gives a beautiful view of the west which is undeniably the best place to be during a sunset. One can sip a cool drink while watching the sun go down. The party room is where all of the live band performances happen. Moksh entertains guests with live bands twice a week i.e. Tuesday and Friday. The space is also available for celebrations or private parties, for which reservation is required. Moksh also has a hallroom where most of the corporate parties are held. The fantastic area of the restaurant is one side of the successful story, the other part is obviously the food. Along with the musical ambience of the place, the food served here is excellent.
Moksh serves a variety of cuisines including Nepali, Chinese, Continental and more. The menu is a little bit of everything. For the review we had Moksh’s special Salami firewood pizza and one of the new addition to the menu, Roasted Chicken Chilly which is also available in pork. The Salami firewood pizza was unbelievably good. The dough is a thin, crispy crust which is difficult to find in any other restaurants or pizza joints in town. It has Moksh’s secret sauce which compliments the dough perfectly. The sauce has a sour taste which is different and appealing. I couldnt stop eating the big, thin slices and when it was finished, I was left craving for more.

The Roasted Chicken Chilly is like any other chicken chilly, only that the chicken itself is roasted rather than the usual fried. The presentation was good, well garnished. The sauce was fine; nothing out of the box though. The chicken was roasted the usual tandoori style. It was well season. The meat was soft and juicy on the inside but crisp on the outside.  Overall, the entire experience was amazing and affordable. The small pizza  is Rs.250; the large being Rs. 450, and the Roasted Chicken Chilly is priced at Rs. 350. They accept all kinds of credit and debit cards as well, which is a relief. Another factor of great relief is the huge parking space available at the eatery. Hence, there isnt much to worry about when it comes to partying at Moksh and having a good time. Actually, giving it a second thought; being at Moksh means having a great time.