तुलसी आचार्य आख्यान विधामा देखापरेका क्रियाशील स्रष्टा हुन् । पछिल्लो समय अमेरिकामा बसोबास गर्दै आएका उनको ‘मोचन’ शीर्षकको उपन्यास प्रकाशित छ । यसअघि अंग्रेजी भाषामा उपन्यास लेखिसकेका उनको यो दोस्रो औपन्यासिक कृति हो ।
नेपाल र अमेरिकाको परिवेश अनि पात्रहरूको प्रयोग गरी लेखिएको यस उपन्यासमा मूलतः मानवीय सम्बन्ध र संवेदनालाई सूक्ष्म रूपमा प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।
यसका साथै विद्यार्थीका रूपमा विकसित मुलुकहरूमा पढ्न जाने र उतै बसोबास गर्ने पछिल्लो पुस्ताका युवायुवतीको जीवनसंघर्ष र तिनका भोगाइलाई प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।
आध्यात्मिक क्षेत्रसँग सम्बद्ध मोचन शब्दलाई शीर्षक बनाइएकाले उपन्यास कतै आध्यात्मिक विषयमा केन्द्रित त छैन भन्ने उत्सुकता पाठकमा जगाइदिन्छ शीर्षकले नै । तर, उपन्यास शीर्षकले बताएजस्तो आध्यात्मिक नभएर भौतिकवादी समाज र जीवनमा केन्द्रित छ ।
उपन्यासको अन्त्यतिर अध्यात्मका केही प्रभावहरूलाई देखाउन खोजिए पनि ती मूल विषय नभएर परिधिमा आएको विषयसन्दर्भ हो । मोचन अर्थात् मोक्ष । मोक्ष भनेको मुक्ति, आखिर केबाट मुक्ति ? यही प्रश्नको जवाफ खोज्ने क्रममा नै उपन्यासको पठन अगाडि बढ्छ र कथानकको अन्त्य हुन्छ ।
उपन्यास पढ्दै जाँदा यो प्रेमकथामा आधारित उपन्यासजस्तो पनि देखिन्छ । केही हदसम्म यो सत्य भए पनि उपन्यासमा अन्तर्वस्तुका रूपमा प्रवेश गरेका अन्य विभिन्न पक्षहरू छन्, जसले उपन्यासलाई समसामयिक र गम्भीर बनाएको छ ।
उपन्यासलाई प्रणयप्रेम, मनोविज्ञान, समसामयिक विषय, आजका मान्छेका विरोधाभासी चरित्र, डायस्पोरिक जीवन आदि विभिन्न कोणबाट अध्ययन विश्लेषण गर्न सकिन्छ । यसरी विभिन्न पक्ष र कोणबाट उपन्यासलाई विश्लेषण गर्न सकिए पनि उपन्यासको केन्द्रीय विषय भनेको मानवीय संवेदना र सम्बन्ध नै हुन् ।
नेपाली साहित्यका अधिकांश उपन्यास नारीकेन्द्रित देखिन्छन् । नारीजीवनका जटिलता, नारीका संघर्ष र नारीमनोविज्ञान नेपाली उपन्यासमा प्रशस्त रूपमा आइसकेका छन् ।
आचार्यको मोचन उपन्यासमा भने पुरुषमनोविज्ञान र उसको विरोधाभासपूर्ण जीवनशैलीको चित्रण गरिएको छ । आजका शिक्षित र सभ्य भनिएका मानिस कसरी विरोधाभासमा बाँच्छन् भन्ने यथार्थलाई उपन्यासमा प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।
पारिजातको ‘शिरीषको फूल’ उपन्यासका पात्र सुयोगवीर र सकमबरीबाट विशेष रूपमा प्रभावित यस उपन्यासको नायक अमेरिकामा पढ्दै हुन्छ । यसैबीचमा नेपाल फर्किएर बिहे गर्छ र पछि श्रीमतीलाई पनि अमेरिका लैजान्छ ।
स्वभाव र विचारको अन्तरले विस्तारै उनीहरूको सम्बन्ध बिग्रँदै जान्छ । फेसबुकमा परिचय भएको आधारमा अनामिकासँग नजिक भएको नायक अन्ततः आश्मालाई छोडेर अनामिकासँग जीवन बिताउने निर्णयसहित नेपाल फर्किन्छ ।
उपन्यासको मोटामोटी कथानक यत्ति नै हो । तर, यस्ता घटना र परिस्थितिको निर्माण हुँदै गर्दा नायकको जीवनमा आएका उतारचढाव र उसको मानसिकतामा परेका विभिन्न सकारात्मक तथा नकारात्मक प्रभावहरूलाई उपन्यासमा जुन ढंगले प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ, त्यो निकै गम्भीर र आकर्षक छ ।
अमेरिकामा बसेर विद्यावारिधि गर्दै गरेको र परम्परित संस्कार बोकेर हुर्कँदै गरेको निम्नमध्यमवर्गीय युवा यस कृतिको नायक मात्र नभई आजका आम नेपाली युवापुस्ताको प्रतिनिधि पात्र पनि हो ।
यस पात्रका माध्यमबाट आजका युवापुस्ता र उनीहरूको दाम्पत्य सम्बन्धमा देखिने जटिलता र एकार्काप्रति हराउँदै गएको विश्वास र ह्रास हुँदै गएको संवेदनाका विविध यथार्थलाई उपन्यासमा प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।
विवाह गरेकी श्रीमतीसँग विचार र स्वभाव नमिल्दा पीडादायी बनेको सम्बन्ध र भर्चुअल संसारमा भेटिएकी प्रेमिकाबाट प्रभावित भएर बनेको सम्बन्ध । यी दुई सम्बन्धको कारण नायकभित्र चलिरहेको मनोद्वन्द्व उपन्यासको अर्को पक्ष हो र यसले पुरुषमनोविज्ञानलाई प्रस्तुत गरेको छ ।
उपन्यासमा कथानकसँगसँगै अन्य सन्दर्भहरू पनि अगाडि बढेका छन् । खासगरी देशको समसामयिक सन्दर्भ, साहित्यिक सन्दर्भ र विरोधाभासपूर्ण जीवन बाँचिरहेका आजका मानिसका सन्दर्भ उपन्यासमा निकै प्रभावकारी रूपमा आएका छन् ।
उपन्यासलाई रोचक, सामयिक र विश्वसनीय बनाउनका लागि उपन्यासकारले विभिन्न उपक्रम गरेका छन् । अमेरिका र नेपालको परिवेशको चित्रण गरिएको यस उपन्यासमा नेपालमा गएको भूकम्प र यसले पारेको प्रभाव, नाकाबन्दी, मधेस आन्दोलन र अन्य राजनीतिक सन्दर्भ र लोडसेडिङले पारेको अस्तव्यस्तताको सन्दर्भलाई समेत कलात्मक रूपमा प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।
यसका साथै विश्वप्रसिद्ध साहित्यकार र दार्शनिकहरूका आप्तवाक्य, गीत, श्लोक र मिथकीय सन्दर्भहरूका साथै विभिन्न विषयका अनुसन्धानका रिपोर्टहरूलाई समेत कथानकमा प्रवेश गराएर उपन्यासलाई रोचक बनाइएको छ ।
वास्तवमा मान्छे विरोधाभासहरूमा बाँच्छ, झन् त्यसमाथि पनि शिक्षित वर्ग । यस उपन्यासको प्रमुख पात्रको जीवनमा देखिएका तमाम विरोधाभासहरू पनि आजका शिक्षित र बौद्धिक भनिएका वर्गमा पाइने विरोधाभासहरू हुन् ।
उदाहरणका लागि, कुनै जानकारी र पूर्वसूचनाबिना नै श्रीमतीलाई छोडेर प्रेमिका भेट्न हिँडेको पात्र एयरपोर्ट पुगेर भन्छ, लाग्यो– आज मैले आफ्नै जीवनको उत्सव मनाइरहेको छु । जेलबाट छुटेको कैदीले जस्तै । मानौँ, एउटा अपराधी आजबाट स्वतन्त्र छ । लाग्यो– यस्तो दिन जिन्दगीमा विरलै आउँछ । यस्तो खुसीको दिन, यस्तो स्वतन्त्रताको दिन । म त हिरासतबाट निक्लिएको स्वतन्त्र कैदी हुँ आजबाट । (पृ. २१)
फेरि उही पात्र त्यही ठाउँमा बसेर सोच्छ, म लाछी भएर उनलाई थाहै नदिई यसरी हिँड्नु थियो भने मैले किन बिहे गरेँ ? किन मैले उनलाई यसरी एक्लै विदेशमा छोडेर भाग्दै छु ? म किन यो गलत काम गरिरहेछु ? (पृ.२२)
यसरी आफूले सही गरिरहेछु वा गलत भन्ने कुरामा नै नायकमा द्विविधा छ । यस्तै–यस्तै अन्योल र जटिलताहरूलाई उपन्यासमा सूक्ष्म रूपमा देखाइएको छ ।
विरोधाभासहरू झल्काउने सन्दर्भहरू उपन्यासको सुरुदेखि अन्त्यसम्म जताततै छन् । जस्तै ः आदर्श नै झुट हो भनेर दाबी गरिरहेको पात्र, आफू आदर्श पात्र हुन नसकेकोमा पछुतो मान्छ । श्रीमतीकै लागि टाढा हुन खोजेको हुँ भन्छ र अपराधबोधले तर्सन्छ । मान्छेको सौन्दर्य बाह्य आवरणमा होइन, अन्तर्यमा हुन्छ भन्दै गर्दा वेटर नितम्ब हेर्न नपाएकोमा खिन्न हुन्छ ।
समाजशास्त्रमा स्नातकोत्तर गरेको युवक महिला खुम्चिएरै बाँचेको मन पराउँछ । प्रेमिकालाई आफ्नो स्वामित्वको ठान्छ र तुरुन्तै महिलावादीहरूसँग डराउँछ । नास्तिक हुँ भन्छ, तर पशुपति र ज्योतिषकोमा जान्छ । परम्परामा विश्वास छैन भन्छ, तर पतिव्रता श्रीमती रुचाउँछ ।
यस्तै–यस्तै विरोधाभासहरूमा यस उपन्यासको नायक बाँचेको छ र यही आजको यथार्थ हो । समाज यस्तै चरित्रहरूले निर्मित भएको छ र यस यथार्थलाई सूक्ष्म रूपमा प्रस्तुत गर्न सक्नु यस उपन्यासको विशेषता हो ।
उपन्यासमा प्रमुख पात्र नायक मानवीय कमजोरीयुक्त पात्र हो । नायकलाई आदर्शीकरण नगरी यथार्थ रूपमा प्रस्तुत गरिनु उपन्यासको राम्रो पक्ष हो । ऊ विभिन्न अन्योल, अस्पष्टता, पश्चात्ताप, अपराधबोध, हीनताबोध र अनिश्चितताको बन्दी बनेको छ ।
तर, उपन्यासका नारी पात्र (उसकी श्रीमती र प्रेमिका) जुनसुकै प्रवृत्तिका भए पनि आफैँमा स्पष्ट छन् । उनीहरू अन्योलमा छैनन् । उनीहरूमा अपराधबोध पनि छैन र उनीहरू निरीह पनि छैनन् । आफैँमा आत्मनिर्भर, स्वाभिमानी उनीहरू नायकको तुलनामा सशक्त देखिन्छन् ।
यसरी परम्परित नायकत्वको मापदण्डलाई भत्काएर यथार्थको चित्रण गरिएको प्रस्तुत उपन्यास पछिल्लो समयको नेपाली समाज र पुस्ताको यथार्थ चित्र हो ।
साभार: समालोचक ज्ञानु अधिकारीले तुलसी आचार्यकृत उपन्यास ‘मोचन’ माथि गर्नुभएको समिक्षा बार्हखरीबाट साभार गरिएको हो।
Some time ago, one of the parliamentarians questioned to my question: “Who would listen to me in the parliament?” when I asked him “Why could not you bring about any reformative change in your territory from where you were elected?” My question was regarding people’s social and economic status. He was elected through the proportional voting system.
He further said, “I am bichara (poor) there. My voice is not heard. I feel like I am merely there to fill in the gaps in the parliament. I feel like I am one of the oppressed here, but I never felt so in my community.”
The Subaltern In “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” Gayatri Spivak writes: “The subaltern has no history and cannot speak.” According to Spivak, the subalterns are the oppressed group of people. It can be anyone among the “lowest strata of the rural gentry, impoverished landlords, rich peasants and upper middle peasants all of whom belonged, ideally speaking, to the category of “people” or “subaltern classes.” All those who are oppressed cannot be subaltern, but all the subaltern can be oppressed. The subaltern can be heterogeneous in composition or demographic, and economically and socially uneven. A class, a group of people or a person “dominant in one area could be dominated in another” (Spivak).
Candidly speaking, the parliamentarian’s woe was an indication that even if he was dominant and popular in his area from where he was elected through the proportional voting system, he was among the oppressed ones in the parliament, meaning nobody heard his voice. Thus, he could not truly represent his people, nor was he able to speak up, nor would anyone hear him out. This is, indeed, the situation in Nepali politics where the majority of the politicians cannot truly represent the marginalised community, people’s mandate, and their voices.
Nepali politics has historically been dominated by elitism, by certain class of people, by a “bourgeois-nationalist elitism,” that merely reinforces the idea of the collective consciousness of nationalism without reaching out to the individual consciousness or the narratives of diverse Nepali citizens. It is important to understand and respect how each individual view the nation and themselves and their expectations. Nepali population is heterogeneous, demographic, and socially, culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse.
Until we hear them or the one who represents them out, certain sections of people will be left behind and will always remain oppressed, including other marginalised people, such as women, disabled, people in poverty, Dalits and so on. The certain class of people in Nepali politics fails (or chooses not) to understand that Nepal’s population is diverse in terms of culture, castes, and creeds. The result will be the woes of the oppressed like how one of the parliamentarians felt.
The leaders of our nation essentialise the evenness of Nepali demography based on their perspectives and impressions without checking the facts, looking back to the past, or not going back to the source they came from or the society they lived in. Until they hear the voices and narratives coming from different people living in different strata of society, the leaders can never do good for the nation and its well-being. The master-slave narrative unconsciously hangs in the so-called leaders’ mind that does not let them prioritise the voices of the subaltern in politics. The leaders think in terms of their own limited interests which Sigmund Freud might call “libidinal” instead of social or national.
The meaning of the word “libidinal” I have used here in this context is not relating to the libido or sexual, but to the economic self-interest of the politicians. In his book “Libidinal Economy (1974),” French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard uses the term referring to the systems of exchange and valuation for fantasies, desires, fears, aversions, and enjoyment.
The irony lies in Nepali politics. Political parties advocate for the rights and representations of the oppressed and the subaltern. They have brought women, disabled, homosexual, and other indigenous representatives in the parliament to represent the voices of the voiceless, to address the conditions of the people who are left on the margins, to ameliorate the conditions of the oppressed group of people. But the question is: do the oppressed have opportunity or encouragement to speak? Can they represent the marginalised, the oppressed, the subaltern? Are their voices being heard? Going back to the parliamentarian, I mentioned above: Who will speak for the marginalised? Who will hear them out? How can truly one represent the consciousness of the subaltern, their rights and their woes?
Guided by ‘self’ Some politicians in Nepal are guided by the ideology of “self” while the marginalised ones remain as others and that is exacerbating when the political representation is divided between self and other in practice. This will continue to pressurise the marginalised/oppressed to follow the ones in power and watch the politics of the oppressor.
Yes, after many political movements and upheavals, we have noticed that political parties raise the issue of the “subaltern,” but that doesn’t seem to be materialised yet besides being able to fulfil their own personal interests. However, they continue to keep their agendas up for their popularity, and that will continue to create an illusion of what they are going to do is to create a “good society.” When they don’t do what they say, it is high time we knew their intentions and penalise them in the election using our voting rights. Let’s think about politics: Can the subaltern speak?
(The author is a founding member and director of Social Science Department of NIRI (Nexus Institute for Research and Innovation).
The article was originally published in the Rising Nepal dated 22 November 2021
Dilapidated vehicles queue up in the traffic jam on the street in the valley. They emit black fumes, leaving its wispy trail behind where lies the weary building of the royal palace turned into a museum after the country abolished the monarchy on 28 May 2008. I struggle to muffle my mouth, and question, “why did I leave my village that gave me plenty of fresh air to breathe?” When the congestion becomes not only of vehicles but also of unwanted noise, carbon monoxide, traffic rule breakers, and political imbroglio, I vent my frustration at myself, “why the heck did I leave the peace of the countryside where I spent my childhood and adolescence?”
When I wake up to a cacophony of Kathmandu, I miss those days in the village when birds chirped on bamboo trees early in the morning, giving me a wake-up call. Bagmati River, which flows as if forlorn and gutter-filled, reminds me of how much I have missed the susurration of the Ramchandre river, clean and precinct—that now has become a relic of the past, that I can relish in my imagination. I can jump, whether dressed or undressed, into the river of my fantasy and swim. Nowhere do I find the joy in the valley these days.
Lure Of Town Why did I sell and leave our four acres of land we owned and limit myself to the area of four aana in Kathmandu? Why did I sell the freedom I had in the village? What joy would I have when I brag about my house in Kathmandu? All these questions have now started ringing in my ears like an uninterrupted bell, forcing me to sell the property in the valley, go back to the village, and reinvigorate myself and feel like a Phoenix that could rise from its ashes.
Here in Kathmandu, everything feels morbid. Life is in a rush. There is no rhythm. The river I want to jump into carries gutter life. The road I want to travel to suffers from potholes, traffic jams, or black fumes. The people seem to be mechanical or melancholic. Politics is absurd. Politicians sit in for protest, polluting the daily chores of life. They spread illusions of patriotism and bring innocent lives from the countryside to Kathmandu for protests, distributing false dreams. They don’t trust their government, nor the judiciary system. Power, pennies, and promiscuousness are what tend to be guidi ng principles of politicians’ behaviour and attitudes. It becomes suffocating. I belch all the acids Kathmandu gives me and that mingles with the dust and fume in the air in the valley.
I enter a coffee shop just for a break for myself and contemplate Kathmandu over sips of coffee. Kathmandu remained an exotic place for many visitors and foreigners for years, for example, Pico Lyer in his book “Video Night in Kathmandu” describes his impression of Kathmandu in the 1980s as “delirious.” He writes, “I felt as if I had tumbled into the jangled and kaleidoscoped subconscious of an opium freak.” His description of Kathmandu is so “cool.” In his description, he brings so many social, cultural, and religious paraphernalia into play. He portrays Kathmandu as “the land of mystic delights.” Peter J, Karthik explores then Kathmandu even more picturesquely in his recent novel “Kathmandruids: Monomyths and many myths.”
When I came to Kathmandu, I didn’t think of these. I don’t know how foreigners view Kathmandu these days, but in my heart, it always remained as a city of temples, the capital city of Nepal. When I came here, I only thought of my future and my career, my further studies, and going abroad. I only thought of Kathmandu as the biggest city of Nepal where we have big universities, big institutions, big airports, celebrities, politicians, and opportunities.
Deploring State I never thought of the current deploring state of Kathmandu that has still failed to equally mete out the opportunities across the country even after the collapse of so many political systems and regimes that range from the Rana regime to the loss of monarchy to federal democratic republic. I never thought that the countryside joy I inherited within me would be sucked out of me by the suffocation of Kathmandu. I only chased my dreams that I thought Kathmandu would provide, but never realized how much I would miss the actual dream I would eventually vie for. Kathmandu has made many hearts that have come from villages seeking the opportunity weary. So much has happened, but that remains like “much ado about nothing.”
I come out to the road in the evening and see women in their mid-twenties and mid-thirties selling ready-made Chinese cheap clothes on the street while breastfeeding their babies while black fumes still coming from the vehicles seem to adulterate the mother’s milk. Men and women — their faces wrinkled like creases of a pair of trousers that were never ironed; they are supposed to be living a retired life now— are barbecuing corn on the wood-fire and selling them, and the customers still bargaining for the price. Some of the “Indian looking” Madheshi people selling chatpate are asking if I would want it while I see others eating and their tongues producing hot-spicy sounds that make the saliva roll down inside my mouth.
Chasing Dreams I think all of them are chasing dreams, that could be bigger or smaller depending upon who views it in what way. There are many theories about dreams, but dreams are perceptions too, and they are matters of time, I reckon. What I once thought as my dream is not a dream anymore. Now I find my dreams in the valley becoming hazier, wandering like the smog that seems to cover the hills of the valley on the horizon. The village I left in search of my dream becomes my dream, taller and clearer.
In the village, I find peace, hard-working people on the farm, and organic life and vegetation. In the village, I will be the first to see the sun, the moon, and the stars. In the village, I can grow vegetables, fruits, and plants in the soil, can sweat and take a shower from tube water—bucket by bucket. In the village, I can dance to the rhythm of the plant leaves’ twirling, can behold the sunset on the horizon, can listen to the moo-moo, or mew, or cock-a-doodle-do. In the village, I can be the king of my own life. Living in the Kathmandu valley, I have been missing all of them.
My dream is to grow rice and lentils on my farm and consume them as my meal. Who doesn’t know about them? Whoever comes to visit Nepal does not go unaware of rice and lentils. Otherwise, ask Rory Stewart who wrote in his New York Times bestseller nonfiction “The Places in Between” – “I ate… rice and lentils, some nights adding black millet bread,” that was the only food we ate once upon a time when my parents were very poor. Let’s make “back to the village” a reality, not just a dream!
(The author is Assistant Professor of English at South Georgia State College, USA)
(Published in the Rising Nepal dated 30 Apr, 2021)
Government needs to understand that appreciation of different perspectives and criticisms can only help the government become more accountable
I wonder why we are so critical of the government and the government is intolerant of criticisms that come from people. Who are critical of the government? They are people whose lives are still in lurch and whose aspirations are still not addressed. They are the media that carry the voices of such people.
When they become critical of the government, the government loses tolerance. So we have Media Council Bill or rhetorical attacks our Prime Minister KP Oli launched against editors for not possessing a “strong heart” to praise the “good deeds.” This has created a rift, or a lack of harmony between the Oli-led government and people or media that are critical of the government.
The majority government is unable to establish harmony with people due to “cheap talk” of the Prime Minister who never accomplishes what he promises on time, thus widening the gap between the government’s roles and the people’s expectations. So many of us profusely vent irrational feelings of dislike and hatred on social media toward the government that vows for the development of the country, but things are not happening in a way they are expected to. However, the government is not willing to accept this truth.
People are told to accept that development is happening. People consider that a lie because they think that just cutting ribbons or inaugurating some developmental projects will not lead the nation to prosperity. It is because livelihood of majority of Nepali people has not improved. Even today, according to Asian Development Bank, 26 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, and 34 out of 1000 babies born in Nepal die. Compared to global scenario, the conditions of many Nepali people are worse in terms of health, education, employment and other facilities.
This gap between lack of delivery and people’s expectations, the gap between the criticism and the government’s lack of tolerance, the gap between the government’s rhetoric/argument and people’s observations/counterargument has created animosity and hatred against each other, between the majority government and people who have been waiting for too long for minimum change in life.
The government thinks that people and media, that are supposed to represent different voices of people from the streets, are biased against the government while the people and media realize that the government has been very slow in executing development projects effectively and efficiently. People think that it is all because of weak leadership, poor vision and “cheap talk.” The more hesitant and obdurate the government becomes to listen to the media and people, the more the government will be lambasted upon. There will remain only a handful of loyalists to worship the government and the rest will be its critics.
The government expects each of us to trust it. Those who don’t, according to Prime Minister Oli, are “regressive.” Oli is biased toward those who do not like his talk. This is an indirect way of oppression of the critical voices. Oli tends to exclude people who are critical of the government, thus creating a further gap between the ruler and the ruled, discouraging people to equally participate with the government, and dismissing people who are critical of the government.
Government should appreciate the criticisms as voices for reform. Otherwise, the government may feel humiliated and try to put more power and oppression upon people and media.
Those in the authority do not accept the criticism easily. Our education system tends to discourage criticism. For example, if a teacher is asked a question or argued against his/her views or performance by a student, s/he will feel more threatened and challenged. This way students’ creativity, alternative thoughts, or out of the box perspective is squashed. This reflects in politics too. We are preached and supposed to follow or listen without questioning the practice or the views in politics, bureaucracy and institutions. Thus people who are given authority feel threatened or challenged when they are asked questions.
People in power start looking for a weapon to fight against such criticisms so that they can portray themselves as good leaders doing great things for the country. They aim at increasing the number of party loyalists by creating rhetoric that blames people who are critical of the government and appreciate those who praise the government. When people become ‘yes’ men it will create a hierarchy between the governor and the governed. Such gaps may kill the democratic practices and it may become detrimental to our development process.
The government needs to understand that appreciation of different perspectives and criticisms can only help the government become more accountable. The government needs to build positive attitude toward people who are critical of the government. The attitude that whatever the government is doing is flawless, bigger, better and unquestionable will further create a rift between the government and the people and media who are critical of the government. Then the government tends to become autocratic as well. Criticisms help the government to diagnose its mistakes, which when rectified, can make people happy.
The author is Assistant Professor of English at South Georgia State College, USA. He is also the author of “Sex, Gender, and Disability in Nepal” and “Running from the Dreamland”
मानवीय सम्बन्ध र खासगरी पति र पत्नीबीचको वैवाहिक सम्बन्धमा आएको दरारबाट जन्मिएको हो मोचन। जीवनको खुसी र मुक्ति खोज्ने क्रममा आत्महत्याभन्दा आध्यात्मिकताको बाटो रोजेपछि जन्मिएको हो मोचन। विभिन्न परिवेशमा बाँचेका जोडीहरूलाई बुझ्न र बुझाउन जन्मिएको हो मोचन। यो प्रेम, प्रणय र रागको मात्र कथा होइन, त्योदेखिबाहेक अरू धेरै कुरा हो भन्न जन्मिएको हो मोचन। मोचन गर्भ बस्नुअघि केही महत्त्वपूर्ण विषयसँग भएको थियो सहवास। त्यही सहवासबाट जन्मिएको हो मोचन जसले मानवीय सम्बन्धका धेरै पाटामध्ये एकलाई उजागर गरोस् भन्ने चाहनाबाट जन्मिएको थियो।
मानवीय सम्बन्धका बारेमा केही लेख तथा रचना नलेखेको भने होइन तर विपरीत लिंगीय प्रेम तथा प्रणय सम्बन्धका बारेमा भने बिरलै कलम चलाउने गर्थें। न त त्यो विषयमा कलम चलाउनेबारे कुनै सोचाइ नै बनाएको थिए। पढ्न त थुप्रै नेपाली तथा विदेशी साहित्य पढें। खासगरी आख्यानमा जसले प्रेम, प्रणय र पतिपत्नी, प्रेमीप्रेमिकाको प्रेम तथा सम्बन्धलाई उजागर गरोस् जस्तो बीपी कोइरालाको ‘सुम्निमा’, पारिजातको ‘शिरीषको फूल’, भ्लादिमिर नाभाकोभको ‘लोलिता’, डीएच लरेन्सको ‘लेडी च्याटरलिज लभर’ आदि इत्यादि।
हुन त प्रेम, प्रणय र सम्बन्धका विविध आयाम हुन्छन्। अरूले कलम चलाएका विषयमा कलम चलाइराख्नु भनेको सस्तो साहित्य उत्पादन गर्नु हो भन्ने सोचिनँ। यस्तो हल्लामा केही लेख्दै नलेख्नुले झन् सम्बन्धको अर्को पाटो छुट्न सक्छ भन्ने पनि लाग्यो। बजारमा बिक्ने भनेकै प्रेम, रोमान्स र दुःखका सामग्री भएकाले त्यसैमा लेखेछ भन्ने आरोपसँग पनि डराउनु हुँदैन भन्ने लाग्यो। तिनै विषयमा पनि फरक कोण र दृष्टिकोणबाट आख्यानहरू लेख्न सकिन्छ। पाठकलाई सूचित गर्न सकिन्छ। मानवीय सम्बन्धका फरक पाटाहरू केलाउन सकिन्छ। समाजलाई योगदान दिन सकिन्छ। नवीनतम साहित्य जन्माउन सकिन्छ।
तर मेरो रोजाइ, लेखन अभ्यास तथा अनुसन्धानको पाटो भने सीमान्तकृत वर्ग, महिला र पिछडिएका आवाजविहीनहरूको आवाज थियो। र तिनीहरू नै मेरो आख्यानका पात्रहरू हुन सक्थे। नेपाल जस्तो पितृसत्तात्मक समाजमा महिला कसरी दबिएर बसेका छन्, त्यहाँ कस्तो विभेद छ भन्ने विषयवस्तुमा अध्ययन, अनुसन्धान गर्न बानी परेकाले मेरो आख्यानको विषय पनि त्यही नै हुनुपर्ने हो। तर ठीकविपरीत हाम्रो समाजमा पुरुषहरू पनि कसरी र कस्तो अवस्थामा पीडित हुन सक्छन् भन्ने विषयलाई, पुरुष मनोविज्ञानलाई उठान गर्नुपर्ने आवश्यकताको महसुस हुन पुग्यो। त्यो महसुस देखे, भोगे, सुने र अनुभव गरेको समाज, परिवेश र पात्रहरूको कारण थियो।
नेपाली समाजमा हुर्केर पितृसत्ताको संस्कारमा अभ्यस्त भए पनि उच्च शिक्षा हासिल गर्न अमेरिका पुगेपछि नेपाली समाजका नारी र पुरुषपात्र, उनीहरूका जीवन, समाज र सम्बन्ध बुझाइ अनि तिनै पात्रहरू रोेजें। जो अमेरिकी समाजमा भिजिसकेपछि तिनमा आएको परिवर्तन, स्वतन्त्रता र सम्बन्धको बुझाइ र त्यसले ल्याएका परिणतिहरूलाई नजिकबाट नियाल्ने अवसर पाएँ। आफ्ना कमजोरी पनि थाहा पाएँ। यस उपन्यास ‘मोचन’का लागि तीनवटा सन्दर्भ छन्। पहिलो आफ्नै वैवाहिक सम्बन्धले सिकाएका कुरा, दोस्रो समाजका लागि बाहिर हाँसेर र भित्र पीडामा रही सम्बन्धलाई टिकाइराख्ने पात्रहरूसँगको भेट र तेस्रो नेपाली पात्रहरूमा परेको अमेरिकी समाज र संस्कृतिको प्रभाव।
यी सबै कुराको समागमपछि बसेको मोचनको गर्भलाई म तुहाउन पनि सक्थें। तर त्यो भ्रूण मभित्र यसरी बस्यो कि लाग्यो यदि त्यो तुहियो भने एउटा सुन्दर बच्चाको हत्या हुनेछ। यो समाजले त्यसलाई हेर्न, सुन्न, देख्न र पढ्न पाउने छैन। न त त्यो आख्यानात्मक बच्चाले यो समाज देख्न पाउनेछ। यद्यपि जन्माउनु अघिसम्म भयानक प्रसव पीडा हुनेछ। ती पात्रहरू यसरी आइरहे, यसरी मलाई हल्लाइरहे र पटक पटक ‘वार्निङ’ दिइरहे कि गर्भ तुहाउने कल्पनै गर्न सकिनँ। त्यसपछि मोचन आख्यानलाई मानसिक गर्भमा हुर्काउन थाले।
जसरी एउटी महिला गर्भवती भएपछि ऊ डाक्टरकोमा जान्छे। हरेक महिना शरीर चेकअप गराउँछे। डाक्टरको सल्लाहबमोजिम विभिन्न भिटामिनका तत्त्वहरू सेवन गर्छे। सुन्न थालें उनीहरूको जीवन भोगाइ, महसुस गर्न थालें आफैंले भोगेको समाज र परिवेशलाई। घण्टौं इन्टरनेटमा बसेर अध्ययन तथा अनुसन्धान गर्न थाले र बुझ्न थाले प्रेम, प्रणय र सम्बन्धका पाटाहरूलाई। ती मेरा लागि ‘फोलिक एसिड’ भए। विभिन्न विश्वविद्यालयले गरेका अनुसन्धान, अमेरिकन रंगीन समाज, काठमाडौंको तपोवन यात्रादेखि महान् विचारकहरूको महान्वाणी, पात्रहरूका भोगाइसम्मका कथा पढें। बल्ल मोचनका औपन्यासिक अंगहरूको निर्माण हुँदै गयो। तर त्यतिबेला जुन गर्भमा थियो, मेरो औपन्यासिक बच्चाको पोजिसन ‘ब्रिच’ अर्थात् उल्टो थियो- टाउको माथि, खुट्टा तल।
फेरि सकस भइरह्यो, जन्माउने कि नजन्माउने भनेर। जन्मिएपछि यसले दिन सक्ने योगदानहरू असरल्ल आइरहे आँखाभरी। लाग्यो मोचनलाई समाउनेहरूले बुझ्नेछन्, पढ्ने छन्, देख्नेछन् र सुन्नेछन् भौतिकवादी दुनियाँदेखि आध्यात्मिक दुनियाँसम्मको कथा। पतिपत्नीबीचको सम्बन्धमा आएको दरारले ल्याएको दुःखान्त र डरलाग्दा परणीतिदेखि प्रेम र प्रणयको रोमान्टिक र जीवनखुसी र स्वतन्त्रताका रहरलाग्दा जीवनमुक्ति। र समग्रमा खुसी के हो ? सम्बन्ध के हो ? पतिपत्नी र उनीहरूबीचको सम्बन्ध के हो ? समाज के हो ? प्रेम विश्वास के हो ? आदि प्रश्नका उत्तरहरू पनि थाहा पाउनेछन् भन्ने लाग्यो। त्यही बीचमा मैले यति धेरै आलंकारिक पानी पिएँ कि खुट्टा तल पारेर गर्भमा बसेको मेरो मोचन बच्चाले अघि कतिखेर टाउको तल पारेर बसिसकेको रहेछ। र, जन्मियो अस्पतालरूपी फिनिक्स बुक्समा मोचन।
When the Rambo films started hitting the box office way back in the early eighties, liberal critics considered it a ‘jerk’ and almost a regression, while for the nationalists, it was a respite. America was tired of being exposed, first by writers and creators, especially the absurdists, surrealists and the queers, and second by critics and frank journalists, say for example, Frederick Jameson, Noam Chomsky and Samuel P. Huntington. When it lost to Vietnam in a humiliating way, America had no screen to defend its failure. The old grand narrative of being a Super Power wouldn’t do. So America invented a mask, called Rambo, which tried in vain to rescue the lost American nationalism.
American dream lingered, in spite of innumerable punctures from within. Withstanding blows right from the days of hard realists like Arthur Miller, through a band of Jazz and Blues artists in the middle, way down to the days of naturalist fiction writers like John Steinbeck, American lingered. This is because the world elsewhere could not develop itself as the best location for dreamers, so obviously, America continued to be the promised land. The EDV culture, and magnetic student-attraction strategies from all over the world continued to make America a Venus flytrap, and the same is true to our own days. The Venus flytrap continues to suck life-sap from emigrants, and to throws the chaff of their beings back to their abandoned homelands ultimately.
These feelings rose in my mind, as I flipped through the pages of RunningfromDreamland, a deeply engaging fiction by young Nepali novelist Tulasi Acharya. Almost in every page of the novel, I could figure novelist Acharya himself, though I constantly reminded my critical self that I should not, at any rate, be a victim of fallacies, whatsoever. But then, the moment novelist Acharya appears as an aspirant academic flying all the way to the US from home and molding an identity there, there is every possibility that the fault-line between his novel’s fictional reality, and the author’s own lived reality, get blurred. When a work of fiction permeates through reality and evokes virtual belief, the work attains extraordinary success. I rate Running from Dreamland as a work of such success, at least for its storyline.
The story centers on a Nepali migrant character Deepak, who flies to America, living his old and poor parents back in Nepal. A lecturer of English at home and a man of high repute, his craze for an American degree whirls him hard, until he ends up flying. He has other dreams: “…of building his own home in America, a sprawling house like the ones he had seen in films, and owning a brand new Mercedes.” Dreams multiply. He also wants to “…marry Melissa, and start living in the US.” Readers to not approve of these groundless dreams for Deepak who still drags an ambition to take care for his ailing and old parents back home. Yet these high dreams serve as a tragic flaw for Deepak, and he qualifies to the rank of an average emigrant in America, following lucrative but fatal dreams.
Deepak is on loan at home. On top of that, he has made fake financial documents to earn an I20 from the university he is enrolled in. Upon landing there, the apartment rent, the living cost and the tuition fee he has to pay sum up to an impossible amount. The university denies him a scholarship; the International Student Affair department shrugs off, either. Being someone on student visa and having no social security number, he cannot work off the campus. Reality punctures his soul.
Thank God, Lucas and Vanessa, students who receive him at the airport, share their apartment with him at 300 dollars a month. Ganesh, a Nepali migrant student who has hybridized himself with American ways beyond repair, finds him a job at Sunny Bagel, owned by one Vikas from Bangladesh. Deepak has to sweep, mop, wash dishes, serve customers, make bagels and what not! Back home, he used to be a lecturer and lived a life of repute. The new job falls like a chisel on his pride, and he cries, considering the hellish nature of his work in the US. Since income from Sunny Bagel falls short of his needs, he also joins Succulent Sandwiches, another firm earned by the same man. In both the locations, same is the work, and similarly bruised is his sentiment.
With no car of his own, no scholarship, no close mate to share his mind, no job of honor and no enough money in hand, Deepak spends the hardest days of his life. His roommates, Lucas and Vanessa, are impertinent love birds, kissing licentiously at any place they like, and living lives of utter indifference. At his work place, the boss Vikas is professionally a perfectionist, who neither sympathizes with Deepak—even when he has a fever, or his mother is sick at home—nor ever tries to ease his work. Rita, a Nepali at Succulent Sandwiches, and Melissa, a migrant student at his university are the only people who show some lineation towards him. Rita reminds him how America sucks, how Nepali degrees fail, and how one should work like a donkey, forgetting honor and prestige back in Nepal. Melissa helps him with his language, shares moments in the college, drops him to his apartment in her cars, listens to his romantic poems, locks hands with him on their bench, and oftentimes kisses him. In other word, Melissa is his lucky charm; his crush in the US.
Deepak’s life so far represents the jeopardy of a typical emigrant student, who both faces alien atmosphere and endures inhospitable people. But Deepak has his determinations: to earn a degree at all cost, and fulfill the aforementioned dreams. One of the worst contingencies he faces is the unreliable nature of American friends, and the rough way of their dream. The sudden break-up of Lucas and Vanessa not only leaves him dumbfounded, but also deprives him of the shared apartment, and he has to move to Ganesh’s room, in spite of his aversion for Ganesh’s uncivil nature. Before long, Ganesh’s abusive manners fall hard on his self-respect and he leaves him too, finally taking refuge at the apartment of David, another emigrant student, who is sharing his room with Hee, a lanky student doing his study in the same University.
One of the subtle aspects of the novel is the way it brews translucent cultural and personal conflicts, and launches it as a sudden blast. There are at least three other serious cases in point. First, David makes a sudden decision to quit America and go back home in Europe to serve his ailing mother. This puts Deepak’s anchor in jeopardy, as the apartment he lives in has been leased by David. David’s quitting means Deepak has lost his grounds. Second, on his way home from his workplace, two boys attack him with a knife one night, trying to rob him of the little cash he potentially has in hand. Thanks to his potent retaliation, they can do nothing, but this slices Deepak’s hope in America and he grows disoriented to the extent of calling names with David, the man who gave him grounds to stand after he broke his terms with Ganesh. Third, though he has shared many intimated moments together, Melissa gives him a cold response when he proposes for marriage. About the time he has graduated from his college, Deepak makes up his mind to move for Florida where his cousin Biplav lives, he offers to take Melissa along. But Melissa writes him an email, not only rejecting his proposals but also alleging him of being self-centered, inconsiderate to her choices, and religiously alien to her Irish Catholic stock. This blow is enough to shatter almost all of Deepak’s shaky American dreams. He pleads her to reconsider her decisions, but to no avail. Though he has a hard-won degree in hand, he had no anchor, no ground, no love, no hope, and no confidence left in him. Though America has at times offered him consolatory hopes, including better skills at Succulent Sandwiches, improved job conditions and better payment at a gas station, a state tuition waiver at the college and a prospect of getting settled in Florida, all these things amount to nothing. Like a child, he cries, cursing his fate. Like a loser, he decides to return to Nepal.
The novel is deeply engaging for a few nascent issues its picks. Though many things are ritualistic and predictable, including the plight of an average Nepali laity flying to America, his suffering, and the mundane airport details, there are other subtle agendas that grip. The narrative forces readers to consider cultural fault-lines, different non-verbal communication systems, conflicts of expectations and values, and romantic nature of unwarranted dreams that often fall hard on the thorns of life and bleed. To take an example, we may consider Deepak’s insensitivity to hug Ganesh in the public and wearing a pink, typical of gays in the US. His inability to correctly read Vikas’ ground-to-earth demeanors, Rita’s emotionless attitude to life and work and her agentic ways of teaching him things, and Ganesh’s flat and straight rejoinders, is an outcome of self-pity and the fallacy of static viewpoint, namely the expectation of domestic sensitivity in an alien land. Once prepared to face the worst, it does not justify for Deepak to shed tears off and on, including on Tihar days, when thousands of Nepali people are struggling, perking up, and booming not only in Ameica, but at many other locations of the world.
Deepak, at any rate, is an inconsistent and weak character, much pampered by love at home and false sense of pride, when his real capacity of endurance and adjustment is almost zero. He is a victim of exceptional degree of self-pity and is a dreamer without a strong base. He is irresolute. A man who struggled day and night to get settled in America, he forgets all his determinations and decides to return home, when two goons try to rob him of his pocket. He forgets that such goons are aplenty in Nepal as well. Second, rejection of his marriage proposal by Melissa does not sound a justifiable reason for him to quit the whole of America and return to Nepal. He, a graduate now, should be aware of the vulnerability of relations across religions, cultures and geographies. If he were a strong character, he would leave Melissa in peace and find another soul-mate, instead of crying and lamenting.
When grandmother’s demise and his mother’s illness back home, the family’s financial crunch, the forlorn festivals and his sisters’ love could not force him back, it leaves readers dumfounded to think, two trivial whimpers kicked his soul out of his ‘dreamland’. Some goons’ attack, and an alien girl’s rebuttal fling him back to his country as a staunch ‘nationalist’ , who says, “If we all leave our motherland for developed countries, who will care for her?” A pathetic character out and out.
But this is a bitter reality. The author catches the nerve of our time, when anchorless dreamers with false sense of pride, exceptional degree of self-pity, and dismal preparation for cultural encounters and failure at large, tend to wear false sense of nationalism to screen their failure. The novel also exposes the internal contradictions of America—the way it grills, the way international students suffer, the way love and marriage are broken in a fit of anger, the way man and machines differ only sparingly, and the way even copper glitters like gold.
The flow of the narrative is excellent and mature. The characterization is vivid, and the mental conflict excellently engaging. In a novel of 250 pages, it is congratulatory to have less than a dozen characters, the major ones being hardly a dozen. This makes it very comfortable for readers to identify each of the character, and share an empathetic engagement. Deepak, the protagonist is able to sustain the conflict throughout the novel. The slangs and informal expressions used occasionally fitted perfectly into the scheme of the colloquial talks in the American atmosphere. The author deserves a kudos.
The biggest weakness of the novel, however, is its shaky editing. Linguistic choice is not consistent. There is no uniformity in capitalization and italicization of words and phrases. Words borrowed from non-English lexicons are clumsily forced into the schema of English sentences and the incongruity stands out very conspicuously. At times, punctuations do not fit well. The layout design of the book is, frankly, repelling. Spacing and text justification are not only inconsistent but also crazy. But these are technical issues, and the publisher is more answerable for them. They do not drop any acid on the creation as such. (Copied from The Gorkha Times)