Sunday, February 18, 2018

Padma Devkota

What Is Good Literature?[1]

I want to begin by thanking the Literary Association of Nepal (LAN) for giving me this pleasant and honorable task of lighting the inaugural lamp today on the occasion of its Annual Conference 2013. May the light of this lamp burn throughout the year! May it kindle in our hearts a love for good literature, a thirst for the pursuit happiness through knowledge and a desire to use that knowledge for the cultural enhancement of our nation if not of the whole world!

Personally, I have been associated with LAN since its inception in 1980 when Professor Durga Prasad Bhandari was the President, Professor Yugeshwar Verma its Vice-President, and Professor Shreedhar Lohani its Secretary. I have been a part of its vicissitudes and seen how it has risen again and again to meet its scholarly goals and its general objectives despite financial and other problems in addition to the initial lack of paper writers. I am well aware of the tensions and anxiety that forerun an event such as the one that we have just inaugurated today. This is why I must congratulate all of you, especially the members of the executive committee, for keeping alive what must not wither away or die. Literature, and especially the Humanities, is going through a difficult period in our universities especially because of the present phase of political transition from utter confusion to higher sense. Once the transition is complete, I am sure that Literature and the Humanities will be given all due respect and recognition in our universities. Any government that does not give due importance to the Humanities will naturally weaken itself through spiritual and ethical atrophy.

Good literature has the virtue of being universally understood as the most soul-searching human activity, which transcends mere material existence. It is only when literature is regarded as a consumable product that its social and utilitarian function begins to outweigh its symbolic significance, its aesthetic expressions and its spiritual resonance. It is then that ideological lessons tend to take over the so-called social uselessness of art and literature. It is true also that good literature fashions attitudes and ambitions of people who take to heart its concerns, cogitations, and cognitions of what a good life is or should be. However, good literature is never didactic like good ideological propaganda literature. Poetry and propaganda stand miles apart, but totalitarian regimes often benefit by mixing up these two in confused public heads. Good literature is suggestive, simple in its concerns for human welfare, beautiful in its expressions of simple events of ordinary life, truthful in its recordings of human conditions, apt in its expressions of human values that are generally acceptable, and always optimistic and positive in its vision of human societies and progress. Good literature is different from a good book. A good book is readable but what it offers is not necessarily true; it is entertaining but not necessarily realistic; it is popular but not necessarily profound in its insights into minds, societies and cultures. James Joyce’s Ulysses is a bad book, which very few people read; but it is good literature. Ann Rynd’s Atlas Shrugged is a good book which many people read but not necessarily good literature. Sometimes mere popularity seems to stand as a measuring rod of good literature as in the case of Harry Potter. Although all the seven volumes of this series make interesting reading, they neither offer fresh philosophic perspectives into human life and condition, nor record the lived history of human pain, fear, dream or hope. It is a good series to read for mere entertainment, not for serious statements or profound understandings concerning human life and society. However, I must also admit that it is an excellent sample of good children’s literature.
                Good, serious literature must necessarily stir our emotions and, thereby, lead us to reexamine our thoughts, attitudes and traditions. This is why literature also makes things happen in the world. Today’s conference, for instance focuses on one particular instance of injustice: violence against women, which is a global issue. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is also violence against women and girls. Such violence, which takes place at home or in the public sphere, is only one example of injustice that gives rise to human suffering. Injustice and other similar inflictions of pain and suffering by human beings on other human beings or groups of people in the name of gender, race, religion, money, political power, etc. become the basic themes of literature. Injustice is one of the many problems of the human society against which poets and writers have been crying out since eons ago. This is what William Wordsworth bemoans when he writes: “And much it grieved my heart to think,/ What man has made of man.” And this is what Maya Angelou speaks out against so powerfully in “Still I Rise”:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
It seems to me that the best among poets is capable of speaking out more powerfully than the best among literary critics or theoreticians. These pour out their heart; those pin down their brains. Passion and piety often convinces us more quickly than any rosy rings of logic and rhetoric.

Good literature, therefore, educates the public sentiment with a gentle wave of the literary wand. People need to be educated all the year round. Any civilized society needs to develop a reading culture where ideas expressed by poets and writers are discussed so that one does not forget the injustice done by political regimes, races, religious groups or individuals upon other groups or individuals.  Keeping in mind the pains of evil helps us shun evil. So, one would expect such education to reduce crime and violence. One would expect politicizing an issue to solve some of our problems. One would expect that making laws against domestic violence against women would reduce such violence. The reality is that evil never dies and we are forced to fight it every day of our life with the best intention of a final victory, which (and I whisper this to you) is another fiction, another ideal we create to enhance our life. Of course, literature is concerned with denouncing such evil and sensitizing people to the need for common happiness. Any literature that deals with such social problems and issues and thinks about it seriously is good literature. And all good literature is optimistic, encouraging and warm with hopes of a better future.

Yet, we also know that, despite everything else, many writers and scholars are not placed in positions from where they can do anything much to improve unemployment and economic distress at home, which leads to such violence. They can at the most maintain their faith in good literature and keep shooing evil away with powerful voices that are heard by the masses. They can cultivate faith in synergetic action and in its ultimate positive effect, if not in eliminating crime and violence, at least in keeping these at bay. Once again, Maya Angelou beautifully expresses this act of eternally rising up against unending violence in the following lines:
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

I wish this Annual Conference of the Literary Association of Nepal a grand success. I hope it will encourage scholars to rise against evil, against sloth, against mediocrity to a loftiness of the spirit, to a profound sense of purpose and to an intellectual height that is visible from across all sorts of frontiers.

Thank you.

[1] Inaugural Address: Annual Conference 2013, LAN

Saturday, February 17, 2018

दोहोरो मापदण्डको प्रयोग

श्री श्रीओम श्रेष्ठज्यू
गोर्खापत्र संस्थान

मिति : वैशाख २५, २०६८

विषय : दोहोरो मापदण्डको प्रयोग बारे ।

पत्रकारिताको नियम अनुसार कसैले यौटा पत्रिकामा कुनै व्यक्तिलाई आक्षेप लगाएर मानहानी वा चरित्रहत्या हुने गरी लेख छाप्यो भने यसरी मानहानी वा चरित्रहत्या गरिएको व्यक्तिले सोहि पत्रिकामा आफ्ना कुराहरू जनतालाई बताउन पाउने नैसर्गिक अधिकार प्रजातान्त्रिक अभ्यास हो । कात्र्तिक २०६६ सालको मधुपर्क (महाकवि लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटा शतवार्षिकी विशेषाङ्क) मा छापिएको कृष्ण अविरलको “महाकवि : उपेक्षा, असहयोग र लेखकस्व विवाद” शीर्षकको लेखमा मलाई लिएर केही चरित्रहत्या गर्ने खालका आरोप र मानहानीहरू परेका रहेछन् भन्ने कुरा २०६७ सालको चैत्रको आधाआधीपछि मात्र थाहा पाएँ र त्यसको लगत्तै त्यस लेखको प्रतित्रिया पनि लेखें । मैले लेखेको सो लेख तपाईंलाई वैशाख ९, २०६८ सालमा मधुपर्कमा छाप्न भनेर पठाएको हुँ । बीचका अनेकौं फोनवार्तापछि वैशाख २३, २०६८ का दिन तपाईंले फोनबाट बताउनु भयो, “हामीले सल्लाहा गर्‍यौं र तपाईंको लेख मधुपर्कमा नछाप्ने भयौं ।” मेरो जवाफ थियो, “म गोर्खापत्र संस्थानको निर्णयको कदर गर्छु, तर म तपाईंहरूको निर्णयसँग सहमत छैन ।”

तपाईंकै अनुसार मेरो लेख नछाप्ने कारण मध्ये प्रमुख कारण निम्न तीनवटा रहेको बुझेको छु :– १) लामो भयो (कम्प्युटरमा आठ पेज लामो थियो), २) त्रि.वि. केन्द्रीय अंग्रेजी विभागको पुरानो आगोको इतिहास दोहोरियो र ३) अभि सुवेदीका बारेमा भनिएका कुरा कडा भए । के मेरा बारेमा छापिएका कुरा कडा थिएनन् ? कृष्ण अविरलको लेख छाप्ने बेलामा यो कुरा किन सोचिएन ? जनताले पसिना चुहाएर कर तिरेर पालेको संस्थानले दोहोरो मापदण्ड अपनाएर मेरा बारेमा अनेकौं गलत प्रचार गरिसकेपछि मैले बोलेको सत्यले कुनै संरक्षित व्यक्तिको छवि धमिलिएला कि भनेर मेरा पक्षका तर्क छाप्न अस्वीकार गर्नु कति न्यायोचित हो ? यो भन्दा ठूलो विडम्बना के हुन सक्छ ? मेरा बारेमा अनेकौं गलत आरोप र चरित्रहत्या छाप्न तपाईंलाई जति सहज थियो मैले आफ्नो लेखमा बोलेको सत्य छाप्न तपाईं उति नै डराउनु भयो । यो अनैतिक पत्रकारिता हो ।

“तपाईंले तीललाई पहाड बनाउनु भयो” भनेर तपाईंले मलाई फोनबाट भन्नुभएको कुरा पनि ठीक होइन । दैनिक पत्रपत्रिकामा मृत्युको समाचार पढिरहेका व्यक्तिका लागि मृत्यु समाचार बन्न छोडेझैं एकआर्कालाई लुछिरहने कवि र साहित्यकारका ह्दयले गैंडाको छाला ओडिसकेका हुन्छन् । त्यसैले उनिहरूलाई मुङ्ग्रोको मारसमेत पुष्पस्पर्श लाग्दो हो । मेरानिम्ति कृष्ण अविरलको लेखमा मुङ्ग्रोकै प्रहार थियो । यो कुरा तपाईंले बुझ्नुभएन ।

र अन्त्यमा कुरा प्रष्ट होस् कि राष्ट्रको शिक्षा र संम्पति नाश्ने अधिकार कसैको नहुँदा नहुँदै पनि त्रि.वि. केन्द्रीय अंग्रेजी विभागको आगो केही होइन भन्नेहरूले यो कुरा बुझ्न बाँकी छ कि बार्‍ह वर्ष त के बीस वर्ष पछि पनि भावि पुस्ताले यसको कारण खोज्ने छन् । सत्यलाई जति टाउकोमा ठटाए पनि त्यसले टाउको उठाइरहने छ । सत्यको जीत सभ्य समाजको आवश्यकता हो ।

प्रजातान्त्रिक अभ्यासतिर तपाईंहरूको मन जाओस्,

मधुपर्कको शुभचिन्तक,

पद्म देवकोटा

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From Setopul

I was delighted to see nature fight back
and reclaim a small portion of land from those
who had encroached upon her majestic flow.

The traffic upon the bridge was slow
for nothing would move ahead
the helmet lines were impatient but dead
upon their track as I stood on the pavement
clicking right and left. Below, the water still flowed.
Above, the blue sky was too deep to be mired
by the city haze. God! I heard right then
the wilds howl against human intelligence!

                                                                                January 10, 2018 8:25 p.m.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

स्वदेशीको सत्कार

२०७३ साल भदौ १७ गते मालिन्डो चढेर म र मेरी श्रीमती क्वालालम्पुर तर्फ प्रस्थान ग¥यौं । करीब पा“च घण्टाको उडान अवधिपछि टर्मिनल १ मा उत्रियौं । हामीलाई टर्मिनल २ बाट एअर एशिया समात्नु थियो । आफ्नो सामान लिनु अगाडि छोटो अवधिकालगि भए पनि भिजाका निम्ति निवेदन दिनु थियो । यस प्रकारको अनुभव प्रथम बार गर्दै गरेका हामीलाई कताबाट कता जाने हो भन्ने थिएन । विमानस्थल निकै ठुलो भएकोले गर्दा बाटो र ठाऊ“ खोज्दै खोज्दै तल र माथि, दाया“ र देब्रे गर्दै बल्लतल्ल ट्रेन चढ्ने ठाऊ“सम्म पुगियो । त्यहा“ भित्र छिर्न विद्युतीय ढोका थिए जसको अगाडि हामी पुग्दा तीन चार युवा कामदार गफ गरेर उभिएका देख्यौं । ती मध्येका एकजना हामीलाई देखेर आए । उनी नेपाली रहेछन् र उनका साथीहरू पनि ।

केही कुराकानी गरेपछि ती युवाले हाम्रा ठुलाठुला बाकसहरू समातेर गुडाउ“दै भने, “आउनुहोस्, म लगिदिन्छु ।” उनिले हामीलाई ट्रेन चढ्ने ठाऊ“सम्म लगिदिए । हामी उनिलाई धन्यवाद भन्न खोज्दै थियौं, ट्रेन आइपुग्यो । फेरी हाम्रा बाकस गुडाउ“दै उनि ट्रेनभित्र छिरे र हामीलाई पनि बोलाए । हामी पछि लाग्यौं र धन्यवाद भन्न चाहिरहेका थियौं । उनले भने, “म उतैसम्म पु¥याइदिन्छु ।” आस नगरेको सहायता पाएर हामी मनमनै दङ्ग भयौं । मेरी श्रीमतीले भनिन्, “किन कष्ट गर्नु प¥यो र ? हामी गइहाल्छौं नि π” उनि हा“स्दै भने, “हैन, के भो र ? हामी यस्तै सहायता गर्न बसेका हौं ।”

कुरा चल्दै जा“दा थाहा भयो यी सहयोगि युवा सिन्धुपाल्चोकका कृष्ण थापा मगर रहेछन् । क्वालालम्पुर विमानस्थलमा काम गरेर बसेको छ वर्ष भएछ । उनिले कथा पनि हाले – कैयौं यात्रु थाहा नपाएर टर्मिनल १ मै बसिरहेका हुन्छन् र उनिहरूको उडान छुटेर पछि दुःख पाउ“छन् रे π यसैले हामीलाई लगेज चेक इन् पनि उनैले गराइदिए । म र मेरी श्रीमती निकै थाकिसकेका थियौं । त्यसैले पनि मैले उनिलाई कृतज्ञता व्यक्त गर्नकै निम्ति पनि केही चीसो वा तातो पिउन निम्ताए“ । उनिले हामी हाल भएको तलामा खाना मह“गो हुने हुनाले आर्को तलामा जाने प्रस्ताव राखे र हामी उनिस“गै आर्को तलामा ओर्लियौं ।

त्यहा“ एक जना भारती नागरिकले चलाएका पसलमा रोटीचने खान कृष्णले प्रस्ताव राखे । त्यो चिल्लो हुन्छ कि भनेर यसो यताउति अरू कुरा खोजेपछि कस्तो रहेछ भनेर बुझ्न एक प्लेट मात्र अर्डर गरें र पैसा तिर्न थैलो निकाल्न हात खल्तितिर लगें । कृष्णले मानेनन् र भने, “हैन, म तिर्छुं ।”

मैले पनि मानिन, “त्यो त हुनै सक्दैन । म तिर्छुं ।”

उनि पनि कमका थिएनन् । केही बेरमै उनिले जिते, “मलाई तपाईंहरू आफ्नै आमाबाबु जस्तो लागिरहेको छ । म यही“ कमाएर बसेको छु । मेरो कमाई खुवाउन मन लाग्यो ।” उनिले वास्तवमा दुईदुई प्लेट रोटीचने र तीनवटा कफी मगाई छाडे ।

हामीले पनि त्यसो भए छोराछोरीले पनि त आमाबाबुले भनेको मान्नु पर्छ । हामीस“गै बसेर एक प्लेट रोटीचने खान प¥यो भनेर किनिदियौं । अनि तीनै जना बसेर खायौं, गफ ग¥यौं र बाटोको दुःख एकैछिनकालागि भए पनि भुल्यौं । मानौं यो यौटा पारिवारिक जमघट थियो ।

भदौ २१, २०७३

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stray Thoughts on a Sunny Morning

The human race, a wise Chinese once said,
should learn to hold three clear mirrors:
the mirror of brass in which is inlaid
the physical world of errors,
the mirror of people where your image
shines or fades beyond your control,
and the mirror of history, quick time’s rage,
which will just forget or extol.

But O! What are mirrors to eyes of stone
from which the divine spark has fled?
What are mirrors to flesh, blood and bone
though it be with the world inlaid?
Fame is the evil charm of history
in a mediocrity-centric world
where certainty defies all the mystery
and knowledge has too many folds.

I love the dab of colour on the leaf,
I love the autumn leaves of flesh,
I love the colours of human belief—
All these I love, all these I bless.
Some great being beneath the ground or high
in the turrets of the deep sky
receives my gratitude each day for I
welcome him and bid him good bye.

                                                Friday, 08 January 2016

Thursday, December 17, 2015

on writing

instead of writing just close your eyes
like you close your lies
when in blessed moments you spoke alone
and honesty shone
in limpid thoughts that raced through your being
without your seeing
and the power of the current you gushed forth
spoke its own worth
when without the intention you took a pen
and wrote again

December 17, 2015

Friday, March 21, 2014


अस्तव्यस्तताको आदि–गर्तबाट व्यबस्थाका छाल उठे
एकले अर्कोलाई घुचेडी सागरमा झैं लाम छुटे,
नियमित नाडी र लयात्मक ताल
निश्चित गर्दथे पुनरावृत्ति सिहरहरूको बारंबार ।
आदि–गर्तमा तैरिरहेथे उडूँउडूँ गर्ने फिंजफोका
ढाके व्योम अनन्त उल्लासी
टिरलिर कम्पित स्वरलहरीमा चर्को सुखको क्षणभरी
सृष्टिको त्यो प्रथम दिवसमा खुसीका विन्दु अति रो‘का ।
ज्योतिको त्यो बाँसुरी गुञ्जन चर्र चिरिकन अनकण्टार
च्याती अस्तव्यस्त सृष्टिपूर्वको मीश्रक्षार झैं चमत्कार–
द्वारा मोक्ष दिलाउन जागृत आत्माहरूकन सदासदा
रातको बन्धनबाट र मुक्ति दिलाउन पनि यदाकदा
जडको रासबाट उचाली, यसरी अव्यबस्थित नास्ति
व्युँझि आयो प्राण भरिदिंदा ज्योतिको त्यो बाँसुरीले,
जड पनि जाग्यो मातृभावमा, अनुकरण तिम्रै गर्न सिके
दिव्यकलाको, कलाकार भने सदासदा ती कतै छिपे ।

तीनका आत्माकन ज्योति थियो संगीत तमको निन्द्रामा
तर तिनले कुनै धून सुनेको भ्रम लिएर छक्क परे,
कान तिखारी, आँखा तानी, ध्यान दिई ती सुन्न बसे
र अनकण्टारका कुसूमपराग अनुभव गर्दै खूब रमे ।
कलाकार ती ह्द–ढुक्ढुकमा पाई बन्धी पार्ने प्रयास
गर्थे सबले आलिङ्गनको कण्टक झैं ली चस्किने आस
विफलतामा रोए सारा, रोदन–आद्र भयो प्रकाश,
घुर्की लगाए छली कलाकारलाई गराउँदै होसियार
किन कि यिनले पक्रिन पाए एक फेरा उसको वस्त्रफेर
बाँधिराख्ने प्रण गरी बस्थे, लुक्न नदिने अब एक बार,
सिर्जन नदिने चर्को दु:खको अवस्था यस्तो अब धेर ।

तर ऊ हाँस्यो दिलमा हर्ष उकासी आफ्नो सृष्टिसामु
किन कि उसलाई ज्ञान थियो कि कलाकृति र सर्जक बीच
घनिष्टताको सम्बन्ध थियो तर थियो पनि दूरी अति लामो ।

वैशाख १६, २०६७