Essay : The Evolution of Nepali Fiction

~Taranath Sharma~Taranath Sharma, Nepali Literary Icon (7).JPG

Don’t seal my mouth
It has to speak for the coming generations
Don’t restrain my pen
It has to signal the coming truth
Don’t chain my feet
For I have to embark on a new path
Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (1971)

The fiction in the Nepali language draws its inspiration from three different sources: (i) the ancient Puranic and mediaeval literary traditions, (ii) the folktales, and (iii) the Western influence. In modern Nepali fiction, however, the last of these sources, that is the western influence, is singularly predominant.

The genre of fiction includes two forms of literary compositions. They are the short story and the novel. Although the oft-quoted criteria like a concentrated delineation of a single character, a small dramatic incident, an aspect of someone’s behavior, a crucial thought, or a part of mental make-up seem to form the essential attributes of a short story to distinguish it from a novel which has a larger canvas to deal with a multifaceted character embracing various aspects of life touching many people, the only feature that makes a short story a short story and a novel a novel is that a short t story is short and a novel is long.

Story telling has been as old as human civilization. The ancient Puranas are full of religious and moral stories. These were most interestingly told to the people by Sanskrit scholars on both formal and informal occasions. Apart from them folk tales have evolved with local touches in various parts where the Nepalese people have lived and worked for centuries. In addition to these traditions Arabic and Persian tales full of magical and romantic episodes from mediaeval times came to Nepal through India and were available in written forms. Thanks to the Nepalese enthusiasts who when exiled by the cruel rulers of the country went to Banaras in India to translate these and other interesting tales in the Nepali language to cater for the needs of their fellow countrymen. This was the reason why the first Nepali novel Bir charitra (1898) by Grirish Ballav Joshi is full of magic, romance and fantasies. The Gorkha Patra, which started in 1901 as a weekly, published innumerable stories of that kind. All these short tales, fanciful stories, mythological romances and ethical anecdotes were either didactic or merely recreational. They rarely ever contained the actual experiences of life.

It was ‘Annapurna,’ a short t story by Rup Narayan Sinha (1904-1955) published in a journal named Gorkha Sansar in 1927, that brought out the psychological plane of a Nepalese woman after the fashion of modern Western writers of fiction. It clearly showed the way the future Nepali short stories would take in both form and content.

Short Story

The launching in 1935 Sharada, a monthly journal form Kathmandu, inspired a number of hidden talents to come forward with their literary compositions. Most of the novels were published outside Nepal, but for the short story Sharada became a ready and easily available vehicle of expression for the scattered writers. Guru Prasad Mainali (1900-1997), Bisheweshwar Prasad Koirala (1914-1982), Pushkar Shumsher rana (1901-1961), Bal Krishna Sama (1903-1981), and Bhavani Bhikshu (1914-1981) are great names in the field of Nepali short sorties and all of their initial short stories appeared in Sharada mostly in the latter half of 1930s. Rup Narayan Sinha is the only luminary in this field to shine all by himself in Darjeeling, although Shiva Kumar Rai (1916), another talent form Darjeeling, derived his literary inspiration from Sharada where some of his earlier short stories were published.

The first generation of successful short story writers in Nepali language include among others Rup Narayan Sinha, Guru Prasad Mainali, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, Pushkar shamsher Rana, Bal Krishna Sama, Bhawani Bhikshu, Shiva Kumar rai, Bhim Nidhi Tiwari (1911-1973), Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959), Laxmi Nandan Chalise (1913-1945), Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan (1915-1959), and Govinda Bahadur Malla Gothale (1922). Among these Bhim Nidhi Tiwari, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Laxmi Nandan Chalise and Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan wrote short stories bringing out the social injustice and economic exploitation in rural and semi rural environment of the country. Tiwari is a prolific writer with ten collections containing sixteen short stories limit themselves to family bickering, women’s lot in orthodox families, neighborly misunderstandings and individual pains caused by apathy, poverty, deaths, diseases or separations. His characters are drawn mostly form the lower middle class people and the poorer section in the city of Kathmandu and its outskirts. They are more like anecdotes or episodes written in a very simple language with apparently no psychological analysis. Though his contemporaries are substantially influenced by Western styles, he remains adamant and sticks to his won traditional bringing up with Hindu idealistic approach to life. Pradhan, on the other hand, depicted the economic and social exploitation of the poor with a rebellious spirit. Devkota and Chalise wrote in favor of the oppressed and the downtrodden and appealed to a change of heart in a more attractive and convincing language, but both of them could not progress further due to the fact that Devkota’s attention diverted to other genres and Chalise met his untimely death languishing in a Rana prison.

Rup Narayan Sinha with his nine stories collected in his Katha Nava Ratna (1949) set the tone of modern Nepali fiction writing in his artistically chiseled words and meticulously designed sentences with a deep sense of cultural vision and an intellectual awareness of emancipating his fellow brothers and sisters from the pangs arising out of social malaise. Most of his characters belong to Darjeeling or elsewhere in India but they have in them an agonizing sense of nostalgia for Nepal. Shiva Kumar Rai’s characters are less nostalgic, but with his penetrating analysis he brings out in masterly strokes the inner sorrow of the Nepalese people in the villages of Darjeeling hills and vales. ‘The Mother’ by Sinha and ‘The Price of a Fish’ by Rai are their masterpieces. The Mother depicts the shattered hopes of a poor mother who under her very eyes is obliged to se her promising son turning communist by the dominant influence of a spoilt young daughter of a rich family and who later joins the immoral rich girl in marriage to be left betrayed and mentally wrecked at the end. ‘The Price of a Fish’ is a sad but realistic delineation of a poor man who has to fight tooth and nail for his existence in this cruel world of misery and wants.

Mainali wrote only eleven short stories in all, but his knowledge of Nepalese people made him an excellent exponent of the life in the hills and mountains of the country. With a strong influence of Prem Chand, the famous Hindi fiction writer, Mainali intimately dealt with his characters from rural Nepal. Due to his contact with different kinds of people in different parts o the country as a judge transferred from one district court to the other Mainali had an ample opportunity to study the human character in various situations at close quarters. The exposition of the sad plight of the common people in Nepal made in his stories1 remains unmatched even today. Some of his unforgettable short stories are ‘Naso’ (the Pledge), ‘Paralko Ago’ (Fire on Straw), ‘Shaheed’ (The Martyr) and ‘Chhimeki’ (Neighbors).

Bal Krishna Sama tried his hand in the short story with a dozen or so pieces among which ‘Taltal’ (the Desire), ‘Khukuri’ (the Knife), ‘Deurali’ (the Pass), Hari Siddhi and ‘Roopko Mulya’ (the Value of a Beautiful Face) are memorable for their psychological penetration and an in-depth study of human weaknesses. ‘Taltal’ and ‘Deurali’ deal with child psychology which after a decade or so becomes a focus of attention in innumerable short stories of Dev Kumari Sinha (later Thapa). Sama is the forerunner of symbolism in Nepali short stories with his ‘Khukuri’, which represents the evil human sentiments like quarrel, jealousy, hatred and murder, and ‘Hari Siddhi’, which shows how an innocent man loves an ancient idol of a god to his last breath.

Sama’s older brother Pushkar Shumsher Rana wrote almost half a dozen short stories only, but they are greatly treasured in Nepali literature for their keen vision and artistic expression. His subject is the high-handedness and stark selfishness of individuals highly placed in the government. In ‘Paribanda’ and ‘Swarthatyag’ (Relinquishing of selfishness) Rana brings out the torturous behavior of the unjust and cruel higher officials for their sexual pleasures.

But Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala is the first successful short story writer in Nepali to begin delineating psychological complexes specifically of women due to their unfulfilled sexual desires. This trend began in Nepali with his ‘Chandra Badan’, published in Sharada in 1935. ‘Chandra Badan’ was followed by other equally appreciable short stories by Koirala among which his ‘Karnelko Ghoda’ (the Colonel’s Horse) is the best where where the youthful wife of an old colonel showers her affection on a horse as a rebellious expression of a total sexual estrangement and dissatisfaction with her legitimate spouse. A collection of his short stories entitled Doshi Chashma (the Faulty Specs) was published from Darjeeling in 1949. This collection established Koirala as a most accomplished short story writer in Nepali. Both in the selection of appropriate characters and in Nepali. Both in the selection of appropriate characters and in fathoming the depth of human mind Koirala achieved a height which still remains unchallenged.

Koirala wrote and published the above short stories before the Revolution of 1950-51 launched under his able leadership by the Nepali Congress Party against the Rana autocratic regime. He was completely absorbed in politics for a whole decade until the democratically elected government in his premiership was overthrown by a Royal coup and he was thrown behind the bars. When Koirala was dumped into the dungeon without trial and any justification for eight long years his literary fervor didn’t let him remain inactive. A new wave of creative impulse swept him up his feet and he wrote six short stories, five novels, and an autobiographical book and a number of political articles. With the sole exception of ‘One Night’, a short story, none of his literary works directly deals with the contemporary political theme. As a political thinker and practitioner Koirala is a social democrat at heart, but as a writer he claims to be an anarchist, meaning he is not bound by any theoretical bias or limitation. In ‘One Night’, however, he has strongly advocated the cause of a young fighter for democracy and human rights. The Panchayati henchmen hang the newly married nonviolent freedom fighter, but the martyr’s face haunts the police officer in such a formidable way that he sees it imprinted on his own son’s innocent face.

Koirala’s ‘Shweta Bhairavi’ (The White Angry Goddess), which is also the title of his second collection of stories (1977), is a brilliant analysis of a turbulent moment in the life of a youthful girl when she is completely under the uncontrollable sway of her won sexual urge. Koirala brings out the surging emotional heights of his characters with extraordinary skill and insight. His path was followed by Bhavani Bhikshu and later by Govinda Bahadur Gothale and Daulat Bikram Bista (1926), but when Koirala caught his characters at rare moments of emotional upheaval with his penetrating grasp of human psychology, Bhikshu, Gothale and Bista study most of their characters in a slow kaleidoscopic framework.

Bhavani Bhuikshu is remembered for his unusual ability to fathom the depth of female sentiments. His major short stories have been collected in three volumes, the study of which reveals Bhikshu’s profound sense of respect for the fair sex. Gothale, Bista, Vijaya Malla (1925) side by side with Poshan Pande (1932) opened up new frontiers in the Nepali short story. All of them analyzed their characters in various mental situations. Bista with his huge corpus of fiction went so far as to be dubbed as a writer of semi-pornographic short stories in the sixties. Ramesh Vikal (1932-), another contemporary short story writer, followed the trend and published a few short stories in the same vein for a time, but soon he revealed himself as a protagonist of the poor, the downtrodden and the destitute. It was his delineation of the orphans and the economically handicapped and degraded section of the Nepalese society that made him bag the prestigious Madan Award in Literature in 1961 for his collection entitled The Song of the New Road. Bista, a superior craftsman and writer of larger canvas, had to wait more than twenty-five years to get the Madan Prize, though he bagged the Academy Award for fiction before Vikal. Poshan Pande and Bista are better short story writers among the second generation of authors closely followed by Kumar Gyanwali, Prema Shah, Harish Bamjan, Bal Krishna Pokhrel (1933-), Parashu Pradhan etc. Gyanwali writes brilliant short stories in a simple and succinct style with a superb psychoanalytical understanding of human character. Prema Shah’s ‘Logne” (the Husband) is an excellent example of the analysis of sexually deprived woman’s complexes.

Some of the successful woman short story writers in Nepali language besides Prema Shah and Dev Kumari Thapa are Parijat (1973), Maya Thakuri, and Bhagirathi Shrestha. Parijat is interested to depict the shattered hopes of women who writes with a view to restoring faith and confidence in family life as does Maya Thakuri. Bhagirathi Shrestha’s characters are mostly newly wedded wives in search of conjugal harmony in adverse circumstances or mothers highly conscious of their duties towards their innocent children.

Recent writers of short stories in Nepali showing signs of success include, among others, Indra Rai (1930), Madhav Bhandari, Kishor Pahadi, Bhruva Sapkota, Sanat Regmi, Govinda Giri Prerana, Mohan Raj Sharma, Bhruva Chandra Gautam, Manu Brajaki, Bhau Panthi, Hari Adhikari, Shailendra Sakar, etc.

Novel

Girish Ballabh Joshi and his contemporary Sada Shiva Sharma Adhikari are two names that stand our as the forerunners of the Nepali novel. Although Joshi’s Bir Charitra was written before the close of the Nineteenth Century and its first part was published in 1903, all the four parts of the novel could be brought out together sixty two years later in 1965 only. It is true that it appeared late for the general readers, yet its manuscript passed from hand to hand in the Rana palaces. It became quite popular particularly among the Rana women. This popularity can be attributed to its attractive story full of sensational anecdotes of magical enchantments and flights of fancy. Despite its fantasies, ‘Bir Charita’ presents distinct flashes of the autocratic Rana rulers riding roughshod over the innocent Nepalese people. It is this contemporaneity that has made Bir Charitra a memorable novel. Adhikari, on the other hand, published several of his long tales which are rather the Puranas retold in a simpler and unsophisticated language lacking originality and verve.

The first successful novelist on a purely social theme was Rudra Raj Pande (1900-1987) whose Rupmati (1934) with three subsequent novels has vividly brought our the life of the Brahmins in Kathmandu during the first half of this century. Rupmati, an ideal character of Nepalese womanhood, stands formidable against all kinds of antagonism she has to face as a housewife. On the one hand is her mother-in-law who is the very embodiment of oppression with a mouth that functions as a never-ending torrent of vituperation and on the other a roguish brother-in-law who lays blame on her for the wrongs he commits. Sandwiched between these two instruments of torture she had to serve and please her husband who was himself torn between two loyalties – the traditional belief that he has to submit himself totally and unequivocally to the dictates of his parent and the free thinking that he has cultivated through the modern Western style of education. Rupmati is revealing study of an orthodox Nepalese family going through a process of transformation because of the impact of Western liberal ideas.

Rupmati is significant not only as the first Nepali novel to deal with social content but it also server as a model on which the later novelists fashioned their female characters. They, however, created women who consciously strove for emancipation. In Manjuri (959) by Daulat Bikram Bista we have a young widow who revolts against conservatism and remarries a man of her choice. In so doing she invites a double-edged wrath of the society during the ruthless Rana regime. As a widow she was not morally permitted to remarry and as a Brahmin she went against the Rana law that forbade her to choose a man below her caste as her spouse. It was only after the Revolution of 1951 that shackles of casteism began to snap gradually. Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan went a little further in his enthusiasm to free women from the bondage of orthodox Hindu customs by creating a female character who delivers fiery speeches on women’s liberty in his Swasnimanchhe (1954) published after the fall of the Ranas. To make the point all the more impressive the novelist chooses his main character from a socially degraded and despised group of whores. His approach is too idealistic and far-fetched, and yet it is meant to be an answer t the submissive Hindu housewife like Rupmati. But Swasnimanchhe remains far behind in its impact on the Nepalese readers in comparison to Manjuri the success of which inspired Bista to write a number of social realistic novels.

Govinda Bahadur Gothale and Vijaya Malla were also encouraged by Rupmati, for Gothale delineated a married woman in his Pallo Gharko Jhyal (The Window in the House in Front, 1959) in which Misri, its main character, develops extra-marital liking looking at a young man through her window for several days and elopes with him ultimately. Gothale tries to explode the myth that Nepalese women remain firm and loyal towards their husbands despite their husbands’ inability to sexually and emotionally satisfy them. Gothale’s younger brother Vijaya Malla has so far given two novels Anuradha (1961) and Kumari Shobha (1982) both completely dominated by their main female characters. Anuradha is a textbook presentation of Freudian complexes forcibly crammed down the throat of Anuradha, a psychopathic woman. It is extremely rare, if not downright impossible, to come across a woman like Anuradha who spits out Freudian analyses every time, or a man like Komal Man who is a masochist for the pleasure of the author. Vijaya Malla is very fond of making very unusual experiments. One of such is found in his short story entitled ‘Kalo Chashma’ (The Dark Sunglasses) which describes a sexually dull and impotent man who even at the discovery of his wife in bed with a young neighbor is able to control his jealousy by putting on sunglasses and secretly enjoying at their extramarital fun. In Kumari Shobha, however, he touched for the first time in Nepali a cultural theme which is unique in every way. ‘Kumari’, which literally means a virgin, is a girl selected by the Shakyas of Kathmandu to sit on a special throne as a Living Goddess. She has to have extreme beauty and no physical defects to be so chosen, but she can reign as the Living Goddess only up to the period she comes of age, or until she menstruates. After that she is replaced by another girl and the former Kumari has a painful life to lead, because there is a superstition that any man who marries her will meet with his death soon. The discarded Kumari’s natural sexual urges, her pangs of wasted youth, the alienation due to social taboos mercilessly imposed on her and the many temporary suitors who break their promises as soon as they are told of the superstition could have made the novel a masterpiece of literature, but Malla was not able to wield the theme successfully and his Kumari Shobha remains a monotonously drab account with no fictional appeal.

Despite the failure of Vijaya Malla and a little success of Gothale in presenting the Nepalese women in their proper perspective there was no dearth of other novelists who successfully brought out their female characters in convincingly attractive manner. Bhikshu in his Suntali has delineated a woman in her sexual charm as well as well as female complexes arising out of social maladjustment. Lila Dhwaj Thapa in his Mana (1958) depicts a blossoming young woman who has to run away to save herself from sexuality immoral males and females. Eka Deshki Maharani (The Queen of a Certain Country, 1969) by Keshav Raj Pindali (1920) presents a charming daughter of a Rana ruler in Nepal wedded to an Indian prince who is given to womanizing and drinks. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth and living in sheer luxury her loss of youth in monotonous languishing is quite interesting. Whether the innocent women like Thapa’s Mana and Malla’s Kumari, or the rebellious women like Bista’s Manjari and Pradhan’s Swasnimanchhe they are all created as a natural influence of their antecedent Rupmati. Gothale’s Misri and Bhikshu’s Suntali are psychoanalytically delineated female characters who remind us of Sakambari in Shirishko Phul (The Shirish Flower**, 1965) by Parijat. Sakambari, however, represents absurdity and barrenness as opposed to the female characters of other Nepali novelists. Although Parijat imposes her interpretation of the Buddhist philosophy of complete void (nihilism?) on Sakambari and makes the woman most repulsive and farthest from reality, she had begun a new trend in the Nepali novel with her captivating prose. The next novel entitled Mahattahin (The non-significant, 1968) was far more absurd and sterile and less popular, but Parijat was overnight found completely metamorphosed into an interpreter of the decadent philosophy of Marxism in literature which made her produce cheap propaganda writings one after another curtailing her own essential literary merit.

Rupmati had to wait for almost thirty four years to have an equally affable housewife but made up of entirely opposite mettle. She is Indra Maya, who is the main Tin Ghumti (The Tin Ghumti (The Three Road bends, 1968) by Bishewhwar Prasad Koirala. Indra Maya Surpasses all other female characters in Nepali fiction with her assertive power and independent spirit. She herself selects husband in spite of her parents’ opposition, she leaves her husband and begins to live with another man on her own free decisions. Koirala by giving Indra Maya complete freedom of choice has opened up new possibilities in Nepali fiction. Without any hullabaloo the novelist has asserted woman’s liberty in its positive vein. Not only in Tin Ghumti, Koirala continues his experiment with the theme of woman’s liberty in his Sumnima (1970) and Modiain (1979). Both Sumnima and Modiain draw their inspiration from ancient times for the novelist’s exposition of his cultural interpretations. Unlike Indra Maya Modiain is an ordinary housewife but her massive figure is both awesome and agonizing. It is awesome because it reminds the reader of the great Mahabharat War and agonizing because she is the ravaged remnant of the immense loss of life in the war. Koirala sees no justification for the killing of ordinary foot soldiers in the war. He voices his strong disagreement with the message of the Geeta which encourages to fight. What would the simple soldiers achieve even if the war was won? The novelist delivers his truly human message through Modiain asking young boys to strive for becoming good rather than great. Modiain is essentially a philosophical challenge to the belligerent doctrine of the Geeta along with a psychological illumination of ordinary people’s inherent abhorrence to war. In this grand design the female character of Modiain looms large in the boyish memory of the author. Sumnima, however, is symbol of true Nepalese culture. It probes into the hoary past bringing into focus the role of the Kiranti heritage in shaping the all-embracing humanistic Nepalese approach to life. Sumnima, the grand Mother Figure of the Kiranti people, is pitted against Som Data, a Brahmin emaciated due to hard penance and physical negligence. Though married, Som Datta has no taste of natural conjugal life as he is taught to renounce all physical pleasures as evil. Consequently he is dull, morose and devoid of any interest in the actual world around him. Sumnima is vibrant with life. Her physical charm, her belief in the enjoyment of the material world and her feeling of responsibility for the here and the now overwhelm Som Datta in a rare moment of ecstasy. The fusion of Sumnima and Som Datta in a rapturous physical contact explains the unbreakable union of the Kiranti and the Aryan cultures in every modern Nepalese from top to toe. Sumnima, thus, is the common Matriarch of modern Nepalese nation urging us to love the body, its beauty and the actual physical distance rather than hover in the spiritual flights of fancy and pedantic nothingness. Sumnima, in actuality, is the Nepalese representation of humanism.

Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala’s autobiographical style has a flavor of its own particuarly in his Narendra Dai (Older Brother Narendra, 1970) and Hitler and the Jews. In Narendra Dai Gauri, a legally wedded with, coming from nobility is contrasted with Munariya, a young woman of common family ties, on the backdrop of the turbulent Koshi river struggling to won the love of Narendra, a man tortured by fast changing loyalties and situations. Gauri is a good homemaker proficient in dealing with her family members, relatives and neighbors but not as seductively attractive as Munariya to her husband Narendra. both the female competitors are reduced to shambles at the end as is their male partner in life due to unavoidable social and economic circumstances as well as the cruel onslaught of of time. In Hitler and the Jews, however, Koirala experiments on the theme of the holocaust unleashed by Adolph Hitler during the Second World War against the innocent people of Jewish origin. The author retells the heart-breaking story as he visits the scène of the heinous incident years later, but his description of the massacre is so vivid that you feel everything happened just before your eyes.

Koirala’s hatred for war on the one hand and love of peace on the other can be found in many of his short stories and particularly in his novels Modiain and Hitler and the Jews. The same approach is present in Daulat Bikram Bista’s Chapaieka Anuhar (The Emaciated Faces, 1973) where two Germans and a Nepalese are brought together in the jungles of Africa in the background of the Second World War. Although the German couple belongs to Hitler’s side and the Nepalese soldier to the Allied side, all the three are bound together by human instinct to save themselves from starvation and death. If they had met in normal conditions of war, one side would certainly destroy the other, but in a situation away form war and from human contact they stick to life together. What the author wants to drive home into our mind in essence is all humans love life, want peace and are guided with an inherent quality of mutual cooperation and interdependence. It is war which cruelly splits them.

Bista in his other novels goes deeper into the incongruities of modern Nepalese life with a sincere aim of bringing harmony and fellow feeling. Armed with a profound psychological insight into the workings of his characters he weaves his novels in a simple narrative style. Whether in his Ek Paluwa Anekaun Yam (A Sprout in Many Seasons, 1969), Bigrieko Bato (The Ruined Path, 1976), Thakeko Akash (The Tired Sky, 1977) or Bok ra Bhittaharu (Hunger and the Walls, 1981) Bista repeatedly searches for his individual identity in the modern social system denuded of all good qualities. An eternal quest of individual freedom is what makes his novels worth reading.

Novels in Nepli can be studied according to their central theme. On child psychology Sarpa Damsha (The Snakebite, 1968) by Tarini Prasad Koirala (1922-1974) surpasses all others. Like his older brother Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, he was also imprisoned without trial and his Sarpa Damsha was created inside the Panchayat dungeon. A good writer of short stories Tarini Prasad Koirala Produced his single novel as a rare gem of Nepali literature. The whole novel is based on a simple incident of a snakebite. In a tropical Terai village a young boy while playing with his sister is fond of inserting in arm into mouse holes in the ground. It may be apparently to keep his arm cool from the outside heat of the sun and instinctively to exhibit his superior ego, he puts his hand inside holes found for him by his innocent sister. But unfortunately he is bitten by a cobra coiling inside. The death that follows is at once shocking and extremely pathetic. Seen from the angle of adults it has sexual connotations which help interpret many complexes of our life.

On social themes Bhawani Bhikshu’s Agat (The Oncomign,1975) describes how a noble family in the Tarai slowly disintegrates due to the inevitable and unavoidable loss of old values, in some way exactly like it happens in Narendra Dai by Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, Eka Deshki Maharni by Pindali, and Ghamka Pailaharu (Footprints in the Sun, 1978) and Yahandekhi Tyahansamma (From Here to There, 1985) by Dha Cha Gotame (1931).

On historical theme Diamond Shumsher Rana (1919) wrote Seto Bagh (The White Tiger, 1974) which became famous because of its description of Janga Bahadur Kunwar, the first Rana Prime Minister in the country. Rana had tried his hand on the theme in his Basanti (1949) two and a half decades ago, but Basanti was more romantic than historical, whereas Seto Bagh is closer to truth as well as better written with impressive characters and incidents. Seto Bagh, however, is not a truly historical novel in its detail nor is his Sat Prayas (The Noble Attempt, 1981), as is Triphat by Sundar Prasad Shah who is deft at bringing out the subtleties of the Ranas who kept the Shah ruler under their constant surveillance.

Novels steeped in local color are Bhramar (The Bumble Bee, 1936) by Rup Narayan Sinha and Muluk Bahira (Outside the Country, 1947) by Lain Singh Bangdel (1924) which set a tone with the social environment of the Darjeeling urban and rural areas. Then Basain (The Lost Homestead,1957) by Lil Bahadur Chhetri (1930), Khairini Ghat (1961) by Shankar Koirala (1930), Ojhel Parda (Blackout, 1966) by Tara Nath Sharma (1934), Ujyalo Hunu Aghi (Before the Daybreak, 1971) by Binod Prasad Dhital, Ghamka Paila Haru (Footprints in the Sun,1978) and Yahandekhi Tyahasamma (From Here to There, 1985) by Dha Cha Gotame, Aja Ramita Chha (There is a Show Today, 1964) by Indra Bahadur Rai (1930) and Alikhit (The Unwritten,1983) by Dhruba Chandra Gautam are some of the novels in the trend. Aja Ramita Chha depicts a sweeping picture of Darjeeling with extraordinary precision and poignancy specifically in charactrezation, Ujyalo Hunu Aghi is based on the rural life of the western hills, Blackout besides presenting the emotional make-up of rural young men prone to bloody fights is permeated through and through with the local color and colloquialism of the eastern hills, Ghamka Pailaharu, Yahandekhi Tyahan Samma and Alikhit reveal the mid Tarai atmosphere with a great facility, and Khairini Ghat describes the Majhis on the eastern rural setting. Although Dhruva Chandra Gautam and Shankar Koirala have written a number of novels they are far behind Dha Cha Gotame who has brought out only two novels. Gotame’s novels deal with the life of the people of Birgunj and the southern rural Tarai area of more than half a century ago in a narrative style which is as vivid and remarkable as the underlying story that captivates the readers as it progresses. His characters are so delineated that they leave an indelible impression. Although on a far limited canvas Basain deals with a peasant family in the eastern hills which has to leave the motherland completely undone by the rural exploiters. Dhruva Chandra Gautam in his novels has experimented upon urban exploitation of lower middle class teachers, office workers and others but his poor grasp of language, little hold on the narrative and non-intimate understanding of the characters have led him to confusion and bewilderment in exactly the same way as his predecessor Vijaya Malla who failed sadly in his Freudian experiments in Anuradha and cultural portrayal in Kumari Shobha. It was only in Alikhit that Gautam achieved some measure of success for he attempted at something he had a hold on, that is, the life of the Tarai which he intimately knew as a boy in Alikhit he contrasts the poor and exploited life of the rural people with the young researchers who go after an archaeological site for excavation and are dumbfounded to discover the actually existing village before their eyes with hundreds of living and working people totally missing in the government population documentation.

In Nepali Rup Narayan Sinha experimented on a beautiful style in his Bhramar with a character constantly on move. Lil Bahadur Chhetri in his Atripta (The Unquenched, 1969) and Tara Nath Sharma in his Mero Katha (My Story, 1966) and Jhajhalko (The Reminiscence, 1988) fashioned their main characters on the same tradition, but experiments do not leave an imprint behind unless they become discoveries. That’s what exactly happened with Dhruba Chandra Gautam who in his novels has gone on making experiments without being able to reveal any profound discovery. His experiment began with Untyapachhi (After the Conclusion, 1967) and continued unabated in Baluwamathi (Over the Sand, 1971), Dapi (Agony Upturned, 1976) and Kattel Sarko Chotpatak (The Beathings Teacher Kattel Received, 1980). Only in Alikhit he was on the right track to discover himself, but the inexplicable hunger to create absurd situations and characters in him brought him back to the same path and his recent novels like Nimitta Nayak (The Proxy Hero) and Swargiya Hira Deviko Khoji (Search for for the Late Hira Devi) were born in utter disarray with no trace of coherence, coordination and harmony expected in modern fiction.

Bishweswar Prasad Koirala made bold experiments with human susceptibilities and created treasures out of his rich discoveries. So did Tarini Prasad Koirala with his experiment in the innocent world of children in his Sarpa Damsha. Daulat Bikram Bista with his never-tiring zeal has embarked upon the path of experiments scoring successes from his Manjari to Chapaieka Anuhar and from Bigrieka Bataharu to Thakeo Akash.

Nepali Fiction is slowly coming up.
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1. His eleven short stories were collected in a book entitled Naso compiled and edited by the writer of this critical essay in 1963.

** Tej Ratna Kansakar has translated this novel into English and given the title of Blue Mimosa

(Source : Penhimalaya)

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