Thursday, August 29, 2013

A return to the rustic

The contribution made by literary magazines in Nepali literature is a significant one. The whole gamut of our revered literary giants has honed itself through publications like Sharada, Rachana, Ruprekha, and Nepali. But there was a distinctly Kathmandu-centric trend evident in the magazine world; most were published here, and as such, were inclined towards writers who were based in or had access to the city. Despite playing a major role in rearing contributors from various parts of the country, magazines from outside the Valley have fallen into oblivion, unable to find a suitable niche in Kathmandu’s literary-hub. One of these is Juhi, a publication from Chandragadi in Jhapa, that has yet to catch the attention of mainstream critics. Holding the reins at Juhi is editor and publisher Chuda Mani Regmi, a veritable literary authority in the east.
At 75, Regmi stands out for his relentless efforts in editing and publishing a magazine that has not only facilitated the honing of skills of many writers from the area, but also provided in-depth features on writers themselves. The latest special issue of Juhi, for instance, features poet and writer Mod Nath Prashrit, whom Regmi delineates a Maha Kavi (great poet). With approximately 1200 pages, the issue incorporates all aspects of Prashrit’s life and personality. This volume compiles writings by more than 180 writers on Prashrit—acclaimed author of popular books like Devasur Sangram, Manav Mahakavya, Desh Bhakta Laksmi Bai and more than 50 books on different issues—paying fitting tribute to his contribution to literature as well as the cultural movement in Nepal. “Prashrit’s writings are reminiscent of those of Mahakavi Lakshmi Prasad Devkota and his expertise in many fields is unbeatable,” says Regmi.  
Likewise, the magazine has also featured writers like Dha Cha Gotame, Kapil Lamichhane, Radhika Raya, Bishwa Shakya, Shyam Krishna Shrestha and Rishikesh Upadhyay among others. In its three-decade history, during which it has seen contributions from a hoard of progressive and left-leaning writers, Juhi has proven itself a quality publication, sought-after by many literature-aficionados.
Regmi was known in the past for his active involvement in the Jharro Aandolan, a literary movement. Though the many iconoclastic figures that participated in the movement are no more active, Regmi is still personally committed to it. As a sign of the continuing relevancy of the cause, he has even named his house in Chandragadi the Jharro Nepali Ghar. The movement, which began in 1956 from Benaras, was intended to purge excessive use of Hindi, Sanskrit and English words from the Nepali language. This linguistic movement took formal shape when senior writers like Bal Krishna Pokharel, Tara Nath Sharma, Kosh Raj Regmi started employing rustic diction and colloquial language in their work, an aesthetic that has been pursued by Regmi in his magazines Juhi and Yathartha Kura. The language used in these publications is unique, what Regmi claims to be the original Nepali; it doesn’t appear to follow the conventional forms of spelling and writing seen thus far in the country.
Born in 1936 in Sankhuwasabha, Regmi had learnt his first letters at home. He was taught the Sanskrit language and literature and completed his schooling in the same language. He came to Kathmandu in 1952 to enroll himself in an Intermediate course in Arts and he’d resumed Sanskrit here too. “Kathmandu was where I was first introduced to a number of vibrant experiences. I watched films, read English texts, failed exams, met with people like Devkota and Rahul Sankrityayan,” Regmi remembers. He’d then gone to Benaras for his Masters, again in Sanskrit. Soon, he came to the realisation that despite years of studying Sanskrit, it was his mother tongue—Nepali—that he wanted to explore and write in. Inspired by his seniors and his elder brother Kosh Raj, he started penning short stories and poems. This was a time of creative blossoming for Regmi. In 1956, he was designated editor of Chhatradut, a student magazine. Before this, however, his first anthology of short stories had been published. “I had not realised how tough publishing was going to be. Only now I know why proofreading is necessary and how much grammatical mistakes count,” says Regmi.
Regmi’s work has been prolific; he has written essays, satires, criticisms as well as poetry. Out of more than two dozen books, many are outstanding in terms of their social, linguistic and cultural relevance. Critically-acclaimed works include Euta Chhata Dinu Holaa, Man Bhitra ra Baahira, Meri Didi, Nepali Bhasa ra Vyakaran kaa Kehi Bisaya: Kehi Chhalphal, Tatsam Sabdako Varna Vinyas, and Nepali Tukkaharuka Adhyan. He also taught at the Mechi Multiple Campus in Jhapa for 34 years until he retired in 2002.
Despite enjoying a reputation as a rather austere editor and linguist, Regmi is a jovial personality, with a very subtle sense of humour. A great fan of cricket, he often watches live games on TV. “I think watching cricket matches while reading postmodern literature, which generally people would find really difficult, is a way for me to compensate for never having become the English expert I was hoping to be,” he jokes.
For writers like Punya Prasad Kharel, author of Triveni Aama, Regmi’s role in allowing writers like him access to a wide readership should not be underestimated. “Regmi has long been respected for his contribution as a literary-journalist and editor. But for me, he is first an editor, then a writer,” says Kharel. And Kharel is just one of the many that hold Regmi in high esteem for his efforts at sustaining a unique strain in the Nepali literary scene, representing an intellectual world beyond Kathmandu.
“I am exceedingly happy with whatever I’ve achieved so far,” says Regmi in his rustic Nepali. “But I never dwell on the past because I like to look forward.” At the moment, he is planning to write and present some scholarly papers on journalism, language, education and satire-writing on the occasion of his 50th year in Jhapa. Having spent most of his life in this field, Chuda Mani Regmi still continues to stand strong as an authority and an iconoclast in Nepali literature, as bold and confident now as he ever was in his prime.
Posted on: 2011-07-30 08:45 (The Kathmandu Post)


Post a Comment