Thursday, August 29, 2013

Forever at the helm

When Nepali critics write about local authors, they never forget to mention when the author was first published and which literary publication did the honours. In these biographical details, we often catch the names of literary magazines Sharada, Ruprekha and Rachana. Many mention details such as, “The first story Maile Najanmaayeko Chhoro by Parijat was first published in Rachana.” Also visible in literary criticisms and writers’ biographies, these names are often only quoted in literary magazines of yesteryear. Rachana, however, still has a presence among readers today. When asked about the number of writers that have published their first work in his magazine, editor and publisher Rochak Ghimire laughs gently and says, “You cannot count all of these writers’ names because the list will be too long.”
 Rachana, a bi-monthly magazine, was started in 1960 and Rochak has remained editor for all five decades. While it may appear as though Ghimire kept the editor’s chair for himself for all these years, this chair in fact, has been one least coveted by aspiring writers and publishers in Nepal. Publishing a literary magazine is a business of loss and Ghimire always paid out of his own pocket. “For the past two years, the Nepal government has been supporting us and book publishers like Ratna Pustak Bhandar have been offering us advertisements. But before these aids, Rachana was published without financial support from anybody,” he says.
The latest issue of Rachana, published a few days ago, features writings from Assam, India. For this issue, Ghimire, at the age of 70, went to Assam to meet with writers and to discuss featuring their writings in the magazine. The pieces published in this particular issue bring forth the colloquial aspect of the Nepali spoken by the Assamese and various concerns of the Nepali-speaking people in the region.
Ghimire was born in 1941, the eldest son of the writer and Sanskrit scholar Somnath Ghimire Vyas. With his father’s encouragement, Ghimire completed his I.A. in Sanskrit and also appeared for an extra paper in English literature in Banaras. Ghimire’s father was a close friend of writers like Lakshmi Prasad Devkota, Muralidhar Bhattarai and Narahari Nath Yogi, who always visited his father and discussed literature and music. “My father pointed to his friends and always said that they were big personalities. And I always thought of writers as big people,” says Ghimire. This cultivated a sense of reverence towards literature and writing in Ghimire’s young mind, which eventually inspired him to enter the field himself later in life.
“I always bought newspapers and magazines and my close friend Bhairav Aryal, who later became an acclaimed satirist, came to my home to read them,” Ghimire recalls. “Aryal was the one who encouraged me to start a magazine myself and assured me that he would help write the editorials and find articles for the magazine. Later, another writer Ramesh Bikal also joined the team and helped edit the content.” But Ghimire, Aryal and Bikal themselves rarely wrote in the magazine. “We basically started this magazine to read different styles of writings and to introduce these to others, and so we didn’t write ourselves,” he explains.  
The magazine has shaped the writing careers of many. In its first issue, the magazine had included a poem by acclaimed poet Tulsi Diwas—his very first poem at that—Hriday ko Balak. Ghimire also remembers how a writer called Sakar used to send his stories from Bhojpur; the same who later changed his name to Sailendra Sakar, widely popular today as a short story writer. “I was not comfortable with this one-word name so I changed it. Fortunately, he was not unhappy with it,” Ghimire shares. Likewise, the magazine published a novella titled Sabiti by Jagdish Ghimire, who is now known for his prize-winning
book Antarmanko Yatra. This novella helped shape Ghimire’s career as a fiction writer and also paved the way for Govinda Raj Bhattarai to hone himself as a critic. “After we published this novel, Bhattarai sent a letter from Damak along with a long criticism of the novella which we published in the next issue,” Ghimire adds. Bhattarai then started critiquing literary works and rose to his current fame besides being a novelist.  
 Although there are relatively fewer readers of literary magazines at present, Rachana still receives sufficient submissions. As the magazine is also available online, many Nepali-reading people around the world are now able to contribute.
 Ghimire, whose magazine became a means for many writers to discover their talents, wrote very little on his own. He has published one book so far, Samjhana Maa Fakrekaa Thungaaharu—a collection of short memoirs. “I have enough material for anthologies but haven’t published them as yet,” he says. These days, in addition to his job at the magazine, he also leads a number of literary organisations. When asked about his future plans, he says, “I will continue editing and publishing this magazine till the day I die.”
One of the few old literary magazines remaining in Nepal, Rachana still persists due to Ghimire’s passion. Though no one can guarantee its continuation after him, Rochak Ghimire will live on for years through his great contribution to Nepali literature.
Posted on: 2011-07-02 09:41 (The Kathmandu Post)


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