Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kainla and his third dimension

What possibilities would the average Nepali man have at the age of 71? His days would probably be spent sitting idle at home, the usual packet of medicines kept at his bedside. If in the city, he would be all alone, ignored by family members who are rushed and busy at work. An alternative would perhaps be to retire in some rural setting, to spend blissful hours recounting long-gone days to near and dear ones. These are as far as possibilities go for ordinary souls; only Bairagi Kainla, nom-de-plume of poet Til Bikram Nemwang, defies predictability.
As Chancellor of the Nepal Academy—the government affiliated academy of literature, Kainla has a full schedule with endless lists of meetings and programmes.
“If I were still Til Bikram Nembang at this age, I would have plenty of time to play with my grandchildren,” says the poet whose life is certainly distinct from others his age. Indeed, his conversion from Til Bikram Nembang to the poet Kainla of today has made paradigm shifts to the course of his life.
Til Bikram was complacent with a two-dimensional, mundane life but Kainla was not content with what he saw in it. He made attempts to project a third dimension of life in his poetry and along with Indra Bahadur Rai and Ishwor Ballav, started the Aayameli Aandolan in Nepali literature in 1963. The contribution he made in his youth has now been rewarded with the honourable post of Chancellor in the Academy.
Born in 1940 in Pauwa Sartap of Panchthar district, the eastern hill, Kainla learnt his first letters at home. He was taught by a local teacher and lived in a joint family with his father and his father’s six wives. Kainla’s father was quite ahead of his times and was liberal enough to send him to study Science in Darjeeling. This was where Kainla met his genius friends, whose encouragement became pivotal in shaping his poet-personality. But more than formal studies, Kainla became busy in literary programmes, writing poems and publishing literary magazines. He met Indra Bahadur Rai and Ishwor Ballav in college, and their incessant debates on writing incited the publishing of their magazine. “We published a small magazine titled Phool Paat Patkar with our pocket money, where we published poetry, essays and short stories,” Kainla recalls.        
Kainla, Rai, and Ballav first experimented with Tesro Aayam (the third dimension) writing in 1963. The three started the Aayemeli movement from Darjeeling with the publication of a journal titled Tesro Aayam which triggered a theoretical jolt in Nepali literature at the time.
The three argued that writing should be focused on the idea of ‘totality’—by integrating art within their written works. When the movement was vibrant, during the 60s and 70s, Rai focused on the philosophical aspect of the movement and wrote short stories. Ballav had his own style with poetry and Kainla used the language of painting and music to pen his verses. The convention of words was too limited for his ‘third dimensional’ expression.
Their philosophy of writing allows readers to understand life through all three dimensions—a character is not just analysed according to how he or she speaks or behaves, but is instead treated as the sum of the whole. “We tried to show not objectivity but the ‘object-hood’ of things and human life,” says Kainla.
Though the movement stayed with many writers and thinkers for a long time, few attempted to use it as a tool for writing or criticism. Initially, critics and progressive writers of Nepal accused them for their complexity in writing. Krishna Dharabasi’s book Tesro Aayam ra Bairagi Kainla, a criticism on Kainla’s works, mentions this: “People often said it was impossible to understand Kainla’s poems.
They declared Kainla’s work couldn’t constitute poetry because Kainla himself could not explain what he had written.” Kainla’s poems are as complex as the theoretical aspects of Tesro Aayam. But the poet himself is not always complex and difficult to understand. The love poems he wrote before the movement began are popular among readers of Nepali literature even today.
In his poem Maateko Manchheko Bhaasan: Madhya Raat Pachhiko Sadak Sita (The Speech of a Drunkard with the Road after Midnight), a drunkard speaks out against tyranny and gives a thought-provoking speech against the undemocratic ruler, the conqueror of the road. “I wrote this poem during the democracy movement which was taking place in Nepal. In Darjeeling too, Nepali-speaking people were demanding the recognition of their language in the constitution,” says Kainla.
But after publishing the award-winning anthology of poems Bairagi Kainla Kaa Kabita, he stopped writing poems completely. “I became busy in the democratic movement and other movements for ethnic rights,” says Kainla who then got involved in researching the oral traditions of the Limbus—his own community. He has collected a good deal of Limbu literature and documented and archived them as well. Additionally, he initiated the project of developing a dictionary of Limbu language while he was a member of the Academy. With the help of font-expert Karun Thapa, Kainla also developed the Limbu font, which many Limbu writers found useful in coming up with literary books in the language.
As Chancellor of the academy, Kainla is now busy with the establishment of different committees for research on the literatures of ethnic communities in Nepal. But when asked about the poet within him, he claims, “Though I don’t write poems as frequently these days, I still am a poet deep within.”
Interestingly, Kainla has not yet finished a poem which he started 30 years ago. Making light of it, he says, “I am now planning to complete it and will probably come out with a new anthology in the near future.”
Posted on: 2011-06-04 09:08 (The Kathmandu Post)


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