Thursday, August 29, 2013

The writer from Assam

Literary magazines generally do not survive for too long. In the competitive market of publishing, literary magazines are rarely supported by corporate houses or big publications on the grounds that they are not saleable commodities. But there are some Nepali literary magazines which have been serving their community of readers regardless. In Nepal, magazines like Rachana, Abhinyakti, and Juhi still continue to be published, and their publication has been made possible by the endeavours of individual editors and publishers. Two such widely known editors, Rochak Ghimire and Chudamani Regmi, have already been featured in this column. Today we have another such figure who has been editing and publishing a literary magazine without the support of wealthy publication houses or business firms for 50 years. The continuous publication of the bi-monthly Bindu from Lamding of Assam, India, has been possible only through the personal efforts of writer KB Nepali.
 Nepali was born in Assam as Khadga Bahadur Poudel but as he started writing, he was keen on being identified as a member of the Nepali-speaking community and therefore changed his name to KB Nepali. “I was also inspired by the writer Bal Krishna Sama, with whom I used to correspond via letters,” he says. It was a deeply-embedded sense of community that encouraged Nepali to write in the Nepali language and begin a magazine in the same.
As a student in Assam, Nepali was overwhelmed by the poetry in the passages of Muna Madan by Lakshmi Prasad Devkota. He remembers his teacher reciting the following lines: “The light was lit on the same day and I also thought of expressing my grievances and sufferings in my writings.” These resonated with the young Nepali who had lived through strenuous filial relations. The tension between his father and stepmother always frustrated him. Besides which, his father never encouraged him to pursue his studies or indulge in literature. “I could not continue my studies after I completed high school,” Nepali says. But when he started writing, Nepali knew he had found his calling.
With writing came integrity and exposure to various literary circles. A lingering problem, however, was that he had no proper space to publish his writing in Assam. “This lack of space became apparent to me after I wrote my first poem in 1956, and so I thought I would start my own literary magazine,” says Nepali. Though the first poem was eventually published in Udaya magazine (based in Varanasi), the wish to start a mazagine of his own never quite left him.
And in 1961, amid financial and other difficulties, Nepali decided to forge ahead with the idea. “I had no money with me so I borrowed some gold ornaments from my mit didi and drew some money by mortgaging them,” Nepali remembers. As the venture was small-scale, he settled on the name Bindu, which means a small dot, which he felt was appropriate for what he was building. The magazine soon became popular, allowing Nepali to easily pay off his debts and return to his mit didi her mortgaged ornaments. Renowned writers like Bal Krishna Sama, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Lekh Nath Poudyal and others started contributing their work to Bindu and slowly but surely, the magazine became a staple for Nepali readers in Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Assam.
Nepali is also well-known as a novelist and a poet. He has authored three novels, two short story anthologies and several anthologies of poems. Among them, his novels Mero Ghar Mero Sansar and Samarpan are most prominent. The first novel is the story of Nepali migrants who go to Muglan from Nepal for work. Similar to the plot of another acclaimed novel—Bashain by Nepali-speaking Assamese writer Lil Bahadur Chhetri—Mero Ghar Mero Sansar depicts the realities of many Nepali families who have traveled to places like Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur from Nepal in search of jobs. This novel has been translated into Hindi and Assamese as well and was also adapted as a radio-play and aired through Bibhid Bharati Radio in India. “And now Door Darshan Television is adapting the book as a tele-serial,” Nepali says. The Dibrugadh University of Assam has also included one of his poems in its syllabus of Nepali literature.
It is a challenge in itself to write and work for the development of Nepali literature in a place like Lamding of Assam, where the Nepali-speaking community is in the minority. But the relentless efforts of Nepali has transformed Bindu into a literary landmark of sorts—as well as a publisher of Nepali books. Nepali says, “We installed an offset press in our office and started publishing.” Initially, they published pocket-sized books of Nepali literature written by local writers and now they have expanded to larger books focusing on Nepali writings.
Brimming with the satisfaction of his success as a writer, publisher and editor, Nepali, whom I met at a literary programme in Varanasi, says, “I will continue publishing the magazine and writing and promoting Nepali literature till the end of my days.”
Posted on: 2011-10-22 09:24 (The Kathmandu Post)


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