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Indra Bahadur Rai : Nepali literature is Much larger than just ‘detached’ Kathmandu

As summer approaches, the nonagenerian litterateur Indra Bahadur Rai will ascend the hills of Darjeeling alone. It is a desire Rai has had for decades, along with his wife, to seek escape from the searing summer-time heat of Siliguri and to soak in the cool breeze of Darjeeling. Rai lost his wife four months ago. But even while he has been beset with the grief, Rai has not lost the verve with which he discusses language and literature, especially Nepali literature, of which he is a stalwart. Born in 1928, Rai has been active in the field of Nepali literature for more than 75 years, authoring acclaimed books such as Bipana Katipaya and Aaja Ramita Chha. In his career, Rai has also spearheaded literary campaigns such as Tesro Aayam and Leela Lekhan; all of which was driven by the motive to preserve and promote Nepali literature, to honour the positives and to speak against the negatives.

This week I visited Rai to talk about the current trends of Nepali literature. “Where is Nepali literature heading towards?” he asked me, “What’s up with Kathmandu’s literature scene, what about with Sikkim, with Assam, with Gangtok?” Then Rai ventured to answer the question himself. “If we were to walk hand in hand, all of us practitioners of Nepal literature, the literature scene would have evolved beyond measures. But the current scenario is that Gangtok has taken its own route, Guwahati its own and Kathmandu, certainly, its own.” What Rai was getting at is clear: the practitioners of Nepali literature, whether they are based in Nepal or the Nepali-speaking regions of India should engage in discussions on a regular basis and mull over the positives and negatives, failures and achievements.

Rai adds, “Nepali literature, it seems to me, is lost somewhere. Especially, when you look at how detached Kathmandu is from other parts of Nepali-speaking world.” Rai went on, “The common assumption is that Nepal literature has travelled a long way. But towards what direction? Nobody cares.”  Rai suggests that the lovers of Nepali language and literature should come together and carry out serious discussions and collaborations. “Analysis and synthesis are two fundamentals of literature,” Rai said, “We need to analyse the works being produced and carry out genuine judgement according to their merit. Only then will the literary scene grow.” 

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