From my own turf - 6
Nepal once Again
Connecting the Dots
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
‘A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.’ Carl Sagan said and what we have been trying here in Nepal once again with my book ‘The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim’ after its International Launch at the Second WNO Convention 2016 USA at Baltimore. It was earlier blessed by Muma and my elders in presence of friends, well-wishers and relatives during the curtain-raiser held on 23rd March at the Rachna Books, Gangtok. Soon the book was out from the press in Siliguri, where we stayed for 10 days to see it through, many were interested to lay hand on and see the book earliest like us. Excited I slogged day and night with Ranjana recuperating from the eye surgery to meet the dateline. We booked with the courier service for sending the books for its International Launch during the Second WNO Convention 2016 USA to NAO President Ram Lall Shrestha. He had taken the cudgels to receive and do the needful there as we had finally decided to make it possible for us while we had opted to be conspicuous by our absence there. We were in touch with Saroj D. Prajapati, president NPPA and Season Shrestha, former president NOA and newly elected WNO President. He was the person to invite me as the general secretary NOA to be the Special Guest to speak on and share about The Newars in Sikkim during the 9th NOA General Body Meeting and Convention in May 2010. Both NPPA and NOA extended all the help to Daya Ratna Shakya, WNO vice-president and chief co-ordinator to hold the WNO Convention in the US. The book was finally ready and Anup Shah of Systematics Designers and Printers helped the parcel handed over to the couriers DTDC to send the consignment by air through DHL. It was quite expensive as the book came out bigger than what we had thought to be but with price set originally. To our great relief Book Launch Nepal was possible when Naresh Bir Shakya interested to get a copy earliest asked us when the Book Launch Nepal was. We responded that it would be possible at the earliest, if somebody helped us with the local logistics organizing it there.
It was Naresh Bir himself to come out volunteering to support with their Elohan Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. I was familiar with it ever since they brought out my article on the Asha Safu Kuthi in the Layakoo in 2004. My readers might be remembering this fortnightly Layakoo that is published in Nepal Bhasha along with a column in Nepali/Khyé Bhasha that I had introduced while bringing out the Newar/Nepal Bhasha edition of the Sikkim Herald way back in 1996. They are still continuing with this style of ours whereas our people back home in Sikkim have dumped it long time back after my departure from the Department of Information and Public Relations as Commissioner-cum-Secretary/ex-officio Editor-in-Chief a year or so later it being introduced. I was narrating this to Naresh Bir too here on the Book Launch day that the our people in Sikkim were wise enough to do away with it as if they have mastered the language and did not feel the need of such a wonderful method of understanding the text in Nepali or Nepal Bhasha. My article ‘Asha Safu Kuthi – the Only Archive’ is the opening article in ‘The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim’ and it was first published in Nepali in the Wichar weekly (Oct 1-7, 2004) followed by its appearance in the Layakoo along with Nepal Bhasha ((Dec 16, 2004) and English version for the Sikkim Now! (19 May 2006.) Nepal-lipi-online New Year Supplement 1131 NS from Japan carried it five years ago. It was there again in the Sikkim Express in 2013 with a footnote – ‘Though the new building of the Asha Safu Kuthi is ready, there is still scope wide open for donors to come forward and help.’ During the inauguration of its new building, which we could not attend I was one of their well-wishers to be felicitated for our humble contributions towards the cause. The place has been a pilgrimage for me whenever in Kathmandu. We had the opportunity to felicitate with Jai Smarak Samman in 2013 its former Library-in-Charge Raja Shakya for his long service becoming a synonym with the Asha Safu Kuthi. Sharad Kasa, a face familiar to many of the Newars in Sikkim, is the present incumbent. He was felicitated this time at the Book Launch Nepal. We had also felicitated there our Key Note Speaker Hiranya Lal Shrestha, foreign affairs expert and former Nepalese Ambassador to China for being kind enough to review the book and say a few lines about the book. When we recently visited this very popular face and litterateur with Ranjana’s sister Rajani and Dipak Prasad Shrestha from Hetauda, Hiranya Lal was kind enough to give me his recent voluminous Sixty Years of Dynamic Partnership (2015). A copy of Paarakhika Aankhama – Hiranyalal Shresthaka Pustakharu/ Spectrum of Hiranya Lal Shrestha’s Book: viewed by Experts brought out in 2013 by Sahitya Sangam Makwanpur.
The Book Launch Nepal also saw felicitating The Newah Icon Nepal Padma Ratna Tuladhar who along with Naresh Bir Shakya visited Sikkim way back in 1997 as the head and general secretary of the Nepal Bhasha Manka: Khala: respectively. It was for the first time that we the Newars in Sikkim had the opportunity to witness and know about our rich cultural heritage when eminent folk artistes performed for the cultural extravaganza. The golden moments were captured in pictures later shown in the Calendar 1998 brought out by the Karuna Guthi and reproduced in this book as well. In case you cannot reach the old calendar or the new book you can get the picture right on your smart phone accessing the Facebook page Newars in Sikkim. Much cherished historic moment is also treasured as the cover photo with the Sikkim Coin brought out by Taksari Chandra Bir Newar as the profile picture of my Facebook page Newars in Sikkim. Their visit was on the invitation of Government of Sikkim to be part of year-long celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of India’s Independence. This could later also help many people in Sikkim in many ways to know about and preserve, protect and promote the language, culture, tradition, rituals and heritage. It had also helped in establishing a cordial mutual relationship of brotherhood and understanding between the fellow Newars across the border, be it at community level or individual level to benefit each other.
People here in Kathmandu or those who are familiar with places like the popular Nepa Banquet (for holding important functions including the book release we attended for Raja Shakya’s Adalat in December 2014) might be interested to know why did we chose of all the places Asha Safu Kuthi hidden behind the new building of Chwasa: Pasa (incidentally I also happened to witness its inauguration in April 2011 with the story dedicated to this famous writers’ forum and now included in the book as well) at Chittadhar Marg more popularly known since the days of yore as Kulanbhulu for Raktakali Temple nearby for holding our Book Launch Nepal. Naresh Bir had suggested some hotel in Lalitpur but I mentioned of the Asha Safu Kuthi. I also told him why it was so close to my heart and it forms the opening chapter in this book as well. It would reveal my connection from 2004 but, in fact, it is since much ago - as early as 1995 when I visited here for the first time. We were looking for someone to help us editing our Newa: Varna, Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya. Accompanied by Dipak Prasad Shrestha from Hetauda, we were at the doorsteps of Janakavi Durga Lal Shrestha, who instead recommended us to visit the Asha Safu Kuthi and meet Raja Shakya there – he was the right person to help us in the matter, he opined. The book was published in 1996 with its revised improved edition in 2001 that became the pioneering work to learn/teach Newa:/Nepal Bhasha much needed for the Newars in Sikkim to know about our rich customs and tradition, culture and heritage given in a nutshell besides learning different scripts and alphabets. It had won the hearts of the dedicated youth from Bhaktpur to visit us and get some copies for their use. On being asked why they needed it as they belong to the heartland of the Newar civilization. They said that with growing influence of the modern time, our people have forgotten their mother language and speak in Nepali or Khye Bhaye thus endangering the Newah language. Thus their children too were deprived of learning the language at an age when they pick words best and learn the language quickest.
It being Sunday, a working day for Nepal, many friends, well-wishers and relatives could not attend the Book Launch Nepal. We are grateful to all who could and extend their support in solidarity with the Newars in Sikkim including the daily Kantipur. Prof. Narmadeshwar Pradhan, however, gave us opportunity to meet litterateur/MP Sabhasad Laxman Rajbanshi at his residence and also two of his works of poems. Raja Shakya too excused himself but gave me a copy of Lahana with his interview when we visited him. Friends like Rabison Shakya, Shashikala Manandhar and Rukmani Shrestha all came with books for me while Radha and Suroj Raj Rajkarnikar, whom we met in the US during Indrajatra 2015 NOA, were at the Aroma Café to get the book autographed by me. Devdass Manandhar, who was felicitated by the NOA for doing Unicode of Nepal Lipi, helped me update earlier given Thanhiti for Ranjana Lipi. He also gave a copy of Manandhar Duja Bahi or Manandhar Directory brought out after years of hard labour. He had earlier promised to help similar directory for the Newars in Sikkim also, if desired.
Thank you Nepal for giving us this rare opportunity to get the book launched there once again. It is now for our esteemed readers to grab a copy in support of our efforts with feedback in writing so that we could consider their views for updating in the next edition of the book. We have started receiving comments right from the very title of the book ‘The Newars’. Opening line in my Preface mention of its variants like Newah, Newa or Newa: currently used that fascinates me but would not be enough to convince my hard-core die-hard Newah friend in the heartland. Such is the love or is it frenzy of the people towards this identity that they simply feel offended. It is for you readers now to find out what the book is all about as a whole – its historic black and white pictures we treasure or those in multi-colour at their best to cherish much to treasure for the posterity!
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names, quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org