Family first, thereafter what immediately came to my mind was the Newah Vijnana and the person behind it. Known for over a decade by his this Journal of Newah Studies from Portland Oregon since its inception, I had been longing to see him in person! It was, therefore, but natural for me to be eager to meet this man. He has been doing good work for quite some time promoting the Newar language, culture and tradition thus helping its preservation. It was not difficult for many of the Newar, who made this land of opportunity their home and now with third generation born and brought up here, to forget these particularly the language like those of us in Sikkim immediate neighboring Nepal. It was dedicated efforts of those few amongst them who had the vision to foresee the eminent likelihood and this danger lurking in our society. Struggling for their own survival in this foreign soil, they took the cudgels also to think of and spare a while for preserving and promoting our language and literature, art and culture, etc. nay the Newar ethos. Among such rare breeds belong this gem amongst us, Daya Ratna Shakya!
It was not very difficult either to find him out on landing here. I was invited to be the Special Guest in the 9th General Meeting and Convention of the Newah Organization of America (NOA) being held at Potomac Community Center in Maryland on May 30, 2010 and to speak on the Newars of Sikkim. Daya's e-mail was there inviting me to be with his World Newah Organization (WNO) friends in the dinner night before at Tribhuvan Tuladhar's place in nearby Hay Market. This made my sister Nivedita and Jwaisaheb with Bhanij Vidit fetch me to Woodbridge in Virginia the previous evening. Regretted for not making it but the first thing next morning, courtesy my Jwaisaheb Bipin Karki, saw me there teleconferencing together with Bal Gopal Shrestha at the Oxford University in the United Kingdom. After sumptuous brunch with hospitality of Rashami Tuladhar, Tribhuvan was kind enough to drop me back enlightening me of the strides made by the NOA since its inception and his days as its president on the way.
For Daya I had brought the circa-2006 news-paper cutting with that carried an article Rahasyako Kuro Ek : Sandarbha – Gorkhe Khabar Kagat by Jaibir Khulal (Himalayan Darpan, Siliguri dated March 20, 2006) about his literary writings published as Sandarbha Sahitya : Kalimpong (1983 Upashak Prakashan Kalimpong). Daya is reported to have reproduced two articles from the Gorkhe Khabar Kagat Issue dated October 1, 1926. One of them was a gajal by Prashman Pradhan written on October 1, 1916 and another a Press Release dated August 27, 1926 issued for the Gorkha League, Dehra Dun by its Secretary J. B. Khatri. Tracing the history of Nepali news-paper publishing, he credited Motiram Bhatt being the first for his paper brought out in 1886 but there being no record in proof to this effect the Gorkhe Khaba Kagat published by the Christian Missionaries from the printing unit set up by them should be the first. Followed by Sudhasagar of 1899 (BS 1955 Sawan) said to be the first from Nepal mentioned in Nepali Sahityako Sankchipt Itihas by Dayaco-authored with Prof. Mohan Raj Sharma placing the Gorkhe Khaba Kagat in the fourth place was not correct as it was senior by 154 days to the Gorkhapatra published by the Nepal Government only from Jeth 3, BS 1958. Khulal also narrated that there was a sort of war of words between the two doyens of the the Nepali literary world when Paras Mani Pradhan started his Chandrika in 1918. The language used in it was found to be different from the one being used by Father Ganga Prasad Pradhan, who termed it as the 'Kashibashe Boli'' – Kashi or Benaras-based language. This should be the mother of present day Nepali language as it was based on Sanskrit instead. Paras Mani Pradhan's own brother Shesh Mani Pradhan praised Gorkhe Khabar Kagat in the Adarsh (January 1930) edited by him. The Gorkha Sevak published from Shillong in 1935 urged the two warring stalwarts not to wash their dirty linen in public. Khulal wished Dr. Daya Ratna Shakya settled in the USA since long, Nepali Sahitya Adhyayan Samiti or Upashak Brothers to clarify the source that would help unveil the mystery and intention so as to know the exact number of Gorkhe Khabar Kagat published till date as Kamal Mani Dixit later claimed to have obtained its 17 issues altogether for his Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya. The material reproduced by him was not from within the issues available. Some more issues could, therefore, be there than the available unless some motive otherwise in not disclosing it. My tribute to those warring Pradhans for making the history – we Newars still have the trait sometimes fighting ourselves or our own people but excel in our respective fields contributing to the cause wherever we are and in whatever capacity!
His writings apart, Daya is a professional with Nepalese ITI Services in instruction, translation and interpretation and accomplished in languages English, Nepali, Newah and Hindi besides studying Japanese, German, Spanish, and many Ethnic Languages of Nepal including Sanskrit and Tibetan.
Eugene with a population of 40 when he came first has now over 350 Nepalese. In reply to a question, how we have been perceived here, he says that Nepalese have been received as enduring, friendly, peace-loving and uncrafty. Back home interested in coming to the USA but without much knowledge of the foreign soil, the youth find themselves ashamed when asked about their own country that makes them get busy to learn, language, culture and history on landing here. Besides teaching the languages and introducing various cultural aspects of Nepal to the people here, Daya has been devoting his time in educating the children of Nepal or mixed origin out of marriage with the Nepalese in efforts that they are not carried away from love for their homeland. There are though not enough takers to learn the language with Peace Corps volunteers no more as an aftermath of the Maoist movement, he laments. This finds him in the business enterprise importing handicrafts from Nepal for his Himalayan Gifts and Candies also available online www.himalayangiftandcandy.com. He is the Director in the Center for Nepalese Language and Culture, Portland, Oregon and a Nepal Bhasha lecturer in Portland Community College till 1997. Since 2009 he is also associated with the Bodhi Tree Language Institute there.
His efforts saw that there was Nepal also included for those interested otherwise the Japanese, Korean and Chinese civilization were only taken earlier for Oriental Studies in the Asian society of Oregon. With increase in the Nepalese population, a need was felt for having a formal organization that made him come out with a newsletter named Namaste in 1994. The Nepalese Association of Oregon(NAO) was constituted under the chairmanship of Raju Mali of Portland in 2001. He himself was elected to this post in 2003. He was an active founder-member of the Washington DC based NOA later becoming its Vice President as well. He has been the editor of its newsletter Lasakusa besides the Newah Vijnana, which he has been publishing also with 7th issue on the anvil this year. Through these platforms he has been publicizing successfully in introducing the Asian society here about the glorious Nepal. Satisfied but sometimes he finds even 24 hours diurnal cycle even short for the works he wishes/has to do. Besides own survival and that of his family, health needs are also to be taken care of. This saddens him that enough is not yet enough.
Always busy/involved working for his own country he has never felt to have been away from Nepal. Entering the 21st Century he has found people remembering their homeland with a desire to return to Nepal but for their prime age past which stops and hurts them unable to repay on return anymore. Non Resident Nepalese (NRN) issue might serve the interest of already well off business houses only to attract investment back home, who knows! He further thinks that there should not be any prejudice against the NRNs in making the New Nepal as he has a doubt somewhere deep in his heart. No one should be pointing a finger either to the NRNs if their efforts help unification serve create a fruitful environment in the independent country we have now!
Newah Vijnaana is now in its 14th year with seven issues in hand! I understand the role such a newsletter plays in reaching the message of the Newar ethos far and wide to the fellow countrymen scattered over both the hemispheres. What needs to be preserved and promoted has been best captured in a single sheet - Recognition of Newah Identity reproduced at the end of this article for the benefit of all concerned with an urge in appeal to contribute what way best you can serve – be it literature, culture or art – choice is yours and the field vast enough to cover your interest.
Hisscholarly work Classifiers and Their Syntactic Functions in Nepal Bhasha (published in Himalayan Research Bulletin XVII)reminded me of our own attempt enlisting 35 different ways to count in the Newar language in the Newa: Varna Lipi ra Bhasha Parichay (co-author Ranjana Shresta 1996, 2001 2e).
Reading his In search of a shrine dedicated to Newarology (published in Matina NS 1127) we know, “In view of the growing number of scholars showing an interest in Nepal studies, it would not be much to say that the study of Newars has been gaining much popularity in various academic institutions around the world. On the one hand, the trend towards a declining Newar identity is of serious concern, whereas on the other hand the significant efforts by world renowned institutions to explore Newar arts and artifacts are adding new chapters in the study of Asian and Himalayan Heritage. It has been mentioned by many scholars that the study of Nepal remains incomplete unless and until Newar heritage is endorsed properly. The study of Nepalese art and artifacts including cultural heritage, would be one-sided if a scholar avoids mentioning a section on Newars.”
Before proceeding further, I should reproduce what he found the scholars had to say for the benefit of readers here:
1. “Now a days the term Nepalese has a far wider significance, indeed almost a changed meaning, but when we speak of Nepalese civilization, we can only mean Newar civilization.”- David Snellgrove 'Shrines and Temples of Nepal' in Arts Asiatique VIII, I, 1961,p3
2. “the salient trait of the Newar character is the taste of the society. The Newar never lives isolated; he loves to dwell a little like the Parisian, in house of several storey and swarming with people, rather than live in solitude in town as well as in the village. He knows how to derive delight from the pleasures nature give him; he sings, he talks, he loves the countryside, delights in picnic of gay company; in a shadow spot near a stream or rivulet, in the shelter of an old sanctuary, facing a beautiful and panoramic view. Careful and keen cultivator he also excels in all the manual arts, even the most delicate; he is painter of taste, well-informed trader without rapacity and born artist. He is talented goldsmith and ironsmith, fanciful carver, dyer and gifted artist. He has changed the art of India, built temples and palaces which have served as models to the Tibetans and the Chinese. The Classical Pagoda hails from Nepal. The reputation of the Nepalese craftsmen, consecrated by the centuries, is still established in the whole Central Asia. The Gurkhas who resent their entry in the army have given them the reputation of cowardice; but the memory of the assaults delivered at Kirtipur testify their bravery.” - Sylvan Levi from Le Nepal.
3. “The Newars are best known to the world for their amazing artistic creativity and skilled craftsmanship producing a culture which a few centuries ago ranked among the highest in Asia. The Newars developed their own distinctive art style which is now thought of purely Nepalese. The heavily decorated many tiered pagoda temple style peculiar to Newari builders and artisans is generally believed to have originated with them. Records show that Emperors of Tibet and China sent for Newari craftsmen to build temples in their lands, whence the style eventually spread to Japan.” - Mary A. Anderson in Festivals of Nepal.
From his Globalization of Newah Language, we find hima strong believer in Mahakavi Siddhidas' Bhasha mwaasaa Jaati mwaai meaning 'ethnicity will survive only if their language survives'. Accepting the Oxford University findings two decades back that the Newar language would be a dead language by 2080AD as a challenge, he wants us all work together to make this prediction fail. He, however, finds it no longer effective to the young Newars because of the misleading educational curriculum back home during the Panchayati period and the decade thereafter. This has forced Nepalese people to knock on the door of foreign labor suppliers and end up in chaos and challenging conditions. Some of them are well settled by now and some are still wandering through a world of problems. Basically, away from their homeland they look forward to a better life here. With the resident status provided by the US and many other countries, the trend of living in foreign countries started after the Panchayati period has increased the number of non-resident people drastically over the period. Asked about the size of the Newar population abroad, a Professor at the University of Wisconsin is reported to say that 15 out of 17 children of his family are already settled in the USA. A senior officer of the Family Planning Commission is also reported to have sneaked out and settled here. We are aware that quite a number of well known singers and film artistes are settled here courtesy the opportunities available. They do not mind waiting the tables at reputed restaurants and even baby-sitting as my sister tells me about an incident her friend encountered here in Washington DC.
With the size of Newar population growing every year, Newar organizations have come up not only in the USA but in the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and India that enable observation of Newar festivals and keep the tradition alive but without any academic discipline available to learn about the Newars. In fact, the time has come to give positive thought to start an independent discipline to resume the study of Newars and give exposition and existence to Newarology, he adds. With no support back home from the Government front, a start should, therefore, be made in foreign countries first, and then it will be followed by educationists in Nepal. We know the maxim, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
For his continuous support in preservation of the Nepalese language and culture and guiding the Nepalese community in Oregon, he was awarded “Finest Exemplary Volunteer Award 2001” by the Asian Reporter of Portland and “Outstanding Article Award 2004” by Nepa Pasah Pucha Americaye Washington DC USA. He heads the International Nepal Bhasha Seva Samiti, USA.
Besides Newah Vijnana, he has many articles and books like Nepal Bhasha Sikshyaa – a guide to learn the Language of Newars with its DVD version ready in supportto his credit. Bandipurya Nepal Bhasha is a study of the Bandipur dialect of the Newar language while Wyaa Pwaathae Du isa collection of articles based on linguistic features of the Newah language. His latest is on the country dialect of the Newar language Gama bhaye that waits an opportune moment for its release in right forum at appropriate occasion complimentary to the theme!
Wyaa Pwaathae Du (ISBN 978-99946-664-9-2 Rs. 150/- Elohan Publication Kathmandu 2004) is a collection of 19 linguistic articles on Nepal Bhasha (the languages of Newars) under his pen name Darsha Newahmi since his early days that include one on Bharatey Newahbahye Chhagu Sarvechhan - a survey on Newah language in India circa-1982. I am happy that he has a Kalimpong background to know about the Newars in the region too. Once a hub of the Indo-Tibet Trade through Sikkim, he could possibly throw more light with his links both sides of the border on the prominent families like Bhajuratna (later more popular as Syamukapu to those in Sikkim and Tibet), Purnaman Sahu, Jitman Sahu, Bhai Chand Pradhan and others whose names my Buba Jai Shanker Lal Shresta (1917-2003) often used to mention me of having close relationship with them and of Dharmodaya as well. It was early 1950s running the Branch Office of our family concern Harishankerlal Ramshankerlal Nepali (Established 1887) with Head Office in Benaras more popularly known as Nepali Kothi of Chaukhambha, was located at 10th Mile the prime location in the Kodamal Bhojraj Building. It now houses the leading business house of the region – Balkishandas Shyamratandas of Marda Group. With the Chinese takeover of Tibet, our trade across the Nathula and Jelepla borders soon met its natural death that made him settled at Rhenock - brought by marriage to the Taksari family of Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan - for good, fully and finally. Journey all the way from Sankhu - Kilagal - Birgunj - Betiah - Mirzapur - Benaras to Sikkim took seven generations through seven different places with third generation on the go – really pretty long! Buba, a 1940 Master in Commerce from Calcutta University, spent most of his life there earning him the title Head Sir – a befitting tribute. Otherwise, simply put, Wyaa Pwaathae Du describes how rich, cultured and unique is our Newah language compared to 18 different languages of the world, when we say 'She is pregnant' in English!
I believe, we should motivate ourselves first in order to motivate others. Daya is motivated enough that too with his long innings which could really defy the myth that there is not enough time for anything in this land of opportunities. The Newars the world over are with you and your WNO. You could perhaps deliver what is badly needed at this awkward juncture we the Newars are passing through the world over.
So, sky could be the limit. That is not demanding too much either, perhaps!
July 2010 Exton PA USA