Parasmani Smriti Puraskar Awardee
Durga Prasad Shrestha
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Once upon a time his and my family used to be the next door neighbours close to each other at Chaukhambha Varanasi till early 1950s when I was moved to Gangtok for my studies and soon my parents followed to Rhenock from Kalimpong with Indo-Tibet trade that came to an abrupt end and to our family trade as well. One Sunday noon there I saw Durgadai dissecting a frog at his home and learnt he was keen pursuing to become a doctor. I too got interested to be a doctor, which inspite of a Government of India scholarship in 1963 it could not materialize as a medical seat for me could not be provided by the Department thus spoiling a valuable year. This made me re-join Darjeeling Government College for my B.Sc. Honours and M.Sc. in Zoology with Dr. Bishwapati Dasgupta as the Head of the Department and later Principal there. He had already four PhDs in 1967-68 and we were inspired to pursue our studies towards a PhD through dissecting toads, earthworms, rats, guinea-pigs, pigeons, mosquitoes, gnats and silverfishes besides burrowing through latest research papers and scientific journals. He even recommended and certified me being good for teaching job as a profession. Years after we were in the Government jobs, another teacher Dr. Mohitosh Banerjee came visiting us in Gangtok and encouraged to pursue a PhD for ourselves inspite of being absorbed in our respective field. Neither I nor Tanka Ram Sharma could fulfill the dream but Dr. Surendra Kumar Pradhan, a year junior to me in M.Sc. who joined Sikkim Government College achieved this feat to become the Principal and retire from there. Dr. Diwakar Pradhan who heads Nepali Department in the Banaras Hindu University had mentioned me once how profusely we get such Doctorates aplenty each year these days compared to a very few to accomplish and achieve the rare feat that is now 50 years ago! Only solace for me was that I could acknowledge Dr. Dasgupta for my first ever book Saral Jiwa Vigyan, a high school level biology textbook for Rashtriya Prakashan of Birgunj, Nepal with Nepali terminologies for scientific terms soon after my BSc (Hons.) in 1967.
After serving the Information Ministry in His Majesty’s Government of Nepal for a decade and with an award for the Best Dialogue-writer for the epic movie Ama bagged, Durgadai thought it better to follow and pursue what his heart wished and serve for the cause of literature – Nepali and Hindi too to fetch him awards from the UP Government for his stories in Sattare Mausi in 1974 and Bhanu Puraskar from Nepali Parishad, Dehradun well back in 1992. Not satisfied with such recognitions, he thought it better to carry forward the torch that his late father Kashi Bahadur Shrestha had started as the Founder/Editor to spread the light of Nepali language and literature through the literary magazine Uday in 1937 two years before Durgadai was born. His advancing age with failing eyes come on his way but dedicated he is so much that nothing can stop him for giving his best, the best yet to come.
Jai Smarak Samman
Recognizing his immense potentials Durgadai was brought in the advisory body and this association with the Sahitya Akademi infused fresh blood in his endeavor for the benefit of readers. Knowing his life-long contributions to the language, literature and the society, he was our natural choice as the most deserving and dedicated person to be honoured with the first Jai Smarak Samman instituted and awarded in memory of our late father/founder of Rachna Books when celebrating its Silver Jubilee in 2005. He could not be here in the function held at the Nepali Sahitya Parishad Bhavan with well-known litterateur Mahanand Poudyal and for the better. Very soon we had the opportunity to hand over the award in a function held in Kathmandu, where I had some family obligation to attend and learnt Durgadai to be there too. Grand old lady and a literary figure Angoor Baba Joshi was the chief guest in this function chaired by the veteran litterateur Balkrishna Parajuly (who had edited Kashi Bahadur Smriti Granth 1996) that Ramesh Khakurel managed efficiently with his witty remarks to entertain the audience that itself comprised of literary celebrities like Modnath ‘Prashrit’, Ratna Shamsher Thapa, Nagendra Prasad Sharma, Tulasi Bhattarai, Mahesh Banskota, Pushkar Lohani, Ashok Banskota, Dibya Giri, Govind Prasad Shrestha, Anand Prakash Nepal, Shailendra Prakash Nepal, Dhruva Madhikarmi, Abhishek Shrestha besides a host of enthusiastic youth that brings to mind instantly the names of the literary-photographer Kumar Ale and the Newatech Subhash Prajapati now in Seattle USA, the founder of www.nepalmandal.com who authored many books on the rich Newar culture and tradition beforehand. Parajuly was kind enough to donate and oblige us with some of his best works like Nepali Lokgeetko Alok and Samjhnako Kshitijma for our newly launched Jai Smriti Shodh Granthalaya. It was quite amusing to learn from the guests there in a lighter friendly teatime that such awards were sponsored by the person honoured with the award money coming back to him. Another one quipped that we run after the award to grab one but here the award itself is running after the author to honour him! This we took as compliment as the function was a grand success to gauge the depth and height of Durgadai’s popularity away from his homeland.
Chip of the old block he is and Durgadai could pay best way tribute to his late father on the birth anniversary in 2012. He could rope in the Sahitya Akademi to organize Kashi Bahadur Shrestha Birth Centenary Seminar for two days amidst a host of literary luminaries of the country when they all converged to the Paradkar Bhavan in Varanasi on 14 and 15 October and a month later on 13 November at the Pragya Bhavan in Kathmandu Nepal jointly with the Nepal Pragya Pratishthan (Academy).This was a befitting reply to a member in the Akademi who trying to malign the age-old reputation had questioned the need for holding such a centenary in memory and honour of a person whom he alleged to be from Nepal. He had even attempted to benefit of his position there to canvass and secure the Akademi award for his book when the whole of the Nepali literary world was ashamed being unfortunate to be deprived of the much coveted award that year – the black year to burden our heart with!
Now with Parasmani Smriti Puraskar bagged which is to be handed over to him on 26th February in a function to be held at the Ramkrishna Rangmanch in Kalimpong, I am wondering if Durgadai could make it also possible for the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling to honour him with the Diyalo Puraskar that is waiting him since it was declared in 2012. I had suggested him to be there for this during the launch of our Sharad Chettri Smritigranth in June last year making it convenient as well to hand over the Madan Smriti Samman to the veteran litterateur Krishna Singh Moktan in his capacity as the chair of the Vidya-Dharma Pracharini Nepali Samiti that organizes the function for the Balchandra Palace Trust with another doyen of the Nepali literary world Kamal Dixit.
Uday Bachau Abhiyan
Towards the turn of the century, his visits here and again seeking financial support from the Government with copies of ten issues of the revived Uday Durgadai brought out and to collect the payment for the copies of Kashibahadur Shrestha Smrititgranth supplied brought him near to frustration. Around the same time Muktinath Upadhayay Baral in his article Nepali Prakashan Kehi Ganthan in the leading news-daily Sunchari Samachar while narrating the ills that ails to mar the Nepali literature posed us a question whether the responsibility of continuing with the Uday kept alive was the responsibility only of its editor Durga Prasad alone. Entirely agreed and finding it to be the opportune time I thought why not take up the matter forward and pass it on and address it to the learned readers themselves. Best to set an example, I became the Patron myself from the Life Membership obtained previously and approached the then Speaker Kalawati Rai for her support to the movement launched by me to save the 36-year old magazine, a heritage to us – Uday Bachau Abhiyan. She not only readily accepted to be a Patron but also subscribed Life Membership to the Sikkim Legislative Assembly Library. It was through the support of late Udaichand Pradhan who ceaselessly worked to promote the Uday roping in many of the literary figures to make our Darjeeling list respectable. While it was through kindness of well-wishers like Gopi Chandra Pradhan, Surya Shrestha and K. B. Hingmang there and Pradyumn Shrestha and Tika Dhungel here who extended their support to keep our efforts continued and dream alive.
Durgadai is a perfect example of the popular maxim ‘Simple living high thinking’ and this I can write here sharing an aspect of his life - devotion to his Guru. He had been disappearing to the Ashram sometimes near Ranchi and even in Nepal for months together at times. I could know the reason thereof only when he reached Gangtok in October 2006 to give me with his love and affection a copy of the Yogiko Atmakatha, the Nepali version of the famous work of Paramhans Yoganand An Autobiography of a Yogi that is translated in 21 languages the world over – this one was from Durgadai. Happy to get it, I try to find and see his name in the book but lo, no name or mention of him anywhere therein. Finding me surprised, he enlightens me the reason - the toil was his Guru Dakshina he offered to the Yogda Satsang Society of India!
Sahitya Akademi has decided its Nepali Literature Award this time to Manka Rahar ra Laharharu to an octogenarian M. B. Pradhan for his brilliant travelogue – a welcome new trend honouring an elderly in recognition of his lifelong contributions to the language, literature and society in turn. Such an award too early in one’s life often bring no further contributions sometimes as the winner remains satisfied with his achievement: instead of boosting his spirits, it boosts his ego only. Elderly people who have devoted their whole life have now something to look forward to. Otherwise, the only hope was the Madan Smriti Samman awarded by the Balchandra Palace Trust in functions organized by the Vidya-Dharma Pracharini Nepali Samiti in Varanasi each year to such literary figures with lifetime dedicated service. Nepali Sahitya Adhyayan Samiti that M. B. Pradhan heads - decides to award Paras Mani Smriti Puraskar this year to septuagenarian Durga Prasad Shrestha, who is the editor-publisher of Varanasi-based literary periodical Uday. This he deserved in view of his lifelong contributions to the Nepali language, literature and society not only in the country but in neighbouring Nepal rather the world over. This also means recognition to the Uday for its role in continue building up the Nepali language and literature for three generations now since it first appeared in 1937 to last 83 issues till 1957 thereafter to 151st issue last August since Durgadai took the cudgel to revive and republish continue the good work his father started.
Durga Prasad being thus recognized, this year his 75th Birthday seems to augur well with two of the works being brought out by the Sahitya Akademi. One is a biography Kamala Sanskritayan: Ek Jiwani while the other is his Hindi translation of his father’s classic work Basant soon after Kashi Bahadur Shrestha : Vyaktitva au Krititva the papers obtained during the Kashi Bahadur Shrestha Birth Centenary Seminar in 2012 compiled and edited by him for the same organization last year. He has thus proved to be worthy son of a worthy father and paid for the blood he owed to his father.
On the occasion of his birthday, let us wish him a long life full of good health, zeal and vigour to reach new heights in the coming days that would benefit us - the readers and the posterity as well for long time to come.
The author can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or at ‘Rachna’, opposite Manan Bhavan/Secretariat, Gangtok, Sikkim.
Published in Sikkim Now! January 10, 2014