-Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Prajwal Parajuly is a writer in residence at The Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies. He is 29 years and the author of widely acclaimed collection of short stories, The Gurkha’s Daughter (2012). Parajuly, the son of an Indian father and Nepalese mother, divides his time between Oxford and New York but disappears to Gangtok, his home town in the Himalayas, at every opportunity. This time around it was his first novel Land Where I Flee that brought him to his favourite place Rachna Books for the launch on 21 and 22nd December that stretched to another two days that kept him busy in book-reading and book-signing sessions. His new novel is dedicated thus “For Gangtok and Kalimpong and for Adik Vyas Sharma, who, at 1.5 years, laughs when I read out the most serious parts of this book to him.”
Previous morning I had asked my son Raman would it not be a good idea to have the book launched at Kalimpong as well since the books is dedicated to and is written in the backdrop of Kalimpong. He told me that this has been taken care of and things are ready for the programme scheduled for 27th December. Later I find the announcement on the Facebook. It was on the initiative of Bharat Mani Pradhan for the Rotary Kalimpong Library in association with Rachna Books that the function was held at picturesque The Lounge Silver Oaks. Prajwal was in Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and Chennai before reaching here at Rachna Books for the launch and in next few days he would be covering Kolkata, Chennai again, Bangalore, Pune and finally again in Mumbai on his way back. He took time out to be with us amidst his busy engagements and this is about the nice meeting we had with him to share with my readers.
I was posting on the Facebook page Newars in Sikkim a photo-report ‘Showcasing Sikkim’s rich culture’ with a Sikkimese Girl dancing in a traditional Newar attire in the recently concluded Sikkim Winter Carnival 2013 from the local popular news-daily Sikkim Express, when Raman came to announce that Prajwal has come and that takes me downstairs. I find to tell him that he had grown taller and bigger over a year with the success of his debut book The Gurkha’s Daughter the name and fame he earned for himself, his family and Sikkim that we all are proud of. I welcome and felicitate this youth icon with the traditional Gorkha khada (scarf) soon to follow by my wife Ranjana congratulating him on his brilliant achievement. When he was here with us last year for the launch of his debut book, to make the occasion memorable forever a photograph was posted on our website www.karunaguthi.com expressing our sentiments “Your Success is Our Success” and continuing the same excitement this time our welcome note to tell him, “Your Achievement is Our Achievement.”
His achievement is dream come true for us that we reared for over past three decades. Prajwal asks, “Auntie, isn’t that the bookshop in your name?” Ranjana replies, “No, it is named after my daughter.” “I mean to say that you are the owner!” In fact Prajwal knows Rachna, much before we met him, since they met in New York per chance when she heard talking in Nepali language and later found out he too came from the same Tashi Namgyal Academy she attended and passed out some years ago. When our late father Jai Shanker Lall Shresta thought of starting the bookshop in 1979, he thought it fit to name it also Rachna and our residence too carry the same name. Accordingly, the firm was registered with this name with him and Ranjana jointly and trade licence was obtained. This was a time when every town, village and market saw the unprecedented mushrooming of Indian Made Foreign Liquor-shops. Knowing well, book-selling was not a profitable as a profession, we yet ventured into taking the decision more with the sense of social service rather than anything else. Further, it would set a good example for the benefit of the people at large and as a guideline leading to a better future for the coming generation. It was his foresightedness and a vision as well for he was a graduate from the Banaras Hindu University founded by the great educationist Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya who did his M.A. (Commerce) from the Calcutta University in 1940. All was well and happy with the family business started in 1887 under the name and style of Harishankerlal Ramshankerlal Nepali, more popular as Nepali Kothi, at Chaukhambha in the holy city of Banaras with the branch office at the Kodamul Building on the 10th Mile Kalimpong. With the end of the Indo-Tibet trade our family business too came to an abrupt end. On persistent requests from the local gentry and the then Director of Education in the erstwhile Government of Sikkim, my father joined the service in 1958. He not only took charge of the Rhenock Primary School, one of the earliest schools to be started by the Christian Missionaries during the British Raj, but also raised it to the standard of a Junior High School that ultimately to be one of the earliest Senior Secondary Schools to be recognized by the Government in Sikkim. He was felicitated during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the school but above all, he is still fondly remembered as the Head Sir as a mark of respect to his far-reaching contributions even after he is no more amidst us since his sad demise in 2003. It is matter of great pride for us and our family members to find amongst his students Dr. Shanti Chettri did research on an eminent personality of Kalimpong late Ramkrishna Sharma that fetched her doctorate from the North Bengal University way back in 1992 itself. Another student of his Dr. Hari Prasad Chettri achieved this feat even after his superannuation from his service in the Government of Sikkim. In spite of many obstacles and hurdles, we kept the bookshop running somehow until our son in the third generation Raman came forward and took the cudgels to run it more as a matter of family prestige. His determination and dedication with which Rachna Books is receiving the love, support, patronage and appreciation from all corners and all our friends and well-wishers give us some sense of satisfaction with an opportunity to pay tribute to the departed soul of our founder/ father.
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important that any other one thing. Abraham Lincoln
Prajwal finds the prevailing customary of giving the books free on launch functions something undesirable and such a practice should not be encouraged and stopped – sooner, the better. Pempa Tamang, President of the Sikkim Akademi, was here at Rachna Books and bringing it to his notice, Prajwal urged him the need to take up an initiative through the aegis of his organization as well to end such a practice. May be it was due to the poor standard of our writings that publishers do not publish for the poor response from the readers, who are usually not in the habit of reading books. This prompts an author to publish of his own for the satisfaction of his toil and/or ego and may be also to gain publicity and popularity, he even gives away his book for free in the launch functions and afterwards. In fact, when a book is brought out by a publisher, the author has to buy extra copies from them if he wishes to give it away like that. Our readers do not realize it and Prajwal cannot oblige as such. Such a system is much in practice here in Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills too. Rachna Books too is against such free distribution of books. Of late, with the launch/advent of The Gurkha’s Daughter and Chetan Raj Shrestha’s The King’s Harvest, a message has been passed across and gone well to the society here. This is definitely a positive step. With each book-launch here, such an awareness campaign has also gained strength and the momentum.
Coming to the standard of Nepali books, I tell him of Manka Laharharu ra Raharharu by the octogenarian from Kalimpong who heads the Nepali Sahitya Adhyayan Samiti M. B. Pradhan (born 6 April 1933) that has been declared selected for this year’s Sahitya Akademi award. I show him the book with us and scrutinizing/examining it we find it in no way inferior in print or in its get-up. I have read the book and liked it and the decision by the Akademi. Even my Muma, who is reading the book, finds it interesting. I tell him the Preface in the book written Professor Dr. Diwakar Pradhan of the Banaras Hindu University gives a beautiful account on the Travelogue as a field of literature. Known through this book, congratulating him I post on my Facebook page Newars in Sikkim and share the news item from the Himalayan Darpan along with the pictures, about the author and the book from the cover-jacket, reviews by Dr. Govind Raj Bhattarai and Dr. Kumar Prasad Koirala from the same news-daily. Sharing the news, comment offered by Dr. Pradhan enlightens us on many important aspects… This book in Nepali language can be presented at the national level. This is on Travelogue. This book has helped in connecting India with international tourism. Philosophy of travelling with in-depth studies on language, geography, history, society culture of the country or the place worth visiting is the speciality of this book. Dedicated to the literature-writing since the days of the Bharati or 1950s, M. B. Pradhan was a story-writer in the beginning. As time demanded, he started teaching Nepali language, wrote many books to teach Nepali language, worked hard to reach Nepali language in Sahitya Akademi, once there translated works in Nepali into English to show the country. Kalimpongko Garham Baje is his most famous work. With it he has eight books to his credit. Many of his writings have appeared in Nepali-English dailies and periodicals including Bharati, Gorkha, Diyo and Diyalo. This time the award is significant for 1. It reaches Kalimpong for the first time 2. It goes to a good work by an octogenarian senior and matured litterateur who is dedicated the literature for a pretty long period 3. Like in other developed literary world, it goes to the Nepali literature for Travelogue 4. It is being awarded by the national literary body to a regional literary body in Kalimpong, Nepali Sahitya Adhyayan Samiti that Mr. Pradhan heads.
His friend Netra Atom has commented, “Feeling very happy that the standard work on Travelogue, Manka Laharharu ra Raharharu by M. B. Pradhan is the winner of Sahitya Akademi award. This is definitely a work of high standard but equally noteworthy is the Preface specially penned by Dr. Diwakar Pradhan which is quite a match that has established a new standard in preface-writing in Nepali.” Another comment is from Dil Pradhan that reads, “Liked that the book which has been admired by Dr. Govind Raj Bhattarai has fetched the Akademi Award. When a good book gets an award all should be feeling happy. A few days back, I read some poet, writers were not happy that the book liked by them did not get this award. They should read this book first and then give their views again.”
Recalling that M. B. Pradhan was here at Rachna Books all the way from Kalimpong during the launch of The Gurkha’s Daughter, Prajwal was quite impressed by the attractive personality of this elderly figure and wished from the core of his heart that he was there in the launch of his new book in Kalimpong later that week on 27th. He requests me also to attend the function. I could not be there but this article of mine in Nepali published in the Hamro Prajashakti that very day had reached far and wide in the region and beyond through Facebook and our website www.karunaguthicom.
How we do it, makes our work beautiful. Why we do it, makes it timeless.
“Now, another opportunity like this may come only after five years or so!” exclaims Prajwal and Ranjana has the question “Why so late!?” I say, “May be for the better and greater work!” In order to make this meet memorable, I get my copy of the novel Land Where I Flee signed by Prajwal with Ranjana taking the shots for us and he writes,
Dear Rajiva Shanker Shrestha Uncle,
Great seeing you again.
Enjoy the book.
Thanks once again for having started Rachna Books.
As he leaves to join some of his friends waiting in the Fiction Café downstairs, I introduce Prajwal to my Muma in her eighties and tell him that her Jankwa or Sahasrachandradarshanam (sighting of one thousand moons on reaching 83 years four months) was performed with the rich traditional Newar rituals and ceremonies in a grand three-day-long celebrations at Rhenock in association with the Rhenock Newar Guthi and Sikkim Newar Guthi under the auspices of the Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi well back in May 2000 along with my father. Raman tells him that it is similar to the Chaurasi, when a thousand and eight full moons are reckoned with. Prajwal asks Muma her age and when told 83, he says that she looks like 73 years only and that his new book is woven around the Chaurasi. Raman takes yet another shot from his camera to make and the occasion memorable to cherish forever. We bid him goodbye with our best wishes for his bright future and Prajwal hopes to be in touch with postings on the Facebook till we meet next!
With this positive note, thus we bid farewell also to an eventful year with many hopes and aspirations to look forward and welcome in the New Year!!
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org / www.karunaguthi.com