In a new book titled Charchit Byaktitwa, journalist Byakul Pathak has compiled the profiles of 22 ‘famous personalities’ representing various sections of Nepali society. The author through these individual accounts of the leaders in their respective fields has, in aggregate, chronicled the contemporary history of Nepal.
The political figures featured in the book are: President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Constituent Assembly (CA) Chairman Subhas Nembang, recently-dead Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Chairman Upendra Yadav. The profiles of two businessmen (Binod Chaudhary and Dr. Upendra Mahato), pundit Dinbandhu Pokharel, litterateur Jagdish Ghimire, artist Kiran Manadhar, and a former Chief Election Commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokhrel help the book become an inclusive portrayal of the diverse sectors of our society.
Only four women have a place in the book—lawyer and women rights activist Sapna Pradhan Malla, All Nepal National Free Students Union (a UML-affiliated student union) President Ram Kumari Jhakri, popular singer Anju Pant, and captain of Nepali women’s cricket team Neri Thapa. Other personalities featured are the ‘ever-green’ celluloid actor Bhuwan K.C.; former Nepal Bar Association Chairman Biswakanta Mainali—who boldly fought against corruption in the judiciary; two engineering students Bikash Parajuli and Ganeshram Sinkeman who built the ‘Danfe’ aircraft and successfully carried out a test flight; an adolescent boy Kamal Nepali who rescued a girl who had fallen into a deep gorge in Pokhara last year; and Meen Bahadur Sherchan who climbed Mt. Everest at the age of 77 and became the oldest man to reach the top of the world.
The book has many new revelations, provides insights about the persons and events and plenty of inspiring anecdotes as well. It is interesting to know that the hands of Pushpa Kamal Dahal who ‘fought’ a decade-long ‘war’ are as soft as a girl’s. The author has compiled full versions of some of Dahal’s press releases when he was underground during the ‘People’s War’, and which were subject to state or self-censorship during the emergency and King Gyanendra’s direct rule between 2002 and 2006.
G.P. Koirala’ s habit of bathing not directly from a shower but with a bucket and a mug is glaringly made public for the first time. Pundit Dinbandhu Pokharel is writing a book called Vedic Republic. Sapna Pradhan Malla fought a court case for a man who was a victim of the violence and infidelity of his wife. And singer Pant does not like the Maoist label despite being impressed by the charisma of Dahal. These are only a few examples of the book’s noteworthy aspects.
Bhoj Raj Pokhrel observes that the two-time postponement of Constituent Assembly (CA) elections proved to be a blessing in disguise for the country, ‘because the elections could bring the Madhes-based political parties on board the main political process. Had the Madhes revolt been initiated after the CA elections and the Madhesi parties been out of the CA, the rationale of those elections would have been defeated.’
Immediate past president of Non-Resident-Nepali (NRN) Organisation Dr. Upendra Mahato’s vision presented in the book is worth considering in the present context of Nepal: ‘What should precede—peace or economic development—is like the chicken-or-egg debate. An industrialist should never wait for peace to prevail and political stability to invest. The economic sector can also contribute to improve politics. Businessmen should adopt this path. Politics aimed at ending unemployment is the best politics. I will be in that politics... I have my own interests in investing in Nepal.’
Binod Chaudhary, ‘the first multinational Nepali’, the first Nepali to be featured in Forbes magazine and also a CA member, has made it public that he has expanded his business to the Americas, Europe, Australia and Africa. The book has divulged that Chaudhary spent at least 180 days a year out of the country to retain the status of an NRN and be eligible to take money for investment out of the country as per the provision of NRN Act. Now, his two sons Rahul and Varun are taking care of his business as NRNs in Singapore and Dubai respectively. According to Chaudhary, some eight to 10 Nepali business houses are preparing to internationalise their businesses as multinationals but are waiting for a more open government policy to invest outside of this country.
The preface by Sharad Chadra Wasti, who is also the editor, sums up the linguistic quality of the book: ‘The trend of writing personal profiles in Nepali is not new, neither is it thin in prevalence. But Byakul’s way of doing it is hardly comparable with others’. He creates an interesting foundation in ‘feature style’ at the beginning and lands sudden ‘punches’ towards the end. He effortlessly inserts ‘boring but important’ facts, backgrounds and details in between the lines. He is conscious ‘to contextualise the information, observe the mood and read the body language of the subject, to dig into the core of the message and catch the small but meaningful indications, and to synchronise transition and link of the language.’ Another foreword written by Dr. Jayaraj Acharya appears to be overtly generous; long but presents a good summary.
The methodology adopted, if any, to select the characters is not beyond questions. Pathak has not explained any basis for his selection. The author and his publisher Ratna Pustak Bhandar have put forward a plan to serialise the publication to accommodate ‘all deserving people.’ This however cannot compensate some grave omissions in the first edition. For instance, it might be questioned why did people like sportsman Dipak Bista and world-cyclist Puskar Shah do not find a place or why Bhuwan K.C. has been chosen over Rajesh Hamal or Shiva Shrestha.
The construction of write-ups is not properly disciplined. It reads like a concoction of literary, journalistic and history. In many chapters, the author’s minute details about his bid to access the person for interview and his personal experience with added remarks on it have diluted the featured personality and misused the space too. The flow of language is also not, as claimed by the author, ‘without hiccups.’