I have recently finished reading this book called Forget Kathmandu by Manjushree Thapa, a much praised Nepalese Author who can write books in English Language.
The book was published many years back, most be the first edition should have been out by 2004-05 but later, the author seems to have updated the books with recent updates. I could lay my hand on updated edition of 2006 which has tried to cover the political misadventures happening in Nepal at that time.
This book, I had started reading almost 6-7 months back but had to stop in between as it could not meet my expectation then. The expectation was because of reviews and other aspects of author that I had read in magazines, webs and in NewsPaper. It could not meet the excitement of expectation then and I just stopped. Later, I thought I should give a chance and finished reading by sticking my principle that once I start reading, I should finish it however, unintelligible, boring or idiotic the book could turn out to be.
So, how was the book? Before that, what was the book all about?
The book was about Nepal based on the Author’s travel to remote west during one of those ceasefires between Maoist insurgents and Government of Nepal. But the time line of the story starts immediately after the royal massacre of 2001 and goes to flashback to make the readers conversant about Nepal’s feudal history, about how Shah Dyanasty was established and how Shah Kings were in the past. The history whatever has been reported on the book is based on whatever author could hear and read from childhood textbooks. There is not much research on that. She conviniently takes the liberty of bashing Shah Dynasty throughout making unreasonable linakges between how irratically some of the Shah Kings acted in the past… when I say past almost 150-180 years ago.
The author wisely claims that it is not that ‘History’ that we generally understand and mean by ‘History’, and therefore, takes a complete liberty of attacking everything about Nepalese Moanrchy from past to present. The book conviniently makes general remarks about geographical unity of Nepal but culturally disintegrated nation. The same statement here and there that every left, right, royalist, businessman anyone makes when they have to give speech in public.
Now, if that is so, who is responsible? Of Course, Brahmins and Kshatriya, and those who were educated and became closer to ruling class. Now, the book starts bashing to higher castes. So, target is educated higher caste people who were in control of power and argument starts that they did nothing for the nation.
Now, the turn of how Maoist movement erupted in Nepal. As everyone says and the book mentions that after people of lower casters and dalits and woman are oppressed for years, they get the Maoist movement a forum to voice against state and Maoist have tried to channelise the sentiments.
Then, the author revolves around evryday’s incidents about how many people were killed in cross fire between Maoists and Security Forces. Of Course, she knows the reality between these so called cross fires and keeps on going about how many people die from cholera, dysentery etc. everyday in far remote western Districts where the insurgency has already made the living a normal life very very difficult.
In the end, author takes a trip to few of the western Districts of Nepal along with a malcom so called Human Right Activisit and talk with people. Majority of People talk about state forces’ atrocities but on the same breath also mention the dislikes to Maoists. They do not like Maoists because insurgents force them either to join the party or mostly force villagers to feed party cadres. While walking in these districts, She meets young people without any future if you join party or not as Nepal hardly gives any real oppourtunity unless you belong to an educated elite class having good political connection and the book ends its story. In the updated version which I got, there are few extra pages on Maoist and Political Parties’ meeting and agreement to topple monarchy in Nepal through peaceful movement sometimes during 2006. This is all or everything about the book.
So, how was it? To be very genuine and honest, I was disappointed. I found author just wanted to flow with the sentiments based on whatever was already in public and in the general knowledge of almost everyone. There is no new research and at ease the generalisations have been made.
You are democrats or not, leftist or rightist, I feel that one sided bashing of elites, higher castes and royalists leave a sour feeling. Not that they do not deserve to be criticised, but the book fails to constructively align its thoughts on how to bring the country back and particularly which era to blame for Nepal’s calamity. Being born in a remote country side and brought up there, I have seen many of such social problems and discriminations in Nepal and many young people like us are witness to Maoist problems. Therefore, getting lecture and ‘gyan’ on these things from manjushree did not bring anything new in terms of knoledge and value addition. Though looking at her family and educational background, her ability to talk on these issues could also be well questioned. However, I would not go to that extent to criticise this book.
Well, for the foreigners, may be, for them who have very less idea about Nepal, the book can be a starting point. Or may be for them, who would like to know negatives about our country, it can be a solace but after going through some reviews and having expected a something different than usual sloganeering on the issues, the book turns out to be a forgetteable one.
If you can lay hand on it, You may read it. Otherwise, you can concentrate on good books. In my shelves, I have another 2-3 books of Manjushree and I, at least once, expect to read and comment on them – good, or bad, whatever the creations turn out to be!
Till Next post, enjoy reading my blog.