Yuyutsu RD Sharma

Kathmandu:

Biological, yes. Physically, I’m Nepali,” asserts Tara Nath Sharma, Ph D, the most celebrated Nepali writer. “But in reality I feel my family extends borders and boundaries. I’m of the globe, of the whole world. My mission in life has been to strive for perfection.”Meeting this 70-year-old doyen of Nepali prose, especially criticism and travelogues, can be a daunting job. His mere name conjures controversies, his writing lashes hypocritical and the erring like a ruthless whip of lightning. He is the angry sage of the scriptures, ruining the mighty and the vainglorious at the slightest provocation. He is the one we have been taught to fear, the figure fixed in a frame.

But this is not the real Tana Sharma. You learn this when you meet him. “I’m vulnerable,” he coos. “I’m very soft at heart. If someone cries before me, I’ll melt immediately.” For last 20 years, he has been an enigma. He turns into a friendly child when you meet him. It becomes hard to believe that you’re face to face with the man who has for last 50 years dictated major currents of Nepali literature — a legendary figure and a household name in the Nepali speaking regions of the Himalayas.

Anything Sharma speaks becomes an event. The Nepalis know him for his fearless outpourings which had him arrested and sentenced to a brief imprisonment. More recently, he publicly denounced by a faction of the parliament in his editorial article ‘A Word or Two, Mr Speaker’, which he wrote as the chief editor of Nepal’s national daily, The Rising Nepal.

Born at Barbote, a dark disease-infested village of the remote hill ranges of eastern Nepal, Sharma was trained in Vedic ritualistic Hindu traditions. His contact with a retired army man returning from the second World War and the sight of an airplane flying over his small village had him dreaming of the world beyond the hills. “For me English was the only way to free myself from the shackles of the superstitious life back home.”Leaving behind the trappings of the orthodoxical Hindu order, he became a Leftist and joined the movement to overthrow the autocratic Rana regime. As long as he was a student at the Benaras University, he remained a die-hard communist. Soon liberal democratic vision infused his soul and the idea of communist hegemony crumbled down. Sharma began to see cracks in the totalitarian Communist regimes.

During this phase, he initiated a purist movement called ‘Jharrobad’, which advocated the preservation of native flavor and aspired to purge Nepali language of all foreign influences. He edited the magazine, ‘Naula Paila’, during this phase. Surprisingly, five decades later Sharma speaks like a beginner. “I still have a long way to achieve something in fiction. I’ve stopped writing criticism. You have to be honest in criticism. Nepal is not conducive to criticism. People here don’t appreciate honesty.”In Sharma’s view, criticism, as a genre, hasn’t developed. “Even I’ve done commentary on some books only. All I’ve done is to start sketching the history of Nepali literature. In criticism we do not have many critics bur teachers like Abhi Subedi. And unfortunately in reality very bad teachers.”Dr Sharma denounces Nepali works based on eastern models. “They employ hackneyed Sanskrit metre and do not possess the modern temper. What is Madhav Ghimire’s ‘Asosthama’? In comparison to these, the modern writers working on the western models are far more original. In fact some of them are at par with their western counterparts.” But he doubts if there is any work including ‘Muna Madan’ that can be forwarded for a Nobel prize.

Nepali fiction is far behind. On novelist, Dhruba Chandra Gautam who was recently honored as ‘Akhyanpurush’, Sharma is harsh. “He can’t write a correct line in the Nepali language. How can he be called Akhyanpurush, the leader of Nepali fiction?

In most of his novels, a group of middle-aged men are shown courting a teenage girl that all of them want to rape. It’s a low reflection of Nepali life. In comparison, Parshu Pradhan is a far better writer. Parshu too writes about sex but reflects the sexuality of real life characters of rural Nepal. His books offer a humanitarian view with deep psychological insights. Parshu seem to be perpetuating the rich tradition set by his masters — Daulat Bikram Bista, Govinda Gothale and Vijaya Malla.”On the future of Nepali literature and Royal Nepal Academy, Dr Sharma appears very pessimistic. “We have to employ our resources meaningfully. Academy has to become a major platform to let writers interact meaningfully. The tradition of one person ruling the roost and representing Nepal all over the world isn’t healthy. An Academy should represent each and every writer democratically. Only then will the dream of mother Nepal can be fully realised.”yuyutsurd@yahoo.com