Prof. Dr. Shreedhar Gautam
Gopi Sapkota’s Kharani (ashes) is a play in Nepali, first published in 2060. Three Nepali literature students have already completed MA thesis on it. It is written in the background of the protagonist’s imprisoned life, and is divided into three scenes.
The first scene introduces the chief character, Gopal, imprisoned for the last ten years with the charge of murder of a minister. This scene shows also the meeting between Gopal and his friend Prashant. The second scene is rather short and shows the protagonist talking to himself and noting down his thoughts about life and death. The third scene unfolds the conversation between Krishna, his childhood friend, and Gopal himself. After the departure of his friend Krishna, Gopal is heard talking to Sundardas, another prisoner lodged in an adjacent room. Next day in the morning, a boy visits the prison, carrying a flower and a message of Gopal’s imminent release from the jail.
However, the boy finds Gopal frozen in his room, and not responding to any call from outside. The boy feels shocked as he fails to give Gopal fresh flower as well as the good news of his release. The revelation about the chief character comes through the technique of dialogue drawn from the Greek writers and the modern realists like lbsen. The sequence of the events of the play reveal that Gopal is accused of murdering a Minister, but the protagonist does not show remorse for his action. Gopal thinks he has done right thing by murdering a corrupt minister for the survival of himself and others in society. He cannot understand why society gives respect to such corrupt people, and takes this extreme step to release his mental agony and frustration.
He discloses to his friend, Prashant, how he received congratulations from people for courageously assassinating the corrupt minister. He says, “When I killed him, many people came to congratulate me secretly” (27), Over the last 10 years his awareness has increased, and he no more wants to lead a normal life after the possible release from jail. He refuses to show his loyalty to any particular thought because for him life is more and more absurd, void and meaningless. He tells his friend Prashant, “I tried to find the meaning of life, but failed” (24).
Gopal now thinks that many of us die without knowing the meaning of life. His thoughts resemble the views of many enlightened seers. At one point Gopal says, “I am almost like dead. Is there any meaning in living in this way?” (17). Like Gopal’s experience, Maharshi Raman says in his discourse, “Unless and until a man embarks on the quest of true self, doubt and uncertainty will follow his footsteps throughout life. “Gopal now realizes that if he goes even as a free man, society will expect him to conform to social practices in return of food and other facilities that he needs.
Gopal’s frustration reminds us of the plight of Bartleby in Herman Melville’s story, “Bartleby the Scrivener”, where he refuses to follow his employer’s order, despite full awareness that his defiance will deprive him of his food and shelter. Bartleby says, “At present I prefer not to be little reasonable” (923). To some extent, Emily Dickinson too in her poem, “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” expresses the view that it is better to live as an insane, than to blindly conform to rotten social practices. Gopal seems to have reached the peak of disillusionment with life as he sees no ray of hopes in life. He tells his friend, “This is the century of death, as hope has already vanished” (35).
For him now, the entire world has become a jail, where people feel suffocated. So, he does not want to get lost in the crowd of insensitive people. He says, “People may think Gopal is in jail, but all people are in jail in reality” (28). The second scene shows Gopal behaving in an abnormal way. He thinks of committing suicide. He ridicules the people hankering after prestige and possession, not realizing how one day everyone is crushed by death. He says, “We are living for earning money and amassing property, not realizing how one day death shatters everything” (35).
Twentieth century philosopher Osho too expressed similar views about human obsession to power and possession. He says in one of his discourses, “A little girl is in tears because her doll is broken. It makes me wonder if all mankind’s crying is not really just over broken toys.” The third scene of the play shows Gopal remembering Tolstoy’s views in his story, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?’’ Gopal says, “Whatever we earn in life, we do not occupy more than the size of our body’’.
Gopal now sounds more philosophical and. advises his friend to work with neutrality to money and material. His advice to his friend Krishna echoes the advice given by Krishna to Arjuna. If Krishna asks Arjuna to develop awareness of “Work is duty with no hope of return’, here Gopal says the same thing: We feel complete in life when we do work without any motive of gaining in return’ (41). This is what Vivekananda has said in one of his discourses: “It is selfishness that we must seek to eliminate. I find that wherever, I have made a mistake in my life, it has always been because of self-interest into the calculation” (95).
The play ends with Gopal’s death in jail. The incident reminds us of Chekhov’s story, “The Bet’’, where a young lawyer escapes out of the confinement just before five hours for completing fifteen years with a view to disowning the million rupees, he was supposed to get from the banker. The playwright Gopi Sapkota must have viewed this universe, objectively as a result of his observation and reflections to enable him depict such a spectacle of life. Through Kharani, he has shown how life is composed of disparate, unpredictable and contradictory elements.
Krishan, Swami, ed. Pointing the way. Delhi: Motilal, 1979.
Lutyens, Mary. Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfillment. London: John Murry, 1983.
Osborne, Arthur, ed. Raman Maharshi Delhi: Jaico, 2001.
Sapkota, Gopi. Kharani Kathmandu: Nepal Lekhak Sangh, 2060.
Sen, Gautam. The Mind of Swami Vivekananda. Delhi. Jaico, 2000.
(Courtesy: Creation and Criticism: A Miscellaneous Thought)