In conversation with Arun Sharma
“No one did any planning in constructions on any tole (lane) here. By dumping everything in the pristine Bagmati they simply constructed ugly buildings for themselves only! What have these folks, the kings, the ministers, the politicians and the elites have done for average citizen of this country? They have made this clean, pristine Bagmati, a poison spewing dirty stinking pond. This paradise and, most simple innocent people have been strangled and raped by these autocratic, barbaric politicians, just as they have raped Mother Bagmati.
Mother Bagmati has become “stinking-mati”. Her whole body is rotting and stinking. She has become waste basket of 30 million people’s body wastes, industrial, factories, hospitals, plastic, and chemicals waste for all. We the residents of this ditch (khalto) have been offering the Mother River naibedya of human wastes, urine, and man-made poisons as a holy offering every day. That is how we are doing pooja to the mother, our own Mother!
SHAME ON US!”
“In this Valley in thousands of years so many became Kings, so many became Mantris, so many Kajis,so many Sree Teens, so many Sree Panch-haru. And, then so many Janjati, Adibasi became netas!
All of them raped this Valley, this City, this Country and the Mother Bagmati.
Shame on them!
Renowned author Jagadish Ghimire gives a shock therapy with these outpourings in his award-winning book Antarmanko Yatra.
“(Academic) Degrees are like artificial teeth. They look good if you have them. Just aesthetically good for a show,” he says. “No school or college gives life lessons. In life you are on your own.” This is his conviction.
I read Antarmanko Yatra in 2009. I was moved by the moving narration of this country and, his own saga of struggles lying in a hospital bed in Bangkok. The physical and emotional pain, the frustrations and uncertainties of his life, nostalgic memories of his love for his wife, were powerfully articulated in the book I decided to converse with him on phone and via electronic media. My dialogue with progresses as follows:
Jagdish-ji, I just finished reading your book. Quite a journey, what an out pouring! Intense! Effective! So, moving and powerful! I loved every bit it!
Jagdish: Thank you for your remarks, Arunji.
So why do we (actually you) write?
When I started writing some 45 years ago, I wanted to be a “writer”. I have no answer to the next logical question: Why did you want to be a “writer”? I don’t know the answer. All I knew then those good writers were described as “great”. Maybe I wanted to become “Great” or I was just trying to meet others’ expectations.
When I wrote a few books and many other pieces I discovered that there should be a social purpose. And ever since I wanted to pursue that.
Yet my Antarmanko Yatra did not have any of the above reasons. When I was not able to do anything in the hospital bed, I wanted to share my views based upon life’s observations and experience. Did I have any social purpose there? Not quite! I basically I wrote to avoid my intense boredom and struggles I was fighting internally moment by moment, the fear of my impending death. It is a bit similar to do reading to pass time or avoid boredom not necessarily to gain knowledge or do some action.
I hope I have given you some reasons for why I write.
Jagdishji, I’m impressed with your resilience, energy, your work and philosophical outlook on life and over all how boldly and candidly you were dealing with LIFE at that time of immense uncertainty and a possible tragedy. My next question: Is creativity a juice for any artist, a new way of looking at things, a prime motivator for an expression? Your view?
There are creative people in every field including ones doing most mundane tasks. They carry out ordinary activities with enviable creativity. For example, a crafted carpenter may be more creative than many writers.
However, a good artist MUST be creative in addition to having a deep understanding on the subject/topic he is trying to express. In literature it’s expected s/he brings a novelty, something different from what prevails in that era. It is also likely some very creative artists may not be keenly interested to share or even express their work. Each one may be uniquely different.
This naturally brings the very next question on objective or motivation. Does an artist have an objective a goal when s/he creates or it is an ache for expression is enough of motivation?
It depends! Some may be interested in name, fame or money even to earn for living or some others to achieve for example: creating an excellent piece of work in art, music or poetry. Sometime an inventor, artist or a scientist is so deeply immersed in herself that s/he may not even like to share anything. You may have dig to find out what she is working on
I notice you are critical of BP Koirala in your book, in what areas you found BP Koirala not appreciating your views?
He said he wants to keep politics separate from his literary pursuits.
Anything wrong with that?
My understanding is: literature is politics that’s written and politics is literature that is performed. So, they both are intertwined as I see and understand. So, that’s what the difference in his and my own views is.
(Recently I said this in an interview – Sahitya lekhine rajniti ho. Rajniti garine sahitya ho. Dubai kala hun. Sahitya padhine kala ho. Rajniti lekhine kala ho.)
Is that the only difference?
That’s a major one but there may be other differences in our views.
Who, if any provides you an inspiration in your writings?
In my teens I dreamt to be a writer. I was inspired by the books I read and the situation I faced, observed, experienced. Particularly the Russian novels and short stories that were available in Hindi were my inspiration. And also leading Hindi writers.
Your favourite authors: Nepali, Western and in Hindi or other Indian languages?
More than writers I have my favourite books or poems or essays or short stories or other pieces. If you want to know the authors: it includes Lekhnath, Devkota, Chakrapani, BP Koirala, Bhupi Sherchan, Chekhov, Maupassant, Dickens, Tolstoy, Prem Chand, Hajari Prasad Dwivedi, Bihuti Bhooshan Bandhopadyay, Tara Shankar Bandhopadhyay, Sahadat Hasan Manto and many more.
Does a writer owe any thing to society? Or s/he is solely driven by her/his own need. Do they have to match?
Definitely s/he does. Whether s/he hates or likes it – s/he is the product of her/his community and therefore s/he has obligation to her/his community and the world is nothing but a wider community.
Should morality and ethics be a concern for a writer?
What do you mean by morality and ethics? People may have different understanding of morality and ethics and therefore different views and concerns individually or shaped by community, religion or cultures. They are bound to be different. They can be so fluid.
If there was one thing that you get to change in this world (and in your world) what will that be?
Only if I could act according to what I think and speak! (Unity or harmony in Man, Vachan and Karma in Nepali). I have written quite many paragraphs about this in my book.
What does a writer do to calm himself to find peace and harmony after huge chaos a tsunami in his/her life as you yourself are facing at the moment on your own life?
Obviously express himself or herself the way s/he can. Unburden oneself. Being open may have a cathartic value for the narrator. It may have a healing effect.
Continuing on: when physical pain becomes unbearable it just takes over the body, mind and psyche no matter how one deals with the various kind of pains. Remedies?
Persons deal differently. Some lose their minds, they get depressed. Many resort to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes to escape and melt the pain of survival if it is overwhelming, unbearable they kill themselves just as Hemingway did in spite of enormous name, fame and status. Some renounce the world and become Sadhu (saint), fakir a wanderer, many just go crazy!
IT IS OVERWHELMING PEOPLE KILL THEMSELVES OR OTHERS. SOME BECOME SADHU or SAINTS, renounce the world. Even ESCAPE (sic).
Why even the famous folks with fame and fortune just give it up? Why they commit suicide? Like Hemingway or Marilyn Monroe.
People commit suicide when they see NO MEAING IN LIVING (sic). On the other hand, there are people like Victor Frankl, who were tortured down to the bones in Hitler’s Concentration camp, starved to near death, castrated and STILL live a FULL and MEANINGFUL LIFE (sic) and yet there are people like Hemingway or Marylyn Monroe who give it all away in spite of having everything others envy: name, fame and money. The likes of Hemingway are very small number may be 0.0001% but the likes of Frankl are many. Most people keep HOPE alive and believe in living in spite of enormous struggles they face every single day.
What really gives you that immense faith in life?
If there were no HOPE or people didn’t enjoy LIFE there would not be slums all around.
Is life really is that meaningless as nihilists or existentialist view?
It solely depends upon how you view it – MEANINGLESS or MEANINGFUL you view or how you perceive. If you consider it meaningless it’s MEANINGLISS and if you consider it is meaningful it is MEANINGFUL, I have narrated extensively in my last chapter in Antarmanko Yatra.
Does the burden of giving meaning falls on an individual’s shoulder?
It lies on the shoulders of those who think about it and raise that question and that is why some thinkers emphasize on LIVING rather on trying to UNDERSTANDING as no one has truly understood LIFE. At the very most they tried to interpret it subjectively. There is NO UNVERSAL THEORY based on science and ALL philosophies on it are subjectively scratching the surface of enormous cosmos.
Do you have any objection if I published this conversation?
I have no objection if you like to publish it. (To be continued with the exchanges of letters.)
(Arun Sharma is an engineer and a writer with seven published books,)