Ramesh Dahal is not a new name in Nepali art and literature. For more than a decade and half, he has remained active in different artistic works such as creative writing, editing, film making, directing, designing and many more. Very versatile artist, humble and simple in nature, Mr. Dahal took the trouble to converse with us amid his busy schedule. It was at dusk when we had interviewed him, and our heart and mind were poured out with his stories of struggle and challenge, success and failure, laughter and tear. Mahesh Paudyal and Shilash Thapa Tamang had a lively talk with Mr. Dahal. Here share the edited excerpt of the conversation.
How can we introduce you to the literary society?
I would identify myself as an editor since I am more into the work of editing. So far, I have remained editor for more than 50 books of different writers. They mostly are fictions that include novel, and collection of short stories. I have written poems and stories off and on since a long and many of them have remained published at different times.
We wish to hear about your initial days in Kathmandu.
I always had the dream of studying in Kathmandu. So, as soon as I completed my secondary education in Sinduli, I happen to land on Kathmandu. First and foremost, I had to get a job in order to win my bread and butter. I was completely new to Kathmandu and my first couple of nights was spent in the street. I was told that my maternal relatives dwell in Kathmandu; I didn’t know where they lived. I was good at calligraphy writing which I had learned during my school days. Seeking for job I remember visiting door to door of every painting shop at Baghbazaar. Finally, I was employed in one of the painting shops named General Art, I guess the shop still survives today. They offered me with food and shelter but I was not paid until I decided to live my own. I was then paid thirteen hundred every month which covered my food and educational expenses. I really had a hard time struggling in Kathmandu in those days.
Besides creative writing, we know that you have worked in theatres as well. How did you initiate your theatre journey?
I was keenly interested in acting since school life. I was enrolled in Lalit Kala Campus to pursue my dream of becoming an artist and along with I did some roles in Rastriya Naach Ghar. Shortly after, I gave an attempt for acting training at Rastriya Sanskritik Sasthan led by renowned artists and directors like Sunil Pokharel, Anup Baral and Ashesh Malla. There, I stood first in the audition. I must say it was my good fortune to learn and grow among such versatile artists. During the one year training, I also got the opportunity to perform a character in Basanti, a theatre play, directed by late B.S. Rana. He appreciated my acting; I was infused with strength and dedication to work even harder. Then subsequently, I played in several other acts as different characters.
Let’s get little focused on Basanti. What was your role in Basanti? What was your experience and where did you find yourself after doing that role in Basanti?
Well, I played as Basanti’s father in the play. As I said earlier B.S Rana was very satisfied with my role in Basanti. It was a transitional period in Nepali theatre, new forms and techniques were introduced in Nepali acting, say Nepali theatre was about to mark a point of departure from traditional one. I remember once when B.S Rana screamed out to Subarna Thapa: “Subarna, use less body movement in important sequence.” The statement struck my mind, and I couldn’t tolerate without asking it to Sunil Sir the other day. He answered me, “Ramesh, there’s only one principle in acting, that is – there isn’t any principle in acting. You could perform any character in whatever way that best fits the situation.” His answer somewhat changed my stereotypical ideas I had regarding acting. Then my acting career followed. I do remember doing role in Bangladeshi based play titled Barai. In meantime, I was awarded with best actor in Nepali Drama Festival (1999) organized by Academy Nepal. It added me with further inspiration for theatre performance. Then I also did a dozen of street drama.
What difference did you experience performing in theatre and street drama?
Generally, street dramas are about social awareness like drug abuse and STDs. The audiences are quicker in giving response in street drama. Characters need to be spontaneous in creating the atmosphere. While, theatre drama could be performed in several acts, and the use of sound and spectacle helps a lot in producing the desired effect upon the audience. So in my experience, street drama is a bit tougher than theatre as the character might have to work in the absence of many resources.
When you say that you primarily edit literary writings, but we have come to know that you are a creative writer too. Sir, would you share us your experience as a creative writer.
Well, I have penned many plays and movie scripts, and my poetic anthology Indreni and Ashu are already in publication. But these days much of my time is invested in editing books, yet I am managing to keep up my creative writing.
Having edited dozens of books, you have become like a boatman who has helped many writers in reaching from one milestone to the next. But the boatman remains somewhere at the corner of a river bank. How do you see yourself as a boatman?
Exactly, a boatman is not a subject to be remembered, sadly to say. Who cares about a boatman? Usually people have a tendency to forget their past, their allies, and the weary hands behind their success. So it has happened in my case. I helped many new and enthusiastic writers in living their dream as a writer, but by the time they get introduced as a fine writer, I am sometimes like an unknown for them. When said this, it doesn’t apply for all. I should say I have not been accredited in the way I deserve. Some incidences are such that my edited books are credited for someone else. I get hurt but I am not discouraged, for I have loved what I have been doing, not what people have been doing on me.
Then, don’t you sometime feel the impulse to do your own creative writing than edit others’ books?
It comes indeed. My readers are waiting to read my own creation. I will definitely address my readers and not make them sad. To speak honestly, I am not scheduled to write for next two years; maybe I will just prepare myself mentally. As my readers and well wishers have high expectation, I need to have patience and proper preparation.
With good experience of editing books, you must have weighed the quality of different writings particularly that which come as draft or manuscript. How do you evaluate the work of those writers on whom you have to sweat and toil a lot during the course of editing?
Most writers seem to be very enthusiast for becoming a successful writer but they lack hard work and dedication. I mean the kind of initial draft I get, and the amount of effort I have to put to give it a proper shape, to make it readable, to appear it presentable for the readers, it really takes a great deal of blood and sweat. You were asking me why I don’t do my own creative writing. And here I would say that much of my creative potion is used to mend and repair those kind of writing I just talked. Yes, it gets leaked unknowingly in the books I edit. Again, there are always genuine writers I always encounter in this profession.
What are the major challenges you have experienced in this difficult task of editing?
Many a times, there has been contrast between the writer and the editor. Sometimes, the writer doesn’t seem to be agreeing on what the editor has done on the work. Lack of tuning between the editor and the writer doesn’t harvest good fruit. It is also seen when the book goes through many editors, it loses its originality. So the writer should have faith on the editors or it’ll degrade the beauty of the work.
Finally Sir, if there is anything you wanted to share but we didn’t ask as question, then you would kindly share us.
Literature has fascinated many new writers. Some are genuine whereas others are not. There are some people who want to step into the literary world by whatever means they have at their disposal. They have tried to exchange creativity with money. It is a serious crime in the field of writing. As such, a number of ghost writers are also emerging. Here, never did I mean that people shouldn’t hire ghost writers, but they should be honest enough to credit the particular writers, else the readers will be deceived and that is ethically a crime.