Print Edition - 2013-06-22  |  On Saturday

Brave new world

- MAHESH PAUDYAL
Brave new world

Jun 21, 2013-

Consider present-day circumstances in the real Dhading as you know of them. And compare these to the Dhading a dreamer in his early twenties envisions, a “fully-developed” district replete with many coveted features such as an international university at Muralibhanjang, a base camp centre for the Ganesh Himal at Dharkhe, a well-planned residential zone at Sankosh Dada, agricultural zones in Sunaula Bazaar, Bagar, and Kudule Phaant, and a modern city in Rahytar, among others.

This is the sort of future author Ganesh Aagam Dhungana projects for his home district in the newly-launched Destination, a collection of essays. Dhungana had made his debut with verses years ago while still at school, and had subsequently earned substantial credibility with the short story anthology Vertex, success he hopes to replicate with his new book. Destination comprises eight essays in total that revolve around his early influences, his experiences in India while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, how that resulted in  exposure to new people and new ideologies, and the love of home that ultimately brought him back to Nepal. Dhungana’s reflections begin with the kind of emotional conflicts that arise when making the decision to leave home and go abroad, love and duty becoming entangled therein. He eventually decides to go, but promises himself that he’ll be back in three years—a vow he keeps. That journey there and back, and the changes it wrought on the writer’s mind and personality, is essentially what Destination is all about.

The book serves up a deeply thought-provoking diagnosis of the national and social scenario in Nepal, and the psychological ramifications of this on the youth here. One example is in the way Dhungana attempts to reveal why it is that young people don’t see viable career prospects in the field of politics anymore; given that the writer is a member of the American Embassy’s Youth Coordination Network, and Chairman of the Youth Network Dhading, his pooh-poohing of politics is certainly significant. And these feelings aren’t superficially formed. “Politics is not my destination,” he writes emphatically, going on to say that the disillusion has emerged from consistent failures on the part of the government to stay true to the people’s expectations. “Nepali leaders knew how to drive but could not apply the brake at the right moment.”

One of the most important sequences in the book has to do with four Nepali students, who are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees in different disciplines in Bangalore. They each have a dream, very idealistic fantasies that have been created as an imagined escape from a largely frustrating and hopeless present. One of these is Raz, whose father owns a large plot of land in Kathmandu. Raz wants to turn this land into a site of intellectual productivity, by establishing a techno-lab with various sophisticated facilities. He imagines a place where people can share ideas, conduct research, and execute far-sighted projects that will usher in an era of innovation and development. “I’ll personally fund them; I don’t mind selling the remaining property of my father,” he says. It is wonderful to see such sublime goals at play, directed at harnessing existing resources and making the best of them—a far cry from the kind of developmental strategies our leaders come up with.

Two other dreamers in the book are Suraj and Sagar. The former is a man of action, one who keeps a diary containing a very clear blueprint of the changed Nepal he hopes to bring about through his business pursuits. “I want to be a social businessman, who will invest half of the net profit [sic] in social activities,” he says. These social activities refer to health, education and various other sectors, and Suraj is certain everything will happen according to plan, that nothing is impossible. Sagar, on the other hand, although also making plans to usher Nepal into a better future, is studying to be an engineer, and therefore focused on infrastructure building more than business. He sees the country’s landscape as being ripe with possibilities and has already sketched out maps and other potential developments and constructions, whether it has to do with flyovers in various parts of the Capital, or a metro train running straight here from the Tarai or other projects. “He is far smarter than the policy makers or Ministers for Physical Planning and Development of Nepal,” the book observes.

There is something extraordinarily encouraging about Destination as a glimpse into bright young minds that are seriously invested in the country’s future, attitudes and ambitions brought about by the unique circumstances most Nepali youth find themselves in. On one hand is the growing restlessness and frustration with regards to the state of things back home, and on the other is the coveted degree of progress they witness in cities like Bangalore as well as others. The book, therefore, offers a lesson to our leadership; the 21st century youth refuse to be blindfolded. These youngsters will not be tamed by mere lip service and will not accept excuses for failure—if planners and lawmakers insist on shutting their eyes and ignoring their call for change, they will forge ahead and carve the roads themselves.   

Paudyal is a faculty at the Central Department of English, TU

Published: 22-06-2013 08:59

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