|Posted by Kuber Sodari on August 30, 2011 at 1:45 PM|
** Mahesh Paudyal sir* on Ekantipur**
( AUG 26)
“A statistician once went to a certain village and started collecting data. There were a hundred families in the village. Ninety-nine of them were paupers, and one owned property worth ten million. When the average was taken, every family happened to own one hundred thousand. He compiled a report, ‘All families in this village are owners of a hundred thousand.’ Since that day, the village was named ‘the village of one hundred thousand.’”
This kind of light humour marks Krishna Pahadi’s serious historical discourse in Nabirsiyeko Bandi. I’ve quoted the lines above for two reasons. First, literature, however didactic and informative it might be, should incorporate an element of delight. Second, the skillful use of anti-climax qualifies the book to the rank of parody, and caters a satirical tinge, making it quite inviting to read.
Pahadi, a noted human-right activist, seems to derive oblique inspiration from the New Historicists’ slogan “Always historicise!” His is an out-and-out historical account, the only outright difference being that he has included comic relief in between serious, high-voltage contemplations. However, amid seemingly objective descriptions, Pahadi has slipped on the quicksand of affective fallacies, honking at times his personal prejudices. After all, as RG Collingwood contends, it is impossible for history to be purely objective.
The book is Pahadi’s memoirs of jail—the day-to-day account of the details surrounding his imprisonment during King Gyanendra’s rule. The book chronicles two phases—first, a 145-day long term when the House of Representatives had been suspended, and second, of around three months when the public movement had geared up after the reinstatement of the House. The chronicle ends after the Shah dynasty collapses for good.
Much of the book enlists names of co-inmates, more often political leaders, and visiting relations. Occasional references are made to what the press printed and how the international community. Repetition of similar episodes of visits, the same voice again and again, and same drama of appeal and denouncement, at times, makes the book rather tedious.
The book’s strength, and by the same token socio-historical worth, lies in the way it unfolds paradoxes and discrepancies that characterise police force and jail administration. There are examples of how inmates are forced to use unsafe water, low-quality food, and congested lavatories and so on. And references to illogical censorship of books, strain on the supply of newspapers, ban on access to television and radio news etc. are seen widely too.
The book raises some serious theoretical questions concerning contemporary polity. Overtly enough, Pahadi rejects the Maoist idea of change through violence. He starkly stands against the confiscation of public land by the party, and projects that violence, as taken up by the Maoists as one of its tools for change, shall harm the peace process.
Echoing Pahadi’s personal philosophy of life, the memoir at places moralises, contending that within the police force, it is improper to kick someone to the extent of hurting their self-respect. He is against animal sacrifices, and questions the very legitimacy of killing animals for the sake of the human palate. He also advocates fair jokes that do not contain any obscenities.
This document would have been a better chronicle had the author refrained from two fallacies. First, his non-historical and purely personal prejudices are apparent. Pahadi’s analysis of the previous national anthem Shreeman Gambhir Nepali as “a song devoid of any taste, and the most tedious and tasteless national song in the world,” is an exaggerated judgment, for the same song, cherished by people for decades, was eventually degraded by time, and not by Pahadi. Its content might have been invalidated, but as a piece of art, it is still very well-crafted. Second, in reference to a mass gathering at Khulamanch, he attempts to belittle the party’s role in the People’s Movement, saying, “The party leaders, who had been meandering around the fringes of the Ring Road lacking the guts to face the people, did not like the meeting,” is completely fallacious. And lastly,
his reiteration of a press claim which said that it was Krishna Pahadi and his allies who developed the zygote of the People’s Revolution is rather narcissistic.
In spite of these flaws, the book is worth reading. It records rare historical incidents, which might not have otherwise come to light. It well demonstrates how human right missions were behind the People’s Movement, and how they fuelled the materialisation of our republic. If only Pahadi had refrained from forcing incoherent information together, it would have been a very good work indeed.
Paudyal is a faculty at the Central Department of English, TU
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