Nepal’s Farwest: Vision And Mission
When you think the ‘Center ‘ is the maa/baap or parent and caretaker at the same time, you naturally think of responsibilities that also go along with the title and honour. There is no easy escape from the parental duties. Every child, even a newly delivered one right after it descends on earth naturally looks for the nipple of his/her weak and frail mother. Isn’t the child selfish in the behaviour displayed? Not really. The child is confirming that the person lying or standing next is the first source of energy, physical contact and a company for the entire life ahead, at least as long as the care is needed. That is how a parent-child bond is created, fostered and sustained.
When the Madan Puraskar winner Ram Lal Joshi, a noted young novelist and literary person was standing on the open theatre next to the Nepal Academy building and declaring that the Academy building on his left was not theirs, meaning thereby Sudur Paschim’s. Why so? He had ample reasons to prove in his own way. There could have been other ways to put forward the logic he had, or for that purpose, any other ‘outsider’ could have but in many respects Joshi was considered right and logical by the big and colourful audience in front of him.
Joshi’s arguments were not only logical but also worth attention. Kathmandu has always nurturing the concept that it is THE CENTER of things. In fact it is not; it appears to be so just because the fertile valley attracted migrants of all hues and colors over a long time. But the periphery has nurtured it with extreme care right from its birth. In many respects the role has been exchanged much later in history yet for Kathmandu nurturing from outside is always necessary, urgent. Given the existing conditions Kathmandu, therefore, cannot boast of being independent and self-sufficient. This is the great hitch and it will remain so for a long time to come. Kathmanduites have felt – a sizable rock on the Prithvi Highway or a ‘dharna’ at Birgunj-Raxaul bridge do the job: Kathmandu becomes a qualified ‘orphan.’ This has been seen and experienced in the not so long past.
Nepal Academy, Ram Lal Joshi argued, cannot sleep well and rest well by ignoring the geographically big and culturally rich Farwest region in the formation of its Pragya Parishad (Council). Time has come and time has gone but Sudur Paschim has only watched the academy not looking much toward the West. The land of the two prime ministers – Chand and Deuba, who have been lucky to be on the job repeatedly has simply been ignored as far as due representation of the West in the Academy, the one and the only custodian of Nepali culture and literature is concerned. A rightful representation, a feeling of ownership was what Joshi, speaking on behalf of his colleagues and (in the present context) company, wanted to see. And, it was justified from all possible angles of analysis.
The Sudur Paschim cultural and literary team was formed last week at Dhangadhi and began to head towards east via Kathmandu carrying the culture of Sudur. It has several small groups as part of the caravan – the Bhu , Chhaliya and Hudke dances performed mainly by the damai caste, the Sakhiya and Hori dances of the Sudur Paschim Tharu, Gaura and Deuda dances of both male and female Hindu groups, other A grade performances from the professional-looking artists of Sundar Sudur Paschim.
The performances were introduced by none other than the former academician Yagya Raj Upadhyay assisted by Mr Kadayat. Ambadatta Pant, Chairman of Prasamsa Samrakshan Samuha gave a welcome speech highlighting on the objective of the deshdarshan program reaching out to different places and cultures existing in the country and out to Assam and Sikkim. ‘It is done with the sense of uninty against the infiltration of foreign elements in Nepali culture,’ Panta said. The west Nepal culture is thus aiming at uniting the country and showing the intangible cultural property of Sundar Sudur West (beautiful remote west, a name given in recent time for the promotion of tourism here).
Sudur Paschim Sahitya Samaj, Kanchanpur based organsation is the other organiser of the tour. It is a well-known literary and cultural organisation at people’s level. It has its own publications and programs involving literary figures from other parts of the country.
In the beginning, the female participants of the mega tour crisscrossing several plain parts of Nepal, sang the famous Deuda song and danced in a semi-circle just to give a feeling about the culture of the west. Later, the group performed Gaura dance on the platform. Gaura festival is special in the region. Mrs Joshi in the lead was apparently the most active figure in several performances of her group.
The audience was very appreciative and receiptive of the Chhaliya dance performed by the group. As the meaning goes, it was a typical dance symbolically telling how the fighters could avoid strikes from an enemy. The lead dancer, China Ram Damai showed how foods could be cooked in a pot with fire from the bottom fixed on the top of the head of the dancer. The steps, drum sounds and sword v. dhaal, the armour battle were also very skilfully taken while performing. The noteworthy fact is that time for war and violence has now been a subject of history but the folk artists like to remember the past and live to show it to the present generation. These dances have been typical icons of the overall culture of the west and putting them all into perspective and a neat package for the audience now far from home is what is being done now.
Pant said the program will feature in several places outside Nepal, e.g. Guwahati of Assam and Gangtok of Sikkim. This is done to give the Nepalis a feeling that wherever we live we are Nepalis, we are countrymen, we are brothers and sisters, not strangers. Therefore, we must respect our tradition, culture and our strong sense of unity amidst diversity.
Finally, the Sudur caravan plans to drop the Kali water into Mechi river, invite dances and songs from the east to the west in the near future and tell the people how culture can unite us together. This novel concept is first of its kind and over the years ahead it will be repeated to further create and foster a cultural bond between east and west here and as the organisers claim between Nepal and the West across the Ocean.