The Folklore Caravan In The East (I)

Prem Khatry

 

Folklore Council (FC), Nepal, officially concluded its 8th national annual conference in the district of Bhojpur in Province 1 this week. The conference made history and established some new records through its deliberation and overall programmes. Senior linguists like Professor Chuda Mani Bandhu, accompanied by scored plus folk historians, folklorists, culture experts and professors, added flavour and quality to the event. The writer wishes to highlight on the main events and deliberations that took place in the programme.
Former chairman and founder of the Council, late Professpr Jaya Raj Pant liked to call the folklore national events campaign undertaken for the promotion and preservation of folk culture of Nepal. The caravan, he said, has no particular trail as there are trails all over but it moves on with the objective of making folklore a household word in the mouth of all concerned. With his tragic and accidental death two-and-half-an-years ago, the Council lost a great scholar and a devoted folklorist whose ideals are now guiding the Council through good and bad days.

Legal form
From event one held in Pokhara eight years ago until now Council has not looked back and convenes annual events on routine basis. The campaign took its legal and institutional form in 2071 BS with the registration in Kathmandu. It has made it a routine activity to travel to a new destination – from east, west, north, or south looking for a place where cultures meet, interact and produce new examples of solidarity, harmony, peace and prosperity.
The very first leg of the 8th conference was fixed at Dharan where local folklorist and literary personalities welcomed the group. Following the tradition the 60+ participants hailing from five nations (France, Austria, Australia, India and Nepal) had to spend the night here to get ready for the next morning seminar organised at Bimal Pustakalaya, Ghopa Road.
A few words in the name of a short-lived but visionary young poet Bimal Gurung may be relevant here. Bimal had met with an accident resulting in a very premature death in the year 2048 BS at Dharan. His literary genius today stands in the form of a memorial library named after his name. His father, a retired British Army man Purna Bahadur Gurung, generously donated the library building in his son’s name and takes care of the library with more than 10 thousand books, journals and newspapers.
In his paper, Prof Tanka Sharma highlighted the life and culture of the Yakha people of Dhankuta. Sharma focused on the need to work on the Yakha language and culture further. Concentrated on a small territory around the lower part of Dhankuta Municipality, the Yakha now are no more a ‘hidden’ people. Their new name Yangren is also getting popular through the effort of the younger generation working in various capacities including the government sector. Education is also one identity the Yakha now enjoy.
While making several trips back and forth via this part of Dhankuta as a student of Mahendra College, Dharan (1965-1969), this writer remembers the hard working Yakha men in the field and women wearing long white robe carrying loads for the shopkeepers of the city. Tekunala was their one major settlement back then. Today, anthropologists, linguists and development workers have laboured hard to bring the people and their culture to light. Their typical culture with rich intangible cultural heritage needs to be preserved encouraging the younger generation.
The participants had a tour of the Bimal Library where his statue overlooks the street. Despite Purna Gurung’s effort as the custodian of the library, the readership is not very strong. Obviously, with mini gadgets like mobile, laptop and tablet in hand, the young generation is not much interested in a fixed space with facilities unless it has a cyber. But even the elderly and middle generation are losing interest in reading. This is why Guring strongly feels the traditional style ‘reading culture’ seems waning. He may be right. But as a loving father Gurung is adding his contribution further with a half billion fixed deposit for the library and related literary activities his son Bimal would have engaged himself in.
A regular school bus plying in Kathmandu carrying school/college children was shocked to wheel into the Mid Hill Highway carrying council’s participants. Here the words ‘hill’ and ‘high’ were true but the road spoke a very different language and showed a different attitude not many had expected. Up to the Arun bridge at Leguwa, the meeting point of Dhankuta, Sankhuasabha and Bhojpur districts, the highway made the travellers suffer to the extreme. The ongoing road work seemed not only slow but terribly neglected as there were no working crew in sight in the entire length of this leg.
A very shrewd contractor was quoted as saying – What more would you expect here? The term Hile means ‘muddy’ and so we are never guaranteeing how long it may take to get rid of the mud. Then mind also the meaning of the other word ‘Pakhribas’ which means walk from Hile and spend the night here at Pakhribas (bas = night halt). Joke or otherwise, the man was making the travel more difficult and agonising through his super slow speed and a sarcastic remark aired on the media.

Incessant clapping
Finally, as most of the participants came from the hill and those from abroad were also more or less familiar with the working culture in Nepal, the quiet and risky travel was their luck. Even though, they tried to use their shaky and dusty travel full of folksong duets and incessant clapping. When there is FC General Secretary and famous Deuda singer and academician Yagyaraj Upadhyaya around there is no boredom or other forms of disturbances. With the first touch on the other side of Arun, and district of Bhojpur, the final destination, a great sense of relief came as a welcome gesture.
(to be continued)

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