As the percentage of Dalit representation in the present Constituent Assembly (CA) declined in comparison to their numbers in the first CA, the hopes of the Dalit community has somehow dimmed, with the apprehension that the voice of the deprived community and other disadvantaged groups would be least heard. The community is worried not only for a less inclusive CA compared to the first one but also is considerably depressed with the fear that the achievements made during the first CA would perhaps not be preserved.
In the first CA elections held in 2008, seven candidates from the Dalit communities were elected from all of the 240 constituencies, with altogether 50 Dalit members. But the numbers of Dalit lawmaker in the second CA is only two from direct elections, and the number is down to 41, including through proportional representation.
It is New Year, and crowds throng the Exhibition Road. Thrill seekers are here by the droves, you can hear them yell from half a mile away, or so it seems. For Bhrikuti Mandap is home to Kathmandu Fun Park, which contains several amusement rides meant for both young and old. With the addition of an amusement and water park at Sanga, it would seem that youngsters in Nepal do not have to pine for Disneyland anymore. But though this nascent industry provides the thrills they desperately seek, it is still struggling to ensure complete safety of its consumers.
Kausar Javed, a teenager who often rides the Columbus and Ferris Wheel at Bhrikuti Mandap, enjoys these rides a lot. But when you ask her about safety, she grimaces. “The seat next to the last has its handles falling off,” says she. “But if you hang on tight, you won’t fall,” she concludes gaily. Forget safety harnesses, rusted handlebars are the norm, and it is not uncommon to find a few damaged bars like the one Kausar pointed out. It is only the cheerful spirit of the consumers that keeps these flaws from becoming lawsuits. It is also not unusual to find riders flinging off the safety bar and hopping down before the ride completely stops.
Surya Bhakta Nakarmi is the owner, designer and technical officer of Funny Temple, an amusement ride in the Central Zoo, Jawalakhel. With just a certificate degree from Thapathali Technical Institute, Nakarmi built the ride from scratch, based on “trial and error” method. He expounds on his rollercoaster journey.
How did you get the idea to make Funny Temple?
I was employed at the airport, and frequently went on foreign trips. In Bangkok, I rode a ride and it inspired me to make one. I went to Bangkok several times to study the design.
“Hello? Doctor, I’ve been suicidal for the past few weeks. I have even bought a length of rope. I know it’s wrong and immoral. But I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, please?”
Dr Kamal Gautam, Resident Psychiatrist at Teaching Hospital in Maharajgunj who also works with a suicide helpline, immediately asked the caller to come over. The person turned out to be a forty-year-old laborer from Bhaktapur. Poverty-ridden, under-qualified, emotionally broken and utterly depressed, the man was an alcoholic. He was instantly prescribed antidepressants and intensive therapy. His family members were called in and asked to stay with him round the clock. After three months of continual familial support, medication and psychotherapy, he is currently on the road to recovery.
Kedar Dhanuki, a wood craftsman, flips his hands dexterously over a wooden block, and draws, designs and carves a beautiful wooden mask in just under two hours. People huddle around to watch him at work in his small shop at Thamel. When tourists come to buy masks, Kedar (teaching mask carving to learners in the photos above) instead of showing them the different kinds of masks that dot the walls says, “Make one yourself and take it home with you.”
Besides carving masks, Kedar also teaches the art of mask carving to tourists who are keen to learn it, as one of many course packages offered by Backstreet Academy to teach the tourists about Nepali traditional craft.
Killing oneself is not a normal occurrence. It’s a disastrous outcome of a chronic mental illness, recent trauma or psychological disorder that has gone overlooked, ignored, suppressed or untreated. A person reaches a suicidal stage after a lot of emotional turmoil. These people don’t lack willpower. They are ill. It’s possible to cure them with the right medication and therapy.
Is suicide restricted to a certain age group in Nepal?
It’s usually witnessed among young adults and elderly.
First, an advertisement for myself – and no apology to Norman Mailer for his essay collection, ‘Advertisements for Myself’ – for my own reasons.
The fact: I’ve finished writing a novel. For five years, I’ve been at its craft and creativity. But it began as a long-form short story of 11,000+ words. I wrote it and let it gestate in my folder. Then the grapevine of Ajit Baral and Shushma Joshi messaged that they were looking for short stories from Nepali writers writing in English (NWWIE) for an anthology commissioned by Rupa of India. ‘Do you have any?’ they asked. ‘I sure have,’ I said, and emailed my masterpiece to these consulting editors. ‘Oho, Peter Dai!’ Ajit wrote back: ‘It’s too long!’ ‘How short do you want?’ ‘Cut it in half.’ So I trimmed the original to some 5,500 words, and the bonsai version was published in “New Nepal: New Voices.” My short story is called ‘Dark Kathmandu Sideways.’
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end,” so said Ernest Hemingway. The great man said it only to get us mortals under pressure. Right from the moment yours truly read it (sometime in his teens), he´s been hit by this ´journey´ bug. As if every step you take has to conform to the statement made by the man who wrote ´The Old Man and the Sea´ (It´s a different matter that during our college days, we used to find titles like ´The Old Man and the She´ more appealing).
Yet the line touched a chord, somewhere… And ever since the microbuses hit (yes, they literally hit!) the Kathmandu roads, yours truly started relating microyatras to ´journey´. The journeys have rarely been soul-searching, except for a few times when your fellow passengers were breathing down your
neck, yet they have been reflective of what stage of development our society is at.
Though Sushma Joshi names her book The Prediction, it is not very predictable. Most stories in this collection have surprise endings, or even begin from strange subject lines. For example, there is her first story about a man getting lost in Mongolia, and another about a satellite that crashes among the Himalaya, both very unusual subjects for Nepali writers.
Sushma sets the tone right at the start with a very readable story. The Discovery of the High Lama has an intriguing subject matter and enough dialogue so that the reader is not bored. Her plot, too, holds the reader’s interest till the very end. And that perhaps defines most of her stories: unusual subject matters, lots of dialogue, and interesting plots.
I haven’t finished reading the book yet. It’s a brilliant autobiography of a famous Norwegian actor and film director written a quarter of a century ago. But these two lines immediately managed to capture my interest since they are right at the beginning of the autobiography. These words seem simple and they have been written matter-of-factly. And yet, at the same time, as a woman, I feel the pain concealed beneath them.
No matter how modern or progressive we become, there’s this invisible boundary that always tethers a woman to a position beneath a man. And this is true even in the context of the most developed nations in the world. And I have personally experienced the small, seemingly insignificant things that may otherwise pass unnoticed but are actually nuances of the discriminatory attitude that the society still holds for its female members.