Despite stiff competition from celebrity authors Vikram Seth and Irvine Welsh, a sizeable audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival attended a session on Nepal and its literature. Inside the Durbar Hall, one of the venues here at the lit-fest, an audience of around 50 listened attentively as Nepali authors Manjushree Thapa and Narayan Wagle-who were introduced by Nepali economist Sujeev Shakya-read from their works and explained their hopes and fears about the Nepali state and the future for the country.
The discussion, Nepal-In Search of A Song, began with a reading by the two celebrated authors, after which it veered towards the current political instability and whether any optimism in the state of affairs in Nepal was valid. Thapa said the current instability is the result of the failure of the political leadership, not of the people. “The current leadership has abdicated all its responsibility towards the international community,” she said, highlighting the lack of direction towards a new constitution despite the extension. “There is no constitution. There is no guarantee there will be one. And there is no guarantee there won’t be any problems if a new constitution comes into effect.” Thapa also emphasised the position Nepal has in today’s world, using Foucault’s argument of a ‘master-slave relationship’.
“We provide cheap labour to the world…The dark side of this relationship is that we are in a powerless position globally.” She also argued that the current struggle in Nepal is one over the “soul of the left”, highlighting this aspect by reading out poems by two celebrated Nepali poets, Aahuti and Bimal Nibha, who belong to different spectrums of the political left. The key question, she said, was “how to make the left more democratic”.
Nevertheless, all three panelists agreed Nepal was undergoing tremendous societal changes, the results of which could be felt in increasing urbanisation, increasing ethnic demands, and an explosion of media. Thapa said, “Nepal is a very hungry country intellectually, and the intellectual vibrancy is undeniable.”
Though Seth and Welsh-both known and respected internationally for their works-had their sessions at the same time, attracting the majority of the audience at the lit-fest to their events, the Nepal session still attracted an audience that consisted of both Nepalis and Indians, including a few foreigners as well.