September 16, 2011 Sujeev Shakya

Opening Remarks at Kathmandu Literary Jatra

On behalf of the Kathmandu Literary Jatra team, it gives me immense honor and pleasure to welcome you to the first edition of the Kathmandu Literary Jatra here at this beautiful venue of Patan Museum. I would like to welcome our writers who have travelled from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India along with the ever growing number of Nepali writers and thought leaders. yaसबैलाई यो जात्राको प्रथम अध्यायमा स्वागतछ.While we have many writers and speakers that I admire in the audience, I would like to mention the presence of Indra Bahadur Rai, Sir, who has been one of the inspirations during my life’s formative years.

I would keep my opening remarks short by focusing on just three issues:

–         How this Jatra began

–         The linkages I see to globalization

–         Where we see this Jatra going

We started thinking of hosting a literary festival in Nepal after visiting the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2010 and about a year back, we resolved, we will have a festival in Nepal! With the entire Kathmandu Literary Jatra team in Jaipur, we just said, we have to do it! We were fortunate to have Namita Gokhale, co-director of the Jaipur festival to agree upon being the festival advisor. Manjushree Thapa, Rabi Thapa and Sanjeev Uprety continued to help on the program design and erstwhile Kathmandu resident Pulitzer award winning Kai Bird was a great inspiration to have.

For me, this Jatra has strong links with globalization. In Nepal, when we talk about globalization, we always equate it to imposition of western thoughts and looked at from the capitalism or market point of view. However, for me, globalization has been rather a greater movement of thoughts and ideas seamlessly across the world. This Jatra not only lets Nepali speakers and audiences interact with international writers, but this is great platform for Nepali writers and speakers to be understood and heard by a global audience. We need to herald the era where we discuss writings in Nepali and other languages of Nepal in English and begin the discourse of international languages in Nepali and other languages of Nepal.  A country of 30 million people that has the 40th largest population in the world with half of the people under the age of 25, there is a great market for information and knowledge.

The social networking media becoming popular and being able to use google tools to search in Nepali and type in Nepali provides immense opportunity to further enhance our knowledge base. We cannot but ride the wave of globalization and take advantage of it. For example, Thakali food which is getting so popular can get only more far reaching if we agree that the menu has to be in English and the ingredients are explained in English. This is not sign of westernization or loosing our identity! We need to change our lenses if we are to step into an era of sustained growth for our language, literature and culture along with the economy. For instance, we cling on to a very impractical calendar year Bikram Samvat for official purposes, when the world is converging towards the Gregorian calendar. We still want to use devnagiri script for writing numbers, when the region has already switched to roman scripts. Our identity does not melt with globalization, perhaps it soars if we ride the globalization wave. The challenge is how we articulate the discourse that links identity and globalization. Our discourse of what is identity and what does the world mean to us needs to change and perhaps this Jatra will provide many opportunities for that, be it discussing the Renaissance of Nepali languages or the New Age of News or Bridging the Language Divide or Politics in Nepali Universities or the Future of Nepali Language.

We hope the Jatra will survive many more editions, this is only the beginning. We are grateful to our sponsors and we are sure they will see corporate and social sense in sustaining support to such endeavors.  Kathmandu has the potential of becoming the Southasian cultural and literary capital as it provides the inspiration to convert creativity to reality. We hope events like these would also put Nepal into the tourism segment that has dropped Nepal from their maps. The sixties, seventies and early eighties saw great number of travel writers into Nepal and global products like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides draw much inspiration from this country. Such events that can showcase a combination of Nepali heritage in a wonderful venue like this and stimulating discourses that will have global interest can bring back the lost tourism segment. Yesterday, Namita and I were discussing about how much energy Kathmandu exuberates, energy that helps to be creative, energy that helps to see the bigger picture, energy that helps people to understand people better. Perhaps collective energies will see lot happen in the future. Later, with efforts in making writing residencies happen, we feel we can provide an identity for Nepal beyond the 3Ms – Mountains, Maoist and Massacre to the outside world.

It will be unfair to end this opening remarks without thanking you all for your presence and support to the Jatra. I would like to just mention couple of people in person though. A big thank you to Apoorva Srivastava and the Indian Embassy for giving us all the inspiration in this journey; thank you Namita Gokhale for guiding us through this journey. A big thank you to the entire Kathmandu Literary Jatra team led by the non defeatist untiring Suvani Singh and Pranab Singh of Quixote’s Cove.

Please enjoy the next two and a half days of stimulating discussions. Welcome to the Kathmandu Literary Jatra once again.

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