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Literature
Bhairav Aryal


MANJUSHREE THAPA


Bhairav Aryal is one of the best-loved essayists of the modern age, writing from the 1950's till his untimely death in the 1970's. He was a satirist who commented on the absurdities of modern Nepal, as well as a journalist and editor. The essay below, written during the years after the royal takeover of 1960, speaks well of the bungling of the Panchayat years.

THE INTERNATIONAL FROG CONFERENCE
In today's world, a son has greater worries than the unemployed; a journalist is in a greater rush than a taxi car. On top of that, if someone takes up journalism in order to stave off the daily hassles of being a son, you can imagine how patchy his life gets. And I am the kind of journalist who must serve journalism all day on the basis of a rickety cycle, and enjoy the nectar of filial life in the early evening, scraping out the pot for storing grains. That's why my mind keeps spinning all night and all day-as if a cinema reel were flickering on the screen of my brain. One second I'm thinking of the disarmament speeches of world leaders, another second I'm thinking about the boiled rice rations that I must gather by this evening. One moment it's the Geneva Convention, and the next moment it's the divorce of the mothers of sons and daughters.

This incident is still fresh and warm, just from the day before yesterday. I had finished reporting on the meeting of the All Nepal Family Problems Solution Meeting, and was heading home when I thought I heard a baby crying at the edge of the Kamalpokhari pond. For a while I thought it was just my cycle squeaking, so I ignored the noise, but then I saw that a young woman was solving the problem of family. I carried along, telling myself, \'Why keep digging once you know it's a useless root, and not ginger,' but to her misfortune, or to my misfortune, the tube of my cycle burst just then, so loudly you would think that a bomb had detonated on my head. She frantically tossed her bundle into the brushes and looked at me. As soon as our eyes met, I recognised her. She had led a delegation to the International Forward Ladies' Conference last year, and only a few days ago, she had given a talk on the edge of the Ranipokhari pond, vowing to dedicate her life to taking care of children by remaining unmarried all her life. There was no question that a journalist like I would recognise her.

You surely know, many things that a journalist sees he cannot write about, and many things that he writes about he cannot see. If he could write everything he sees, then the papers would be full of shoving and crushing and anger and jealousy and poison, et cetera. If he could see everything he writes about, then the world of man would be like the world of the gods: all progress, development, friendship and idealism. So why should a modern journalist pay attention to her bravery in solving her problem? The age demands wife and children planning; just because the method is different, how can it be called a crime? It could be that she's come up with a means of her own, to suit the times.

When I reached a little further, I saw a policeman scolding a loiterer. I dragged my cycle along, my legs trembling from fear that he might scold me too, but then, how would he dare catch a gentleman who rides cycles? Indeed, I had found a main news item, and I even thought up its title-\'Confrontation Between Police and Robber.' Whether or not the man was a robber was for the police to figure out. I'm just a journalist, all I need is news.

In the end it doesn't matter, because these days, in every country, intelligence reports are Bramha's words for the government, and the papers and radio news are Bramha's words for the citizens. Intelligence agents and reporters have become so skilled at concealing what has happened, writing about what hasn't happened, coloring the white and twisting the straight, that in reality, world politics is in their hands.

A friend of mine used to say in jest-at the border of two countries, there were barracks on each side. One day, an intelligence agent and a reporter were walking towards the border on their side of the divide. Just then, a uniformed soldier from the other side ran across the border with something in his hands. The intelligence agent immediately called headquarters, and the reporter called the office. \'A soldier from such-and-such country entered our territory.' A police Jeep arrived immediately. The journalist at once reported, \'The police have also arrived.' The news was true enough. In no time at all, the morning editions of newspapers beat up a fuss-\'Border encroachment by a soldier of such-and-such country.' The intelligence report was proved by the newspaper report. Politicians rushed to release statements, the parties rushed to hold an emergency meeting and passed a proposal of protest. Editors rushed to write editorials. The radios rushed to review the editorials. Allied nations stirred into action, learned folks like us got a chance to sit around at restaurants talking about all of this while chewing on meatballs. In the end, investigations showed that the soldier had been suffering from dystentry, and had to take a dump as he was heading out for morning duty, but the toilets were all crammed full, so he grabbed a mug of water and ran off to sit down wherever he could find a spot. Now you tell me how important intelligence agents and reporters are. That's why I decided to make news out of the encounter between the loiterer and the police.

I hadn't even had time to write a report on the speeches given by various intellectuals and representatives at this morning's Firewood-and-Dung Distribution Meet. As soon as I got home, I settled down on the trunk to write, thinking \'I'll cough up all this nonsense all at once.' I ordered the mother of my son-\'Alright, I don't have any time to eat any rice-shice, just bring me a chillum of sour tobacco leaves.' My sleeping son, representing his mother, replied-\'Mother axed the chillum and burned it, Father!' I looked with amazement at the mother's face, only to see her make a face and say, through her nose, \'I couldn't find any firewood anywhere, so..' I shut up and started to write about the speeches and proposals made at the Firewood-and-Dung Distribution Meet.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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