Saturday, 31 August 2013

Say no to peacock plumes next Krishna Janmashtami and no to water lilies coming Deepawali

A girl holds a peacok feather during Krishna Janmashtami festival
in Lalitpur near Kathmandu. (c) Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters 
I love Krishna Janmashtami, the birth celebrations of Lord Krishna. The only thing I detest is the devotees' love for the peacock plumes. I don't know whether Lord Krishna adorned his hair with a peacock plume or not. Or it was just an artist's imagination to beautify the portrait, it's still to be confirmed. However, almost all portraits of Krishna have a peacock feather stuck to his head band.

The fascination for the peacock plumes on the auspicious day brings traders selling the plumes at Krishna temples throughout Nepal. Imagine – only in the Kathmandu Valley there are hundreds of Krishna temples and at each temple there are at least two traders, each selling hundreds of plumes. If honestly calculated, the number of peacocks trapped and slaughtered for the plumes will cross thousands.

So is it worth buying a peacock feather on Lord Krishna's birthday? I would say a big NO to the feather sellers. Let's make sure that the peacocks stay safe in jungles and are not afraid of losing their lives for Krishna's birthday celebrations.   

Likewise, in Deepawali, similar is the fate of water lilies. The nook and crannies of marketplaces in major towns of Nepal are filled with water lilies. Water lilies are considered to be the best offering to Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, in Deepawali (Laxmi Pooja in Nepal). Thus, to please the Goddess and amass wealth, people pay a fortune to buy the lilies. And the lily gatherers scour the ponds and ditches of lilies, not sparing even the buds.

Imagine – what will happen if the naturally growing lilies face extinction? Let's choose an alternative to offering water lilies to Goddess Laxmi this Deepawali and not devoid the ponds and ditches of their natural ornaments.

Monday, 26 August 2013

From mundane to serious affairs in Nepal: A journalist's viewpoint

I am a big fan of Barclays Premier League. Don't ask me about the English clubs, I can tell you in detail even about the recent transfers. However, when I see students going to Liverpool and Chelsea International colleges in Kathmandu, I start pulling my hairs.

Such is the fascination for English names among the college-goers and educators that "Many sound more like American or British colleges (or English football clubs) than Nepali: Chelsea International, Caribbean College, Caspian Valley, Bridgewater Int'l, Guinness Int'l, Welhams College, Columbus, Gillette College, Golden Gate College, Thames International College, Bernhard Campus, Northfield Campus, Xavier Academy, New Millennium, Liverpool International College, to name a few".

Journalist Anand Gurung sheds his frustration towards Nepalis' fascination with the West in the article Kathmandu Capers in his debut book Journalism & Journeys. The book honestly expresses the author's impressions detailing the nuances of daily lives in Nepal in form of travel essays and articles. All 19 articles are engrossing and will take you through the streets of Kathmandu, jungles of the Terai, and even to Raxaul and Darjeeling of India.

In the article A house in the City, he laments at the concrete jungle the Kathmandu Valley is turning into. In Tragic Traffic Tales he highlights the plights of the public vehicle users, the tampering of meters by the taxi drivers and the reckless motorbike riders.

While talking about mundane affairs, Anand raises some serious policy issues in his article Mongolian Momo. He states: "The state's policy of systematic discrimination meant that the Janjatis, Dalits, Madhesis and of course, women, were completely sidelined. They were left out in the cold and had no voice in the running of the state. The state never fostered national integrity by advocating social and economic justice for them. Instead, the Kathmandu rulers forcefully tried to thrust one religion, language and culture on them to promote the sense of "Nepaliness" and partly succeeded in this attempt."   

In Wildlife Diaries, he highlights the community conservation efforts in Bardia to save the wild animals. He interviews the community based anti-poaching unit members and the Chief Warden of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve to find out about poaching and poachers. In The Hissing Trishuli Rapids, he describes the thrills of rafting in the famous Trishuli River. Having had a similar experience in the rapids of Bheri River, I liked this piece the most.

Anand's writing sometimes turns poetic which makes the read more pleasurable. His attention to details takes you right to the action point. You never get bored and find newness in each of the writing. The articles are a mix of all sorts of jottings and cater to all types of readers. However, had the book been a collection of either travel essays or personal impressions, it would have garnered niche readers.

The above mentioned articles are only a glimpse of several other interesting articles that are compiled along with them. All the articles are beautifully written and deal with completely different topics. One link that binds them together is the mention of Nepal, Nepalis and Nepaliness. If you like Nepal and Nepalis, like reading from mundane affairs to serious issues, this book is meant just for you.    

Anand Gurung is a Kathmandu based journalist and editor of the online portal Nepalnews. Journalism & Journeys is his debut book published by Vajra Publications, Kathmandu, Nepal and Dragon Publications, New Delhi, India. The book is priced at NRs 400 in Nepal and IRs 250 in India. The book is available at major bookstores in Kathmandu.