Indra Bahadur Rai: Novelist and Short Stories (Satis Shroff)

Indra Bahadur Rai (ईन्द्र बहादुर राइ) - Novel & story writer
by pratima on Saturday, February 28th 2009, 8:58 PM

Indra Bahadur Rai (ईन्द्र बहादुर राइ) - Novel & story writer

Indra Bahadur Rai (ईन्द्र बहादुर राइ), born on February 3, 1927 at Balasan Tea Estate in Darjeeling, is one of the most eminent writers of long as well as short fictions. He is also highly regarded as one of the pioneers of objective approach in literary studies in Nepali. His major works are incorporated into the syllable prescribed for undergraduate and post-graduate studies in Nepali by different Boards of Education and Universities in India and Nepal. He has always championed the cause of development of Nepali language and literature as one of the major components constituting Indian Literature as a single cultural whole. Being the founder secretary of All India Nepali Bhasa Manyata Samiti अखिल भारतीय नेपाली भाषा मन्यता समिती (1961) he led the movement and paved the way for the recognition of State Language in West Bengal. The movement for the constitutional recognition to Nepali language gathered its highest momentum under his stewardship as president of the All India Nepali Bhasa Samiti during the years 1978 and 1979. As he became too much involved in the movement he decided to take voluntary retirement from his job as a Lecturer of English at St. Joseph's College, Darjeeling in 1979 itself. Later he joined active politics with a view to fight for the constitutional and democratic rights of the hill people in Darjeeling. But, despite all these involvements he always took literature as his first love. He has published to his credit four books of narrative prose fictions, an equal number of books on literary criticism and many books of non-fiction prose. He has also edited some books and literary periodicals. His most important works are as follows:

Vipana Katipaya - विपना कतिपय 1960 A collection of stories
Aja Ramita Chha - आज रमिता छ 1964 Novel
Kathastha - कथास्थ 1974 A collection of stories1
Tipeka Tippaniharu - टिपेका टिप्पणीहरु 1966 A collection of critical essays
Nepali Upanyaska Adharharu - नेपाली उपन्यस्का आधारहरु 1974 Literary criticism
Sandharbhama Ishwar Ballabhka Kavita सन्धर्भमा इश्वर बल्लभ्का कविता 1976 Literary criticism
Darjeelingma Nepali Natakko Ardhashatabdi दार्जीलिङमा नेपाली नाटकको अर्धशतब्दी 1985
Kathaputaliko Man कथापुतलिको मन 1989 (A collection of short fictions, with a post-script on his concept of Leela Lekhan)
Pahad ka Kholaharoo पहाड का खोलाहरू 1992 (A collection of his non-fiction prose)
Arthaharuko Pachhilitira अर्थहरुको पछीलितिर 1994 (Literary Criticism)
Prishta-Prishtha प्रिश्ता प्रिश्ता 1995 A collection of critical writings
Samayankan Dainikiya समयन्कन डैनिकिया 1997 Dairy Writing
Lekhanru Ra Jhya लेखन्हरु र झ्याल 2000 A collection of articles and one short story
Bhanubhaktaka Kriti Adhyayanharu भानुभक्तका कृति अध्ययनहरु (Edited) 1971 -

Indra Bahadur Rai is undoubtedly the greatest of all Indian Nepali writers writing today. He was the first recipient of the Sahitya Akademi (साहित्य अकदेमी) Award in Nepali. He won this award in the year 1976 for his Nepali Nepali Upanyaska Adharharu - नेपाली उपन्यस्का आधारहरु. His literary career spans over more than thirty five years. His initial writings were published in different periodicals. But his first work to be published in book form was Vipana Katipaya - विपना कतिपय, a collection of thirty short stories. In these stories he appears to be a realist treading the path of the French naturalists. The publications of his very first book proved to be an epoch-making event which carved him a safe niche in the history of the short story as a literary genre in modern Nepali literature.

His style was so arresting, themes so original in appeal and representation so defamiliarized that he immediately found a host of other contemporary as well as younger writers preparing themselves to follow him. Soon his influence became so overwhelming that it engulfed the entire younger generation into its fold. But it did not take much for his followers observation and thought to be followed and imitated. His linguist is competence and its aesthetic performance exhibit a very high degree of compatibility. Some of these texts, though collected in a book of short stories, clearly have a structural foregrounding that positions them somewhere between the two realms of the traditional literary genres of the short story and literary essay. In these works there are two different texts embedded, or rather merged to form a third one. His lone novel, Aaja Ramita Chaa - आज रमिता छ successfully depicts the middle class society of Darjeeling.

On its surface plane the novel, like most of his short stories, signifies the socio-economic and political life of the hill people. But the recurrent motifs of lethargy, and purposelessness characterizing the middle class life style suggest a deeper and universal meaning laying bare the absurdity of human existence itself. As a writer, he has always tried to project literature as the most important of all human arts. This is also manifest in his novel. In this venture he propagated his theory of TESTRO AYAM टेस्त्रो आयम (The Third Dimension) in the early 1960s. In May 1963, he, in collaboration with two of his poet friends Ishvar Ballabh - इश्वर बल्लभ and [Bairagi Kaila] brought out a literary periodical called TESRO AYAM through which the movement of the third dimensional writing was pronounced. This was the first literary movement in Nepali to be every launched consciously. It was, in fact, Rai's brain child.

Rai practiced his own theory of dimensionalism in his short stories written after 1963. Kathastha - कथास्थ, a collection of stories accompanied by a note on his convictions as a dimensionalist was published in 1972. The book has two parts Katha कथा (stories) and Astha आस्था (convictions). the texts under Katha section are the examples of the percepts laid down under the Astha section. The development of his Ayamik - अयमिक thinking and manifestations culminate into the concept of the Leelaist writings (Leela - Leekhan) and his Kathaputaliko Man - कथापुतलिको मन is an outcome of such a culmination.

Indra Bahadur Rai is equally well known for his eminence as a literary critic. Tipeka Tippaniharu - टिपेका टिप्पणीहरु (Collected Commentaries) is a collection of his earliest critical writings on different topics of literary significance. But his most outstanding work of literary criticism is Nepali Upanyaska Adharharu - नेपाली उपन्यस्का आधारहरु (The Bases of Nepali Novels). It is an analytical study of twelve most outstanding Nepali Novels representative of distinctively different trends for which Rai has used the term Adharharu - आधारहरु (bases). His method of literary studies is a blending of the impressionistic and the textual. His other significant work of literary criticism include Sandarbhama Ishvar Ballabhka Kavita - सन्धर्भमा इश्वर बल्लभ्का कविता (in context of Ishvar Ballabh's Poetry) and Darjeelingma Nepali Natakka Adharshatabdi - दार्जीलिङमा नेपाली नाटकको अर्धशतब्दी (Half century of Nepali Dramaturgy in Darjeeling). His Sahityako Apaharan: Marvbadi Prativadhata - साहित्यको अपहरन: मर्व्बदी प्रतिवधत is a critique of the Marxist concept of literary commitments. His edited volumes include **Bhanubhaktaka Kriti: Adhyaynharu - भानुभक्तका कृति अध्ययनहरु ** an anthology of critical writings on the poet Bhanubhakta, and a few periodicals.

He was a member of the Sahitya Akademi's Executive Committee and the convenor of its Nepali Advisory Board for ten years from 1978.

Indra Bahadur Rai pronounced his concept of Leela Lekhan (Leelaist writing) in the mid eighties and since then has been actively propagating it through different forums. His book under consideration, viz., Kathaputaliko Man - कथापुतलिको मन includes a postscript aphoristically delineating the salient features of Leelavad. On the basis of this postscript and his other writings published in different periodicals in this regard his concept and thesis of Leelaist writing can be summed up as follows:

Leela Lekhan (लीला लेखन) is a further development of his Ayamik concept of Vastuta -वस्तुत (objectness) which can be roughly likened to the Kantian view of 'thing-in-itself' but it is such an involvement only for them who subscribed to the dimensionalist literary theorizing. For others it is not necessary to be Leelaist later. They can, by their own independent studies and contemplation, see the all pervading operation of Leela in all aspect of human activities. The concept of Leela defines human beings moved about by the semi-impersonal forces - social, economic, political, psychological, historical, religious, national and what not - operating upon our need to live and survive. A realization similar to Rai's concept of Leela is increasingly being confirmed by modern science, philosophy, psychology and literary theories. The Copenhagen interpretation of Physics (1927) can be cited as one of its most illuminating instances. However, Rai's concept of Leela is not to be misunderstood as a moral nihilism, nor as another version of defeatism. Man, in present day society, says Rai, must always be up and working and struggling as he is goaded on by something to survive, relying on and making use of his subjective, therefore Leelaist feelings, thoughts and evaluations. Rai's concept of Leelaism makes for a radical change in man's attitude towards life and his outlook towards the world. The Leelaist view of life and writing is based on the belief that all human thoughts, feelings and experiences, as well as value systems are necessarily subjective, interest ridden and most prone to be fallacious. There is no such thing called objective reality. All human findings, observations, judgements and expressions are invariably subjective manifestations. Rai urges us to be ever aware of this fact and never to loose sight of it, for this consistently unceasing awareness and knowledge of our "native objectness" at once enables us to live and write from a higher and dispassionate plane. The concept of Leela in this sense can be likened with the Gita's prescipt of Niskama and the concept of Satori in Zen Buddhism. In the postscript he has modestly acknowledged his debt to the Upanisadic concept of Maya (माया), Shunya (शुन्य) of Buddhism, the Deconstruction, Reader's response. Freudian and Gestalt theories of psychology, the Jain Syadvada -स्यद्वद quantum physics, pragmatism and the Marxist concept of 'ideology'.

Kathaputaliko Man - कथापुतलिको मन, published in 1989, consists of eight short prose fictions written in a narrative vein which serve as different strings embedded into the broader matrix of Rai's Leelaism. The texts transgress the specifics of all typological classifications and defy all efforts of any generic pigeon-holing by the critics. The traditional concept of genre has been completely deconstructed. This is more clearly so in the title-text, Kathaputaliko Man - कथापुतलिको मन. This tendency to defy the structural norms of prevalent narrative forms is evident in his earliest short stories collected in his Vipana Katipaya -विपना कतिपय and his novel Aaja Ramita Chha - आज रमिता छ also. But the texts included in the present book under consideration are almost devoid of a metonymical structure (in the Jacobsonian sense of the term) usually constructing a prose narrative. These texts do not have a distinctly linear narrative. Each of these texts are based on the motifs of love, fear, old age, vanity, fame and gregariousness. The title text is constituted by deconstructing the popular myth that a quarrel between a husband and his wife is as instant and short lived as a fire on a bundle of hay-sticks. In the course of deconstructing this myth the author has reconstructed four parallel sub-texts based on it and embedded into the broader matrix of his Leelaist concept. These four sub-texts are 'written' by four different 'authors', viz., the invisible director - author of the 'game' of life, Guruprasad Mainaly - गुरुप्रशाद मैनली or the author of short story titled **Paralko Ago - परालको आगो ** (the fire on the haystick), the author scrutinizing the the mind of Chamey (चामे) the hero in Mainali's story, and the author visualizing the experiences of the puppetised object. Typologically speaking, the text is an amalgam of a short story, a play, a novel, an essay, a poetry and literary criticism. This is what has already been discussed above as the deconstruction of criticism. This is what has already been discussed above as the deconstruction of the concept of genres. Architectural techniques are used in constructing this text. This particular text, the author says in the postscript, is a product of the turbulent Gorkhaland movement years. It appeared to him that people cannot but behave like mindless puppets.

Figures, symbols, and imagery used in these stories heighten their styles to the sublimity of great poems. These are the instances of the best art objects to be created through language. His works successfully represent the "organized violence committed upon ordinary language" (Roman Jakobson's phrase).

Pahad Ra Khola पहाड र् खोला (1993) is a collection of twenty expressions of Rai's dispersed meditation mainly focused on the language, literature, culture, society and racial entity of Indian Nepalese.

Prishta Pristha पृष्‍� पृष्‍� ा (1995) is a collection of eighteen critical articles on varied subjects of language and literature.

Indra Bahadur Rai has also shown his excellence in Diary literature. Evidence is his Samayankan Dainikiya - समयन्कन डैनिकिय (1997). His diary writing is not simply a day to day (i.e. morning to night) account of his activities but the expression of his thoughts on different topic comprising topical or current affairs of in and around, literature, culture including reminiscences.

For his outstanding contribution towards the development of Nepali language and literature in India the Madan Puraskar Guthi - मदन पुरस्कार गु� ी of Lalitpur, Nepal awarded him Jagadambashri Puraskar - जगदम्बश्री पुरस्कार in 1996. In the following year Rai was also awarded Agam Singh Giri Smriti Puraskar अगम सिंह गिरी स्‍मृति पुरस्कार by Sikkim Sahitya Parishad, Gangtok, Sikkim.

Lekhharu Ra Jhyal लेख्हरु र झ्याल (2000) is a collection of various articles and one short story enttiled 'Jhyal' - झ्याल totally experimental rather with post-modernist approach.

Indra Bahadur Rai is a voracious reader, an untiring and a dedicated writer. An erudite personality Rai having varied facets in creativity is almost a legend in his own lifetime. He is a seasoned orator and without any hesitation it can be said that no one will forget his lacious speech on any topic if one gets an opportunity to heard him.

Rai has tried to put his Leela conception mingling with Reader- Reception Theory of German theoreticians like Karl Hedge Steerly, wikipedia:Harold Benritch, Ulfang Esher and American Stainly Fish (1960) in Arthharuko Pachhilitira अर्थ्हरुको पछीलितिर (Behind the meanings - 1974). He has put his endeavor to assess the use of same and single myth of 'Narsingha' (man-lion) by different authors of different times according to their contemporary views. Rai draws the final point in a meta-critical way as a perceptionist that the meaning of any text will not be the same to all readers because every reader will read the text subjectively. And that subjective reading reveals the meaning of same object in variety of perceptions. He stress for revealing the illusions in writing and the writing of this process he likes to give the nomenclature as Leela Lekhan. Thus Arthaharuko Pachhlitira - अर्थहरुको पछ्लितिर is a literary criticism based on Leelaist thought and writing.
Indra Bahadur Rai has often been criticized for moving on from one esoteric literary project to the other while being progressively obscure to his almost non existent readers. Those readers who loved the realism of his earliest works are quite often put off by his propensity to theorize. Others contend that most of his new-fangled ideas are appropriated from already accepted and established canons of western literary theories and that what he is doing is nothing novel. Some accuse him of aping his guru, the structuralist Barthes who too like a literary bumble bee would never stick on with a movement that he founded.
Parijat the leftist novelist called IB a reactionary fascist. Others, deferring to his almost demigod like status in the nepali literary scene have been more charitable but that is because most are overawed by the 'intellect' of his many projects and come to the conclusion that he is indeed a great writer without 'reading' him.
Indra Bahadur Rai's prose is notoriously dense, packed with idiosyncratic expressions and jarring turn of phrases. When a simple word can do IB will extract the most obscure synonym. In short IB's project is to infect Nepali literature with the 'intellectual' incomprehensibility of his mentors such as Derrida, Lacan and Baudrilliad and put Nepali literature out of reach of ordinary readers.

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