Saturday, 29 January, 2022

A Unique Socio-Political Fiction


Naba Raj Pandey

Pure politics is rarely a topic for fiction writing. Narad Pokharel’s third novel, Pratighat, on the socio-political aspect of our society, is based on a realistic analysis of Nepalese politics. This novel is a mirror of reality for the experienced generation and a historical document for the youth.
The writer presented authorial intentions through Bimal Raj Sharma, an active political leader of the 30s and 40s decades. The central character is obscured after the advent of republicanism in Nepal. Bimal Raj is an ideal figure. Ideal politicians do not have any desire to post but they show bitter reactions against the party politics and their injustice.

When politics is made corrupt and figures like Rana Bahadur, an antagonistic character, get highhanded in politics, the conflagration of revolt increases among the characters represented by Bimal Raj. The seed of revolt is minimal and disregarded initially but it increases slowly and takes the form of a volcanic eruption. The writer has made his protagonist rebellious twice despite having the authorial intention of making him ideal. Once he had fought against the then tyrannical ruler before the restoration of democracy in the country.

After Nepal was rendered into a republican state, he decided to launch an ethical movement against corrupt politics and the immortalisation of the present. Bimal Raj, Shishir, Ganjaman, Gaurishankar and Kalpana are politically victimised figures who can be found everywhere in Nepal. Some of the opportunists like Rana Bahadur, Hita Singh, Padam Adhikari take advantage of their closeness to power in almost all political systems as depicted in the novel.
This novel might be a jumble of characters for Nepalese readers who have been habituated to read love stories. By scattering characters, the author has tried to represent mushrooming leaders of Nepalese politics too. It can be said that how all the organs do have their roles to continue the body function and if an organ of the body is taken away, the whole body mechanism cannot function properly. The characters in the novel also function in the same way.

The most striking aspect of the novel is the portrayal of harmonious relations between the castes and geographical locations. After the arrival of Republicanism, some of the power-centres tried to destabilise the century-old hill-terai relationship but failed. The novel tries to bridge a gap between the Hill and the Terai. Further than that, the caste system in hilly areas is also criticised heavily when Ratna, a Newar girl, gets married to Ramesh Khatri, a Chhetri boy.

The writer plays with contradictions when he makes his protagonist a rebellious and progressive thinker. On the other hand, the same person is made a religious figure in the later part. This juxtaposition of Bimal Raj resembles the vicissitudes of human life, which in itself is full of contradictions.

The novelist seems lagging in the representation of female characters. The central female character of Kalpana is the most powerful and thought-provoking in the novel. The writer has downed her in the ocean of trouble throughout the novel. Kalpana does not get poetic justice, but she does not fail to evoke strong sympathy from readers. The writer has not made his novel a political document only by making the love affair between Bimal Raj and Kalpana deep and serious. He has portrayed love as a part of human life by presenting a successful affair between Shova and Umesh.

The novel criticises the caste system, nepotism, politicisation, foreign incursion and western cultural invasion. The writer has not disregarded scientific innovations and their importance in the context of Nepal though he advocates for the eastern culture and Nepalese tradition.

The novel goes into the anti-trend of Nepalese politics- the protagonist becomes a teacher after becoming a politician, which is totally against the existing trend as many join politics from the teaching sector.
The novel ends when the protagonist starts working as a teacher hired on a contract basis in a college in the Kathmandu Valley. As he hails from the eastern part of Nepal, the author set his novel to the western part.
The use of colloquial words spoken by people from the western areas is rarely found in the text. By showing an alternative way of present-day Nepalese politics, Narad Pokharel has made his novel a unique socio-political fiction of Nepal.
If novels like Pratighat, an innovative, path-breaking literary text, are translated into other languages, such a novel could certainly push Nepalese fiction writings to a new level.