Saturday, 28 March 2015

Krishna Bhatt - a window to Nepal

Back in 2011 and just by chance, I was lucky enough to 'meet' Mr Krishna Bhatt. I say 'meet' between inverted commas because we have never ever actually met in person, he being in Kathmandu and me in Spain. I was interested in knowing more about somebody from a country that has always fascinated me. Quite soon, I learnt that he is a writer and he kindly shared some of his writing with me. He has written three collections of stories: 'Delhi Return', 'The Underclass Lover', 'City Women and the Ghost Writer' and the novel 'The Royal Enigma', all set against the social and political background of India and Nepal.

I reproduce below the questions he kindly answered in December 2013 and which I published in my blog in Spanish 

Something that excited my curiosity was the fact that, although he is from Nepal, he writes in English. Being a teacher of English myself and a writer, I couldn't help but ask a lot of questions. Here they are. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did. Mr Bhatt's books are available in Amazon.

1. When did you start writing and what motivated you?
I started writing short stories when I was living alone in a flat in Kathmandu. I used to read a lot during those days but I did not find any book which had my kind of stories. Also at that time, the political revolution in Nepal was beginning to unfold. It was a fascinating time. The state controlled everything that was published then. So any writing, even the private act of writing, was an act of rebellion against the state. This idea of rebellion thrilled me. Writing was also a kind of assertion of your individuality in a highly collective and communal society. There were a lot of expectations and excitement in the air so there were stories one could pick and tell. We have come a long way since then. But I believe my motivation to write has not changed, as most of the matters remain the same as well.

2. Why did you decide to write in English? When you write a novel or stories, do you write them in English straight away or do you write in your L1 and then translate them?
I thought English would be the language the younger generations would use more often. Also the intelligentsia here follows anything written in English more seriously. Then there is also a wider audience outside the country.
I write in English directly. Earlier I used to write on paper and then feed the texts into the computer but my novel 'The royal enigma', for example, I began writing it directly on my laptop. However, I made notes on paper about the matters that came as an afterthought. The first draft of the novel grew twice in size when the novel was completed. It took me only a month to complete the first draft but a year to complete the book. It could have grown more but I feared the original focus of the story would be lost. I saw the ending clearly from the beginning.

3. What differences do you perceive in yourself as a writer when you write in your mother tongue and in English? What difficulties do you face?
I seldom write seriously in my native language.
While writing in English the stories of Nepali people, I find it difficult to explain certain matters which come to me more easily in my language. I constantly worry if a reader outside Nepal will be able to understand what I have written. For example, in one story I mentioned that in a Nepali village milk tea is not offered to a stranger lest it would invite bad omens to affect the supply of milk from the livestock of the household. For a native of Nepal this is easy to understand but it may not be for a foreigner.
Similarly, in another story I described how the higher caste people buy and consume eggs from the poultry of a farmer of a lower caste in a discreet way, as they are not supposed to eat an impure food like eggs and , to make matters worse, produced by a lower caste man. An English lady once asked me how this is possible. I tried to explain these matters as they exist in a village in Nepal. She was not convinced. But the natives will easily accept this as normal.

4. How do you start writing a novel or a story? What is your ‘process of writing’?
I write very less often these days. But am always thinking about writing. The actual act of writing occurs when the things in my head find that there is an urgency to tell a story and I think of the characters and incidents which the readers will find interesting to know and relate to. So it is a need to attract the attention of the people through an engaging story.
 After I write the skeleton of the story, I usually find there is something more I can add in between, which will entertain the readers more. So there is a reader and an audience in mind. Then there is a need to document your world into the minds of people through the story.

An English friend once said that the world we know is no more after us. His words caused me panic for a long time then. Somehow, I have tried to reduce that possibility. I hope my world will be alive even after me through my stories. Then there is the flattering notion that I am passing some wisdom to my readers.

5. In your novels and stories, you describe the social and political history of your country in great detail. How do you think your country has changed in all these years since you started writing, if at all?
Yes. I describe the social and political details too. I have seen so much happening during a decade or two that I am afraid I may not be able to remember what I had seen at certain time, in the social and political landscape of the country and the world. Its description by others does not represent what I have thought about it. I once said, 'Narrative of the day is not worth my while, I need to create my own'. So...
The country and the world have changed beyond my imagination. I am fascinated by it. So there is a need to explain how it happened and what it may mean. I try to make my point about it in my writing. Also I am tormented by the opposite thought: Has anything really changed?

6. Could you describe the literary scene in Nepal?  What would you say is the role of a writer in Nepal right now?
The literary world of Nepal has expanded unbelievingly after the country did away with the totalarian state and the freedom of speech was established. the press in Nepal is the freest in the region.  The literature produced by new writers in the  native language is widely read and talked about. For them writing is already a viable profession. But that is all. It still has to go a long way. The sensitivity and refinement take a long time to occur.

7. Who are your 5 favourite writers?
I like Guy De Maupassant, V S Naipaul, D H Lawrence, Prem Chand and Samrat Upadhyay. Prem Chand is a very popular Hindi writer of India. He is the best one for me, or next only to Maupassant.

8. A novel or story you would have liked to have written?
Something as comprehensive as 'Godan' of Prem Chnd; crisp and meaningful as Maupassant’s  'Boule de Suif'; Something as authentic and empathic like Naipaul’s 'A house for Mr Biswas'  or Lawrence’s 'Sons and lovers' ,  'The guru of love' by Samrat Upadhyay. There is so much good work that life looks meaningful. I read Bolero and Sherman Alixie and Julia Alvarez, the non-native and Spanish-speaking writers who also wrote in or were translated into English. I was really charmed. Then I read 'The tin drum' by Gunter Grass, I was taken aback with surprise. 'The great Gatsby' I read recently. I was amazed how much the author achieved in a very short novel.

9. There are many Indian writers who have become internationally famous like Tagore and Naipaul,  Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai or Vikram Seth. However, Nepalese writers are not known in Europe. Why do you think this is so?
As I said before, the literary tradition of Nepal was inhibited by a lack of freedom of expression until two decades ago. Years ago, Nepalese writers lived in India and published their books from there. Now it has flourished in Nepal like anything. But it will take time to mature it. Also being a country next to China, Nepal is attracting the attention of the world. But the literature produced in Nepal is not as refined. However, writers like Samrat Upadhyay are gradually  making Nepali writing in English popular in the USA and in Europe too, to some extent.

However, there is some good work from the times when there was no freedom of speech written in Nepali which needs to be translated into English to attract the wider audience.
10. Do you perceive any differences between your readers in this part of the world and readers in Asia? Do you write with a particular reader in mind.

I expect that a South Asian reader would understand a cultural nuance of Nepal more easily than a European redder. But a Chinese reader may totally miss it. Because Nepal is interacting with Europeans more than with Chinese. But cultural nuances apart, good writing is universal. I have in my mind a specific reader, but not someone who I know when I write. I think  I  write for a very distant reader who will really understand me. So the loneliness is there.

Where can we find and buy your books?

My books are available at Amazon now. 

Some insights from Mr Bhatt himself taken from his page in

I am fascinated by the power of fiction. It is one of the most enduring arts. It is the history and future, as you see it. Finding a writer you tend to agree with is a rare but a remarkable discovery which may change your life.

Your most memorable moments may include the time you spent reading the work of your favorite author. A good book remains always in your head to cherish. You find newer meanings of life while recalling your favorite lines of it.

It is about thoughts, ideas, emotions and a vision. Remembering, relating and so much else. The mystery deepens and the plot thickens.

At times writing is like signing a cheque, against a balance which is hopefully there. However, the kind readers often ignore the bounced ones.

The jewelry and the funeral by Vumika

Nepalese author Krishna Bhatt has kindly shared this new title with me: The jewelry and the funeral by Vumika, who I suppose is a Nepalese writer too. This is a summary of the book as it appears in Amazon. Already in my Kindle device. Thank you, Krishna. 

Muma is a wealthy childless woman. She runs a successful business with her husband Rupak. After her husband dies a crowd of her relations begins to vie to get a share of her wealth. 

She thwarts them by playing one against another. A robbery in her home one night made her realize that she needs their protection too. 

She afterwards cleverly manipulates them by doing an occasional favor selectively, or bailing out a relation who is trapped in a dire problem like a debilitating disease. It makes them take her care, thinking that she could become their recourse too, in a tight situation. 
On her death all her relations come to claim her. The jewelry she was still wearing on her funeral pyre creates a racket when her relations claim it from the cunning priest, who was about to pocket it himself, sensing that there is no legal heir of this deceased in the crowd there. 

Rajib, an employee of Muma earlier, suffers a thyroid disease and recovers with treatment. But a changed hormone level makes him a different man. A lot more aggressive and temperamental than before, he struggles to adjust with his circumstances and his sexuality. 
Haku, another employee of Muma, gathers friends to put up a cooperative and builds political connections to present a competition for Muma. But he cooks the books and cheats his friends to declare the cooperative insolvent to sell it to his brother-in-law at a throw away price. 

The jewelry and the funeral has a collection of everyday colourful characters who are there to take an advantage out of the people and circumstances around them without any hesitation. It will linger in the memory of a reader for a long time. 

Originally by Carol Ann Duffy

A poem for those of us who have experienced moving from what we called home. 

We came from our own country in a red room
which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father’s name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn’t live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.

All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand.
My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.

But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.

Richard by Carol Ann Duffy Poet Laureate

The poet laureate’s eulogy was written to commemorate Richard III’s re-interment at Leicester Cathedral and was read by Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Richard III was the last British King to die in battle and his remains were rediscovered beneath a parking lot in 2012. King Richard III was given a ceremonious burial more than 500 years after he fell fighting Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth.


My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

Feng Shui for Primary Learning

Source: The Learning Renaissance

6 Questions a critical thinker should ask

They key to critical thinking is the ability to pose challenging and provocative questions to yourself. To think critically is to delve deeper into those hidden layers of meaning and dissect the message in a comprehensive way.

Source: University of British Columbia

The landscape of learning theories

This is a useful infographic of the landscape of current learning theories which can help inform how to support learners engage effectively in the learning process. 

A profile of the modern learner

I found this infographic in The Learning Renaissance and, being a teacher, I think it is very interesting to see how it represents the way that modern learners interact with the internet and how it might be considered to have eroded their ability to focus on learning effectively, as well as opening up new learning vistas. 

From The Learning Renaissance

Borges Reviews ‘Citizen Kane’

An unusual piece of writing by Jorge Luis Borges, universally famous for his poetry, essays and stories. However, very few people know, myself included, that he also wrote film reviews full of literary and philosophical references. This is one of the many reviews he wrote whih I found in a blog I have only recently discovered: Interrelevant  

Jorges Luis Borges Reviews Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (called The Citizen in Argentina) has at least two plots. The first, pointlessly banal, attempts to milk applause from dimwits: a vain millionaire collects statues, gardens, palaces, swimming pools, diamonds, cars, libraries, man and women. Like an earlier collector (whose observations are usually ascribed to the Holy Ghost), he discovers that this cornucopia of miscellany is a vanity of vanities: all is vanity. At the point of death, he yearns for onr single thing in the universe, the humble sled he played with as a child!
The second plot is far superior. It link the Koheleth to the memory of another nihilist, Franz Kafka.  A kind of metaphysical detective story, its subject (both psychological and allegorical) is the investigation of a man’s inner self, through the works he has wrought, the words he has spoken, the many lives he has ruined. The same technique was used by Joseph Conrad in Chance (1914) and in that beautiful film The Power and the Glory: a rhapsody of miscellaneous scenes without chronological order. Overwhelmingly, endlessly, Orson Welles shows fragments of the life of the man, Charles Foster kane, and invites us to combine them and to reconstruct him. Form of multiplicity and incongruity abound in the film: the first scenes record the treasures amassed by Kane; in one of the last, a poor woman, luxuriant and suffering, plays with an enormous jigsaw puzzle on the floor of a palace that is also a museum. At the end we realize that the fragments are not governed by any secret unity: the detested Charles Foster Kane is a simulacrum, a chaos of appearances. (A possible corollary, foreseen by David Hume, Ernst Mach, and our own Macedonio Fernandez: no man knows who he is, no man is anyone.) In a story by Chesterton — “The Head of Caesar,” I think — the hero observes that nothing is so frightening as a labyrinth with no center. This film is precisely that labyrinth.
We all know that a party, a palace, a great undertaking, a lunch for writers and journalists, an atmosphere of cordial and spontaneous camaraderie, are essentially horrendous. Citizen Kane is the first film to show such things with an awareness of this truth.
The production is, in general, worthy of its vast subject. The cinematography has a striking depth, and there are shots whose farthest planes (like Pre-Raphaelite paintings) are as precise and detailed as the close-ups.
I venture to guess, nonetheless, that Citizen Kane will endure as a certain Griffith or Pudovkin films have “endured”—films whose historical value is undeniable but which no one cares to see again. It is too gigantic, pedantic, tedious. It is not intelligent, though it is the work of genius—in the most nocturnal and Germanic sense of that bad word.
Orson Welles:  “Some people called it warmed-over Borges, & attacked it. I always knew that Borges himself hadn’t liked it. He said that it was pedantic, which is a very strange thing to say about it, & that it was a labyrinth. And that the worst thing about a labyrinth is that there’s no way out. And this is a labyrinth of a movie with no way out. Borges is half-blind. Never forget that. But you know, I could take it that he & Sartre simply hated Kane. In their minds, they were seeing—& attacking—something else. It’s them, not my work. I’m more upset by the regular, average, just-plain critics.”

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Still I rise - Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Cigarettes And Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women - Ann Sexton

Perhaps I was born kneeling,
born coughing on the long winter,
born expecting the kiss of mercy,
born with a passion for quickness
and yet, as things progressed,
I learned early about the stockade
or taken out, the fume of the enema.
By two or three I learned not to kneel,
not to expect, to plant my fires underground
where none but the dolls, perfect and awful,
could be whispered to or laid down to die.

Now that I have written many words,
and let out so many loves, for so many,
and been altogether what I always was—
a woman of excess, of zeal and greed,
I find the effort useless.
Do I not look in the mirror,
these days,
and see a drunken rat avert her eyes?
Do I not feel the hunger so acutely
that I would rather die than look
into its face?
I kneel once more,
in case mercy should come

in the nick of time.

A Mother In A Refugee Camp - Chinua Achebe

No Madonna and Child could touch
Her tenderness for a son
She soon would have to forget. . . .
The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea,
Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs
And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps
Behind blown-empty bellies. Other mothers there
Had long ceased to care, but not this one:
She held a ghost-smile between her teeth,
And in her eyes the memory
Of a mother’s pride. . . . She had bathed him
And rubbed him down with bare palms.
She took from their bundle of possessions
A broken comb and combed
The rust-colored hair left on his skull
And then—humming in her eyes—began carefully to part it.
In their former life this was perhaps
A little daily act of no consequence
Before his breakfast and school; now she did it
Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.

—Chinua Achebe

Two poems by Julio Cortázar

You Begin With Magic, You Are Its Furthest Nighttime Operation

The nation of the palm of your hand,
how I’ve hounded its rivers and been lost in its dunes
in search of the reddest fountain of mercury
that would summon with its ancient gong,
there above the moon of your lips, your rising smile.

Peloponnesus of ivory and bronze
your hand’s minute map,
a puddle for these lips that pursue
each timeline.

I smell the sand, I hear its jackals,
there are moorings and bonfires in your hand,
there are traps, lonely
midnight bars with exhausted pianists
and you, yourself, pulled close to your voice that tears through the darkness
a vague column of milk and vanilla.

Everything is born in your hand, saffron planisphere and aged rum,
and then it moves forth, climbs, deceives, and tempests,
pinkish navel, lips withdrawn, feeling,
suddenly it’s Sergio and his guitar, it is that wounded summer girl
that gave us that flower on a street corner with an aloof “I must.”

I’ll tell you of the trip, you, half awake,
I’ll lift up the Portolan chart, stealthily,
I’ll tell you in the fog that coos in your throat
of the games of chance that dragged us through backrooms
to drunken sailors, to girls just passing through,
who form the alphabet of this language, the gesture
with which you surrender, bending, murmuring a fountain among bell towers.

There, where at last I drink.


Don’t leave me alone in front of you,
don’t set me off to the bare night,
to the razor-edged moon of crossings,
to being nothing more than these lips that drink you.
I want to approach you from you yourself
with that movement that your body unleashes,
that it spreads beneath the wind like a black canvas.
I want to reach you from you yourself,
seeing you from your own eyes,
kissing you with that mouth that kisses me.
It cannot be that we are two, it cannot be
that we are

Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) is one of the most important Argentine novelists and short story writers of the twentieth century. Most of his literary production occurred while he was living in exile in Paris. His poetry was not as well known and remains largely untranslated.

The Seven Ages of Man - Shakespeare by Benedict Cumberbatch

Understanding poetry

Why people need poetry

21 March - World Poetry Day

“The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name; such tricks hath strong imagination.”
― William Shakespeare

"Every poem is unique but each reflects the universal in human experience, the aspiration for creativity that crosses all boundaries and borders, of time as well as space, in the constant affirmation of humanity as a single family."
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.