Friday, 1 December, 2023

Letter from the editor on the launch of the eastern edition of TRN


Dear Reader,
My greetings to you on the launch of the eastern edition of The Rising Nepal from Biratnagar, on the Constitution Day, today!
This edition is an effort of the Gorkhapatra Corporation (GC) to serve the information needs of readers in States 1 and 2. As the Chief Editor of the state daily, I value that you have chosen to read it. I also hope to receive your feedback on how to tailor the nation’s first English broadsheet to suit your context. We will publish your views, if you want, in our Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor column.
For now, I am writing this letter, not a usual kind of editorial, because I wish to share nuggets of my encounters with people and experiences on a trajectory that took me from east Nepal to this newspaper. Deep down, I want to reconnect with the people in the east.
My childhood curiosities had taken shape in State 1, in a tiny universe of a hill in Okhaldhunga, so dear to poet Siddhi Charan Shrestha.
One moonlit evening on that hill, I recall, I saw a man climb on a sheath blade of a bamboo pole he held up straight in each of his hands. The man, in long boots and green robes, steered the poles to walk up the slope of a terrace towards the balcony of where I lived in Bhumethan of Ratmate, between the Kharte and Thanti rivers. I was asked to go, pee from the balcony.
These bamboo poles were the first of technologies I noticed man could be using to walk. In the background, I could hear the jittery sound of the volume changing on my father’s radio. The man came to a full view, but he did not have the head.
“Oh, boy!” I screamed. My family’s help, Harke dai, dragged me into the room saying I had seen a murkatta. My mother chanted mantras and followed Hindu rituals to shield me from the bad omen of having sighted the headless ghost.
Half a century later, I am hoping The Rising Nepal will carry stories of these tiny universes, in States 1 and 2, of local heroes, who are hard at work, dreaming to bring the 21st century amenities to the people’s doorsteps, smart phone, internet, play station, car, freeze or oven, not to talk of toilet, electricity and drinking water.
In my days of Ratmate, my mother was a teacher at the only primary school there. I learnt the English alphabet sooner than scheduled because I saw my seniors writing and heard them reading in the same classroom.
One of my mom’s favourite rhymes, “Bake a cake, bake a cake, mother mine; Bake me a cake so light and fine,” has stayed with me. I had grabbed her pocket Oxford dictionary and a non-descript prose book, with their leaves torn or turning yellow because of age and lack of use. I would try to figure out what was in their alphabet soup.
In Grade 6, at a school an hour’s walk away from home, across the Thanti Khola, Jwala Prasad Sir, I recall the incident more vividly than the man, caned me on my arm, leaving a trail of blisters there to swell, because I had left out an ‘L’ in spelling the word INTELLIGENT. I knew I was not as intelligent as the teacher wanted me to be, but he was in no mood to let me give up.
“You cannot make this mistake,” he told me. “You are getting careless.”
To eat the cake, baked for real, I came with my parents to Biratnagar, in the flatlands. Enrolled in Janata School, I continued to get the sparkle from my brush with the idiosyncrasies of English teachers, head sir Krishna Prasad Bhagat, N. P. Acharya sir and Shyamanandan sir.
“Bekub, nonsense, donkey-monkey boy, chal bas,” was how Shyamanandan sir asked students to sit down, when they failed to answer his question.
“Your unit test marks are just about average,” N. P. Acharya sir would remind me, with a refrain about my handwriting. “Have you seen the crow droppings taking shape as alphabet on the ground? They look better than your handwriting.”
Bhagat sir, who had been to Australia for English training, taught intonation and pronunciation. “Mr. Pokhrel,” he would warn me, “You will need to put some hot water in your mouth and move your tongue for a gurgle daily to learn English pronunciation. When Australians say they are going to some place TODAY, they say they are going there ‘TO-DIE’.”
On Morang Campus, my colleague Hari Gadtaula trusted my English regardless of what teachers, D. R. Kafle, Pramod Mishra or Pathak sir, thought about it. I can say this because he insisted I edit his love letter. Thanks to my editing, his affair with the girl lasted quite a while.
As if in return of the favour, Gadtaula, a teacher of Little Buddha Academy, near the Jogbani border, convinced his principal to hire me to teach English for grade 2. I was gradually gaining the confidence to instruct the 2nd graders without using a Nepali word, when I saw a cute little girl in the class laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked the girl. “Come on, tell me, why?”
“I’m not…, sir, I’m not laughing,” she responded seriously. “My friend is laughaaing me.”
The answer sounds like a joke now, but it had shown me how English usage experienced a Nepali twist.
While I was learning the nuances of English language and teaching, Bhagat sir called me to Janata School. “Mr. Pokhrel,” he said. “Go to that class and engage the Grade 8 students until the bell rings. Meet me after the class.”
With my savings from a year in Janata School, I teamed up with a friend, Rabi Kunwar, to try my luck in Kathmandu. Soon, I ended up in a lab, and teaching job, in the police school of Sanga. During that year, enrolled in Tribhuvan University as a private student, I earned a Bachelor’s in Major English as a Single Subject.
I had got a hint of what went into a print publication, when I worked to publish the Science Forum, a souvenir, with three of my BSc classmates, way back in Morang Campus, with support from teachers Kabiraj Neupane sir, Shiva Karki sir and Ramrijhan Yadav sir.
These serendipities had been a prelude to my daring to join the English daily. Today, as its Chief Editor, I am still honing my English and journalistic skills applicable to the craft of news reporting, writing and editing. My current job is to get my newsroom colleagues on board a quest to follow journalistic rules and rigours, hold up and sustain decent standards, maintain loyalty to the public, pursue verifiable facts and write what they deem fit, with integrity, using decent English.
On the launch of the Biratnagar edition, I invite the English readers to collaborate with us to create a newspaper that is relevant for informed debates in and about States 1 and 2. With continued support from sister Gorkhapatra publications, the corporation management and government, The Rising Nepal team will strive to bring the news and views about how the common people are getting the power, resource and resourcefulness they need to govern their lives within the federal democratic republican framework of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015.