I’m intrigued by two interesting and mysterious characters of the Nepali intellectual sphere. Though he still writes informative blog-posts, Maila Baje has chosen to keep himself secret for too long to be interesting anymore. Someday he’ll stop writing and someone will die at around the same time- and maybe we’ll know who he is. There has been some guesswork about his identity on Nepal-related blogs like here and here. Because the former army chief is known to have used a pseudonym (Ajay P Nath) to write in The Rising Nepal and elsewhere before, my wild guess is that Maila Baje is Rookmangud Katawal.
The other character, who is not as mysterious as Maila Baje regarding his identity is a columnist called Saurav. He writes with just this name (no last name) in the Kantipur daily. I noticed him first sometime in 2009 or 2010. Though I was bored by the first piece I read, I wondered who this well-learned person was. Since then I’ve read only a few pieces written by him, highly impressed by some, uninterested by others. Someone I knew happened to know his identity and, and I was impressed of what I heard from him. Today I read something interesting by him after long, a piece debating the origins of Nepal’s so-called indigenous races and the Khas people.
I can’t say anything about the issue raised in his latest article for I don’t know much about the subject, but I thoroughly enjoyed his argumentation and the wide variety of evidences he presents from a wider range of sources. I hear that he has been involved in a op-ed cross fire with some people with opposing viewpoints. Whatever the case, the last paragraph of his latest writeup sums it up. He says that debating the origin of Khas people is just an “interesting exercise” and more important is that people who spit upon Khas people are unknowingly spitting upwards and into their own faces. The definition of “indigenous race” is unclear and the definition prescribed by EU, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Vatican and Protestants in order to spread their religion is not acceptable to a Nepali. People who do communal politics and are demanding their own piece of this country that they never built should be able define these terms first.
I liked this line of argument because the history of Nepal and its peoples is very ancient and there has not been a single, authoritative version. Many races, including the Khas have a very long history dating to prehistoric times, but parts of history are unclear, mingled up or no reliable evidence is available to anyone so far. In such a situation, drawing up conclusions based on less than half baked ideas is only stupid and fatal in the long run. The Europeans had also proposed the Aryan Invasion theory for almost all of our history to show superiority of their race over the South Asian civilization. Today new and previously unknown evidences and study-results are showing that all that was a big lie, and South Asian civilizations were ancient and more advanced than anyone could ever imagine [See this video series for a brief introduction to the subject.]. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
His name is Dinesh Satyal. Here’s some information I have compiled about this guy. I think the country needs his knowledge to re-define parts of its history and identity. Respect to all the information and knowledge he has collected- I urge him to use it for the greater good of our society.
- CK Lal mentions Saurav in one of his writings: “Only a columnist of Saurabh’s stature could have been so blunt.”
- Saurav used to write fiction, and was awarded the German Deutsche Welle Literature Prize in 1987
- There is an interesting discussion from 1999 involving names like Rabindra Mishra and Ashutosh Tiwari discussing the strengths of Saurav’s columns during his Deshantar days.
- He was associated with the BBC Nepali service.
- He did an exclusive interview of King Gyanendra in 2001.
- A brief description of a party thrown by the person to question, and attended by one Cocktail Man.
Interview With Saurav
Bookworm Babbles by Avash Karmacharya
Born in 1958 at Putali Sadak in Kathmandu, Dinesh Satyal, more popularly known as Saurav, graduated in Journalism and Public Administration and earned his post-graduation degree in Political Science from Tribhuvan University.
He started his career as a sub-editor at the Gorkhapatra daily and later joined the BBC Nepali Service as a senior programme producer. Later, he moved to Kantipur daily as an executive editor and became the chief-editor of the Naya Sadak daily. Satyal works as a freelancer for many dailies and weeklies at present.
What books are you currently reading, or have finished reading?
I recently went through Khas Jatiko Itihas by Bal Krishna Pokhrel. It’s a fantastic volume completely based on etymology. It’s probably the most intellectual challenge offered ever by a Nepali to the most brilliant historians and anthropologists not only of Nepal but the world.
Genre/s that you prefer to read…
I prefer reading books on plant aesthetics. I like reading all sorts of genres. However, I avoid physics, theology, psychology, sports, Tantra, and philosophy.
The story behind how you picked up reading habit …
I’m not very outgoing and don’t make many friends. I always regarded my father as my best friend. Unfortunately, I lost him when I was very young. Then I substituted books for my father, best friend, counselor, secretary, guru, guide and role model.
Interesting reading habits you have…
I read for self-satisfaction. In other words, I read not to show off to others but to pass the time. Reading is like meditating for me. I read one book for once but remember it forever.
Writers who have inspired you a lot are…
Frankly speaking, not one writer has ever inspired me to this day.
How important is reading, irrespective of choices and profession?
I don’t want to say you must read because reading for the sake of reading and to know yourself better are two different things. Don’t read if you don’t want to. But read to become a better human being.
Tell us about the books that have been your source of inspiration and have touched you deeply…
I can’t say if any books ever inspired me. Still, Devkota’s Muna Madan, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, Rajneesh’s preface to his Sambhog Se Samaadhiki Wor have left a great impression on me.
How has reading enhanced your professional commitments?
To a large extent. Reading turned me from a reporter to a columnist in 1989.
One such book that people should not miss to read is…
Actually, I don’t prefer suggesting people to read a particular book because it’s not certain that the book I like should be admired by all. Still, if you insist, let me take the names of more than one – Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire, Lenin’s State and Revolution, Govind Tandon’s Saibaba Sanga Sakshyatkar, and Ghataraj Bhattarai’s Devkotaka Ani Bani.
There’s cinema, television, the Internet and many other forms of entertainment. Don’t you think books have been overshadowed?
Come on, it’s high time to change this question. There’s no substitute for reading and there’s no replacement to books.
When you write, you write about…
I like writing on political issues.
Lavish shopping, attending parties, or sitting in a quiet place and reading books… What would you want to advise young aspiring readers?
Frankly speaking, I’ve never been to places like Bhat Bhateni Supermarket and Bluebird Mall. I gave up attending party in 1987. Amazingly, I’m still not bored of books.
Your favourite saying on reading…
There are three types of readers: 1. He who reads for enjoyment. 2. The one who reads to shout aloud, “I have a reading habit.” 3. He who reads because others are reading. Ask yourself which category you belong to. Please don’t be a pretender.