What inspired you to name your blog Rhetorical Montage?

The terms “rhetorical” and “montage” are my keys. I specialize in rhetorical communication. What I post on my blog, I believe, are largely rhetorical in their communicative merits. The point is, I try to argue about and establish a point in my posts. ‘Montage’ is what I used for my first solo book of reflective writings, Midlife Montage. Montage means a combination of various artifacts. Now you can see why I chose the name ‘Rhetorical Montage’ — to reflect my disciplinary and philosophical orientations.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

The fact that I am relaxed and ready for the day. The fact that my family get up happy and each of us prepare to take up our individual assignment.  And the fact that there is a genuine purpose ahead – the students and their schedules, which represent their dreams. 

I believe that sleeping is a break between a bygone, worn-out today and a fresh, appealing tomorrow. Waking is welcoming that freshness and appeal. The urge for such freshness and appeal motivates me to get up every morning. When you are very young, you do not hurry to get up perhaps because your heart says there is time and a morning comes and goes. But when you begin to age, good times begin to appear rare and each waking becomes meaningful. I do not want to miss the meaning by being too late to behold the world outside. The desire to grasp the new day motivates me to get up as early as my body can manage. 

In one of your writings, you’ve emphasized encouraging your son to study in Nepal itself. So, if you weren’t a parent, would you still recommend Nepalese students to study abroad and then come back or would you recommend to study here itself?

I have never advised any youngster just beyond higher secondary to go abroad for Undergraduate studies. And I have never discouraged an Undergraduate from planning to explore a good grad school abroad. The same is true about my son. I will not ask him not to plan for higher studies abroad after he graduates with B Arch in KU.

And I will never tell anyone to disappear abroad by accepting a status much smaller than they deserve both as experts and humans. I believe Nepal is still a good place to live in, an exciting place to explore life’s challenges and to experience professional adventures. Well, it is up to people to understand what I mean. I do not say this simply because I myself chose to pursue my higher studies and vocation in Nepal. I have been abroad a number of times, seen life there and understood the comparative advantage of living a more relaxed life at home.

When you were a child, did you ever imagine that you would be where you are now?

I did not imagine big things when I was a child. I might only have fancied very very good things at times, which varied according to my exposures and encounters. For example, when I liked a particular teacher at school, I thought of being one. I grew up in a remote village. So, during my rare visits to the town, seeing and smelling the modern commodities in shops, I fancied becoming a shopkeeper. Sometimes, having got chances to read interesting stuffs, especially verses from school books, I wanted to become a writer/poet. When people said I had a good voice and great passion for music, I imagined becoming a singer and a composer and being heard in Radio Nepal.  As the son of a farmer running the family in subsistence, I mostly fancied having a very very large area of arable land and owning a really really large house in the farm with really really large rice and maize barns around.

Did you see any sign of me becoming a university teacher in those fancies? I knew I was heading to the university only when I dropped the idea of competing for a lower secondary public school teacher (शिक्षक सेवा आयोग) in 1995, while still in my bachelor second year.  I knew I was joining the university straight away when I got a call for interview from Kathmandu University in August 2000. To cut it short, I landed in KU without a serious plan about joining the academia. I believe I remained cool after joining and now near two decades simply because I was not conscious about making plans and meeting them at any cost.

Will the world be a better place if caste and religion cease to exist?

I can’t answer this in absolute ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Maybe, to millions of people the world feels good because they are a particular caste and are highly influenced by a particular religion. Caste and religion give them identity and meaning. If caste and religion cease to exist, these people cease to become happy. And to those who are suffering the disadvantages of discrimination due to caste and violence and oppression due to religion, a world without both would certainly be a better place; they would be allowed to live in the true self of human beings.

What is the meaning of life to you?

What to say! Life to me is an opportunity to feel surrounded by manifold existences, including youngsters like you. Numerous things exist around us, both with life and without life — with meaning to us and without. I believe that every little or big thing I have touched on earth has received some meaning. So, your life is partly for someone and something.

To me the meaning of life has evolved over time. When I was in my early twenties, alone and searching hard for true love or true friendship, I wrote a song, “जीवन के हो यसलाई बुझ्न गाह्रो रहेछ, संसारमा हाँस्दै बाँच्न साह्रो रहेछ।” That was it. Now, I find this thought too old-fashioned, pessimistic and unappealing even though I still struggle for meaningfulness.

Life is you get up every morning and wonder, “Well, one more chance to see the sunlight and all that it nurtures on this planet.” And to hear the sounds, smell the smells, taste the tastes and feel the touch of things. That’s all. When you have your own definition, let me know.

What is morally right or wrong?

Anything morally right is what benefits others by benefiting yourself. I mean things that do not harm others and you. Or things that do not violate norms of life and society. What is wrong is just the opposite — things that harm others and yourself, things that benefit none, things that violate the norms of life and society.

To a large extent, morality is defined by society, religion and traditions. This means defined by human beings. In this sense, if you breach it, it disrupts an existing order and disturbs life even though it may not cause physical damages. Anything that causes emotional and physical damage is morally wrong. A righteous act for righteous results is a morally right act.

What do you find most frustrating about teaching? Or what is the best/ worst thing about teaching?

Almost nothing. But if I am not allowed to prepare my own syllabus but forced to teach outdated concepts, I feel a little frustrated. But it depends. Even if the course is not so interesting but the students are inquisitive, I find myself highly encouraged. Also, the class may be frustrating in such situation that the course is really good but the learners are far from being motivated and hardly pose any intellectual challenge.

The best is I get to meet and make friends with hundreds of youngsters like you. This does not allow me to grow old emotionally.  The worst part is that you cannot remain in your true self sometimes. You must appear decent, honest and good-looking even though your heart asks you to freak around like a free bird. 

Has the thought of quitting your job ever crossed your mind?

No. I have never imagined myself without a job. Quitting job is like quitting the purpose of life.  If I were not in teaching, I would be in some other job which would set my life’s priorities. But, yes, I sometimes feel like taking a long break, going to my secluded rustic abode in Morang and spending time pondering over life and nature. The break would give me newer zeal the way a new wire in a fuse gives the circuit a new life. 

What  is something you think every person should experience in their lifetime?

Failure. Or the shift from success to failure to success. I mean the chain of gains and losses.  And, surely, deception and selfless supports — getting from others or giving them. Sometimes you might even try making silly mistakes when you are not clear about your directions. It is good to be a bit adventurous in life, at least not to the extent of jumping headlong into troubles and facing physical/psychological damages.

Many families cannot openly accept inter-caste marriage. What is your opinion about this? If an inter-caste marriage were to happen in your family would you accept it?

In my opinion, people can disapprove those practices that cause harms to them. At the same time they are not supposed to approve the practices that bring troubles and turmoils in the lives of the majority in the name of change. People cannot openly accept inter-caste marriage because this practice (i) disturbs an existing social order or disrupts a pattern of life, and (ii) has unexpected social costs due to problematic relationships and genetic modification.

But I would accept it. My family accepted it thirty two years ago, with my own sister marrying a Magar. It was costless. Her family is already multi-ethnic since my nephews and nieces also married inter-caste. If my sons chose their brides from other castes on the foundation of love, understanding and respecting one another as they are, I would heartily welcome their decisions. No qualm about it.

As you are a good writer, good singer and good lecturer. If you got boon to become a best in the world in anyone faculty then what would you choose for and why?

Am I? Anyway, thanks for calling me good at these aspects. The three (writing, singing, and teaching) are inseparable to me. My being a ‘good’ writer makes me a ‘good’ teacher or vice versa. My being a singer has to do a lot about my being a ‘noticed’ teacher. Also, my knack for being a writer helps me choose a meaningful song or craft/compose one for myself. But If I were to choose one for the boon, I would take writing for sure. Because writing has perennial, universal significance. By this I mean that I would be read and remembered for ages from now. If I were one of the best, my works would see several editions and reprints, get taught in universities and used by hundreds of scholars and researchers. In a sense I would always survive. 

What do you prefer, painful life or meaningless death? 

Very difficult choice! I would rather want to live a painful life than face a meaningless death. Living matters no matter how. You cannot live forever, after all. But seeing the world and its phenomena evolve matters no matter what you have to pay to be able to see these. Living a long yet painful life probably prepares me for painless and meaningful exit. If you live a life blessed with comfort and luxury, you will always be scared of the inevitable thing, death. I want to exit without fearing the exit. That’s all.

As the Head of Department, what reforms do you think are necessary to make significant impacts into the Department’s future as a whole?

I have a lot to say about the Department, but would choose to limit myself. See, I have been leading the present group since 2013, with Humanities and Management Unit under School of Engineering till January 2019. We wanted a multi-disciplinary Department and they granted it under School of Management.  I was assigned to be the Head because I was the key initiator. 

The main reform necessary for the Department is a minimum centralized physical space where we could have a dedicated computer lab, a business seminar room and a few good classrooms though shared with other groups.  I would like to see transportation facilities for the students commuting from beyond Kavre.  Foremost, since faculties are key to management/ business education, I would like to see the present group more qualified, upgraded, motivated and ready to initiate a couple of interdisciplinary graduate programs. 

The Department is a largest unit both for SoM and the main campus, in terms of the students and programs it caters to. So, it deserves greater attention and reform initiatives. But we cannot outrun the existing system, and are conditioned to bear retardation because of various unavoidable circumstances.  I will see to one thing — during my remaining two years as Head — that the multidisciplinary team remains intact and the Department consolidates its present physical as well as human resources. 

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By hkafle

I am a University teacher, with passion for literature and music.

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