“Invite people to your heart: don’t close the door to your culture. You can learn many things from others and modify your lifestyle. But you should never forget your identity, otherwise you will belong nowhere.” These are the words of Dr. Manash Kumar Choudhury, a visiting professor to Kathmandu University, Department of Chemistry. He is from Calcutta, and for him Nepal is just a neighboring land, but Nepali songs, friends for his life tomorrow. He has lived in some parts of Europe, America and Africa for many years as a teacher and research scientist. His classic harmonium has always accompanied him. Wherever it may be, he has mixed up with the natives with his keen ears for their music. When he appeared here in Nepal, nobody imagined in the beginning that he would have so much fervor for Nepali songs. As was usual for him, he mingled with the university staff with the readiness to appreciate and encourage those who wanted to learn music and sing songs. He had known very little about Nepal, Nepali people and Nepali music before coming here. But this knowledge was something that induced him to work in Nepal. Now, he has found many similarities in his and our music and has decided that sharing would be even more meaningful. This is why, at present, he is trying to get Bengali lyrics translated into Nepali so that he can sing them in the original Rabindra Sangeet. The Devanagari script helps him read the lyrics, which he transforms into his Bengali script and sings melodiously. He does not just recite the songs, but learns the meaning and sings with his heart.
Dr. Choudhury believes nothing is wrong in getting influenced by others’ culture as long as we retain our identity. This is the need of the time. We are not living in a closed world after all. We, the new generation, are brought up in such a way of life where deviation from originality often means keeping up with time. So, for example, if we are more accustomed to singing Hindi or English songs than Nepali, we are not particularly making any mistake. Our attachment to some other culture is simply the result of the fact that we are not practically guided right from our childhood to live with our culture only. Our guardians are to some extent responsible for keeping us aloof from it. We have gradually misinterpreted the spirit of change turning away from originality. We have been told we are rich in culture, and we are supposed to tell the same to the next generation also. We will therefore teach them to take pride in being born in Nepal and train them to be aggressive in case somebody dares to hurt our patriotic sentiments. But it seems we will not care even if we forsake our identity and run after cultural invaders.
Similarly, we become happy when others discover that we have things they don’t have. We do not mind if we don’t recognize such things, but boast they belong to us anyway. For instance, we may have an enormous stock of “unheard melodies” waiting to be explored. But have we given birth to those who will do it, especially to succeed the present generation of pioneers? It is nevertheless unfair to doubt the contribution of many Nepali brothers and sisters to the uplift of Nepali music. Nepal will remember them in all ages to come. But, now is the time to see to what extent our new generation will work in the path of their predecessors. It is also equally important that the pioneers inspire followers adequately today. Our youth, perhaps, are gradually swerving, and there is a doubt if tomorrow’s music will sound like that of yesterday. Maybe they have not got enough inspiration in this regard, and do not know that our musical heritage is not poorer than what has enthused them from outside. The question is how much they are exposed to it and who will do the work of giving them exposure. They need to be adequately inspired to live with Nepaliness even though time guides them to keep up with the change.
Coming back to Dr. Choudhury, we can say he is not learning Nepali songs just because he wants to increase the stock of his knowledge of foreign language and music. He loves music, and Nepali music has been something he had so far been looking for with his soul. It is natural for him to take time to learn Nepali because he has not come for this only. But he has almost had a working knowledge of it. Maybe, he will not pronounce some words with the typical accent, but he can sing with correct melody. Many of us naturally cannot pronounce many English words in a proper way although we have been using the language for a considerable period of time in our education. So if we have a sense of appreciation, we must readily acknowledge the way a foreigner has learned our language and sung our songs. He is undoubtedly a model of inspiration. We should see whether we sing Gopal Yonjan’s Aljhechha Kyare Pachhyauri Timro with as much sense of belonging as Dr. Choudhury can. It does not matter even if he cannot sing our songs properly. But he sings today and will sing in later on in his life. The fact that he sings our songs with so much enthusiasm, however, is far more important than that we can sing Hindi or English songs. He has shown that he likes Nepal and things that are Nepali. We would perhaps get hurt if he said he did not have any liking for Nepal, Nepali and Nepali music. But he has asked us to like our music through his liking, and, therefore, deserves our sincere gratitude. And it would equally be a tribute to him for his inspirations if we realized that we have unique cultural identity, which anybody with an aesthetic heart like his can recognize easily.

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By hkafle

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

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