Hem Raj Kafle: An Easy Going Man
Hemraj Kafle is one of the first two persons I faced in KU some six year back during August of 2004. He along with his colleague Ekku Maya Pun happened to be my interviewer. Like all other KU ISC applicants, I was excited to get my name included in the short listed candidates for the ISC program of 2004 (Now KU has cancelled its intake for ISC program). But at the same time I was tensed to attend the interview (there was a rumor in KU that interviews were similar to interrogations).
Hemraj Kafle, he was the one who first attacked me with questions (I forgot them exactly). He asked something casual about my home town Dang, my schooling and me in his typical English accent but I adjusted my replies in Nepali (he sensed easily that I was bad at speaking English). The interview lasted comfortably for about ten minutes with indirect assurance from him that my chances to get VISA for KU were high. (I found nothing like such interrogations as I had conceived earlier).
Hemraj Kafle, there was so many things to talk about this man. Let me elaborate his distinct features and traits in following points.
- At first look your eyes will get locked by his height. Compliments like “Kasto aglo manche? (What a heighty man?)” won’t be a new one from anybody whose vision catches him for the first time. Let you know, his height is Six Foot One inch. Can you believe that? That height is far more than a average Nepali (Take me for an example. I am just Five foot eight Inch and still I am taller than most of my colleagues). That means when you are talking to Hem Raj Kafle, he leaves no option to you other than tilt your head 30 degree up to catch him.
- The second thing people recognize him is his slow walk (I would say it a dead man walking I am being not too stupid). People often suspect him of having permanent slow walk (even I did at first). If you did too, that mean you get to know a lot of things about him. Be Clear that he walks slowly only during the normal schedule. He had claimed in one of his unpublished interview that he always walks at pace during rush time especially when he is running out of time for meeting at Kathmandu (though I haven’t seen yet).
- The third one, his all time smile creates a favorable environment for everyone to talk about any topic. The topic may range from academic endeavor during his non-office hour to casual humorous incidents during his office hour in the Department. Unlike the hectic exam times, when he might throw a lot of sweet satires at your face to wonder about provided that you cross the deadline of the assignments.
Suppose, you happen to meet him unexpectedly at any place around KU premise and find no smiles radiating at you. Now what? Don’t get confused. You already missed his wink at the very moment when he has already pointed you from distant. Till you meet him, he is already prepared with the casual questions to ask. So, you never get afraid to meet him without appointment because he is not going to bombard you with any kind of hair-splitting questions. That makes most of the students deal with him easily (This is my personal inference though).
- The fourth one is his English accent, very familiar to that of Nepali, which I favir about him and which open the door for me to talk to him in my broken English (now that makes me forget for a while that my English is bad).
- The fifth one, his typical manner of inserting humorous and satirical Nepali anecdotes in most of the conversations he carries out, often leaves something to think about for the the second conversation party. He makes me realize that there are many books I need to read in order to fill this dumb mind with intellectual contents.(Personally I am very slow at understanding anecdotes).
- The sixth one, his passion for music is vivid. I have listened to his melodious songs like “Hideko hami ta Ek Jut Bhayera Aamako Muhara Hasauna “and” Yo Aakhale launa malai maryo”. His vocal tone emulates a true love for his nation. He plays guitar himself and he is very apt at synchronizing his vocal with the flow of his self-composed tune. Listening to songs by drifts my mind far to my village etting where I spent my childhood days listening to songs of Nati Kaji and Bachhu Kailash regularly broadcasted from Radio Nepal.
- The last but not the least, his small happy family prompts me to remember an old Nepali adage- “Dui Santan Ishwor ko Bardaan (Two children the blessing of the God)”. I often get to see him treading along the KU roads carrying his small son (I call him Mr Junior Hem Raj Kafle). His typical manner of attaching his son in his chest and roaming around the KU tempts me to anticipate my future family life days when I, too, will be carrying my son like he does, and tread along the KU roads talking to locals and my future students (here I am going too far though).
Inside Kathmandu University since 2004, I have been influenced by handful of teachers, locals, KU staffs and students but my inability to spew all those things I perceive about them has always challenged my expression power. I always wanted them to know what I think about them. Among the teachers, Hem Raj Kafle, the Assistant Professor of Department of Languages and Mass Communication might not have any story to tell about me because he doesn’t have lack of students to deal with but my six years of journey with him has always tempted me to tell him what I think about him and how I am influenced with his distinct traits and characteristics. This easy going Man, Hem Raj Kafle has always inspired me to deal easily with so many complexities that come across my student life. I wonder if it did to others?
I am glad to write something about Mr. Hem Raj Kafle, who happens to be one of my close teenage friends and with whom I have not only passed a good portion of my family life together but also academic life since I met him. As I know him, he was a hard-working student committed towards achieving something in his life. I have been together in most of his humble days when he hardly had sufficient means to sustain his life. Despite harsh realities of his living, he never shook an inch from his ethics and duty towards not only his family and friends but also towards others who needed his help.
He was always an excellent student, and what he has become today is the result of his tireless perseverance and struggle that he embraced as an appendage of his life. His scholarship is whetted in the hallmark of academic learning and practical experiences. I still remember the time when he was a Bachelor’s student and a teacher teaching full time in a Boarding school at the same time. He didn’t only uphold his student life that way but also stood as a college topper. He has emerged as a competent scholar after his excellent performance in Master’s and M. Phil. degrees.
Hem is after all a good human being. He is very gentle, sincere, and always speaks truth as he has faced it in his life. In the time when people are valued more in terms of their snobbishness, he has managed to stand as a rock for simplicity, ethics, and sincerity. Hem’s these qualities are always inspiring to me as a friend. More inspiring is his knack for music, poetry, and helpful attitude towards others.
The more I speak about him, the more fresh dance the memories of our past in front of my eyes when we were toddling in the field of teaching and learning. He was always cooperative and active not only in academic life but also in social life through music and other activities. Kudos for his humane values and scholarship.
Hiding the Gold Coins
– Umesh Shrestha
He is tall. Very tall compared to my height. He looks into the world through a pair of slightly shaded glasses. Those glasses probably let him filter all the negativity around him and help him see a vision – a vision of a teacher, a writer and a mentor. He speaks gently and seldom smiles. He stands in the middle of the class and with his words; paints an exciting picture of characters, themes and conflicts; and walks us through the colorful fields full of metaphors, similes and hyperboles.
He is one of those rare teachers who writes a lot. His blog is a testimony of his prolific writing habit. Even his facebook statuses, usually very short poems, reflect his creativity. Then, it makes me wonder. May be creativity is a verb, not a noun. One has to constantly work at it. It’s just my perception. His creativity could be as natural as breathing.
I had met him back in 2012. He taught me Fiction in my M.Ed. ELT first semester and since then I have had a renewed interest in reading, interpreting and analyzing literature. I started becoming passionate but critical of the texts I came across. In addition to that, he has inspired me to write down my own fictional works.
Naturally, I was pretty excited about the workshop. I had always wanted to be in his classes one more time and the workshop was it. Even though the focus of the workshop was “Academic Writing”, I knew he would have his own twist on it, with a few pinch of strange concepts sprinkled around here and there.
So he started the workshop by asserting that writing is not an isolated activity, but it is an activity integrated with reading, listening and speaking. “The key word is perform. Writing is a performance, it is an action of hands as well as an action of minds,” he added. And most importantly, he continued, “Performance doesn’t mean a writer’s activity alone… it is about a reader’s action also”. This made so much sense that it immediately struck a chord with me. A writer has to let readers perform too. Otherwise, what’s the point in writing at the first place? An effective writer thus leaves enough clues here and there in the text for the readers to come up with their own knowledge.
Writing is a performance because the writer has to make sure that his/her ‘authorial presence’ and credibility are visible in every word and every sentence of the text. Moreover, a writer has to make sure there are implicit and explicit moments of communication with the reader. He/she has to constantly facilitate the reader towards understanding and creating new perceptions. Similarly, a writer has to represent his/her community and contribute towards adding new knowledge and scholarship. Therefore, writing is not merely scribbling texts on a sheet of paper, it is a performance that involves both the writer and the reader.
Next, he talked about some of the common attributes every writer exhibit in some ways. For instance, the ‘writer’s block’ which he also labeled as the ‘blinking cursor syndrome’ for those who keep staring at the computer screen searching for words to start with. Similarly, every writer has the irresistible urge to tell the background or the whole story. Next, most of the writers can’t decide on the choice of diction – whether to use big or small stock of words, or on the choice of sentence – short sentences or longer sentences.
And to come to the main focus of the workshop, he talked about the process of creating an argument in academic writing and substantiating one’s stance. He gave an instance of Stephen Toulmin’s elements of a proper argument: claim, ground, warrant, backing, rebuttal, qualifier and final claim. A good paragraph is a combination of all or some of the above elements. The concept of ‘rebuttal’ is quite interesting. Apparently, acknowledging opposing views and giving them a small space in one’s argument adds more strength to one’s argument.
At the end, he gave us eleven tips on how to improve one’s writing. I am reflecting on these points from my perspective.
- Write aloud.
It helps shape the quality of writing.
- Speak – record – transcribe – Edit
This is very useful when one is facing the imminent ‘writer’s block’.
- Toulmin uncle really works!
- Three is enough.
Three examples, three explanations, three stories.
- Keep the big below you.
This is quite interesting. Start a paragraph with your own sentence and end it with your own. Keep the citations and ‘big’ personalities underneath your first statement. Don’t ever start your paragraph with a citation because this just weakens your stance.
- Kill the subordinates.
If your main info goes to the subordinate clause, rewrite the sentence. Bring your info to the front.
- Passive is lousy.
I also hate sentences in passive voice. I always try to write everything in active voice.
- Let the verb stand high.
Let the verb ‘speak’, rather than ‘be’.
- Do not repeat a word if there’s a replacement.
- Hear me between the lines
Make your presence felt. Don’t let the reader forget about the writer.
- Dump me if I let you go!
Challenge: I will not bore my reader. I will not break my reader’s heart, effort, money, etc.
After attending this workshop, I now feel the urge to go back to all my writings and scrutinize them strand by strand – to find my ‘authorial presence’ in them. I had never thought about this aspect of writing – that the author has to be present in the text. Similarly, I am going to try speak-record-transcribe method whenever I feel stuck in the rot. I will also make sure none of my paragraphs start with a citation but with my own sentence. In addition, I will use these techniques in presentations and in writing scripts for speaking as well.
Writing has always been an elusive grape for me. I feel like I am always getting ‘there’ but never near enough. I always go back to my texts, interact with them and revise them. That singer from Rolling Stones is probably right. I can’t get no satisfaction out of my writing. But just like Hem sir once said during his class, “A text is always in the making”. May be it’s not about getting ‘there’ and being satisfied after all. It is a process… a continuum… a journey. And our job as a writer is just to enjoy the ride.