प्रायः छोटा कविताहरूले सिँगारिएको अक्षरहरूको बिस्कुनमा थोरै शब्दमा धेरै अर्थ दिने सूत्रकविता या सूक्तिमय कविता भन्न सुहाउने कविताहरू सङ्ग्रहित छन् । कुनै–कुनै कवितालाई ‘मुक्तक’ या ‘छोक’ (छोटा कविता) पनि भन्न सकिन्छ । बिम्बको प्रयोग र भावको गहनताले कविताहरूलाई उचाइ प्रदान गरेको छ । यसभित्रका कविताहरूलाई कविको जीवन–भोगाइ र त्यसबाट निष्पन्न दर्शनको अभिव्यक्तिका रूपमा लिन सकिन्छ । कविताहरूले ज्यादै मसिना विषयतन्तुहरूबाट तन्किँदै गएर कवितात्मक आकार लिएका हुनाले यसलाई कविको विशिष्ट दृष्टिचेतका रूपमा पनि लिन सकिन्छ ।
– हरि मञ्जुश्री
कुनै वाद वा सिद्धान्तबाट प्रेरित नभईकन प्रस्फुटित अभिव्यक्तिहरूले भरिएको छ यो संग्रह । आफूले बाँचेको परिवेशमा आफूलाई नपचेका वा मनमा खट्केका सत्यहरू खोतल्दै जाँदा मैले धेरै प्रश्नहरू उठाउने काम गेरको छु र हरेक विषयमा एकल अर्थको केन्द्रीयताभन्दा वहुअर्थको सम्भाव्यतालाई स्विकारेको छु । मेरा शब्द र बिम्बहरू स्वतन्त्र छन्, तर एक अर्कासँग जोडिएका पनि । ती बिल्कुल बिस्कुनमा जम्मा भएका अन्नका दानाहरू जस्तै छन् ।
– हेमराज काफ्ले
अक्षरहरूको बिस्कुनभित्र संग्रहित कविताहरू हाम्रै साझा नियतिका चित्रहरू जस्ता लाग्छन् । सबै कबिताहरूलाई बुन्दै लग्यो भने शुत्र-कथा जस्तो बन्न जाँदो रहेछ । … धेरैजसो कविताहरूले जीवन भोगाइका विरोधाभाषहरूलाई सरल र सरस रूपमा उतारेका छन् । … कवि श्रमको सम्मान नगर्ने वर्तमान समाजको कट्टर आलोचक छन् । … काफ्लेका कविताहरू सत्यको अन्वेषणमा लागेका अक्षरका बिस्कुनहरू हुन् । तर कवि सत्यको खोजी गर्न काल्पनिक उडानमा जाँदैनन्, बरु वरिपरिका असंगतिहरू उधिन्छन् । …कविले आफ्नो जीवनयात्राका भोगाइहरूको मन्थनबाट आफ्नै लागि केही सत्यहरू ठम्याएका छन् । … कविको खास ठम्याइ छ – आफ्नो विवेकले, आफ्नो श्रमले जहाँ पुगिन्छ, त्यहीँसम्म हिँडिरहने । त्यसका लागि उनले धेरै केही मागेका छैनन् । देशको एउटा नागरिकको रूपमा उनको एउटै अपेक्षा छ – “गरी खाने अवसर देऊ” ।
– केशव सिग्देल
“Fifteen years – a child grows enough to adapt to some of life’s entanglements. Fifteen years – an adult grays enough to understand the futility of excesses; an old person is gratified enough by life’s heydays and has adequately rehearsed for the pains of last days. Yes, I have seen all of these here and, therefore, think that my life in this hillock has become all the more meaningful than it would had I chosen to strain myself for the ‘greener pastures.’”
– Shreya Nepal
“Midlife Montage is a story that you cannot put down. It contains fragments of a story collected over time. It covers not mere anecdotes of an interesting life but realities of an average man’s journey; a journey which, at the point of occurrence, didn’t really have a destination in mind. Looking back in retrospect, however, the journey had always meant to come to Kathmandu University and inspire individuals like this reviewer.”
I have been running away from this review for around two months now. It was not like I was uninterested or unwilling to spend a couple hours penning down my views on the book that my teacher Dr. Hem Raj Kafle had so meticulously brought into publication. I was simply too scared to start.
This is weird for both Midlife Montage and for me. The former is being reviewed by a collegegoer who does not know the first thing about reviews and the latter, well, I’m just too nervous to dare write any piece that has consequences for other people.
I come from around the same place as Dr. Kafle does. We both have our “eastern-ness” imbedded into our being. That is why, at many points of the writing, especially in the initial chapters, I could relate to a lot of things.
I grew up listening to my grandmother talk about ‘helping’ the school she went to. There is a “sense of reality” mentioned while talking about helping the school build and I could not stop myself from envying the feeling that has been talked about here. I as a millennial (or whatever it is that we, the late nineties and forth born kids, are called) have been dumped into ready-made, plastic toys-filled schools where everything was taken care of. The spirit of belonging to the school was way greater then than it is now.
“At school we waited every day for the Tiffin bell though we had nothing to eat.” This sentence, if singled out, would give the impression of a tragic childhood. But the following sentences show the readers that the circumstances weren’t that bad at all. It is these small sentences, describing with utmost honesty the childhood that keep us turning the pages initially.
Mind you, Midlife Montage is not a story that you cannot put down. It is rather fragments of a story collected over time. It covers not mere anecdotes of an interesting life led but realities of an average man’s journey; a journey which, at the point of occurrence, did not really have a destination in mind. Looking back in retrospect, however, the journey had always meant to come to KU and inspire individuals like this review-writer.
The part where the writer has talked about his growing affinity with the English language and the toil put into mastering it, is all too familiar for me. Even today, I have heaps of books teaching grammar, syntax, preposition, pronunciation, and what not, lying around at my house, courtesy to my lanky mama who, just as the writer himself, did his share of hard work in learning the oh-so-revered English language. The language of gentlemen and well-bred people, or so thought.
My interest in any book I read is maintained only as long as I can relate to it in any way. I don’t have to be like the protagonist or their sister or their cat. I can only share the same colored tiffin-box in the story and I am hooked on a page or two. I took a lot of time to find a thread of connection in the latter stories and my life, compelling me to abandon the book and forget all about Kirtipur’s thesis and others.
It was much later, when I was gifted the book by the writer himself that I picked where I had initially left. The words rhetoric, epiphany, diaspora, etc. have been properly stressed during lectures given by Dr. Kafle so I was sort of hoping to see them being used as titles in his works. Midlife Montage has not disappointed me in this regard.
My personal favorite piece is probably the shortest in the entire book. A two-page rambling about teaching guidelines that every teacher should read at least once. But by ‘read’ I mean internalize into his/her psyche. For someone who has not had the pleasure of being taught by Dr. Kafle would perhaps take it as self-exaggeration when he talks about treating every new student as a mysterious stock of knowledge, sentiments, and challenges. But I know that although ‘every new student’ might be too large a claim to prove but he does take the task of ‘making people think’ seriously.
The best part about the book is the use of anecdotes that have taken kilograms off of the book, whose actual content seemed to weigh it down a bit too much for impatient twenty-year-olds like myself.
For many of us who have been so deeply engulfed in speaking the “urban dictionary” language with abbreviations and slangs that take too little space and use too complicated metaphors, this book, Midlife Montage is old school. The discussion on how much is enough in academic writing, how three is a set standard for number of paragraphs in an essay and how very formal and grammatically correct and perfectly balanced sentence structures are used to write this book sends a shudder down my spine. It makes me think of a recent discussion I came across on Facebook about how our language skills are evolving into emotionally charged but utterly stupid exchanges that are turning us into inarticulate and conversationally stunted individuals.
“We are the generation that communicates through pictures and metaphors because they require less description and critical thought.” We carry emojis around so that we don’t have to engage in detailed conversations using proper adjectives, proper verb structure etc. to explain our intention. Now, at a first reading, I have viewed the writer as someone who is reassured by rules and parameters. There is chaos outside of his books and teaching. He is trying to resist it, or say even make sense of it, through his journal entries and his blogs and his penned-down ramblings. He is trying to find an order, something solid his tall self can lean on, through a published opinion which when published stays there. Then it remains. There it remains.
It is a difficult task for teachers like Dr. Kafle to make us kids sit down and patiently finish reading books written by writers like Dr. Kafle. I, for one, have done my share of running away from peeking into a reality that can very well be mine in the next twenty years. Midlife Montage presents to me a mirror into the life of an academic, not that heroic but not that modest either. You could choose to ignore the debate on originality or choose to ignore the pleas for solving the crisis in humanities, but once you have gone through the book as a whole, you surely cannot ignore the method, the careful observation, and the time that have gone into its creation.
Reflection on Midlife Montage
– Sujan Sapkota
I always try to learn what comes in the mind of a student of literature since we come through the same background, same environment, same daily routine. I am an engineering student with keen interest in literature.
Life was easy during the schooling period. But, in my early days as an intermediate (+2) student, I wanted to know the real meaning of life, its processes, obstacles we encounter with it. However, I realized that a student of literature could easy tackle these questions. Soon after reading Midlife Montage by Hem Raj Kafle, I vividly realized that even the ‘literature professionals’ have the same enthusiasm, problem and dilemma about life.
Most of the books that I have studied haven’t impressed me at the beginning. But Midlife Montage did, especially the beginning where the author narrates his schooling period at 6 and reveals how he failed the first grade since as a child he did not know what failure meant, and where it led one to.
I felt very good that the author had got understanding and literate parents who traced the imperfection in him within no time. Had I not known his present status, it would have been much more interesting to know that he had been in great dilemma whether to choose Kathmandu University or not and why he did not think of “hiding in America”. But even my familiarity with Dr. Kafle did not stop me from appreciating his description of what procedures and decisions he followed to land in the KU ‘hillock’ and how the same has become more meaningful in his life since the landing. I understand that the problems that he encountered during his school days, teaching days and even during the professional life has made him someone among the best today.
As I read through, I felt very sorry about the incident that took place in Mahendra Ratna Campus (MRC) where politics was given more importance than study . Similarly, I was upset to learn and know that professional life is a race where we are unknowingly forced to run faster. But this idea gave me consolation: “When you win, the person who deserves both thanks and congratulations is you yourself.”
If the author had hidden in America, I think he wouldn’t be as happy as he is today. I also felt so sorry for his friend Bidur who might not lament and curse his fortune after he gets an opportunity to read his own representation in the book since I found the ending of his story too convincing. And “those April days in KU quarters” must have been really difficult to forget and also to recall in such minute details as the author has presented.
With all these, I have found Midlife Montage interesting. There are many catchy sentences and moments of the author’s life which mean more than the practical education to me in my life. “Life is less formula than feelings though formulas help shape a section of our professional future” was the tough sentence to believe that I went easily through the book. “Disciple of the sort” was the topic where I got more nervous but this finally helped me to be more optimistic.
It was good and happy going through the book. I already started waiting for the second book to get published by the author. All the best for a successful writing career ahead.
Reflections on Midlife Montage
– Bhuwan Prasad Bhatta
Midlife Montage and the Crow
– Eak Prasad Duwadi
– Dr. Tika Lamsal and Dr. Hari Adhikari
NOVELISTIC ARTISTRY OF LAIN SINGH BANGDEL
(A collection of critical essays on Lain Singh Bangdel’s novels)
Translated and Edited by Hem Raj Kafle
BRIDGES AND WALLS
(A Collection of Poems in English)
Translated by Hem Raj Kafle
BODHI: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY JOURNAL
Co-edited up to the sixth Issue