Aruna Kandel's concerns regarding the portrayal of Nepali women in the writings of Samrat Upadhyay and Manjushree Thapa are rather inappropriate ("Samrat, Manjushree, and English writing in Nepal," #132) . The questions she raises about Samrat Upadhyay's intentions in "perpetuating" the malaise in society "through his narrative" are illegitimate too.
Talking about the real or surreal dimensions of the psyche has always been the most important aspect of storytelling. Although it might do so, the intentions of storytellers are not to change societies, but to expose them. So, in a society where eroticism is very much there-like all societies-but is still shunned and renounced: a storyteller's attempt to expose that facet should be welcomed. Tomorrow if some Nepali writer tells a heart-wrenching tale of a prostitute in Thamel, then unlike Kandel (I assume) I would heartily welcome it.
However, I agree that the limited stories that have been told about Nepal in the western media have been unidimensional. There is so much more to Nepal and her people than as portrayed.
. Like my friends, I was ambivalent about Samrat (and Manjushree). Aruna expressed my feelings with remarkable clarity (#132). Representation is a tricky issue. We cannot take an author to task for failing to write what we want him/her to write, but when a work is publicised in a certain cultural light, it is not without certain expectations that people approach it. Craft-wise Samrat is fabulous, but his problem seems to be the over-used theme of adultery by the bourgeois patriarchy of all ages and the consistency with which it recurs in his writings. I don't expect him to give complete agency to his female characters, but he had better not subject them to that extent of male desire. His gaze is certainly disturbing. Is it also a coincidence that both Manjushree and Samrat's first novels deal with teachers' love stories (including the title-The Tutor of History and The Guru of Love?)? If I have to compare, Manjushree's is culturally more imaginative (murky political details are different things), while Samrat's is a typical middle class patriarchy that must be challenged.
. I was really impressed by Aruna Kandel's piece in Nepali Times (#132) and I completely agree with her. I haven't read Manjushree's book but I have read Samrat's Arresting God in Kathmandu. It seemed to have a foreign background with Nepali characters. I personally felt that Hindi movies and the American concept of free sex influenced the book. I agree with Kandel's comment on the availability of women for sex not being acceptable. Did the author really base his work on Nepali society and culture? Having lived almost his whole life in America, I doubt he had time for that.