The death of noted Nepali author Jagdish Ghimire on 30 October has left a void in the world of Nepali literature and rural development.
Ghimire and his wife Durga devoted their lives to the upliftment, enlightenment, and healthcare of their Ramechhap district through the Tamakosi Sewa Samiti they helped set up. Ghimire studied and worked abroad, had good prospects to rise up the ranks of international development organisations, but decided to come back not just to Nepal, but go back to his beloved Manthali of Ramechhap.
Ghimire always loved literature and had written plays and poems, but it was after he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer, eight years ago that he blossomed and excelled as a writer. In constant pain despite the metal spinal brace he had to wear and in need of frequent treatment in Nepal and abroad, Ghimire took to pouring out his soul through two path-breaking and award-winning books that took Nepali literature by storm. It was as if he knew his time was limited and needed to finish it all before he left us.
His special bond with Ramechhap and the Tama Kosi River that flows through it is evident in his book Anatarmanko Yatra (Journey of the Conscience) in which he wrote about his life, his work in community development, and fight with cancer. The book won him the prestigious Madan Puraskar in 2010. ‘Immerse my ashes in Manthali, the land of my ancestors where Tama Kosi meets Sukajor,’ he wrote in his book.
He gave up his job in a development agency in the UK to return to his village in Ramechhap which he wanted to develop as a model for other districts in the country. Ironically, the man who set up a district hospital that provided affordable and quality healthcare to the poor of Ramechhap was himself struck down at age 68, when he was at the peak of his creative energy.
Antarmanko Yatra is a memoir a tale of life and death, but his last book, Sakas (Agony) is written in the throes of anguish. The author’s pain transmits itself in his writing as the country’s torturous history and the centuries of hardships that Nepalis have suffered. It is a historical novel, that tells the tale through fictitious characters who are constantly tortured by factual rulers, landlords, masters, and overlords.
Jagdish Ghimire set through words the outlines for his society’s transformation. It is only when we know our past and learn from its mistakes, that we can chart out a just future. Till then, our consciences should not rest, just like Ghimire’s didn’t.