Valdosta Daily Times


November 4, 2013

“Three Speakers from Nepal: VSU welcomes Apa Sherpa, Samrat Upadhyay, and Ubaraj Katawal”



At present, Nepal’s society has undergone vast political change since Crown Prince Dipendra murdered nine of his closest relatives in 2001 then shot himself. What really happened seems so labyrinthine —perhaps a Maoist plot, a coup by foreign intelligence agencies, a conspiracy orchestrated by the king in waiting—I’ll let the expert speakers give their own views.  Suffice to say, there was a revolution before that revolution, and the unseating of the Rana dynasty before that revolution.
People trump politics---that seems to be Upadhyay's resonating concern.  Despite his swish first-world education, he’s aware of families living in poverty, our earth’s everyday real-life super-heros in survival: clerks fired for speaking their viewpoint, a mother crushed and ashamed at what the neighbors might think, girls forced to work as semi-prostitutes, individuals forced to scramble enough rupees together to buy squash, lentils, and frying oil.  As Dr. Ubaraj Katawal points out: “Upadhay’s world is full of small gestures of compassion and care, despite moments of sadness, death, alienation, and these compassionate gestures make a difference in the lives of those they touch.”
Comic insights and psychological realism merge in these stories.  The humor’s subtle.  Blink and you’ll miss out.  In the short story, “Deepka Mistra’s Secretary,” readers follow one man’s journey of heartbreak and revelation about the comfort of unexpected love when he accepts the tentative, demure words of comfort from a secretary.  He hasn’t noticed her much, but she’s noticed him and his sadness. This secretary is not playing checkers.  One day he sees her shopping and she’s short for a clothing purchase, so he nonchalantly buys her a pink sari.  Later, he makes advances but stops short, wanting to keep things“professional.”  Besides, his lil’ blonde American wife has popped back up in Kathmandu after dumping him.  Finally his secretary, who has a distinctive birthmark that distracts his appreciation of her as a lover, emerges as the one spiritually in charge, and she is not playing checkers.  Rebuffed and rejected, she wordlessly leaves her job, abandoning him to his own emotional lessons.  However, he soon misses more than her computer skills. Deepak receives a package at the office returning the beautiful pink sari.  He smells the garment and laments that it’s freshly laundered, smelling only of detergent. This story ends with him abjectly yearning for her presence, roaming the city listening to beautiful ghazals and remembering her divine singing voice.

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