Nostalgia: A Son Misses His Father

>> Saturday, August 30, 2008

I wrote this exactly one month ago today. Today is Father's Day in Nepal. I rededicate this in memory of my beloved father.
- Ajay (August 30, 2008)

By AJAY PRADHAN | July 30, 2008

The stream of consciousness that we call mind is often dominated by one of its strongest manifestations--memory. And when you add longing to it, it becomes nostalgia. Yes, I am nostalgic today. I wish I had a time machine so that I could not only go back down the memory lane, but also live the life as it was many years ago. Today, my nostalgia takes me back to the earliest years of schooling that I can still remember... life of a little boy outside the secured confines of his home.

I think I was not even 5 years old at that time, probably just 4. I went to Montessori School in Kathmandu. Montessory system is a method of pre-schooling based on overall child development. The emphasis is on self-directed activities. Children are encouraged to be driven by curiosities, engage in self-directed activities, but still under the supervision of teachers. It is the teachers' responsibility to make sure that the learning environment is adapted to the child's learning level. The system was started by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian teacher, in the late 19th Century.

Many years have passed since my Montessori days, but I still remember some of the things from those days. There are certain things I vividly remember about those pre-school days, particularly one "traumatic" experience... "traumatic" for a child of about 4 years in age. Some memories are just hazy.

I remember that we had a security guard whose job was to ensure the security of our residence. It was his duty to take me to school and bring back home everyday. I remeber he often carried me on his shoulders. To the best of my recollection, the school was located at the northwest corner of Rani Pokhari.

I remember one activity in particular. We were given wooden blocks and puzzles to play with, the kind where small blocks have to be placed in the appropriate holes in a larger block or nested in multiple levels in the appropriate order. Quite a feat for 4 year-olds.

Curiosities picked my mind from the childhood. One day, during lunch time, all the children sat in rows, to be served cookies and milk. We each got an empty glass and some thin arrowroot cookies and then we waited for the milk to arrive. I looked at my round cookies and then at the empty glass. I got curious and wanted to see how the cookies would fit into the glass. Well, they fit right in, midway down the glass. At the same time, the milk lady came and started pouring milk in children's glasses. She stood before me, almost starting to pour milk in my glass and when she spotted cookies in the glass, she stopped and without a single word she passed me by.

I frantically tried to remove the cookies from the glass. The milk lady turned her head, saw my predicament, but moved right on ahead. When it became obvious to me that I wasn't going to be able to remove my cookies from the glass and that she wouldn't give me my milk, I became overcome with emotion. As I was the only boy that didn't get milk I felt that even though the cookies fit in, even though the small blocks fit in, I didn't fit in. I felt traumatized and I started crying.

My little mind had a question when I came home. I asked my dad, "Buwa, why'd the milk lady not give me my milk? All I wanted to do was to see if the cookies would fit in the glass." Dad said, "I appreciate your curiosity. It's good to be curious. That's how we learn. And today's experience should teach you one other thing. Be prepared to deal with or live with the answers your curiosities bring." A father was helping his son to tread his paths of life. That lesson has never been lost on me ever since.

I miss my dad. He sends little blessings to me from his place in heaven every single day of my life.



>> Thursday, August 28, 2008

अजय प्रधान | अगस्ट २८, २००८

त्यो यात्री
डाँडा पारी जाने उस्को
उड्छ उमंग
माथि ।

अपेक्ष्या बोकी
हिँड्छ उ सोची
यात्रामा उस्को
समयले साथ् पो
छोड्ने होकी ।

भेट्छ उस्ले
एउटी सहयात्री
हिन्ड्छन दुबै
सँग सँगै
रात्री ।

जब पुग्छन
डाँडा पारी
भन्छिन सहयात्री
पुग्यो तिम्रो
साथ् अब
जान देउ साथी ।

बस्छन उनी
भारी मन लीइ
मुस्कान उस्को
सम्झी ।

Photo Credits and Notes:

1. B/W Photo of the little hoy and the little girl holding hands: Not sure who the photographer is, but I found it in a blog owned by JacLin (Jacqueliine) Wong. Since I found it in her blog, I'll give her the credit.

2. I shot the second picture, which of the Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Canada, in 2004.


Foreign Affairs: Ghost of Sikkim, Nepal's Foreign Policy and National Integrity

>> Saturday, August 23, 2008

By Ajay Pradhan | August 23, 2008

I hear angry and frustrated clamours, some stifled and some full-throttled, among the concerned and sensitive Nepalis that Nepal is on the way to being "Sikkimized" by India. It seems the anger and frustrations have been fanned by several recent events. First, the new republic's first Vice President, who was a member of the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), used Hindi language to take the oath of office, angering the general public and giving rise to the suspicion that India has a grand design in the making. Second, the emergence of MJF as a credible political force and power-broker and king-maker appears to have unsettled some sections of Nepali general public, who suspect MJF as a pawn of India. Third, many Nepali politicians and the media see thinly disguised political power-peddling and political consultations with Nepali political parties by the Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood not only as a simple breach of diplomatic norms but also as an open meddling by India in Nepal's internal affairs.

I understand the reasons for the anger and frustrations against India, but I don't share the pessimism that India will "Sikkimize" Nepal, mainly for two reasons. First, Nepal's modern foreign policy history is starkly different from what Sikkim ever had. Second, Nepal's strategic geopolitical situation has much stronger stock value than Sikkim ever did. It shares substantially longer border with India and Tibetan Autonomous Region and provides both neighbouring countries to the north and the south a strategic geopolitical buffer. Sikkim's small size wasn't enough to be in that enviable strategic position.

When it comes to India, the suspicion and paranoia of Nepali people north of the Chure-Bhavar range take flights of fancy. To some extent, the suspicion is justified, but for the most part, the unfettered paranoia is an unfortunate departure from the real dangers that India poses to Nepal. I think the real danger is India's unspoken expectation of subservience from the land-locked Nepal in return for some favors in transit of goods that Nepal needs. I think our single-minded obsession with the unsubstantiated notion that India is deceptively working to "Sikkimize" Nepal is not only a little too far-fetched but also unfortunate and misdirected.

India annexed Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between Nepal and Bhutan along the Himalayan range, and declared it India's 22nd state in April 1975. Although a sovereign country, Sikkim had already ceded to India after India's independence in 1947 sovereign authority in three important state affairs--defence, foreign relations, and communication. After the British left India in 1947, under a treaty signed on December 12, 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru had given Sikkim a special protectorate status, still maintaining Sikkim's independent status under the Chogyal, the monarch of Sikkim.

The Chogyal began to show increasing desire to chart an independent course of foreign relations for Sikkim. When Indira Gandhi became prime minister of India in 1966, she showed little patience for the Chogyal's authority and even less tolerance for Sikkim's desire for independence. Internal political turmoil in Sikkim eventually gave India the pretext to wrest power from the Chogyal and install its own administrative head to rule the country in 1973. The Chogyal wanted to renegotiate the 1950 Treaty between Sikkim and India and made attempts to establish independent foreign relations.

As an act of his desire to establish independent foreign relations, the Chogyal and his American-born socialite wife, Hope Cooke, traveled to Kathmandu in March 1975 to attend King Birendra's coronation and met with Chinese and Pakistani representatives. Moreover, while in Kathmandu, the Chogyal gave a press conference all but denouncing India as a hurdle in Sikkim's attempts to attaining international stature. The Chogyal instantly became India's bête noire.

The Chogyal's desire to break out of India's influence was commendable. But, he wasn't smart enough of a statesman or a politician. At a time when he needed much public support to stand up to India, he made no effort to end his political discrimination against the Sikkimese of ethnic Nepali origin. His political alienation of the ethnic Nepalis, who formed 75% of the population, proved fatally costly not only for this throne but also for the country.

The Chogyal had internal political problem to deal with. The public clamour for political freedom was rising. Several political organizations, especially Sikkim National Congress led by Kazi Lhendup Dorji and Sikkim Janata Congress, both favored by Sikkimese of ethnic Nepali origin, demanded political freedom and preferred to put emphasis on development within the country first, in contrast to the Chogyal's desire to break out of India's traditional role as Sikkim's master in the affairs of international relations. In the eyes of the Sikkimese of ethnic Nepali origin, the Chogyal was an unpopular autocratic ruler who ruled the country by sidelining them.

When the Chogyal returned to Sikkim from Kathmandu after attending King Birendra's coronation, Indian Army surrounded his palace on April 6, 1975. India stage-managed a referendum in Sikkim to decide whether Sikkimese wanted an independent Sikkim or favored assimilation into India. Ironically, the ethnic Nepali majority in Sikkim voted in favor of Sikkim's assimilation with India rather than endure the Chogyal's ethnic discrimination. The reign of King Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Chogyal of Sikkim came to an end and Sikkim became India's 22nd state on April 26, 1975, with Kazi Lhendup Dorji as the first Chief Minister of the new Indian state of Sikkim. Calling the referendum a charade, Nepalis in Kathmandu staged a massive demonstration against India.

Nepal never had the quasi-sovereign status that Sikkim had. Nepal has always vigorously sought to establish independent foreign relations with other countries, establishing foreign missions, embassies and consulates general in many countries. Nepal and China's diplomatic relations go back to the 7th Century, when they first exchanged emissaries with each other. Modern China of the post-1949 Cultural Revolution has never attempted to "Tibetize" Nepal, even though the ancient Chinese imperial regimes sought to bring Nepal under their sphere of influence as a tributary of China.

What ancient Chinese imperial regimes tried to do with Nepal, modern India, both under the British rule and the post-1947 independent one, actively tried, and still continues to do so, to bring and keep Nepal under its sphere of influence. In the modern era, the 1950 Treaty between Nepal and India is an example of India's zeal to keep Nepal under its sphere of influence.

India and Nepal signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship on July 31, 1950. No doubt, the 1950 Treaty was an unequal treaty between the two countries in some respects (e.g., Nepal's requirement to consult with India prior to importation of firearms from other countries); and the Treaty either must be ripped apart or renegotiated. The Treaty was an encroachment upon Nepal's sovereignty in intent than in design. This has been a major reason for great deal of anti-India sentiments in Nepal. To that extent, the resentment and bitter feelings that Nepalis have harbored against India is quite justified.

However, Nepalis have to recognize that the 1950 Treaty gave Nepal what Sikkim never had. Article 1 of the Treaty explicitly provided that "there shall be everlasting peace and friendship between the Government of India and the Government of Nepal. The two Governments agree mutually to acknowledge and respect the complete sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each other." At least in letters and spirit, if not in action, India was bound by the Treaty to maintain peace with Nepal and not play the role of an aggressor. More importantly, India explicitly acknowledged that Nepal is an independent, sovereign country and India agreed to respect Nepal's territorial integrity.

Unless Nepal attempts to undermine India's territorial integrity on its own or as an abetment to a third country (e.g., China or Pakistan), India cannot dream of invading and annexing Nepal into Indian union.

Nepal has had a distinctly independent foreign relations and policy than Sikkim ever had in the modern times. Regionally, despite the signing of the 1950 Treaty with India, Nepal has strategically charted a diplomacy of equidistance with India and China. King Mahendra's attempt to establish a warm relationship with China is an example of this policy. King Birendra's declaration of Nepal as a Zone of Peace was an attempt to tell the world that Nepal wants to get out of the sphere of influence of India. Over a hundred different countries of the world endorsed Nepal as a ZOP, but because India never recognized the declaration, King Birendra's ZOP declaration didn't much do to keep India off Nepal's back. However, it signaled to the world that Nepal was a sovereign country with its independent foreign policy. That was a time when mutual distrust and animosity between China and India was at its peak.

Prior to the invasion and formal annexation of Tibet by China in 1950, India considered Tibet as a strategic buffer between China and India. When Tibet was annexed by China, India needed Nepal not only as an ally but also as a buffer against China. The Treaty of 1950 was a clear and distinct move by India to transform Nepal into a natural buffer against China along the almost 900 km Himalayan border to protect the most important of India's regions--the Indo Gangetic Plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. What does this mean? This means that if India annexes Nepal, India will be seeing eye to eye with the regional dragon, the People's Republic of China. Why'd India want to do that? Of course, India wants to keep Nepal under its sphere of influence, but I fail to see why India would want to remove a strategic, natural buffer that Nepal provides and be in an uncomfortable position to stare China in its eyes. I don't see a motivation for India to want to do that.

Therefore, it is up to Nepali people and their political leaders to be careful not to provide a motivation to India and rouse whatever interest it has to become an aggressive, expansionist force. Nepal should look both internally and externally. Internally, Nepal should not allow the Madheshi demand for "One Madhesh, One Pradesh" (one Madhesh, one province) to become a pretext for India to meddle in Nepal's internal politics. Nepali government should do all it can to not alienate any segment of Nepali society. Externally, Nepali government should show sensitivity and restraint when ultra nationalist Nepali lobby groups start talking about reclaiming Nepal's historical territory that it ceded to British India through the infamous Sugauli Treaty of December 2, 1815, Nepal must be very careful on this sensitive matter.

As long as Nepal seeks a mutually respectable bilateral relationships with India and China and plays a positive role in international community of nations as a peace-loving country and as a peace-keeper in areas of conflicts, Nepalis need not be scared of the ghost of Sikkim.

The opinion presented is mine. The factual information and dates, particularly those related to Sikkim, are referenced from the following sources:

Garver, John W. 2002. Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century. University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.

Gupta, Ranjan. 1975. Sikkim: The Merger with India. Asian Survey, Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 786-798. University of California Press.
History of Sikkim - Wikipedia (
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Sharma, Sudheer. 2001. 25 Years After Sikkim. Nepali Times, Issue No. 35 (March 23-29, 2001).


Fiction: As the Life Turns - Part 2

>> Friday, August 15, 2008

As the Life Turns
Part 2

By Ajay Pradhan | August 12, 2008

When the call ended, Ashay gave the phone back to Pranita, his hands trembling.

“You alright, Ashay?” asked Prakash, a little worried and a little curious. Prakash, a doctor, was one of Ashay’s closest friends. They had known each other since they were little boys. Prakash had gone to medical college in India; Ashay had gone to the U.S. for his undergraduate and graduate studies in Public Policy.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Ashay said, almost whispering, as he reached for a glass of water.

“Who was it?” Pranita asked, adding, “I wonder how she got my number and I’m surprised how she even knew we are together this evening.”

“It’s just someone I know,” Ashay answered, quickly adding, “someone I knew. Don’t worry, guys. Let’s enjoy the evening.” His mind was in turmoil, but he didn’t want to ruin the evening for his friends.

As the waitress brought their cocktails, Ashay ordered whiskey.

“What would you like to have? We’ve Jack Daniels, Chivas, Johnny Walker…”

Ashay stopped the waitress and said, “JD is fine. Double please, on the rocks.”

“With Coke?”

“No thanks. Straight up. And quick, please.”

The waitress brought the whiskey quickly. Ashay didn’t sip it; he drank it and ordered another double.

“You sure you’re okay?” Nisha asked Ashay.

He nodded his head, “Yeah.”

Later as the waitress brought their dinner, Ashay was lost in thought. Sheila was in his thoughts. He wondered what she was doing that moment in Vancouver. It was Saturday morning in Vancouver; Saturday night in Kathmandu. He wanted to call her on the phone. He just needed her by his side. In less than six moths, Sheila had become someone very important in his life. He never told Sheila or anyone how he felt about her. At that moment, he realized that he loved her.

* * *

Later that night, Apurba, the non-drinker, dropped Ashay at his home. Ashay had said he’d take a cab, but Apurba insisted that she’d give him ride as she lived not too far from his home in Lazimpat anyway. It was close to midnight.

“How was your evening, Ashu?” his mother asked.

“It was good, mom,” he answered, and asked, “what are you doing up this late? Don’t you have to sleep?”

“I was waiting for you to come back home, baba.” Baba was one of his mother’s affectionate terms for him. “Besides, I don’t need much sleep these days,” she didn’t want to make him feel guilty for her staying up late. “Did you eat well? Do you want some warm milk?”

“Nah, Mom, I’m good,” he said, and after a pause he added, “Ma, I want to talk to you.”

His mom looked at him for a moment. A smile came to her face. “You want to talk to me about some girl. Yes?” No one knew Ashay better than his mom. She could read his mind.

He smiled and nodded his head, “Yes, Ma.”

“Who’s it? Where’s she from?”

“Her name’s Sheila and she lives in Vancouver.” He took his wallet out of his pocket and pulled out a small picture of Sheila.

His mom’s face beamed as she looked at the picture. “She’s pretty. She’s beautiful.”

He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t even know if he needed to say thanks to his mom.

“You’re in love with her?”

“Yes, Mom, I am.”

“What time is it in Vancouver? Call her up. I want to speak with her.”

“Ma, she doesn’t know."

“What do you mean she doesn’t know?”

“I’ve never told her.”

“You’ve never told her what? That you love her?”

“Yes, mom, I’ve never told her that I love her.”

“Why not? And you told me before you told her? You silly boy,” she smiled. “But, that’s okay. You call her and tell her now.”

“Ma, I think I need to look at her when I tell her this. I’ll tell her in Vancouver.”

“No, you call her tonight. It’s morning time in Vancouver and its Saturday. She should be home.”

“I’ll call her in the morning, Ma,” suddenly, he felt nervous, not knowing what Sheila might say when he told her his feelings. For the first time, he started fearing rejection. He didn’t want to think what he’d do if she rejected him.

“Don’t you wait, my boy. Go to your room and call her in your privacy.”

He looked at his mom, looking somewhat relieved, “Okay, Mama, I’ll call her tonight.”

He went to his room, sat on the edge of the bed near the phone, and without waiting any longer, he placed a long distance call to Sheila’s home in Vancouver. Sheila’s recorded message came on, “Hi, you’ve reached the home of Sheila and Sam. I can’t answer your phone right now … and neither can Sam, ha! ha! ... But if you leave your name and number and a brief message, I’ll return your call as soon as we can… well, as soon as I can. Sam won’t answer… ha! ha! ha!” Sam was Sheila’s little Chihuahua dog. Ashay couldn’t help but grin at the playfulness that Sheila often displayed.

Ashay always thought Sheila was much livelier than most anyone that he’s met in his life. She made friends easily; she had that people skill. Often he wished that he was like her; serious at what she did, but always full of life. She was the center of attraction at parties; on the contrary, he often kept to himself.

He called the number three more times and got Sheila’s recorded message every time. He didn’t leave any message. He then dialed her cell number, but then cancelled the call before it went through. He wanted to talk to her when she was home. After a little pause, he called her cell again. The call didn’t go through; he only got busy tone. That night he dialed Sheila’s home and cell numbers about a dozen times, without being able to talk to her.

* * *

At the time Ashay made the phone calls to Sheila, she was already at a Starbucks not too far from her apartment, enjoying café mocha and reading the novel The Kite Runner by Khaleid Hosseini. She heard beeps of Ashay’s calls on her cell when she was on the phone, talking with Rajan, a guy who she had recently met on a trip to New York. She looked at the number, noticed that the missed calls had come from Nepal but couldn’t figure out who it was from. It was not a number Ashay had given her before leaving for Nepal and it was not a number she recognized so she didn’t return the call.

As she sipped her coffee, she wondered if the missed calls might have been Ashay’s. She wondered what he might be doing at that moment in Kathmandu. She rested the novel on the table and looked out the window, not really looking at anything in particular. Her mind began to travel back in time; to the time they first had a chance encounter at an airport many years ago. They had forgotten that encounter until after they eventually met in Seattle and became friends. Her mind trudged on and drifted back into her past.

* * *

Four young, bright high-school students, all girls, all from St. Mary’s School in Kathmandu, ready to embark on a journey that they had looked forward to. The time was December 1998. As part of Japanese government-sponsored youth cultural exchange program for high school students in South Asia, they traveled from Nepal to a distant place where a Little Boy with a big attitude had wrecked havoc on a Monday morning, 53 years earlier. The world had reeled under its reverberations. The inquisitive minds of these young people asked a question, "Why?"

Decades after the Little Boy caused devastation, the world was still trying to find an answer. Many years after their visit to Japan, these four young students had all become young women, with ambitions and future only limited by their imagination. And, their imaginations were limitless. They followed their dreams and often wondered why it happened that happened. They all looked into the future, with aspirations, with ambition, with determination, with hope, and with dreams. One of them contemplated a life with opportunities to shape the future, to change the way how international relations were pursued. The task was enormous; yet, there was little trepidation. She had the ability to touch people's lives, a quality that is of essence in pursuing a career in international diplomacy. That young student was Sheila Dhungana, one of the Grade 11 students at St. Mary’s, who were selected to go to Japan for a 10-day visit on the cultural exchange program, based on their merit, leadership and potential. The other three were Aruna Malla, Sarita Sigdel, and Christine Tamang. Their escort teacher was Suhasini Rai.

The world was still as tumultuous as it was on that fateful day when the United States of America dropped a nuclear bomb, deceptively named Little Boy, on Hiroshima, which devastated the city, its people, its culture, its hope... and stunned the world community of nations. That fateful day was Monday, August 6, 1945. The time was about 8:15 AM. A 61 year-old bespectacled man in Washington, DC had given the order to bomb the city. His name was Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, who had become president upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt little less than 4 months earlier.

The four young Nepali students raised their head in that December morning in 1998, looking in awe at the skeletal dome of the iconic building that once was the Industrial Promotion Hall. They closed their eyes for a moment and prayed, trying to come to terms with the unnerving knowledge that more than 140,000 people had perished in the blast... men, women and children; fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters; people enjoying the golden years of their lives and young people like these four Nepali students with ambition and hope.

Yet, the building, which was near the epicenter of the blast and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Atomic Bomb Dome, beaconed to the young minds a message that is profound... a message of endurance amidst adversity, of defiance, and of hope. Despite the atomic blast of unprecedented, mind-numbing magnitude and intensity, the building hadn't come down to ground.

A young student from Pakistan stood next to Sheila and her friend Sarita. Imran Abbas, the boy from Pakistan, a lanky, good-looking fellow with sunglasses on, nudged at Sheila’s arm, “What are you thinking, Sheila?”

“Oh, I can’t even begin to appreciate the enormity of the devastation. I don’t know why Hiroshima had to be bombed and something else could not have been done to stop the war,” Sheila said.

“Oh, come on now, don’t be serious. You’re not going to be a politician or something are you?” Imran tried to liven up the moment.

Sarita quipped, “Or, some kind of diplomat, maybe?”

“Come on, guys; we’re all, what, 11th Grader. We still have long ways to go before we become anything,” Sheila said, her eyes still fixed at the dome. “But, tell you what, a diplomat doesn’t sound too bad to me.”

“Ambassador Dhungana,” Imran teased Sheila. “I think that’s what you’re going to become some day.”

“Come on, Imran, you’re so goofy; no wisecrack, please.”

Sunithee Jayewardene, a young girl from Sri Lanka overheard them and came over to Sheila’s rescue. She whispered to Sheila, “I’m a little sad really. Why do these things have to happen? The Hiroshima bombing, the Civil War in Sri Lanka…”

“And the Maoist insurgency in Nepal,” Sheila added. “I don’t know where the world is headed. But, I’m hopeful for the future, Suni. Look at this dome; it’s an example of endurance amidst adversity. Such devastation; yet, such big progress. Look where Japan is now. It’s an economic powerhouse.”

That evening, when Sheila returned to her host family’s house, she thought about her parents. Her parents were apprehensive about sending their young daughter on a 10-day trip to Japan. They were excited about the opportunity, but she was still their little baby and they had never let her out of their sight. After some convincing from Sheila’s teachers, they had relented on the condition that no boys would be allowed to sleep in the same room as the girls.

Sheila’s host family were waiting for her. Yumiko, the wife, asked how her day was and if she’d already had dinner outside, which she already had. Over Japanese green tea, Yashushi Hibi, the man, a political science professor at the university, asked her what she thought of the visit to Hiroshima.

Sheila paused; her young mind wondering how to summarize the day’s highlights. She thought for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “The Hiroshima residents perished because of a decision of a country that now lives with the indignity of having ever used the atomic bombs to kill people. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and, three days later on August 9, of Nagasaki brought the World War II to an end; but the misery of war didn't end. Instead, the end of the World War II soon gave rise to another war... the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.”

Professor Hibi paused for a moment and said, “Sheila, you’re very eloquent; more than many of my graduate students. And I see that you have a good understanding of an important historical event in the world. You know something? I think one day you’re going to work for the United Nations. You have my blessings for whatever you want to do in life.”

Sheila asked the professor, “I am impressed by Japanese people’s progress. It’s amazing how Japan has emerged, like a Phoenix, to become an economic powerhouse in just a few decades after the War. I want to go to some college where I can learn things about international relations, economic development, financial stability like that of Japan… I don’t know… something like that. Could you give me some advice?”

“So you want to combine international relations with economic and financial aspects of it? Have you heard of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States? They have a great international relations program. And, for international economics and finance, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is excellent.”

That night, Sheila went to bed with a dream. After tossing and turning for a while in bed, indulging in a dream of going to the United States for college, she finally fell asleep.

[End of Part 2]

[Go to Part 3]


Fiction: As the Life Turns - Part 1

Dear Readers,

I've never written any stories before. This is the first story I've ever written. I've always been kind of curious about and interested in writing stories, though. I remember that years ago when I finished my high school and was waiting to start college, I bought a thick notebook and started writing a story. I don't remember now what it is that I wrote, but whatever it was, it never got very far. I was interested in writing and drawing/painting, but both passions lay hidden somewhere in the back of my mind for years until now.

The following story is a work of fiction. I myself don't know where the storyline will go and how long the story will be. I wrote Part 1 in January this year and have just written Part 2, seven months after I wrote Part 1. That shows I'm not a very prolific writer.

This story is a figment of imagination. It is not based on reality. Except for the public and historical events and figures, all other events and characters are products of my imagination. Resemblance of any character in the story with any person and the person's name is coincidental.

If you read more accomplished and established writers, I'm sure you're going to be disappointed with this story. Nevertheless, I'd welcome your comments, whether they are complimentary or critical. I'll let you be the judge.

Best regards,

* * *
As the Life TurnsPart 1

By Ajay Pradhan | January 24, 2008

Ashay had just arrived in Vancouver the previous night from a visit to Kathmandu. The latter was his home; the former, a home away from home.

It was 11:30 in the morning on Thursday and he was still in bed, enjoying his slumber in the warm morning sun sneaking through the window that overlooked the beautiful False Creek in Vancouver’s Yaletown. He had taken the rest of the week off at work.

Yaletown was an antidote to Vancouver’s faster and more dazzling northern downtown peninsula and drabness of its eastern middle-class district. He loved his home away from home.

The phone rang when he was still asleep. “Hello,” he mumbled, picking up the phone.

“Ashay, this is Sheila. Welcome back,” a soft voice of the caller sent warm tingles down his spine. “I would have picked you up at the airport, but I’m sorry I arrived home late from Seattle myself” She almost sounded apologetic.

“Hey, don’t worry, Sheila."

“Can we meet today, Ash?”

Ashay wasn’t too crazy about being called Ash, which many of his friends and families did. He somehow thought the abbreviation had a feminine ring to it. He didn’t like his name being associated with the Bollywood star, Aishworya Rai.

“I’d love to, Sheila. When and where? But, don't you have work today?” asked Ashay.

“Right now,” Sheila’s voice had a definite urgency. “I could come over, if you want. I took a day off today.”

“I’d love that, Sheila, but my apartment is messy right now and I wouldn’t want you to smell the musty odor,” Ashay lied. His apartment was immaculately clean and fresh, the way he always wanted it to be. He wasn’t a neat freak, but he was definitely not a slacker.

"Ashay, it was six months ago today that we met. Happy Six Months Anniversary", Sheila said.

Ashay hadn't remembered the date they met. He was never good with dates. "Oh, hey, Happy Sixth."

Sheila was his friend, but both had a certain level of attraction to each other that they kept hidden. It was the sort of attraction that normally didn’t exist between friends.

Sheila worked for an investment firm. Ashay worked for a policy research institute. She was a doer; he, a thinker. Ashay was smart; Sheila was smarter. They both went to Ivy League schools in the U.S. Ashay graduated from Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Sheila graduated from Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. They both were first generation immigrants in Canada. They both thought alike, and each told their friends, “Nepal gave birth to me, U.S. educated me, and Canada is feeding me.”

Sheila was Shila Dhungana in Nepal. With an ‘e’ added to the name, she made things easier for her colleagues who never pronounced her name right. She didn’t like being called Shyla, so the extra ‘e’ helped her bring her colleagues back to calling her the right way, Sheela.

* * *

Sheila had met Ashay Shrestha at an investment policy seminar in Seattle, two hours down south from their home in Vancouver. Neither of them thought the other was a Nepali or were from Vancouver. With Seattle being ethnically diverse and multicultural, they didn’t take notice of each other because they thought the other was a Nepali. Vancouver being as ethnically diverse and multicultural, each had long stopped wondering if a Nepali-looking face at Pacific Center Mall or Guildford Mall was a Nepali or not.

At the seminar, Sheila and Ashay took notice of each other because each had a sparkle in their eyes when they saw each other across the round table.

Their friendship started during a coffee break with a simple, “Hi, I’m Sheila, and you are?”

“I’m Ashay. Nice to meet you, Sheila.”

“So, how are you enjoying the seminar, Ashay?”

“Oh, I’m enjoying it alright, but I’m itching to go back home.”

“And the home is…?” Sheila quizzed.

“Vancouver,” replied Ashay.

“You’re kidding me. I’m from Vancouver, too.” Sheila said.

“Wow, small world, eh?” Ashay exclaimed.

“So, Ashay, wanna do lunch together?” Sheila didn’t care if she seemed a bit too eager.

“I’d love to,” Ashay was excited.

Thus began their friendship. That was July 24, 2007, exactly six months ago today.

* * *

Ashay was in Kathmandu for two weeks for a family visit. He had a mother who doted on him as if he was still a kindergartener. He hadn’t seen her in about two years and he was very excited to see her. His father had passed away many years ago. He had two brothers and a sister. They were a close-knit family, even though they were geographically dispersed in different corners of the world at different times.

His mother would always say to him, “Ashu, I’m getting old and I want to see you settled down with a lovely bride.”

“I’ve got a few photographs that I want you to see.” His mother told him the very day he had arrived in Kathmandu.

“Aww, Ma, come on now,” He protested, not wanting to discuss the matter any further. “I came here to see you.”

When he was in Kathmandu, he had the opportunity to get around with his old friends. Having been away from Nepal, he wanted to refresh his memory of the old, architectural buildings and temples.

With the architectural bones of an 18th-century Kathmandu, the city had evolved in a mixture of ancient architecture and modern city vista. He went to Basantapur and Thamel tourist hubs. He was particularly impressed with the transformation of Thamel from a sleepy district that he had last seen to a bustling tourist destination with multitude of restaurants, pubs and cafes serving cuisine from most parts of the world.

One evening he and his four old friends, Nisha, Pranita, Apurba and Prakash, went to have dinner at Jatra, a restaurant that offered sumptuous cosmopolitan faire on their menu and an eclectic choice of cocktails.

Just when the cocktail orders were being placed to the perky waitress, Pranita’s cell phone rang.

“Hello,” Pranita flipped the phone and softly answered, not wanting to draw the attraction from other tables.

“I want to talk to Ashay,” A female voice said.

“Who’s this?” Pranita demanded.

“Just give him the phone, please,” The caller was in no mood to reveal her name.

“But how do you know Ashay is here?”

“Will you please give him the phone already?” The caller didn't even say, "Would you..." She seemed pretty determined to talk with Ashay.

Pranita gave Ashay the phone.

“Hello, who’s this?” Ashay spoke into the phone and listened.

All his friends at the table noticed Ashay’s face go pale as he listened.

* * *

[End of Part 1]

Go to Part 2]

Photo Credits:
Stock photo of couple holding hands: Anonymous photographer.
License: 100% Royalty-free.


Picasso of Poetry

>> Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ajay Pradhan
August 6, 2008

Abstract, her metaphors
Meanings deep under layers
Like an object of art in stupor
More profound than Monet's colors

Abstract, her poetic diction
Only to those who dare to know
Meanings more fluid than non-fiction
Like ebbing waves reveal and show

Abstract, her lucid mind
That hides something behind
Like Picasso's cubism artistry
Indeed, she's Picasso of Poetry

The image is Picasso's famous 1932 oil painting Le Rêve (The Dream, in French).
The painting sold for $48.4 million in 1997 and was the sixth most expensive painting ever sold at the time. In 2006, the painting's owner agreed to sell it for $139 million but before it was sold, Steve Wynn, the owner, accidentally damaged it by his elbow. If it had been sold at that price, the painting would have been the most expensive painting ever sold. After the painting was repaired, it was was evaluated to be worth $85 million.

Read more about Le Rêve on Wikipedia

The following image is not a painting by Picasso. It is a still from an animation short in which Picasso encounters his painting subjects.


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