Abhi Subedi

Features Issue 41 Aug, 2010
Text by Anita Lama / Photo: Naresh Shrestha

“I started as a teacher of English in Tribhuvan University. After finishing my post graduation from Britain and on returning home, I started teaching Stylistics
in the University”

Abhi Subedi is a wellknown poet, playwright and an essayist. He was born in Terathum, eastern Nepal. He has earned a Ph.D on the pragmatics of Poetry from Tribhuvan University and post graduation in Stylistics and Applied Linguistics from Edinburgh University, U.K.

59 year-old Subedi has written thirteen books on varied subjects and genres. He has been decorated with the prestigious Garima Samman Puraskar, Ganesh Bhandari Smriti Puraskar and other academic awards. He is also the President of the International Theatre Institute, UNESCO Nepal Chapter. Writer Subedi considers himself a ‘student of literature and language’ and writes on various subjects both in English and Nepali.

You have been a teacher for 34 years. Tell us about your journey.
I started as a teacher of English in Tribhuvan University. After finishing my post graduation from Britain and on returning home, I started teaching Stylistics in the University. Later, I headed  the Central Department of English in Kirtipur. I took that opportunity to introduce the new syllabus for the Masters in English and many other new subjects on

cultural studies, literary theories and feministic studies with the help of a few professor friends.

In time, I shifted my interest to theatre as a playwright. My play ‘Fire in the Monastery’ was shown for the 100th time at the Gurukul theatre last month and we took this play to Europe, Denmark, Russia, India and Bangladesh. I also write reviews on modern arts and I consider myself among the privileged few to have a good network and relationship with many new and upcoming artists.

Tell us about   your published work.
Till date I have published thirteen  books both in English and Nepali which include plays, poetry, essays, literary criticism and literary history. As I am interested in Buddhism, I spent a year researching on the travels of a Japanese Buddhist monk from Tokyo University, which has already been published. I have also written about Monk Ekai Kawaguchi, who visited Nepal several times and went to Tibet during the time of Chandra Shumsher Rana. The story of Monk Kawaguchi who lived in Buddha Bajra Lama’s house in Boudha, fascinated me. The nature of my work and interest is very diverse – from a Buddhist monk’s life to the life of a poet.

What was it about Monk Kawaguchi that you found so fascinating to write a book about him ?
Monk Kawaguchi traveled extensively at a time when the means to do so was limited. His journey was that of spirituality, self education and he considered traveling to Kailash Mansarover, a toil and great responsibility of a monk. It is also said that the monk’s dedication to educate people at a time of an autocratic rule of the Ranas, made him confront Chandra Shumsher Rana about making education more accessible to the general population.

When did you realize that you were a writer and that you would follow this path?
Although I was born in a remote village, my mother was literate. She could read Nepali, Bengali and Sanskrit and she used to read poetry especially Bhanu Bhakta Acharya. At the age of 11, I understood that one could invent beautiful expressions with words. So every time I wrote something that I liked, I considered it a miracle. This excitement in creating has continued throughout my life.

Throughout my life, I’ve been a dreamer and a seeker, sharing my hopes of a better future for literature in Nepal. My concern is for humanity and I’m a person with optimism.

Has the journey as a writer been difficult?

It has been more exciting than difficult. Although life presented opportunities of making money, I wasn’t satisfied with any other work but being a teacher because it gave peace and independence. And over the years, I would like to say that I have been quite successful as a teacher because some of my students are leaders in different walks of life.

Which are your favorites among your thirteen books?
Although I like all of my published work, I have special inclination towards the play “The dreams of peach blossom” because of its poetic style. My other favorites are “Fire in the Monastery”, which was translated in English by Dr. Sangita Rayamajhi, my collection of poems “Chasing Dreams” and Sabd ra Chot. In non-fiction, I like “Ekai Kawaguchi: The Trespassing Insider”.

How do you assess the future of theatre in Nepal?
I think the future of theater in Nepal is good because the younger generation have started appreciating a good performance. They are more interested in theater than our generation has been. I believe that the young generation has a lot of energy and power to bring about change in any field, be it in politics or art. With their attitude to learn and change, I think theatre will flourish in times to come.

Who has been the main influence and inspiration in your life?
I mostly owe my success to my mother and have always drawn inspiration from her strong personality. Although I never got to know my father, who died when I was only 4 months old, my mother never made me feel the absence of a father figure. With her ardent love for literature, she read the Bengali Mahabharat and pursued education even at a time when women were not supposed to step out of their house.

I saw in my mother, the power, strength and resolution. She raised seven children on her own and at the same time managed our home in spite of facing all the difficulties that a single mother would. However, she never gave up on educating all of her children.

Even in her old age, she taught me to always look at the brighter side of life. She died at the age of 86. It’s her resolute attitude and outlook towards life that helps me through my tough times even today.

Any future projects?
I am writing a play and two books of literary essays.

Do you want to say anything to the readers?

All I want to say is that we should never lose sight of the creative side in life, which I consider the brighter side of life. And one should always be vigilant about freedom.