61. Case against Nepali Journalists of English papers

case-against-journalists

(Article published on The Reporter Weekly on March 22, 2013. This is an edited/compiled version of three of my previous blog posts on the same issue.)

Case 1: Nepali journalists have been found to write long confusing sentences, with lots of dangling modifiers.

Evidence:

It was about 8:30 am, the organisers were honouring leaders with khada (strips of religious cloth) at the podium after the welcome speech when Basnet climbed up the stage and struck Shyam Sangat and Narmada Pokharel who were announcing with a wooden frame.

I was casually reading the so-called ‘most widely read’ paper in Nepal. Then, I came across this funny atrocious sentence. I had to scratch my temple, literally, to get this one. A full face-palm followed.

If you read Nepali English newspapers, you will see these types of sentences as permanent features. One question bothers my mind. Do the editors (or the ones responsible for editing) even go through these types of sentence structures? May be, it’s the official editorial policy – to write long winding meaningless sentences and make the readers confused. Plus, it helps increase the reader-time.

Here are few more examples.

A day after the Sita Air Dornier plane crash on the banks of the Manohara River that killed all 19 people on board, office-bearers of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and domestic airline companies held a meeting under the chair of Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Posta Bahadur Bogati at the ministry, to find ways to avert air crashes.

Gajurel also warned that his party would sabotage Dahal and Bhattarai’s dream of sticking to power for 25 years through a wave of street protests.

Verdict: Journalist friends, please stop translating Nepali sentence structures into English while drafting the news. English has different sentence structures. Besides, you sound like the very politicians who love speaking in endless circle of stupidity. Stop being childishly creative.

Case 2: Nepali journalists, you are acting like a stuck-up grammarian

Evidence:

CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal today said that the country’s nationalism was at risk due to the wrong decisions of UCPN-Maoist-led government.

I know, in the school days, our English teacher would be hell-bent on teaching us the prescribed grammar rules. Memorize them. Or get the cane. Out of those many rules, we had learnt the conversion of reported speech by heart – that you must shift the tense (into the past tense) while changing direct speech into indirect. Okay. No harm done. However, sentences like the one above don’t really make sense at all. 

I get itches and rashes whenever I read a sentence, although grammatically correct, that loses its meaning. Or muddles the meaning while being grammatically correct. You flip through the papers and you will most certainly find instances riddled with this ‘standard’ practice.

Here’s a couple of more from the same news piece.

Without pinpointing any country, the UML chairman charged that foreign powers were responsible for bringing about division in his party.

He suggested that the only way to be free from the current constitutional and political crisis was to form a national consensus government, which would settle all those problems on the basis of mutual understanding between all the parties.

Verdict: Journalist friends, you don’t have to stick to all the grammar rules you memorized in your school. Back-shifting of tense in indirect speech is perfectly fine. Just like you can put prepositions at the end. Believe me, your grammar teacher won’t come after you and murder you for that.

Case 3: Who comes up with super creative clichéd headlines, brilliant or tasteless?

Evidence:

For a simple-minded reader like me, these headlines pose a great obstacle to understand. They look like puzzles your teacher makes you solve, just to humiliate you. What happened to the journalism’s ‘keep it simple’ convention! What happened to the ‘intelligibility’!

Teen stabs girl, self

Chief, health secys will their eyes

Kids elope, parents get them hitched, all land in soup

Male temple virgin tradition still alive in Dailekh

Legal eagles okay CJ-led govt

Stop it already. These ‘face-palm’ and ‘LOL’ moments are killing me. And, stop with your smart alliterations and cute rhyming words. These are forcing even the serious issues into the puddle of low-price humor.

Exhibit:

Missing P in Nepali tea

Dailekh drowns in dread as clashes crop up

Verdict: Journalist friends, please be direct, specific and simple when ‘translating’ news from Nepali. Apply the same with headlines. Dump your neologisms into the Bagmati. Not every reader can understand your subtlety, creativity and imagination. Please spare us your intelligence. You should also visit http://breakingnewsnepal.tumblr.com and gain some insights.

Meanwhile, the court has been adjourned for the next hearing. Case continues…

60. Creative Writing Workshop with Professor Alan Maley

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“You don’t learn writing by reading.
You learn writing by writing.”

I suppose any workshop on ‘writing’ or ‘creative writing’ starting with those statements was sure to be an effective one. And, it indeed turned out to be one. With a simple yet powerful statement like that, Professor Maley began the workshop by explaining how expository writing is different than creative writing. Out of his several explanations and examples, one got glued to my mind. Creative writing is about stretching the language, say by using unusual collocations. Example: a grief ago.

The next big question: Why is creative writing important for teachers?

Again, out of his several explanations and examples, this one remains cemented in my mind. “If you ask your students to write, you write as well and share them what you’ve written.” Well said Professor Maley.

Imagine a teacher teaching about poetry and has never written any poem in his/her life. Imagine a teacher teaching about story and has never written any story ever. Wouldn’t it be nice, for a teacher to share his writings, poems, stories or any text with the students he’s teaching to?

Then was a moment of surprise and a mild disappointment. One of the participants raises his hand and says, “If creative writing is not in the curriculum and it is not tested, why should we teach it?” I didn’t want to do “small mouth – big talk” at that moment, because Nepali people usually take everything personally and they get offended easily. But I wanted to shout that this particular workshop was not about your students or their exams or their progress. This was about YOU. This was about your personal and professional development. I was so disappointed that some people come to workshops with their ‘baggage’ and feeling they don’t need to learn anything.

Anyways, Prof Maley justified the query (I hope so) by saying that “learning/teaching to pass an exam is not similar to learning/teaching to write in a language”. Which pretty much makes sense to me. If one can’t write ‘creatively’, how can one expect to teach students to write ‘creatively’. And it’s common understanding that, if you are good in creative writing, you can be good in expository writing as well.

I’m going to skip writing about most of the activities we did during this full day workshop however I want to mention a few. The one activity on writing ‘acrostic poem’ was really fun. In his own words: An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. The letters then each form the first letter of a word, and all the words are related to the meaning of the original word.

For example: dog

Docile
Obedient
Growling

A variation is to describe the word using only the first letter and a pattern might be: noun, verb, adverb.

For example: duck

Ducks
Dive
Dangerously

So, here is what I did with duck.

Ducks
Dress
Depressingly.

Ducks
Dine
Duck-duckingly

And, with cat.

Creepy
Arrogant
Terminator

We then did several activities based on two line poems, guided poems, haikus, metaphor poems, word array, 9-word stories, mini-saga and a short story. With each activity, we also produced our own piece of writing, while trying to be creative of some sort. I was glad that he picked up my suggestion for a short story, which was ‘suicide’.

It was a very very productive workshop (at least for me). Initially I was scared because 7 hours inside a room, sitting on a desk is a long long time. However, there wasn’t a single dull moment through out the workshop. Everything just went along swimmingly. Kudos to the professor’s energy and patience. And, kudos to Kathmandu University School of Education. Rs 200 for a workshop like this (and lunch) is way too cheap.

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58. What I remember of my school days

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Me:                Sanjiv sir, namaste. How have you been?
Sanjiv sir:      Oh ho Umes ke cha? I’ve been great. How’s ktmROCKS?
Me:                (super-surprised) You know about ktmROCKS!!!
Sanjiv sir:      Of course.

That’s our conversation when we met during NELTA’s conference last February. 

Sanjiv sir taught us English subject in our school.
I don’t remember exactly for how many years but I remember him teaching us from Class 8 to 10.
My English and Grammar. I think those were the textbooks.
Meeting him after over a decade brought back many memories – of my school days.
Sanjiv sir was one of the coolest teachers I knew.
(Except for him, I remember only Ramesh sir and Pokhraj sir)
Because, besides being a great teacher, Sanjiv sir was also into music and movies.
I remember the teachers’ band.
I remember him playing the guitar, performing rocks songs (though cover songs) during school functions.
May be that got me into listening to music.
Sanjiv sir, Ramesh sir and Pokhraj sir – these were the coolest of all because unlike Milan “Tiger” sir, they were very friendly and supportive to all students.
Milan sir was more of a bouncer than a teacher.
He would drag students out of the classroom, strip them butt-naked and thrash them with his stick.
There were days when we would piss our pants even when we heard Milan sir sneezing in the other room.
Everyone feared the tiger.
And, everyone hated the tiger.
Even I used to.
We all knew he used to drink a lot.
I heard that he passed away some five years ago.
It was quite sad to hear that.
Because he shouldn’t have died that early.
I remember our principal Basanta Giri or Giri sir as we used to call him.
He was the backbone of the school.
I guess he must be very old now.
I wish to meet him someday soon.
Who else? JP Gupta sir – our math teacher and Tikaram Poudel sir – our Nepali teacher.
I remember a teacher beating me for no reason when I was in Class 7.
Forgot his name. I haven’t forgotten his blow yet.
He used to sell pencils, erasers and copies (exercise books) inside the classroom. He shouldn’t have been a teacher. What an asshole!
I don’t wish to see him.
Were there any lady teachers in the secondary level, I’m not sure.
What I’m sure is I’ve forgotten their faces.
Bajra miss and Bidya miss are the only names I remember.
Damn.
It’s been so many years but I remember the boys’ toilet, the water-taps behind the school building.
The playground.
The German made school bus.
The driver named Michael and his long curly hair.
During breaks, some of us would have ‘adventure’ stroll to Hattiban.
We used to run through paddy fields.
Destroying the crop.
Destroying our shoes and dress.
We used to have fun jumping up on above under hay-stacks.
I remember being in the school.
In the classroom.
The last bench or the second-last bench.
Boys wouldn’t really talk with girls and the girls would talk with boys either.
That’s how it was.
But I remember the pranks we pulled on girls.
The mirror-attached-on-the-shoe trick, that was crazy.
I wish I could remember every seconds and every minutes of those time passed in the school.
I remember taking part in a quiz contest.
It was Lalitpur district inter-school competition.
They said they would play a song and the question – “What’s the name of the band?”
They played “One of these Days”.
And within the 5 seconds of it, I pressed the bell and shouted out the answer.
Proudly.
It’s Pink Floyd.
It was the “fuck yeah” moment of my life because no one I knew listened to Pink Floyd.
Not even my team member.
I was the center of attraction for the next 15 seconds.
That glorious 15 seconds.
We became second in that contest because I remember I messed up so many answers.
But I didn’t care.
I found the SLC exam too easy.
I don’t see why there’s this SLC terror in this country.
May be because it’s due to the school, the teachers.
Passed the SLC examinations with ‘flying colors’.

I don’t know where my school friends are these days.
We drifted apart, somehow.
I haven’t even seen many of them after the day we finished our SLC exam.
I have forgotten many names, and many faces.
Some are on facebook, but we don’t really talk anyway.
It’s just limited to occasional ‘like’.
That’s it.
We are all busy or far away.
May be life is supposed to be this way.
I feel glad that I stumbled into Sanjiv sir, but I equally feel sad that we’ve remained so distant, so far away from each other.
Hopefully, I stumble upon Ramesh sir and Pokharaj sir too.
May be even have momo and beer together.
That would be nice.

57. Book Review: Arresting God in Kathmandu

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Title: Arresting God in Kathmandu
Author: Samrat Upadhyay
Genre: Fiction, short stories.
First published in 2001
First published by Houghton Mifflin Company
Published by Rupa.Co, India
ISBN 81-7167-803-3
Price: Rs 250

About the author:

Samrat Upadhyay was born and raised in Kathmandu and came to the United States at age twenty-one. His work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Best of the Fiction Workshops. He lives in Cleveland, US and teaches at Baldwin-WallaceCollege.

Upadhyay is the first Nepali writer to be published in the West.

Blurb:

“With a masterful narrative style, fascinating characterizations, and precise description, Samrat Upadhyay shows us compelling clashes of the spiritual versus the temporal and carnal. This is a distinguished and captivating book.” – Ian MacMillan.

Content: 9 short stories

Review:

The book engages a reader to the various colors of love, hate, lust, jealousy, remorse, estrangement and spirituality in the changing yet rigid social-cultural context of Kathmandu circa 1970s (I assume so). Set in the premises of Kathmandu – the city of gods, each story revolves on family or relationships, in which the members are intertwined by common threads of human frailty, rationalization, and a yearning for salvation. As every good story should, the nine stories present characters in conflict and contemplation.

Behind all mental turmoil, desire for sex/sexual emancipation and moral upheavals of the characters, however, there lies a constant quest for individual happiness. The inner clashes between ideals and carnal satisfaction, the desire and reasoning for personal happiness portrayed in the stories are as universal and as human, as everyday routines.

This book is a vivid representation of common people living in Kathmandu valley, which is seeking modernization and yet is closely restrained in norms, values and religiousness. The stories are about normal city-dwellers – an accountant who lost his job (The Good Shopkeeper), an aging poet who has doubts in his literary ability (The Cooking Poet), a successful financial consultant who falls for his secretary (Deepak Misra’s Secretary), a newly wed bride who helps her father-in-law’s overcome his constrained sexual desire (The Limping Bride), a husband who suspects his wife of having an affair (During the Festival) and so on. These characters can be found in our neighborhoods, in our houses and in our families.

Since this is a collection of short stories, Upadhyay has a tough job to build up characters and the plot in each story. His narrative style of building the stories through the character’s own perspective is quite effective. As a story teller, Upadhyay succeeds in telling these stories without sounding religious or preachy or sexist. However, the only drawback of his style is, a reader might feel that one has been there very often, especially the recurring theme of unfulfilled sexual desires and infidelity.

I recommend reading this book one story at a sitting. These are not new stories; there are no new angles in them. I have one query for the reader though. Does it make a difference in gratification that these stories are in English? Reading our stories in a foreign language, does that give us readers a new perspective on our society? I will leave that to the readers.

(And, hats off to the photographer whose photo made it to the book’s cover. Just like the book, the photo portrays a distinct story of disconnectedness and alienation in a single family.)

Rating: 8/10

56. A case against Nepali Journalist – III

Well, this time I’m not gonna bash the loony heads of Nepali journalists, I’m linking this tumblr site – Breaking News Nepal – by one of my friends. The site is about “Celebrating the art of the newspaper headline” while Nepali daily papers in English take the English language furtherer.

I’m putting up some of the photos off the site so that you know what the deal is all about.

why

“I’ve been asking myself the same question lately.”

dilly-dally

Dilly-dallying in the dailies!

text

This must have something to do with the fact an sms sent via NTC takes a week to arrive.

Well, why don’t you check the site already!