I believe that life is like a river. Till it finally mixes with the great sea, it has to flow; sometimes in the
freezing cold of the Himalayas and sometimes in the scorching heat of the-plains. I am an ordinary
citizen of Nepal. I am a thoughtful person but I am not a slave to any principle. I am reasonably
intelligent and I am not a victim of any religious prejudice. I am not driven by any false ideas about
the superiority of my own race. I have one main principle: I must live a peaceful life guided by good
sense. To feel at peace I listen to the gyanmala bhajans of Swayambhu, some days I visit
Lord Shiva at the Pashupati temple. When in Europe I have prayed at churches and at Ajmer in
India, I have visited the dargah to be blessed by the Muslim saint. I have found that there is peace in
any holy place. This is why I do not want to erect the fake walls of language, caste or religion in the
open spaces of my heart. We get only one chance at life, why can’t we live it peacefully? Why
should we sully life’s purity with fear, anger and disgust? These are the questions I ask myself and
this book is a compilation of some of these questions and answers. This is not an autobiography or a
travelogue. This book reflects my thoughts, my questions, and the answers I seek.
I am an entrepreneur who occasionally writes on conservation and tourism issues. I have written a
couple of books and about a dozen papers but I don’t see myself as a writer or a litterateur. I
haven’t written much in Nepali and there was a reason why I wrote this book originally in Nepali.
Our country has lately been mired in problems and consequently the hearts and minds of the
Nepalese have been shadowed by the terrifying clouds of negativity Hope is the strongest pillar of
life. To live without hope is like not living at all but I am certain that hope can be rekindled in Nepal. I
try, in Paradise in Our Backyard, to light for the youth of Nepal the lamp of hope and confidence.
I have been an optimist all my life; my greatest strength has been my ability to be positive. I have
always believed that there must be night for the sun to rise and to harvest a good crop there must be
rain. But Nepal has been in the grip of darkness that has carried on so long that we have despaired
of seeing the light. Suspicion and counter suspicion is rife and threaten to tear the country apart.
‘Whatever we do is not enough’ is the general feeling among all Nepalese. For most people, the
duties towards family and self surpass allegiances to the government and the state. Because of this
we see a large part of our workforce migrate out of the country; we lose a lot of homegrown talent
due to this brain drain. This is only natural and those who go away cannot be blamed in any way. At
the same time, I cannot let die the hope that one day the dove of peace will fly in Nepal and all those
who leave will not have to.
However, negativity has slowly begun to make inroads into my life for the first time. Nepal is my
motherland, however it may be, and I cannot leave it. This is where I earn my bread and where I
have made a name for myself It is my supreme desire that I live peacefully in Nepal till the day I die.
If——and I pray to god this never happens——this country becomes a veritable hell, I will still look
for heaven in it. It is said that there is hope till there is breath and Paradise in Our Backyard is a
search for that hope. Today, scepticism and anxiety have grown so much that everybody from
politicians to beggars, are haunted by dissatisfaction. From five- star hotels to small restaurants, from
Pipalbot in New Road to the maidans, one comes across only negativity and pessimism. National as
well as private, daily or weekly all periodicals have unvarying content: news only of destruction, of
killings and deaths.
Yet to only say that the country has been flushed down the drain, that all leaders are corrupt, all
officials are thieves and all merchants are cheats is not enough. Yes, it is true that Nepal is seriously
sick, a chronic malaise has attacked the collective mind but we have no choice but to strive for a
cure and only a fierce desire for improvement and a better future can help us. We must believe that
we can make things happen and that we can make a difference. If we are to live in Nepal as
Nepalese, we must, under all circumstances, remain mentally strong. Else this ship will sink, and then
we will be faced with an impossible choice: desert the ship like rats or go down with it.
In such dire times, if we stay unmoved and don’t act, who will help us? Nepal is a state where limited
resources mean that problems will naturally arise. But there is no country in the world which does not
have problems. If we look deep within ourselves, we will see that Nepal has plenty of areas for
growth and development; all that we need are eyes to see those opportunities and brains to bring
them to fruition. And it is with the conviction that such eyes and brains exist that this book was
written. From the life I have led I hope to show people, especially the youth, who have grown
negative that the possibilities in our country are many and varied. This book is not for the lazy ones
who know nothing better than to sit around with their hands on their laps. I am looking for the people
who believe that they can shape their destinies. Nepal has much talent and many people who believe
that they can change their vision into reality can make their dreams come true and by working hard,
can create opportunities for themselves. There is no place in the world for escapists but for those
who are ready to take on challenges, Nepal offers much scope. The only thing lacking is positivity. If
all the negativity can be changed to optimism, no one can hinder Nepal’s progress; I firmly believe
Wherever I go, whoever I meet, I speak only of being positive. I feel that if one provides the initial
spark, the conflagration of optimism will only spread. Schools, colleges, the Rotary and Lions clubs,
periodicals, radio, television, wherever I speak, I say just one thing, ‘Nepal is not finished, we have a
bright future To make this message more penetrating and effective, I had requested Nepal Television
to start a programme called Positive Thinking. With the help of Sumitra Kayasth, this programme on
Channel Nepal was able to convince many viewers. If Paradise in our Backyard can further spread
the message, I would consider myself very lucky like I mentioned earlier, I am not a professional
author or litterateur but I could not be just an interested onlooker of the crises of the nation and
decided to write about them.
If one is strong mentally one can beat even cancer: I was convinced by this statement and to give it
wider circulation, I planned a poets’ meet around the theme. I am not a poet and so I met Kedarman
Vyathit and Durgalal Khobilu to explain my plans. I managed to convince them and they agreed to
organize a poets’ meet. I had written three poems in Nepali on the most painful episodes of my life.
The first episode was when I hunted a male Brahminy duck on the Rapti river in Chitwan: the
female’s grief was almost human. I never hunted after that. The second I wrote in 1982 when I had
to make a difficult and sad decision. I wrote my third poem after I could not manage to save my
cancer stricken wife and daughter despite my best efforts. If emotions cannot be contained, they
compel man to do things he never thought himself capable of doing. But these poems were never
meant to be published and so they have remained in the confines of my diary.
I know Durgalal Khobilu from childhood: we lived in the same locality Later we went our ways and
never kept in touch. He knew me only as an hotelier. He was surprised by this new aspect of my
personality He said, ‘You write poems! Let’s hear them.’ I smiled and with some reservations, read
out my poem called ‘A Fight with Death’. The words in the poem had no weight, no sweetness. The
stanzas were awry and similes and metaphors were wrong. Yet I read out my poem to these poets
who were respected nationally. After hearing the poem and its context, Khobiluji began crying. On
seeing him cry my eyes watered. Vyathitji looked first at Durgalal then at me, and laughing, said
something I remember even now ‘Whether poetry or prose, the presentation can be done in two
ways- one, to mould emotion to tit language; two, to hang words on the scaffolding of emotion White
haired and possessed of an astonishing personality, Vyathiji laid a hand on my shoulder and said,
‘Karnaji, your poems were of the latter kind which is why Durgalaji cried.”
Yes, like Vyathitji said, this book is an outpouring of the emotions of my heart. All the events I have
mentioned herein are based on facts and I have tried to present all the emotions I have experienced
in the simplest way possible. Thus I humbly request the reader to ignore style and language and
understand the emotions I have tried to express here. I beg forgiveness for any mistakes and lacks
that might have crept in. Lastly I have mentioned by name all those who need to be praised in the
book but have withheld names when I felt that mentioning them would adversely affect those people.
I would like to thank Bhairav Risal and Anil Chitrakar who have been supportive of the book from
the start. Thanks are due to Binod K.C., a dear friend, Raman Gradon and Sian Pritchard Jones.
Paradise in Our Backyard would not have been possible without Chelsea Fish who helped with the
translation; many thanks to her.
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