Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Adieu Agnishikha

I first met Agnishikha (real name Sukdev Nepal) in 1994 when I was working in Drishti Weekly, a left leaning Kathmandu newspaper. He had been a foreign affairs columnist of the weekly for years. He had resigned from a government job in order to continue progressive writing/journalism after the People's Movement in the Spring of 1990.

Yesterday morning, my Nepal Weekly colleague Saroj Adhikari called me to inform that he had passed away. I was shocked to hear this because he was only 54 and was regularly writing columns on international affairs for Naya Patrika, a Kathmandu daily tabloid. The cause of death was heart attack. On Tuesday at 2 a.m. he was rushed from his house at Chabahil to Shahid Gangalal Heart Center in Bansbari. But it was alraedy too late.
On Tuesday morning, his dead body, wreathed in flowers, covered by a communist flag of hammer and sickle, was placed on a makeshift pyre in the front yard of CPN UML head office in Balkhu. Agni Shikha was a very loyal cadre of the liberal communist party. Here are few adjectives that can be attributed to him: honest, softspoken and complacent. After a little chat on anything interesting, he would smile, the smile often lingering for a while.

At Drishti office in the dark alleys of Bagbazaar, he introduced me to English magazines such as Time and Newsweek. He was very well-read in Russian and Chinese literature. The magazines had been his staples since years. He would often translate English articles into Nepali, giving a local flavor. By doing this, he helped vernacular readers understand the world affairs. For Nepali raders, he opened a window to the outside world.

He introduced disparate world events to Nepali lay readers. I think this was the greatest contribution he made to Nepali society. His passion lay on supporting communism and condemning anti imperialism. A prolific writer on international affairs, he wrote about the little known communist movements in the third world countries.

I had contributed a couple of stories to now defunct Ekkaisau Satabdi (21st Century) when he edited the monthly journal. He made sure I received the payment, no matter how little it was. My work at the magazine also drew me toward magazine journalism which I later pursued in Nepal Weekly where I am working now.

He was also my mentor at Drishti Weekly. I was influenced by his poetic writing style. His prose sounded like a poetry. He was a gifted writer. When I wrote such evocative pieces, often following his style (on Mother Teresa and Diana after their death), readers mistook my writing for his. It was a nice compliment for me because I looked up to him as one of the best Nepali writers.
I last met him more than two years ago in an inaguration of a primary school. A cocktail party followed the opening. Drinking was his Achilles' heel. After the sundown, he would often resort to drinking alcohol which also deteriorate his health. He was also a chain smoker, often smoking cigarettes in quick succession.

He has published several books on foreign affairs, two plays, one collection of poetry. He was a veteran left intellectual. Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and media organizations paid tribute to him. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.


monaqlise said...

Nice Post!
ymsgr: monaqlise

आकार said...

मैले पढेको चाँहि "उ फेरी आउनेछ"

अग्निशिखा मा श्रध्दान्जली !

Sugat. said...

Thanks for writing about him. He is my extended family. I always wanted to know more about him but circumstances prevented me from doing it. I especially remember when I was a child, I was in his room along with my family. I was really impressed by his collections of Russian (translated) books in huge boxes. He was a very good writer but when you are in a country like ours you have to make compromises. I think that is what he did all his life. He could have been one of the greats.