Nepali Kalasahitya Dot Com Pratishthan


Dr. Sanjeev Uprety

Leela Writing, Postmodernism, Eastern Spiritualism and History

In this essay first of all I discuss various forms and features of postmodern writing to show how there are distinct affinities between postmodern texts and the texts of leela. Next, I argue that leela writing has its own distinct flavor due to its roots in eastern spiritualism including its mythological, ethical and metaphysical registers; a fact which distinguishes its overall tonality and affect from western postmodern textuality. Then I discuss the relationship between practices of leela and the issues of contemporary history and politics; a dimension that is often overlooked in the theorizations of leela if not in its practice. Next, I point to some of the problems faced by the practitioners of leela and conclude by making some tentative suggestions concerning the directions that they might take

Leela Writing and Postmodernism
People writing about such concepts as “postmodernism” and “postmodernity” sometimes tend to use these two terms interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing. What must be remembered, however, is that while postmodernity – like its predecessor modernity – signifies a wide range of technological, cultural and economic transformations that happened in the latter half of the twentieth century; postmodernism, by contrast, refers to specific movements in the field of literature, painting, architecture and other art forms since 1960s. Even as a movement in the field of arts and letters, western postmodernism has hardly been a homogeneous experience, and there have been at least three different forms of postmodernism since its arrival in the American scenario: the avant garde postmodernism of 1960s, the aesthetic, often a-historical postmodernism of the 70s and early 80s, and finally the political postmodernism of the 90s. The effects produced by the mixture of these three different forms of postmodernism(s) continue up to our contemporary present.

These distinctions between postmodernity and postmodernism – as also those between different forms of postmodernism – make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come to a definite set of conclusions while talking about postmodernism, especially when we talk about postmodernism in the context of a non-western locale like Nepal. If we speak of postmodernism as an aesthetic or literary style then the historical disjunction between western postmodernism(s) and the postmodern practices of Nepal becomes evident; especially when we consider that while the late 50s and early 60s saw the genesis of postmodern literary and aesthetic styles in the west, the same period saw the blossoming of Nepali modernism rather than postmodernism. Examples of literary postmodernism(s) in Nepal should mainly to be sought in recent practices, especially in the texts that were written in the last decade and half.

In this context it can be said that Indra Bahadur Rai’s passage from “Teshro Ayam” (Third Dimensional writing) to “Leela writing” be read as a gradual shift from the aesthetics of modernism to postmodernism. This is not to say that Teshro Ayam was the only primary impulse behind Nepali modernism or that Leela writing is the only type of writing that inaugurates postmodern tendencies in Nepali literature.  What I am arguing, however, is that while the influence of modernism and postmodernism can be traced in many Nepali texts, the passage from Teshro Ayam to Leela writing presents one of the shifts from the formal logic of modernism to postmodernism in the context of Nepali literature 

Teshro Ayam, both as a theory and a practice was inaugurated in 1963 with combined efforts of Indra Bahadur Rai, Bairagi Kahinla and Ishwor Ballabh with the publication of a literary magazine called “Teshro Ayam” from Darjeeling. At the center of this movement was the concept of vastuta, or objective reality. While five people, for example, might perceive a chair from five different angles, the chair-in-itself has an objective reality or vastuta that remains outside the subjective perception of the perceivers. The practitioners of Teshro Ayam tried to represent that objective reality – which Indra Bahadur Rai has compared with the Kantian thing-in-itself – through the use of concrete hard images and experimental play with language. Such an epistemological perspective and linguistic experimentation bears resemblance to both imagism in western literature (Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot are well known as two of its most famous practitioners) and cubism (Picasso and Braque can be taken as examples) in western art. Since both imagism and cubism are rooted in the aesthetics of western modernism it is easy to see the relationship between the theory/ practice of Teshro Ayam and the formal and epistemological roots of Anglo-American modernism.

Similarly, there are plenty of similarities between Leela writing and postmodern texts such as Barthes’s “Lost in the funhouse,” and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s children. Informed by post-structural theory, especially Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction, these texts challenge the fixity of the meaning of text to celebrate the way meaning slides and slips in the stories, language and in culture. In other words there the stability of meaning is dissolved in its perpetual flux or “play” or “leela.” Indra Bahadur Rai has written that he became aware of the limitations of Teshro Ayam when he realized that it is impossible to penetrate into the heart of objective reality or vastuta. The thing-in-itself, as Kant realized in the nineteenth century is unknowable and un-representable. What are available are the only the multiple subjective, historical and socio-political positions from which we perceive and interpret. And since those perspectives are illusory and changing the meaning keeps on sliding and shifting. In other words leela keeps on happening perpetually.

Such an effect of a playful instability of meaning is achieved through a use of a variety of devices or techniques: a) A mixture of various literary genres including fiction, poetry, drama and criticism in the same text; b) Use of the technique of meta-fiction by which the author deliberately undercuts his or her own position as the center of original meaning; and c) a deliberate evocation of the presence or traces of earlier texts. All of these devices, working together or separately, contribute to the play of the meaning in the text.
Indra Bahadur Rai’s story “Kathaputali Ko Man,” for example, mixes all three of these devices to celebrate the slipping and sliding of meaning in the text. The story is a rewriting of Guru Prasad Mainali’s “Paral Ko Ago” which about the marital discord of Chame and Gaunthali, the two main characters of the text. Gaunthali leaves her house for her parental home after Chame beats and abuses her verbally. Though he is terribly angry with her he begins to miss her after a few days, and following the advice of Juthe and his wife – whose life is full of marital bliss unlike that of Chame – goes to his father in law’s home to persuade her to come back with him. After initial reluctance Gaunthali agrees to accompany Chame back to their home and the story ends with a happy note with Juthe’s wife commenting that the quarrels between husbands and wives are like a temporary fire in dried straw.

The realist tale of Mainali, however, is markedly transformed in Rai’s rewriting of it. A number of other tales of marital discord - or other “traces” and textual presences - intervene and mix into the story of Chame and Gaunthali in “Kathaputali ko Man” including the story of Ratna, Sharada and her husband; the story of Renu, her husband, and his boss who is making preparations for the marriage of his own daughter; Dina, her husband and her father; and the tragic story of an unnamed husband whose wife commits suicide rather than agreeing to come back with him. All these multiple stories of marriage, marital friction, and reconciliation or separation are organized around a modernist reconstruction of Chame and Gaunthali’s story in the form of a drama. These multiple traces or texts merge into each other to recreate a free flow of textuality within which meanings from various texts keep on sliding into each other. Meaning, instead of being located within the borders of one story keeps on transforming itself as borders or the frames of individual stories dissolve in an ongoing leela or play of meaning.

The meta-fictional note is sounded at the beginning of the tale as the narrator casts doubts about the “truth” or the factual value of the tale he is going to tell: “Never believe in a story. I speak only one truth in the stories, a singular though an illusory truth. Despite of my invitation to them to come and sit around, other truths keep on standing and claim. For leela and involvement in the drama of lights and more lights.”  Such a meta-fictional chord is reasserted in the central dramatic rewriting of the tale as three journalists come and interrogate Chame about his actions, feelings and expectations. The journalists interpret Chame’s actions in the light of their own modern sensibilities and analyze his story from psychoanalytic, Marxist and other socio-political perspectives. Such interpretations create pieces of literary criticism within a narrative that critiques the tale that it is itself presenting. In other words, not only does Rai’s retelling of Mainali story destabilize the meaning embedded in the earlier text through his use of meta-fiction – a device that he uses together with his evocation of other textual presences or traces - but he achieves the same purpose by mixing various literary genres including story telling, drama and literary criticism within the frame of the singular text of “Kathaputali Ko Man.”

Similarly, Krishna Dharawasi’s novel Sharandarthi (Refugees) and Krishna Baral’s recently published novel Avataran foreground the play of meaning by using similar techniques. Using a metafictional style that is often deployed by a number of postmodern writers, Dharawasi recreates the passages of various waves of Nepali refugees who have arrived at Jhapa and other eastern parts of Nepal from Burma, from Assam and more recently, from Bhutan. Dharawasi traces the fortunes of these homeless exiles who, deprived of their homes in foreign lands, now return to the homeland of their ancestors only to find that they are still without homes or nations that they can call their own. Fiction and fact mix into each other in Dharawasi’s novel as various real as well as fictional characters from other texts including Lil Bahadur Chetri’s Basain, Parijat’s Shirish to Phool, Govind Raj Bhattarai’s Muglan, and Shiva Kumar Rai’s Dak Bunglow among others enter the textual web of Sharandarthi, creating a labyrinth like structure that the lovers of postmodern fiction are more used to finding in the novels of John Barthes, Thomas Pynchon or Salman Rushdie. Similarly Baral’s Avataran includes the presences or traces of earlier texts including B.P. Koirala’s story “Hod,” Guruprasad Mainali’s “Naso,” and Dharawasi’s Sharandarthi itself. Such earlier traces destabilize the meanings of Dharawasi’s and Baral’s text from within. Meaning, instead of being contained within the structure of the “present” texts itself, exceeds the borders of those texts and slips into a play of textuality that includes multiple texts.

The technique of metafiction destabilizes the position of the authorial center of intended meaning in both of these texts. Dharawasi’s characters in Sharandarthi question its author’s intention, and the author himself appears as one of the characters of the novel; and the same device is used by Baral in his novel. Thus, Baral’s novel Avataran consists of eight stories that all come together in the final chapter of the novel which is presented in the form of a play. In this last dramatic scene the major characters of the eight stories story gather together to discuss whether they have any kind of control over their fate, or whether it is their perpetual destiny to be the playthings of their authors. In other words the chapter suggests that author is not the original center of meaning in the text. With the author dead or absent the characters are free to write their own stories, to shape their own lives and destinations. Meaning, outside the control of the god like Author/ creator slides and slips and perpetually transforms itself.

One of the Baral’s eight stories in the novel titled “chiyakheko sikka” is a rewriting of B.P. Koirala’s earlier story titled “hod” (contest). Koirala’s story is about the contest between a newly wed married couple Padam and Padma. Padam tells his wife that he can seduce any woman. Padma tells him to prove his point by seducing the beautiful widow of Harikrishna within fifteen days. The story ends with Padma accepting defeat as Padam about to seduce the widow. With Padma’s acceptance of her defeat the poor widow is left in a lurch, the sexual vulnerability of the females is established as a fact, and the patriarchal ideology is reasserted.

Krishna Baral’s rewriting of the story brings in an element of “un-decidability” by displaying the perspective of the widow which was left unexamined in Koirala’s earlier work. The story ends with the following words: “The writer stopped his pen. But no one thought what would happen to the widow of Harikrishna … the writer was unable to reach any conclusion. It is the readers that have to decide now. Let us forget these old stories of contest.” By foregrounding the problems and confusions of the writer Krishna Baral challenges the position of the author as the original ground of intended meaning. Meaning is liberated from the tyranny of the author(s) and the readers are allowed to create their individual, often contradictory meanings. In other words a new contest or “hod” begins; a contest between various readers – as also the characters of the novel – to appropriate the meaning of the text.

Ratna Mani Nepal’s collection of short stories titled Kathaindredi has also been presented as an example of leela writing. Rai, in his introduction to the book, has written that the stories – including Nadekhnu, Kotha Bhari Biralo and Chandragadi Tira among others – are saturated with leelabodh or leela awareness. These stories, in simple yet powerful language, present the central fact that truths are multiple, and that meaning is destabilized through a play of perception. While Nepal’s stories make use of the technique of meta-fiction his stories, unlike some other texts like “Kathaputali Ko Man” and Avataran that announce themselves as leela texts in an overt manner – at least at the level of technical experimentation – present the world view leela in a more subtle fashion. This shows that leela writing is not only a matter of technical or linguistic experimentation but also a matter of awareness or a particular way of looking at the world.

Leela Writing and Eastern Spiritualism
At the level of style and technique there does not seem to be any major difference between the traditions of postmodern textuality and leela writing. Both reject author as the center of meaning; both use other texts and traces and give new twists to older narratives; and both mix traditional genres like novel, play, poetry and criticism to create a free flowing textuality that is not tied to specific literary genres. What then is the difference between Leela writing and the postmodern “play” it is supposed to have imitated? Krishna Dharawasi has argued that in mixing the literary forms and in evoking traces of earlier texts, the leela writers are adopting the techniques used in Puranas and in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. In other words the techniques of Leela writing are adaptations of eastern traditions of writing rather than a copy of contemporary postmodern experimentation. However, is it the only point of difference between Leela writing and contemporary postmodern productions?  Are there other ways in which eastern spiritualism has influenced leela writers?

It seems to me that the influence of eastern spiritualism upon leela writing can be seen in three interrelated, though distinct registers: a) The register of mythological stories both at the level of content and form; b) The register of ethical philosophy; and c) The register of eastern metaphysical world view.

Dharawasi’s argument is that leela writers use eastern mythological characters and the techniques used in eastern myths and epics without subscribing to the mystical or spiritual perspective that underlies those narratives. If this argument is right then leela writing is closer to the postmodern world view – which is closer to the atheistic post-modern temperament – rather than the eastern spiritual world view. However, it appears to me that in addition to the uses of eastern mythologies, leela writing – especially its theoretical aspect as written in Indra Bahadur Rai’s pronouncements – is influenced by both eastern ethical philosophy and eastern metaphysical world view. Commenting upon his story “Kathaputali ko Man,” for example, Indra Bahadur Rai has expressed his view that all human being are like “puppets” that are perpetually “driven by social, economic, political, religious, psychological and theoretical forces.”  What should be the moral and ethical attitudes of such “puppets?” What should human beings while making ethical decisions? How should they live? Rai answers that like the puppets they should be without desire. The unblinking eyes of puppets reflect the desire-less neutrality of a Zen Buddha, argues Rai, a mental state that provides a model for human behavior. The object in itself is unknowable; and human truths are unstable and subject to the changes of perspectives and historical location. But despite it all human beings can acquire partial freedom by remaining neutral, by disavowing attachment and desire and by “playing the game of life for the sake of playing.” “Khelaun Khelne Khel:” lets live/play the puppet play/ leela of life, thus conclude Chame and Juthe, now grown old and without their wives, towards the end of Kathaputali Ko Man.  This is the ethical dimension that is influenced by not only Hindu scriptures but by other eastern philosophies such as Tao and Zen

Finally there is the register of eastern metaphysical world view. In one of his interviews Rai has pointed to the affinities between the concept of leela and the world views of Aravindo and Shankaracharya, the famous eastern philosophers: “Arabindo has talked about a world consciousness; a consciousness that is manifests in various and multiple forms in the world. Such a multiple manifold manifestation itself is leela. Shankaracharya described this world as mithya. Leela writing is similar … to Aravindo’s concept of leela and has even closer affinities with Shankaracharya’s description of it.”  Both Aravindo and Shankaracharya, in their different ways of course, talk about a non-dual consciousness that traces the universe, a consciousness that transcends rational attempts to comprehend it. For this reason any attempt to describe it must necessarily speak the language of paradox. Fritzof Capra’s influential book of the 1980s titled Tao of Physics – which might have influenced Rai – speaks of a similar non dual world consciousness which is being indicated by the latest discoveries in particle physics. In the same interview Rai also evokes the Geoffrey Chew’s “bootstrap theory,” Werner Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty principle,” and David Bohn’s “hollow movement” theory; scientific theories that are also discussed by Capra in his book to point out the points of affinities between eastern spiritual metaphysics and western modern science. According to such a “common perception” both western physics and eastern metaphysics are pointing towards an awareness of a non-dual global consciousness of which the world - with its manifold objects and individual consciousnesses – is a mere manifestation. A simultaneous awareness of the flux of the objects and individual consciousness (which happens in a world of duality and division) at the one hand an awareness of the non-dual world consciousness on the other leads one to the heart what might be termed as “leela consciousness.” 

These three registers – that of mythical narratives, ethical philosophy and
Leela Writing and History, and metaphysics – of course are related to each other. Eastern philosophizing, as the text of Bhagwatgita amply demonstrates, often assumes the shapes of mythical narratives that propound ethical propositions and metaphysical world views. At the same time, it seems to me, it is necessary to separate them for the purpose of analysis in order to understand how eastern spiritualism has shaped the formulations of leela, more so in Indra Bahadur Rai’s own works than in its other practitioners such as Krishna Dharawasi. Such a spiritual dimension distinguishes leela writing from postmodern world view which to a great extent is determined by the atheistic world view that dominated western intellectual scene in the later half of the twentieth century. This might be most important contribution of Rai.

Leela Writing, History and Politics
In 2055 BS Krishna Dharawasi wrote an article in Purvanchal Dainik arguing that since the moods, feelings and meanings are perpetually changing everything, including the entire scope of life falls within the scope of leela. This article made a scathing attack on the writers and critics on the left side of the political mainstream to suggest that even progressive Marxist writers, since they were human beings, were not outside the province of leela. Leftist writers like Punya Prasad Kharel and Vijaya Kharel hit back quickly through their articles in Swadhin Samvad Saptahik and Purvanchal Dainik respectively to argue that if one were to believe in the arguments of Dharawasi then everything, all historical events – from Maoist killings to the violence of the state, from poverty to corruption in the high places – were just various manifestations of leela. Such a view, according to Punya and Vijaya Kharel, merely leads to the reaffirmation of capitalist ideology since it reduces historical and political realities to mere “play” of meanings; a charge that is sometimes brought against the postmodern writers and critics – and especially against the practitioners of “aesthetic” postmodernism that flourished in the 1970s - of the west by their more historically and politically counterparts.

To some extent the charges of the progressive critics appear justified, especially if we consider Dharawasi’s article in Purvanchal Dainik as a representative text of leela writing as far as its political dimension is concerned. To call everything leela without adequate theoretical analysis is a gross act of interpretive irresponsibility. And if any term – be it Leela or Vilayan or Chakravyuhan Samchetana – is magnified to mean everything under the sun than the term becomes porous and vague and ends up by meaning nothing. At the same time, however, we should realize that Dharawasi’s article should not be considered as some kind of major political statement of leela writing. In matter of fact an adequate theorization of the political and historical dimension of leela writing still remains to be written; this remains a gaping hole, an obvious theoretical drawback as far as Leela thinking is concerned.

This is a pity because leela writing – or the texts that are presented as embodying the technique of leela writing by their authors like Dharawasi’s Sharandarthi and Baral’s Avataran – obviously has a political and historical dimension. Despite all the formal experimentation that goes on in Sharandarthi, for example, Dharawasi’s novel is not exactly a “funhouse” a la Barthes style. As the novel amply shows through a vivid reconstruction of the alienated, excluded lives of the refugees, the other side of postmodern play and pleasure is pain. While John and Roland Barthes can afford to celebrate the pleasure of the text and the fun of being lost in a postmodern textual labyrinth, Dharawasi cannot help but write of pain and terror that transform the postmodern laughter of his narrative. Dharawasi’s postmodern laughter is ruptured at its edges, showing lines of tension that point to the disjunctions inherent in current global situation in which some nations and people are more postmodern than others. Sharandarthi gives ample reasons for believing that third world postmodernisms are not free from the burden of history, unlike the often a-historical forms of western postmodernisms, especially the ones produced during its aesthetic phase in the 1970s and early 1980s. Third world postmodernism(s) of Gautam, Rai and Dharawasi - as that of Rushdie or Okri, for example - are insistently political even as their formal, aesthetic structure seems to suggest at the first glance some kind of a-historical impulse.

Recent memories show that massacres can happen inside the royal palace, and peoples debilitated and killed in streets, schools and private homes as pre-modern forms of violence irrupt within modern civil spaces. Some people can afford postmodern laughter as meanings slide and slip in a play of difference and in a relativity of perspectives. For the rest of us who have to live with the terrible tragedies that keep on interrupting our lives, however, the other side of postmodern play is often historical horror. As ghostly terror and killings break into our present the postmodern laughter changes too; echoing in the wasteland of our history it sounds more like a mournful wail.

It appears to me that the concept of “individual and local” truth(s) that Dharawasi has discussed in the opening pages of his book Leela Lekhan provides an interesting direction that can be further developed to theorize the political and historical impulse of leela writing. Dharawasi has given the example of Bhisma, one of the central characters of Mahabharata to argue that truths are multiple, individual and local. While Bhisma, as a loving grandfather of Pandavas, was ready to tell them way by which they might kill him in the battlefield and hence win the war, in the battlefield he was first and foremost the leader of Kaurava army that sought to defeat the Pandavas. These two different personalities of Bhisma – as a Kaurava general and as a favorite great grandfather of the Pandavas – point to two different “truths” of the same person. Truth is not only individual but the same person can “live” multiple truths through his depending upon the local situations he or she is in. While this is an important statement, I think that there is a need to politicize and historicize it further. Michael Foucault – one of the three important impulses behind post-structuralism in addition to Derrida and Lacan – has argued convincingly in books like Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality and Madness and Civilization that truths – including the “truths” of such concepts as sexuality, madness, sanity and criminality – are not only individual and local but also historically, politically and institutionally constructed. There is no transcendental Truth with a capital T, but only multiple and plural truth(s). Such truths are local, functional and are subject to historical and political changes. Foucault’s this insight can function, it seems to me, as an important theoretical tool in developing the theoretical dimension of leela thinking.

One of the strength of deconstruction comes from the fact that it is able to “deconstruct” the binary oppositions such as High/ Low, Male/Female, Sky/ Earth, Rational/ Emotional, Occident/ Orient, Whiteness/ Blackness in the texts. Once such binary oppositions are deconstructed textual and cultural meaning, which is supported and made possible by the presence and persistence of these very binary oppositions, is de-stabilized and de-centered. Thus begins the free play of meaning which is often celebrated in the postmodern writing influenced by deconstruction and other post-structural theories such as Lacanian psychoanalysis and Foucaultian studies of power. By deconstructing multiple binary oppositions that work at the heart of languages, cultures and texts, such writing challenges the received ideologies of Eurocentric patriarchal cultures. This is the major political value of deconstruction which was understood well by its practitioners of the 1960s, a decade that – like the ones in 1980s and 1990s – saw the practices of politically informed postmodernism as opposed to the “aesthetic” postmodernism of 1970s. The main question that the writers of leela face is this: Will it develop in a politically and historically informed manner as did the postmodernism(s) of the 1960s and 1980 and onwards? Or will it only remain tied to the formal textual/ aesthetic experimentation that characterized the postmodern writing of 1970s?

Krishna Baral’s novel Avataran deconstructs earlier meaning embodied in B.P Koirala’s story “Hod” by representing the perspective of the widow that was absent in the Koirala’s text. By doing so, it creates the possibilities of other meanings, of other narratives. This opens up the political dimension of the text. However, while Baral’s rewriting of “Hod” – like his re-conceptualizations of Mainali’s “Naso” and Dharawasi’s Sharandarthi - creates a textual slippage to illuminate the “blindness” that characterized the earlier text it does not really transform it in a radical manner. The widow remains weak, submissive and vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh as opposed to the male hero Padam who seems rationally calculating, and in a total control over his sexual desires. Shyamlal and Trilochan, two of the major characters of Baral’s novel, end up with two wives thus fulfilling a male fantasy; and the moral universe of the two other narratives is disrupted because the female characters – Manamati and Sahinli Mukhini – stray from the path of righteousness and proper sexual conduct. One of the weaknesses of the text, it seems to me, is that the “leela” of Krishna Baral does not proceed to its logical limits. The play of meaning stops after a while and the meaning – which is earlier presented as perpetually slipping and changing -  is re-centered around the ideologies of a patriarchal society; ideologies that were supposed to be disrupted by the play or leela.  This is the challenge that Leela writing faces: if it intends to live up to its name, it needs to take its “play” seriously and to make sure that it does not re-center the meanings that it has deconstructed itself. There must be an ongoing performance of leela; a performance that keeps on “erasing” or questioning the meanings that it has generated through its perpetual play. 

Certain questions have come to the fore: Is Leela a mode of creative writing or a method of literary criticism? Or is it a philosophical or theoretical school with well defined methods and tools of analysis? Novels and short stories of Rai, Dharawasi, Baral and Nepal have shown that it can be a mode of creative writing. It has the potentiality of developing as a mode of literary criticism, though substantial work needs to be done before it can establish itself as a full fledged method of literary criticism. Above all, its practitioners need to apply leela criticism to study not only those texts that announce themselves as expressions of leela writing but other texts as well. Are there leela elements or effects in the texts of Devkota, Dhruva Chandra Gautam or Parijat? Can leela criticism be applied to the texts not written under the sign of leela writing? Leela thinking can become a method of literary criticism only if can answer in affirmative to these questions.

This leads to a second, though related issue. Is leela a philosophical/ theoretical school with determinate methods and tools of analysis? If yes, then it is merely another “ism” or another “vaad” just as, for example, post-structuralism is. This is a trap that it must seek to avoid as its practitioners such as Rai and Dharawasi seem well aware of. The strength of leela comes from its perpetual openness to new influences and ideas, from its willingness to incorporate new perspectives, tools and methods of perception. From this perspective, it appears to me, the term leela thinking or leela awareness – or what Rai has described as Leela bodh – is a term that is more accurately appropriate in describing the entire gamut of novels and stories, theoretical essays and pieces of literary criticism that have been written under the sign of leela. Leela is a world view; an awareness, or a bodh that expresses itself in various kinds of texts including fiction, drama, criticism and philosophy. It is an awareness that can be seen not only in obviously experimental leela texts like “Kathaputali Ko Man” but also in Ratna Mani Nepal’s stories in Kathaindredini, and Baral’s “Katti Thok Haru” in his collection of short stories titled Katha Chiyatiyeka. If such is the case then leela writing or leela criticism (or leela Lekhan and leela samalochana) can only be a subset of what might be described as leela bodh or leela awareness, an awareness that perceives perpetual instability and play of meaning in various kinds of cultural texts through a combination of western post-structural and eastern spiritual perspectives.

It is this combination of western post-structural methodologies and eastern spiritualism - including its mythological, ethical and metaphysical registers - that distinguishes leela from postmodernism; the same characteristic that makes it a bodh or awareness rather than simply a mode of writing or criticism. It seems to me that the practitioners of leela can distinguish their work from that of western post-structuralists and post-modernists (including Derrida’s deconstruction and postmodern practices of John Barthes and John Fowles among others) only by reformulating their central concern from “leela writing” to “leela bodh.” As far as leela is only a form of writing, then it is hardly distinguishable from the practice of deconstruction and other postmodern – often metafictional - practices of “rewriting.” In their desire to describe leela as something authentically eastern the practitioners of leela, including Rai and Dharawasi, seem to have minimized the effect of post-structural theory and postmodern practice upon their writing, even though Rai accepts deconstruction and reader response theory as two of the major influences upon him in addition to those emanating from post-structural Marxism, Buddhism, Jainism, Gestalt psychology, modern physics and so on. A careful study of texts presented as the examples of leela writing – including the texts of Baral, Nepal and Dharawasi in addition to those of Rai – however, shows that though their texts might show an uneven manifestation of these “other” sources, what have really shaped their writings/ rewritings, however, are the textual strategies associated with deconstruction, reader response theory and other post-structural/ post-modern practices. In other words Buddhism, Jainism, Gestalt psychology, theory of deconstruction and the postmodern technique of metafiction do not influence leela in an equal manner, especially at the level of practice. For example where is the overt influence of Buddhism or Jainism in Baral’s Avataran or in Dharawasi’s Sharandarthi; the two texts that make a liberal use of the technique of metafictional rewriting that is associated with deconstructive practices? It seems to me that the practitioners of leela can respond in a more critical – and more responsible manner – only by fully accepting the western postmodern/ post-structural influences upon their work rather then trying to deny or minimize such influences. At the same time, they should work towards developing the seeds of eastern thought – at its mythological, metaphysical and ethical registers – that are already present in their theorizations though not well developed in their actual practices including novels and short stories. Such a double acknowledgement and practice of both western post-structural theory and triple registers of eastern philosophies would turn leela into an authentic cultural practice by turning it into a bodh, an awareness or a perspective from which to both write and analyze various kinds of texts including novels, short stories, cultural criticism and even autobiography.

As far as future directions and possibilities are concerned I feel that leela should simultaneously explore both its spiritual and political dimensions, and at the level of both theory and practice. Unlike Rai, Dharawasi has focused only upon the mythological and ethical dimension of eastern spiritualism which, to my mind, leads to a limitation of some sorts. Similarly, while leela writing has produced creative texts such as Sharandarthi that have overtly political themes it has not been able to theorize itself politically. This leads to another kind of limitation. The willingness of its practitioners to keep the play of leela open and their willingness to keep on revising their perspectives, however, gives hope that these limitations will be overcome in future.  

See Govinda Raj Bhattarai, Garima, Jestha, 2062
Indra B. Rai, Kathaputali Ko Man (Deepak Press, Varanasi, 1989) 60.
Rajendra Bhandari and Vatsagopal, ed, Lila Lekhan: Varta Ra Antarvarta (Janapaksha Prakashan, Sikkim, 1997) 6.
Rai 76.
Bhandari 43. For a reading of lila writing from the perspective of eastern spiritual philosophy also see Vishnu Kumar Bhattarai’s Bhakti Dekhi Lila Samma (Niyatra Prakashan: Jhapa, BS 2057).
Dharawasi’s article in Purvanchal Dainik and the counter replies from the progressive writers are included in Ratna Mani Nepal’s Lila Drishti (Ganesh Prasad Nepal: Jhapa, BS 2056).

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Baral, Krishna. Avataran. Niyatra Prakashan: Jhapa,  BS 2061
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Bhandari, Rajendra and Vatsagopal. Ed. Lila Lekhan: Varta Ra Antarvarta. Janapaksha Prakashan: Sikkim, 1997
Bhattarai, Govinda Raj. “Uttar Adhunik Jangal Ko Euta Bhrantibriksha.” Garima, Jestha, BS 2062
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Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982
Dharawasi, Krishna. Lila Lekhan. Dubasu: Kathmandu, 1996
Dharawasi, Krishna. Sharandarthi. Niyatra Prakashan: Jhapa, BS 2056
Eagleton, Terry. “Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism.” New Left Review 152 (1985): 60-73.
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Pantheon, 1965
Foucault, Michel. Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.
Jameson, Fredric. “Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” New Left Review 146 (1984): 53-92.
Kamuf, Peggy. Ed. A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991
McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. London and New York: Metheun, 1987.
Nepal, Ratna Mani. Lila Drishti. Ganesh Prasad Nepal: Jhapa, BS 2056
Nepal, Ratna Mani. Kathaindreni. Niyatra Prakashan: Jhapa, BS 2058
Rai, Indra B. Kathaputali Ko Man. Deepak Press: Varanasi, 1989.
Rai, Indra B. “Sapekshata: Ayamik Ra Lila Lekhan.” Garima, Mangsir, 2061
Ryan, Michael. Marxism and Deconstruction: A Critical Articulation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1982
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