An Autobiographic Memoir of Ganeshman Singh (Vol 1) as told to Mathbar Singh Basnet; Translated by Lal Deusa Rai; Published by Ayam Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. Price not mentioned; ISBN- 99933-336-0-3; Page 376.
Ritu Raj Subedi
A giant figure of Nepal’s democratic movement, Ganeshman Singh led the 1990 People’s Movement and acted as a lieutenant of 1950 anti-Rana regime revolution. His rock-like stand on democracy and political integrity is awe-inspiring for all. An Autobiographic Memoir of Ganeshman Singh (Vol 1) that is under review makes an enlightening reading of transformation of Ganeshman from a spoilt boy and local ruffian to a revolutionary icon. The metamorphosis of Hirakazi, the grandson of sardar Ratankazi, is incredible. In his epic journey, he experiences many flashes of satori every moment he dares to smash tyrannical rule and ingrained social stereotypes.
With 39 chapters, the book starts from the birth of Ganeshman and concludes describing the saga of the birth of Nepali Congress. Born to an aristocratic family, he was lapping up la dolce vita that made him a pampered boy and a local goon. He faced many arrest warrants for street fracases but he often gave a slip to the cops. His gong-ho behaviour became a turning point in his juvenile career. One day he slapped a son of Ranaji at the Durbar High School for hurling abusive words at him. The act was enough for headmaster Rudra Raj Pandey to blow a fuse. As he was going to beat Ganeshman with a cane, the latter jumped and escaped. Then, he never joined Durbar High School. The incident sufficed to implant a feeling of hatred in his mind against Ranas.
He started tuition with his uncle at home. He was also exposed to the readings of the Hindu epics the Ramayan, Mahabaharat and Purans, which served as a means of catharsis for the people living in suffocation of Rana regime. Ganeshman wished to emulate mythical character Narad to be the servant of the people. His radical altruism sounded strange given the fact that his grandfather was top courtier of the Rana rulers.
There occurred another spiteful event that deepened his anathema to Ranas. One day, he was going to Muluki Adda, where he worked as a bahidar (junior clerk) under Commander-in-chief Rudra Shumsher, on his bicycle. A hawaldar (a police sergeant) all of sudden ordered him to halt his bicycle. He scolded Ganaeshman using foul language: “You damned showy (sukulgoonda) Newar! What do you think of yourself having put on some clean shirt?…Who said you can pass before a Hawaldar, in front of durbar on a bicycle without a light and bell?”
In fact, it was the duty of the policeman, not a soldier, to supervise this matter. Hawaldar’s insult and ranting crossed the limit of his tolerance. Enraged, he knocked brutish cop down showering kicks and fists. It created a commotion. The case reached the durbar of Maharaja Padma Shumsher but Ganeshman was denied due justice.
Ganeshman turned stray and a gambler. He lost all money in the gambling and was heavily in debt. The crowd of creditors swarmed his house. He avoided them with one or another ruse. They also could not force him to pay up their money because of his personality, power and prestige. But, this pricked his conscience too much. Psychologically, he was on the verge of breakdown. This led him to break open dhikuti (family coffers) to clear the debt. He fled to Calcutta where he led a life of a vagabond for a while. With the stolen money, he devoted himself to study. He underwent a penance of 18 months study. He passed the matriculation examination in first division. His news of success took his family and friends by storm back in Kathmandu. A dhikuti-breaker became an intelligent student.
After joining Bidyasagar College, he, for the first time, encountered a fresh breeze of politics. India was under British Raj and the voices of independence resonated throughout the colleges and markets. When Ganeshman heard the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, it was like an electronic shock to him. In Nepal, the people used to listen and chant only one slogan ‘Har Har Mahadev Pani Deo’. The politically-charged catchphrase knocked him for a loop. His inchoate political consciousness gradually began to take a shape when he came to contact with Sukra Raj Sashtri and Gangalal. Shashtri’s gift of gab and intellectual power bowled him over but he was jealous of Gangalal’s popularity and oratory power. He often belittled Gangalal whenever he got a chance, accusing him of being indulged in cheap publicity.
One incident made him realise his folly. One evening, Ganeshman and Gangalal were returning from a friend’s house. Ganeshman was taunting him with all derogatory words and references. On the way, they saw two street sweeper women standing under a dim light. Gangalal asked: “Imagine, these women were forcefully taken away by some Ranas, can their husbands do anything against them? With a bloated ego, Ganeshman snapped: “What to talk of a Rana, even if I take them away, their husbands can do nothing!”
“In the same way if the Ranas took away your sisters or wife, what can you do?” Gangalal asked.
“I was answerless. Gangalal pricked the bubble of my vanity,” Ganeshman said, adding that his remark brought him to his senses and inspired to contribute for the cause of great revolution. Both became bosom friends and joined Prajaparishad. Their political activism landed them into Bhadragol jail along with all Prajaparishad leaders.
His escape from the prison marks his great audacity, patience and tactfulness. Tank Prasad Acharya and Ramhari Joshi warned him against the idea of escapement. It seemed a foolhardy attempt as Rana rulers had converted the entire nation into a prison house. But, he pulled off the dangerous venture that made him a hero, legend and great rebel.
He put his life on the life as he embarked a lonesome and epic journey, defying hunger, fatigue and fear before reaching India where he identified himself as Krishna Bahadur Pradhan to avoid the prying eyes of security forces. He had a chaotic life there. Once he tried to be air force pilot but in vain. How to free the Nepalese from the clutches of oppressive Rana was the sole goal of his life. In Banaras, he met Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and made his first political speech. BP Koirala was searching for him as he was a political sensation after the news of his jailbreak spread like a wildfire. BP appealed to Nepalese living in India to form a party and launch revolution in Nepal. This finally brought the two great political figures of Nepal together. They forged their friendship like Marx and Engels. Their bonhomie was as steady as a rock throughout their life. This proved to be boon for the democratic movement. Both played their catalytic role in setting up Nepali Rastriya Congress, which later united with Nepal Prajatantra Congress, giving the birth of Nepali Congress that launched the first armed revolution in 2007 BS.
The book is riveting and resourceful. The publication has become possible owing to the painstaking efforts of maverick journalist Mathbar Singh Basnet, who once stayed with BP and Ganeshman in jail. Basnet deserves encomium for publishing the book that brings out the historic truths from the mouth of Ganeshman himself.