GRETA RANA, is a Nepali citizenborn into a Yorkshire mining family and married to a descendant of Maharaja Juddha Shamsher J.B. Rana. She has lived in Nepal since the 1960s and worked for ICIMOD and other development organisations as well as becoming a prominent member of the Kathmandu literary scene with her novels, poetry and translations. She was awarded the MBE in 2005. Her most recent novel, Hidden Women: The Ruling Women of the Rana Dynasty, tells the story of the first Rana Maharaja, Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana, through the eyes of a fictional character, his wet-nurse Kadam. It provides particularly sensitive depictions of Kadam herself and of Ganesh Kumari, Jang Bahadur's mother as well as a wry perspective on gender roles, another female character summing up men with the words "That's all they do, plough ... They plough the land and they plough us and then we have to look after everything that grows". The plot is generally faithful to the known historical facts and so, in addition to its literary value, the book is useful for a general reader wanting to get a feel for the period. The interpretation does, however, reflect the Rana family's view of Jang's accession to power and the suggestion that Jang sought the title of `Maharaja' so that the Shah kings would receive the higher status of `Maharajadhiraj' ignores the fact that the kings of Nepal already had this title before Jang's time.
Apr 6, 2016- Greta Rana is one of the first English-writing novelists of the country. Her first novel Nothing Greener was published in 1974, which were followed by many others, some of the most noted ones being Hidden Women, The Distant Hills, So Why Not Sleep?, and the English translation of Seto Bagh—The Wake of the White Tiger. In an interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Rana talks about her writing journey and shares some of her favourite works. Excerpts:
When did you first come to read books? I was three years old when I learnt to read. My mother was a teacher, so I accompanied her to classes. I would be kept in a class with students who were above five years old. I would try to read things I couldn’t and then I would get angry and scribble all over my book. My mother, who has always been a great support system, then starting teaching me to read during weekends. By three and a half, I could read fluently. What kind of books did you grow up reading? I remember reading Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I also read other books by Alcott over the years. I always related myself to Joe, a tomboy and an outgoing person, and I could easily visualise her persona. I also grew up reading most of Enid Blyton’s books. Her books remind me of JK Rowling, without the wizardry world. What about poetry? Do you have a favourite poet? I have a great interest in poetry. I started reading poems voraciously when I was seven or eight years old. I have published many of my poem collections as well. William Shakespeare is my favourite poet. I admire Shakespeare’s work. If only I could match up to his poems and write a sonnet like him! It would be a dream come true. What is the most ambitious book you have written? I started writing A Place Beneath the Pipal Tree in the mid 80s. The book is based in the Khumbu region and had a critical chapter on Tibet and China’s revolution. Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of Harper Collins, refused to publish it as he wanted that chapter to be removed. But I was adamant. It did take me a lot of time for my work to get published. Later in 2001, my friend, James Hale, called and asked if it could get translated in German. Now, since the book’s first print in 2001, it has seen its fourth edition printed and has been renamed as The Shadow Of The Holy City. What other works have you been associated with? During the mid 80s, I was also helping Diamond Shumsher JB Rana translate the Seto Bagh—The Wake Of The White Tiger. My novel Guest In This Country, which I wrote after I travelled to Afghanistan and Laos, is one other book I am proud of. The story was based on a fictitious country, Lapalistan. Many people, after reading the book, could identity with my fictional reality. I felt successful as a writer because readers could identify with my book it; it was a successful satire. A friend of mine wanted me to write a book on Jung Bahadur Rana. When I finished my first draft and sent it to him, he didn’t like it much. He then asked me to write a book on women. As I was doing my PhD on women, I went ahead with it. I had extensively researched on the women before 1950s, so in 2012 I came up with a book called Hidden Women. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? I believe in writing and promoting literary fiction. Non-fiction depends on the writers and the way it is presented. As for non-fiction books, I outstandingly liked Charles Darwin’s The Beagle. The discovery and theories of evolution was an interesting read. In fiction, I have re-read Victor Hugo’s books many times in French and I read their English translations too. Do you prefer reading stories on e-book or in the prints? I prefer reading books on prints. I like the smell of books. Whenever I visit book stores, I buy three to four books at once and I read it around same time. Have you read any Nepali books? Has any author inspired you so far? I have read short stories by Daulat Bikram Bista and Maya Thakuri. I have read Diamond Shumsher’s Seto Bagh and Dor Bahadur Bista’s Sautela. Among all of them, my favourite is Maya Thakuri. She has the capability of capturing the soul in her writing. Do you plan to write any books in future? My next book is called Rivers. The book is written around those 12 Nepali workers who were assassinated in 2004 in Iraq. I have given a little twist in this book, I have added a 13th person, fictionalising it to expose what the ‘thulo manches’ were doing then. Any advice to the readers? Just keep reading.
JOHN P. CROSS served with the Gurkhas from 1943 till his retirement in 1982. He is a naturalised Nepal citizen and fluent speaker of several other Asian language and lives in Pokhara with his adopted Nepali family. As well as volumes of military history and autobiography, he is the author of five historical novels drawn partly from the oral traditions of the Dwara people from whom his adopted son is descended. I 1479-1559 The Throne of Stone: The Genesis of the World-famous Gurkhas – first published in Nepal in 2000 and revised in 2012. firstname.lastname@example.org (£12, incl p&)
For three generations struggles in parts of what is now Nepal and northern India mired the peace by land-grabbing, kidnap, murder, poisoning, feuds, passion, magic and blind lust but kindness, compassion, common sense and unrequited love also made their presences felt. What started over five hundred years ago because famine used up seed corn resulted in plans for acquisition of territory that went badly wrong. The consequences are still felt today. In north India during quarrels between Moslem rulers in Delhi and Bihar a small Hindu village was raided with grisly results that spread into the mountains. The conflict was only resolved after an epic wrestling march that eventually reverberated with full force into the heart of Nepal. To the valley of Kathmandu the scheming of one ruler resulted in the deaths of twelve leaders of another community in unexplainable and fearful circumstances. The following manhunt resulted in two trials by ordeal with unpredictable results. In 1559 a hill race decided who would be local king and, after a ritual human sacrifice, the new ruler of nearby Gorkha sowed the seeds of modern Nepal. This period also saw the genesis of the world-famous Gurkhas.
II 1746-1815 The Restless Quest:How Britain’s connection with the Gurkhas began – published in Nepal in 2005 and in England in 2010. email@example.com
This volume covers a seventy-year period leading up to the Anglo-Nepal War in 1814-1816. Through the story of the legendary Bhakti Thapa, reconstructed from both folk memory and previously unknown written sources, it tells how the hill men of Nepal and the British in Indian originally developed a great respect for each other. After the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta incident on 21 June 1756 the East India Company was in such straits that it could have lost its potential superiority in India. ‘Destiny can turn on a very small point’ and, for the English, it turned on four. The first was because an obscure Gurkha woman in the foothills of the Himalayas died in childbirth, the second because an equally obscure Frenchman in Lyons was caught in flagrante delicto committing incest, the third because hornets were accidentally annoyed by a chance shot from a matchlock, English v Nepali, and, lastly, because an innocent Gurkha was blown from the muzzle of an English gun. This is the story that shows how these four unrelated, unusual and, except for the actual persons involved, insignificant episodes were responsible for India remaining British for the next 191 years.
III 1819-1857/8 The Crown of Renown: Gurkhas and the Honorable East India Company – published in England in 2009. firstname.lastname@example.org
This is set in the final stages of the East India Company’s existence. It shows how Nepal’s hill men adapted to then-modern military conditions, personal calamities and unpredictable circumstances, mostly with resilient stoicism and unquestionable prowess It explores what happened when Brian Hodgeson met Gurkha hill men in Kathmandu, how the pioneer veterinary surgeon and Superintendent of the East India Stud took a Gurkha bodyguard on his five-year search for horses, how the Lord Bishop of Calcutta toured Upper India, the siege of Bharatpur, 1825-6, which was the first time Gurkhas fought alongside British soldiers, Thugs, the battles of Aliwal and Sobraon, Jang Bahadur Rana’s inspection of the Sirmoor battalion and lastly the part the Gurkhas played in the Great Mutiny of 1857.
IV 1857-1947 The Fame of the Name: How there is much more to the Gurkha than sheer courage – published in England in 2011. email@example.com
After the Mutiny British power reach its peak at the Delhi Durbar in 1910 then its steadily decline. In this timeframe, there are far too many events in which Gurkhas of all sorts were involved to make a ‘single-thread’ story so I have not woven one colourful tapestry of events but have shown Gurkhas’ prowess by individual stands of its threads, till now almost invisible. Here is how a Gurkha left behind after the defeat of Afghanistan was used for long-range reconnaissance work, with Cossacks, against the Russians and again after disaffected Indian soldiers join the Russian army, how secret societies in Malaya ‘pulled in’ Gurkhas, what happened when Duke of Edinburgh visited Nepal for shooting, how Gurkhas were made into spying ‘pundits’, the Delhi Durbar, back to Afghanistan to work for the Amir, the campaign in Sikkim, in Malaya, at Neuve Chappel, the defeat in Malaya in 1942 and the escape of a Gurkha back to India, via Burma and China, with news of missing men and his subsequent unbearable disappointment at the Red Fort trials post war. Finally, King George VI and Mountbatten discuss whether Gurkhas are to be brought into the British Army.
V The people of Nepal were not immune to the upheaval caused by the 1947 partition of India. This story is about a cloak-and-dagger operation that foils Soviet-inspired efforts to penetrate the Gurkha fighting in the Malayan emergency – a cold war in a hot climate – and bring about their disbandment. Then after the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 – a hot war in a cold climate – the Chinese ‘re-educate’ a group of Indian Army Gorkhas taken prisoner with a view to infiltrating them back into Nepal for an eventual rising. A daring attempt to rescue them is mounted. However, this is only partially successful and those not rescued do eventually return to Nepal to wait until conditions are ripe for a people’s war. Finally, the officer who took a leading part in the two earlier operations has to deal with the political jockeying of foreign intelligence services in Nepal as they try to outwit each other and take control of the country.
DIPESH RIJAL is a young writer whose novel Jang Bahadur's Nepal is currently (November 2016) forthcoming.Drafts of some sections can read on his website (www.dipeshrisal.com) and an imagined episode set in the tarai in 1876 was published in the Kathmandu Poston 20 November 2016.
Jang Bahadur greeting the Prince of Wales (Illustrated London News, 25 March 1876)