Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat Celebrated in Portland

 Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

This year's Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat New Year 1135 celebration in Portland, USA was unique and unprecedented in many ways. It was a collective and group 'Mha Puja' celebration with participation of about 100 people representing Newars as well as non-Newars living in the RIP city.

Over a hundred Mha Puja Mandalas were drawn on the floor for each participant. Cheerful Nepalese Portlanders were seen sitting cross-legged in front of their respective Mandalas. Most of the cultural and ritual procedures were followed while performing the collective Mha Puja ceremony -- which took place at Nekusing Memorial Theater, US World Class Taekwondo Hollywood Portland, USA and which was organized on Oct 24, 2014 by Nepa Chhen, an organization committed to enrich and enhance Nepalese arts, culture and traditions in the US.

The Mandala was worshipped by each participant by offering sacred thread 'jajanka' and flowers, by sprinkling and stamping colored paste 'sinnha' on the Mandala. All the Mha Puja participants were given a dab of colored paste 'sinnha' on their foreheads, provided sacred thread 'kwokha' and a bag of 'masala pwo' and fruits. Then, the Nepalese Portlanders were presented boiled egg, fish and wine which was poured down from a Newar-style 'anti' into a little 'khola' and got refill three times in a row. After that, a traditional feast 'bhoe' was served.

Mha Puja Mandalas 

Diwakar Maharjan Speaking on the Occasion
The Nepalese gentlemen were seen wearing 'sakkali dhaka ya tapuli' while the Nepalese ladies were dressed in Haku Patasi and other sarees. The Nepalese Portlanders  were seen wishing each other: Happy Mha Puja and Nhu Dan Ya Bhintuna. On the occasion, fund raising was also launched for Nepa Chhen by playing 'deusi'. The Mha Puja program was followed by a lot of photo sessions.

Eating the Sagun (Egg, Fish, Wine)
During the Puja
There is no doubt that Mha Puja is a quintessential part of rich Newari culture. It is an interesting coincidence that Mha Puja, a part of a Swanti Nakha, is performed to purify mind, and this cultural ritual is annually held on the day of new year celebration of Nepal Sambat.

It is to be noted that Nepal Sambat -- a national lunar calendar of Nepal -- kicked off in 879 AD during the rule of King Raghav Dev to commemorate the reimbursement of all the debts of the Nepalese people by a Newar trader  Shankhadhar Sakhwa who was declared a national hero of Nepal on Nov 18, 1999 by the then His Majesty's Government of Nepal.

Just less than three decades ago, Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat celebrations were usually confined to the Newar community living in the Kathmandu valley, outside of it, and in some parts of India where Newars had migrated to. Today Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat is observed across the world, thanks to the global migration. The collective celebration of Mha Puja last Friday in Portland is a testimony to the fact that the people leave no stone unturned to celebrate their respective festivals and rituals, no matter, where they are.

Above all, international bodies of the Newah people like - World Newah Organization - and prominent associations of the Newahs in America - Newa American Dabu, Chicago, Nepa Pasa Pucha Amerikaye (NPPA) and Newah Organization of America (NOA) etc have been playing a very tremendous role in disseminating the significance of various festivals of the Newah people.

Cutting the Celebratory Cake

All Together Say "Cheese"
** Dr Shakya , a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Headlines Must Be Attractive

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

"Headless Body in Topless Bar"  "Tons of Soil Over Sons of Toil"  These are the kind of headlines that instantly grab the attention of readers. Apparently, headlines must be able to attract the readers to go through the news stories, A headline is the title or head of a newspaper story usually printed in large type. A headline must give a gist of the news story that ensues.

"Bush dodges shoes in Iraq"  "Russia to create force to stake claim in Arctic"  "Iranian ruler's big fear?  The BBC"  These are just the samples of headlines of both the hard and soft news stories which tell the details of the stories in a few words.

Giving an attractive and good headline to a news story is a skill, a creativity and an art. Sometimes even a dull news story filed by a newspaper reporter can be transformed into lively news story with the help of a stylish and attractive headline and  with some brilliant editing.

I had worked in a newspaper newsroom for a period of a decade and, of course, am familiar with the constraints of time and space factors while giving headlines to the news stories. A newsroom journalist not only gives headlines to the stories, he has a lot of other journalistic-editing responsibilities as well. Meeting the deadline factor before the contents go to the press has always been a formidable challenge for the newsroom journalists.

Since the headlines must be short as far as possible, the sub-editors use short words in headlines for long ones making pols for politicians, probe for investigation, and prez for president. Likewise, abbreviations and acronyms are commonly used in the headlines, such as, PM for prime minister, PC for Press Council and FNJ for Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

There was a soft news news about marijuana in one of the American newspapers and it was headlined "Some weeds can do good deeds." Headlines like "Tide turns against use of plastic bags" and "Unruly teens get a hand, not a slap" are examples of assertive headlines. I remember when former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, an American newspaper ran the headline: An epic life shadowed by blood and controversy.

There is no doubt that the quality of a newspaper may be evaluated by the pattern of its headlines. It goes without saying that the headlines of the tabloid newspapers are quite different from that of the broadsheet newspapers. The tabloids are more commercial, more celebrity-oriented and hence they go for more sensational headlines.

For example, when a teacher, coach, priest or a celebrity is accused of sodomizing a teen, it dominates tabloid headlines and social media. It is just that people are overly obsessed and overly fascinated by these kind of negative headlines and news stories.

Speaking of brief history of headlines in Nepalese journalism, during the period of Panchayat system, the headlines and news stories of the Gorkhapatra, The Rising Nepal and other pro-Panchayat newspapers were filled with words "anti-national elements" a term that they used to refer to Nepali Congress and the leftist forces. Until recently, during the period of Maoist insurgency, the Maoists were unfairly labelled as "terrorists" in the headlines of the official media.

And again, speaking of the impact of headlines, today more than ever,  the political stalwarts and business tycoons are "hungry"  for the positive headlines about them because good headlines and good  portrayal in the media enhance the political and business personality of these good-for-nothing politicians and tycoons. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nepa Chhen Celebrates Dashain

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, Oregon, USA

News reports of Dashain being celebrated by  Nepalese communities across the world have been emerging in the digital and social media. Dashain or Bijaya Dashami or Mohani Nakha is the most important cultural event for the Nepalese people and more so for the Nepalese living abroad. In fact, Dashain is a solemn occasion for the Nepalese community across the world to have a gathering or reception.

It is to be noted that Nepalese Hindus celebrate Bijaya Dashami as the day of victory of Goddess Durga Bhavani over the powerful but evil demon Mahishashur, whereas Nepalese Buddhists observe Mohani Nakha to commemorate Emperor Ashoka's adoption of non-violence and Buddhism.

Dashain, a festival of victory of the truth over the evils, was celebrated in Portland too by various organizations, such as, Nepalese Association of Oregon (NAO) on Saturday and Nepa Chhen (NC) on Friday.

A potluck reception was organized on Friday by Nepa Chhen at Nekusing Memorial Theater, West Coast Hollywood Taekwondo in Portland, Oregon to celebrate Bijaya Dashami . About 80 people from different ethnic communities and different walks of life from among the Nepali diaspora attended the reception. Some American guests  were also present on the occasion.

On the occasion, Dashain Tika along with Jamara was offered to the guests by septuagenarian Nepalese community members. There were plenty of delicious Nepalese food, songs, dances and music. The center of attraction, however, was the Nepalese music band in Portland "Manda".

It is to be noted that Nepa Chhen, a cultural center for Nepalese community in Oregon, was established in November, 2012 in Portland with the objectives of enhancing and enriching artistic and cultural activities related to Nepal. Until recently, Nepa Chhen was, pretty much, an obscure organization, but thanks to different activities, Nepa Chhen is slowly gathering momentum. Nevertheless, Nepa Chhen has to go a long way before becoming a household name among the Nepalese community members in Oregon.

Efforts and activities to celebrate cultural festivals, to enhance culture and traditions of our multi-ethnic nation is always commendable and praise-worthy, and this kind of activism needs a core strategy, needs to be well-focused, needs more broad-based participation.

Receiving Tika & Blessings

Performance of Nepali Songs

Group Photo
Members & Advisers of Nepa Chhen

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nepalese Journalism's Misfortune

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

Thomas Jefferson, the former US president and great American statesman said still in 1787: " The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be  to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

First Amendment to the US Constitution says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting free exercise thereof or abridging freedom of speech or of the press or rights of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The importance of press freedom and the role of journalism have been bolstered by multitude of national and international documents. In fact, journalism is a cornerstone of democracy and good governance. The Press is one of the strongest weapons in fighting the war against injustice, impunity and corruption rampant in so many countries. History of nations across the world is testimony to the fact that  journalism has forced so many crooked politicians and bureaucrats  out of office. Remember, President Richard Nixon had to step down in 1973 because of Watergate scandal which was exposed by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

There is no doubt, even today the corrupt politicians and tycoons are not happy with modus operandi of the honest and true journalists as well as citizen journalists from the social media.Even today corrupt politicians and tycoons tend to deal with the journalists with carrots and sticks approach.Certainly, the honest and true journalists always foil their hanky-panky schemes whereas the dishonest ones do not. It is to be noted that thousands of journalists have sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth, peace, human rights, freedom movement etc.

A number of powerful Nepalese politicians, ministers, bureaucrats and high ranking police officers have served the prison terms, but as we see that frequent jail terms for the notorious politicians have proved no deterrent for the incumbent political actors to engage in dubious and suspicious activities. Unfortunately, corruption and bribery are still thriving in Nepal. And again unfortunately there were cases in Nepal when the mainstream news outlets were hamstrung by the influence of the politicians and tycoons, the social media had to step in.

It goes without saying that journalists should always exercise sound judgement and should not bring discredit and dishonor to the calling referred to as the Fourth Estate by disseminating untrue and unreliable news stories and by becoming sycophants  of the politicians and tycoons. That is why if  journalists are expected to hold others accountable for their misdeeds, we the journalists should be held accountable as well when we happen to disseminate misleading, untrue and biased stories.

However, the misfortune of the Nepalese journalism is --  Not only during the period of monarchy but even after the nation was declared a republic, many journalists are acting like 'spokesperson' of the powerful political actors and business tycoons and many newspapers working as the mouthpieces for political stalwarts and political parties. Today more than ever, the Nepalese journalism is deeply and highly politicized and polarized. Many journalists are engaged in intense political horse-trading and financial skulduggery.