Oct 20, 2012

funny alterations we make


वर्षेनी हजारौं अंग्रेजी शब्द नेपाली भाषामा भित्रिने क्रममा केहि शब्द को हिज्जे फेरिनु त स्वाभाविक नै हो। “फिल्म“ लाई “फिलिम“ र “ग्लास “ लाई “गिलास“ त अब सामान्य भैसक्यो, तर कतिपय ठाउँ मा अर्थ नै फेरिने गरि हिज्जे बिग्रिंदा भने अप्ठ्यारो हुने रहेछ। लुगा सिलाई हुने धेरै पसलमा “शटिंर्ग“ का साथसाथै “सुटिंर्ग“ पनि सिलाईन्छ रे, यो “सूर्ट“ लगाउने मान्छे भने मैले आज सम्म भेटेकी छैन, तर हेर्ने ठुलो इच्छा छ । अझ कति लुगा पसलमा त “स्टाइलिश“ होइन “स्टाइलिस्ट“ लुगा पाइन्छन रे, यस्ता लुगा चाहिं “स्टाइलिस्ट“ आफैंले बसेर बेच्ने हुन कि, थाहा पाउन सकिएन। एक ठाउँ मा त जिन्स लाई “जी“ अक्षर राखेर लेखेको पनि देखियो, र “जिन्स“ होइन “गिन्स“ बेच्ने त्यो पसल लाई मेरो शुभकामना छ†

कति इलेक्ट्रोनिक्स पसलमा “वेब क्याम“ मात्रै होइन “ह्वेब क्याम्प“ पनि पाइन्छ रे, त्यस पछी मलाई पनि “ह्वेब“ मा गएर “क्याम्प“ गर्ने खुब रहर लागेको छ। नेपालीमा त “लौंच“ लाई “लन्च“ लेख्दा केहि फरक पर्दैन तर कतिपय ठाउँ मा अंग्रेजी मै “लौंच“ लाई “लन्च“ लेखिदिंदा भने गार्हो पर्छ। खाजा खाने कार्यक्रम होला भनेर पुग्दा त कुनै अल्छिलाग्दो बिमोचन मा फसिन्छ। त्यस्तैगरी, मनिषा कोइरालाले विज्ञापन गरेको “मेघा वुल“ नेपाल मा त्यतिबेला देखी नै पपुलर छ। तर त्यसो भन्दैमा “मेगा मोडेल“ लाई “मेघा मोडेल“ त लेख्नु पर्दैन थियो होला कि ? मेगा अर्थात बृहत, र मेघा अर्थात बादल अर्थ लाग्ने केटीको नाम। अब “मेगा ब्यांक“ लाई “मेघा ब्यांक“ भनिदिने हो भने को हुन् यी “मेघा“ जसको नाममा ब्यांक खोलियो ? भन्ने प्रश्न उब्ज्यो भने चाही अप्ठ्यारो पर्ला .....

कतिपय शब्द का नेपाली अवतार यति प्रचलित भईसके कि अब आएर तिनको खास उच्चारण प्रयोग गर्दा अनौठो लाग्ने रहेछ। दशैं नजिकै आउँदैछ , तास पक्कै खेल्नुपर्छ, तर झुक्किएर पनि फराँस लाई फ्लश भन्नु हुदैन है। हुन त सो खेल का तिनवटै पत्ती एकै रंग का भए भने “फ्लश“ भएको मानिन्छ, र त्यहि कम्बिनेसनका आधारमा यो खेल को नाम पनि फ्लश राखिएको होला। तर “फ्लश“ भनेर साथीहरुको हाँसो को पात्रो बन्नु भन्दा “फलाश“, “फ्ल्याश“ अथवा “फराँस“ नै भन्नु ठिक छ। “फ्लट“ गर्ने मान्छेलाई “फल्ट“ गर्ने भनेको धेरै चोटी सुनेकी थिएँ, तर “फ्लर्ट“ गर्ने मान्छेलाई प्राय: जसो “फल्ट“ पनि गर्ने हुनाले कुरा बुझ्न गाह्रो हुदैन थियो। तर कहिलेकाहीं दोष नै नभएको मान्छेलाई “फल्ट“ गरेको भनेको सुन्दा चाहिं नरमाइलो लाग्छ।

धेरै पश्चिमी संस्कृतिमा पुरुषले पनि लगाउने गरेको र अमेरिकी चलचित्रहरुमा काउबोईले लगाएर प्रख्यात बनाएको परिधान “पोंचो“ नेपालमा भने महिलाहरमाझ लोकप्िरय छ। म पनि एउटा किनौं भनेर पसल गएँ, अनि बल्ल पो थाहा पाएँ , बाहुला नहुने, काँध बाट झुन्डिने लुगालाई त “पन्जु “ पो भन्नुपर्ने रहेछ। परिधान कै कुरा गर्नु पर्दा, लुगा माथी डोरी अथवा “कोर्ड“ को डिजाइन हुने हुनाले “कोर्डूरोइज“ नाम रहन गएको एउटा कपडा लाई जब “कट्राईज“ को नाम ले चिनिन्छ, त्यो कुनै अर्कै चीज हो कि जस्तो लाग्छ।

उच्चारण कै कुरा गर्नु पर्दा, केहि अंग्रेजी शब्द को नेपाली उच्चारण अचम्मको हुने गर्दछ। अंग्रेजी मा “एस“ को अगाडी “के“ छ भने हामी त्यसलाई अगाडी पछाडी पारिदिन्छौं . जस्तै, हामी “आस्क“ लाई “आक्स्“ भन्छौं, र “रिस्क“ लाई “रिक्स“। यो चलनको हिसाबले त “स्कुल“ लाई “इस्कुल“ होइन “इक्सुल“ भनिनु पर्ने हो, तर विद्यालय चाहिं कसो कसो बचेछ। त्यस्तै , “एक्सपेक्ट“ र “एस्पेक्ट“ जस्ता उच्चारण गर्न कठिन शब्दहरुलाई हामी सजिलै “एक्सेप्ट“ भनिदिन्छौं, “र एक्सेप्ट“ लाई त झनै सजिलो “एसेप्ट“ भनिदिन्छौं। तर त्यसो भन्दैमा अर्थ नै बिगारिदिने नेपांग्रेजी का शब्दलाई भने त्यति सजिलै एसेप्ट गर्न हुदैन है†

Oct 19, 2012

Deus ex machina in fantasy fiction



Warning: Contains spoilers of many, many fantasy stories

The phrase deus-ex-machina literally means “god from machine”. In literature, it describes the arrival of a god like figure, object, or event which solves seemingly impossible problems and resolves the story. For example, at the beginning of Shakespeare’s As you Like It, Duke Frederick exiles his brother, which accounts for a lot of the plot that follows. At the end of the story, the Duke has a change of heart (deus ex machina) and restores his brother to the throne, thus suddenly resolving the story.

The prince arrives deus-ex-machina
In folktales like Sleeping Beauty, the prince comes in deus ex machina and rescues the princess. There is no explanation or plausible reason for these events. In terms of rationality, the resolution they provide is highly improbable.


Frodo after his finger is bitten off
For many generations, this technique has been a staple of fantasy fiction. Let us start with Lord of the Rings, the story that established the fantasy genre. Frodo is an ordinary hobbit who starts out to destroy a ring that contains immense power. But somewhere along the way, the ring’s power bewitches him, and when the time comes for him to destroy it, he refuses to let his “precious” go. Out comes Gollum, who loves the ring with even more passion than Frodo, and bites Frodo’s finger off. Gollum and the the ring (along with Frodo’s finger) both perish in a volcano. Gollum had been shadowing Frodo for ages, but his arrival at exactly the right time seems a little too contrived, as there would be no easy resolution without him.

Harry shoots an "expelliarmus" to contend Voldemort's killing curse

Harry Potter has long had to contend with allegations of childishness. The allegations are usually made by people who judge a book by its cover, but the one thing that could classify Harry Potter as childish is generally ignored: the use of deus ex machina. Harry does not want to be a murderer, even of someone as evil as Voldemort. Hence, in the final battle, Harry does not speak the killing curse.  Instead, he lets out a harmless disarming spell. And lo and behold, Voldemort is dead! Rowling offers many explanations for why this happens but at the end of the day, this ending is extremely fantastic and improbable.

Angel Raziel rising out of the water

In an underrated but brilliant modern fantasy called The Mortal Instruments, the protagonists Jace and Clarissa both have come to hate their genocidal father. But how do they resolve their problem? Clarissa and Jace are both bound and gagged, when Valentine decides to invoke Angel Raziel. Valentine wanted Raziel to help him kill more people, but instead, it is Raziel who kills him on the spot. This might be the most literal interpretation of deus ex Machina, with a godlike figure rising out of nowhere to resolve the story.


Katniss and Rue in Hunger Games
In Hunger Games, the protagonist Katniss makes friends with Rue, who reminds her of her own sister. They are both part of Hunger Games, where participants kill each other one by one because only one can survive.  Perhaps Katniss is the only one in this list who even came close to negating deus ex machina, as she honestly discusses her feelings with herself, and asks herself whether she would kill Rue when the time comes.  But ultimately, she does not have to. In a very subtle piece of deus ex machina, Rue is killed by a random rival, and Katniss gets to indulge in righteous grief.

In earlier literature like Shakespeare’s discussed above, the deus ex machina simply solved problems and provided a resolution. But the modern deus ex machina has evolved into a way of avoiding responsibility for the protagonist. What would Frodo have done if there was no Gollum? Would he have become the new tyrant after Sauron? Would Harry have killed Voldemort if Expelliarmus hadn’t worked, or would he have let Voldemort regain his reign of terror? Would Jace and Clarissa have killed their father if they were not bound and gagged? Would Katniss have killed Rue?

Nahuel, the human-vampire hybrid that Alice brings in from nowhere

Not every fantasy book contains deus ex machina, but most that have risen to fame do. Since fantasy provides a lot of possibilities like magical elements and irrational explanations, it is easier to introduce last moment solutions in fantasy. Even in the climax of Twilight, Alice brings in a random guy from nowhere to prevent bloodshed just in time. (Even though the quality of writing is not that great all through Twilight, this piece of deus ex machina takes the cake).

At this point, I want to be clear that I am not criticizing any of these books. Every book that I have listed here (apart from twilight) is a personal favorite of mine. And yet, I feel that for fantasy fiction to be taken as serious literature, deus ex machina must be addressed. What deus ex machina does is to take the decision away from the protagonist. In doing so, they take away the most important and powerful moments that could-have-been.

P.S How could I forget the king of Deus ex Machinas? Narnia, which has been corrupting the minds of children for generations. What happens in Narnia is that the children get ready for an epic battle, but then Aslan comes sweeping in and the enemies just evaporate, leaving the children to do nothing but lay down their weapons and celebrate. We never get to know how the battle would have turned out, it is the anti climax of the century, what I would call underwhelming. Much later I learnt that it is a parable about Christianity and Aslan is a symbol for Christ. Duh!


Oct 12, 2012

Undressing in Medical Setting



With a perfect row of shiny white teeth and a plump face, she was quite pretty. Though I thought she was middle aged at first, on second thoughts she appeared quite young, maybe early thirties. I should have noticed that, instead of her obesity and the tube coming out of her nose. Because when she said that she “did not like it when a male nurse comes to give her a bath”, I did a double take. Because I did not expect a sick, unattractive-at-first-glance person to feel that way. With so many tubes coming out of her body in the first place, I expected her to be beyond caring.
I was at a nursing home, in conversation with two inmates, Patty and Sandy. I then turned to Sandy and asked her if she felt the same about taking off her clothes in the bathroom. Sandy was over sixty years old, with white hair and a full set of dentures. She replied that she felt extremely uncomfortable being washed by a male nurse. “When I shower, I ask the guy to stand outside, and if I fall down because of the lack of oxygen, I tell him he can scrape me off the floor!” Patty tried to make light of the situation. “Oh wait, I tell him that he can first knock me out, because I don’t want to watch him watching me, and then he can scrape me off the floor!”

Sandy told me that in response to her concerns, the nurse told her that “I seen them of all sizes, and shapes, I seen so many that not even Dolly Parton would interest me!” I realized that I had been as dispassionate as any of the medical practitioners in assuming that just because someone was sick, they did not care about modesty. Well, maybe for the nurse, one person’s body is the same as any other’s, and they see it as dispassionately as seeing a bottle of medicine. But that conversation taught me that every person, no matter how blasé they may seem on the outside, has body issues.
At that moment, I could do nothing but laugh at their embarrassment, since they were trying so hard to see the lighter side of things. But jokes apart, I began to think of my own and a few friends’ experience of undressing in a medical situation friends. As far as I remember, the experience is extremely squeamish, and I would really prefer to keep the undressing at a minimum.
 In Nepal, apart from the usual level of squeamishness, the women I talked to mentioned other problems. One adult woman still remembered how, when she was a teenager, she was asked to undress by the doctor who wanted to examine wounds on her body. Though she trusted the doctor, she was extremely annoyed at the onlookers who crowded in to have a look as well. Another young woman talked about her suspicions of being groped that she could never prove or even express. Jhamak Ghimire, in Jeevan Kaada ki Phool, discusses her discomfort in similarly invasive medical situations. All the women I talked to admitted to being deeply disturbed by these experiences.
I thought of those violently ill women at the nursing home who told the nurse to stay outside while they showered, even though it is the nurse’s duty to shower them. Why do we, women in Nepal, not have the confidence to do the same? (I guess any man in a similar situation would be just as embarrassed to be undressed in front of strangers. However, because of medical situations like pregnancy and childbirth, an average woman is likely to face many more invasive medical procedures than an average man. Coupled with the fact that there are (still) more male doctors than female ones, and we women in Nepal are (still) very embarrassed about showing skin, a woman has a far higher chance of going through uncomfortable medical experiences than men. A normal heart examination, for example, which requires the patient to take off upper body clothing, is passé for men while it is deeply embarrassing for women.) Why can we not ask for uncomfortable situation to be kept to a minimum? Is it up to the medical practitioner to ensure their privacy? Or is it up to the patient themselves to ensure they get their privacy?

The women I talked to agreed that they were unable to protest or complain to anyone about their embarrassment, as they did not know what to say, who to talk to, and if they were even allowed to say anything in a medical situation. I too had felt the same hesitation during such uncomfortable situations. My impression is that the medical profession is so revered that we never question anything that a doctor or nurse tells us to do. Not that it should not be revered, we depend on medical professionals for our health and very lives. But at the same time, maybe there should be better communication between the patient and the professional. If we, the patients, stay silent and “okay” every step that we are asked to do, then no doubt the other person is going to think we are ok with it. Hence, we as patients, should definitely learn to voice our concerns. We are the ones who should gain confidence and discuss our limits with medical professionals, to ensure our own comfort and peace of mind. 
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