Niranjan Koirala or Niru Da as he was fondly called by his loved ones, passed away on the morning of January 3, Tuesday, at Max Hospital, New Delhi. He was 75.
Born to Keshav Koirala and Nona Koirala in Biratnagar, he studied in St. Xavier’s Patna for a few years and then completed his schooling at Adarsh Vidyalaya in Biratnagar. He then did his Masters in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University, followed by another Masters in the same subject from the University of California, Berkeley. Following this, he completed a course in hospitality management from Delhi and was a part of the hospitality sector for 20 years. He was also an adviser to a former Nepali minister of tourism in the 1990s. From his time in the ministry, Niru Baba, as I liked to call him, was particularly proud of his role in getting Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci a permit to film his movie 'Little Buddha' (1993) in Nepal.
A member of the illustrious Koirala family—he is the elder brother of Nepali Congress central committee member Shekhar Koirala—Niru Baba also played a prominent role in the reestablishment of democracy in 1990.
Although he lost his first wife Santosh in the fatal Thai Air crash near Kathmandu in 1992 and his second wife Ila Dalmia—whom I met a couple of times when I was a kid—to cancer in 2003, he never stopped to live and love life to the fullest.
My first memory of Niru Baba was at his house in Delhi. As his profession suggested, he was a very hospitable man, and hosting people for meals was something he enjoyed a lot. He was passionate about reading and writing, and the study in his house exemplified his interests perfectly. He had a big garden at home and could be found basking in the afternoon sun in winters, sometimes just enjoying a cup of coffee or displaying produces from his garden.
He was known for his peculiar passions. He had a pet monkey which he had brought to Delhi from Kathmandu. To my fascination, he had also built a tree house for the pet. Such were the things that gave him real happiness.
A travel enthusiast, he had travelled all over the world, covering the remotest of places such as Antarctica and Upper Mustang. Every winter he would travel and spend time in the Western Ghats of India to escape the treacherous Delhi winter.
He was a progressive man and technologically savvy. I remember an instance in Kathmandu where he was a bit jittery as he could not figure out the Wi-Fi password. He always mingled with the younger generation, trying to see things from their perspectives, broadening his as well as their horizons.
I still have fond memories of our last meeting on the 10th of February 2020 where we were analyzing in great detail the result of Delhi Assembly Elections. He was knowledgeable in a wide array of things from religion, politics, travel to art, culture to cuisine. A vehement critic of crony capitalism and propounder of rural culture and ethos, one could see him travel and cherish the rural lifestyle.
In the end I would like to quote two literary authors who I think had a great impact in his life and the essence of these could be seen in the life he lived. The first one is Rabindranath Tagore who says, “The tendency of mind is economical, it loves to form habits and move in grooves which save it the trouble of thinking anew at each of its steps. Ideals once formed make the mind lazy. It becomes afraid to risk its acquisitions in fresh endeavors. It tries to enjoy complete security by shutting up its belongings behind fortifications of habits. But this is really shutting oneself up from the fullest enjoyment of one's own possessions. It is miserliness. The living ideals must not lose their touch with the growing and changing life. Their real freedom is not within the boundaries of Security, but in the highroad of adventures, full of the risk of new experiences.”
The second one is a poem by W.H. Davies
“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”