Taranath Sharma, a renowned essayist, novelist and literary critic, died on 15 February. He was 87. In his lifetime, Sharma published over 100 books, in the process winning several literary awards including the prestigious Madan Puraskar.
He is credited with starting the literary movement called ‘Jharro Nepali’ that advocated the originality and purity of Nepali language.
Sharma was born in Barbote, Ilam, on 23 June 1934. He learned to read and write on the lawn of his house, where a teacher from the neighborhood used to gather local children and teach them alphabets. When Sharma was nine, his family moved to Fikkal, where he studied in an English medium school opened by his father. He then completed his Grade 10 and an IA course in Darjeeling, India.
It was in Darjeeling that Sharma met Nepali writers like Paras Mani Pradhan, Shiva Kumar Rai and Rup Narayan Singh. Inspired by their works, he too wanted to become a writer.
His aspiration of becoming a writer was further cemented when he came across celebrated Nepali dramatist Balkrishna Sama in Varanasi, India, where he had gone to get his bachelor’s degree in 1959.
Sharma and Sama bonded over their shared love of Nepali language and, together, started the Jharro Nepali movement.
The duo also collaborated to publish a newspaper called ‘Naula Nepal’ from Varanasi. The paper, in which Sharma served as the editor-in-chief, ran for two years.
After completing his studies in Varanasi, Sharma went to Patna on a government scholarship to get a master’s degree in English. Sharma returned to Nepal after his studies and started teaching at Tribhuvan University in Kirtipur as a professor in English. He also taught in other colleges like Padma Kanya Campus.
Sharma later got his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, United States.
His first book ‘Namaste’ was published in 1962. However, he gained fame as a writer for his criticism of a poem penned by king Mahendra, a lese majeste that led to his imprisonment. He wrote ‘Ojhel Parda’, a translation of ‘Blackout’ by Larry Hartsell, while in prison in 1966.
Interestingly, Sharma was later commissioned to write ‘Mahendra Mala’, Nepali textbooks for Grades 9 and 10 named after king Mahendra.
Many also consider Sharma a pioneer in Nepali travelog. His travelog ‘Belayat Tira Baralinda’, inspired by his trip to England, won the Madan Puraskar in 1969.
He also received the Sajha Puraskar for his book ‘Sama ra Sama ka Kriti’ (1972). In 1982, he was honored with the Sarwashretha Pathyapustak Lekhan Puraskar.
Besides teaching and writing, Sharma also worked as a journalist for a time, including as the editor-in-chief of The Rising Nepal, the state-owned English daily.
He edited ‘Naaso’, a book by Guru Prasad Mainali, and helped it in its publication. Sharma is also credited for the publication of Gopal Prasad Rimal’s ‘Aama ko Sapana’.
Recently, Sharma had been suffering from dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. He passed away on the morning of 15 February at his home in Chabahil, Kathmandu. He is survived by his wife and two sons.