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A wasteland for innovative minds?

A wasteland for innovative minds?

From the prehistoric epoch, our land has been home to some of the great minds, including sages and hermits with tremendous philosophical depth and ideology, sources of wisdom and knowledge throughout the world. Nepal has had personalities, who had attained dimensions beyond physical, in the genres of ‘tantra’, ‘mantra’ and ‘yantra’. 

While the half hemisphere of this living planet was living in the stone age, knowledge based on profound experience of the cosmos was flowing in Nepal. 

This is the land of the Vedas, of the Buddhas including Shakyamuni Buddha, this is where Kapilmuni propounded the Sankhya philosophy and Falgunanda instituted Kirant religion. While this rich and vibrant culture and tradition is still going on, the rulers of this country have failed to recognize and tap Nepal’s tremendous human potential.

During the Rana regime, Gehendra Shamsher Rana, considered the first scientist of modern Nepal, developed Nepal's first mini-hydropower plant, water-powered rice pounding mill, wind-powered water pump and leather refinery, among others. 

Gehendra Shamsher also made guns, cannons and a car. Despite these contributions toward the country, the then ruler Chandra Sumsher Rana demotivated this scientist and had him exiled. Finally he died in mysterious circumstances at a young age of 35.

There was another innovator in Nepal, Achyutananda,  also known as Viman Pandit. He built a steam-powered car that could carry up to two people after 20 years of efforts, playwright Balkrishna Sama mentions in his book titled ‘Mero Kabitako Aaradhana’.

Achyutananda is also said to have built a model aircraft with features including a kerosene-powered engine and a bamboo frame covered with waterproof wax cloth. He took off at Pachali Ghat and landed at Kalmochan Ghat. But the aeroplane project ‘crashed’ as soon as the news of the successful test flight fell on Chandra Sumsher’s ears.

These projects were no mean feat in an era when Nepal was largely isolated from the rest of the world. 

Almost 25 years after Achyutananda’s passing, another researcher-cum-innovator-cum-social entrepreneur, Mahavir Pun, was born in Nepal. Pun built a local communication network using wireless technology to connect people in the Himalayan communities. 

But this innovator, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, has also been suffering the Nepali state’s neglect toward his noble cause. Despite promises to fund his brainchild, National Innovation Center, no help is forthcoming from the state, forcing Pun to auction his international awards to keep the center afloat.

The Takila mountain in Bhutan features a 155-feet-tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the first of its kind in the world. The place is expected to become a hugely popular tourist destination, bringing prosperity to local communities. 

Who is behind this magnificent project? A Nepali team under Rajkumar Shakya, a prominent sculptor, who has taken the traditional Newari repousse metalwork to the next level. His works can also be found in Japan, South Korea, France, Italy and the United States. 

After six years of hard work, a team of six sculptors under Manjul Miteri, a sculptor from east Nepal, have carved out a 65-feet-tall sculpture of Gautam Buddha on a cliff in Kyushu (Japan), considered the biggest sculpture of the century on a single solid rock mountain. 

Laxman Shrestha, a self-taught expressive artist from Nepalgunj, participated in the 17th and 18th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, with his abstract paintings entitled ‘Quake’ and ‘Starving Moon’. The Mumbai-based Gallery 7 has bought his works. 

Shrestha is the creator of ‘Khoj’, a series of graffiti that used to be on display in Kathmandu with social messages. Instead of getting support from the state, he got arrested twice. 

For a month, 41 artworks of 13 artists are on display at Drexel’s Pearlstein Gallery in Philadelphia, the first exhibition of contemporary Nepali artists in the United States. 

The exhibition features the works of Shiva Kumar Sharma, an impressionist artist from Dolakha based in Kathmandu, among others. 

His first exhibition was held in Darjeeling in 1982 when he was 14, followed by a solo exhibition in 1991 at Nepali Girls Dioses Center in Darjeeling. Sharma has been spearheading a ‘Save trees movement’ since 2000 and participating in popular group exhibitions. 

These are but some of the representative cases showing the Nepali state not even bothering to give some of its exceptional minds even a pat on the back for doing Nepal and the Nepalis proud.