The resurgence of interest in Beat literature and hippie culture in Nepal demands scholarly research and writing in its own right. But in alluding to this topic here, I’m only writing about my experiences as a literature teacher that includes an American, a 60s freak, and a literary person, who drew huge inspiration from the writers of the Beat Generation of America and poets and hippie hippies. writers I befriended in the late 60s and early 70s.
I have written little memories of this period here and there, granted interviews to foreign and native journalists and curious young people, and published related articles, especially since 2001. Although this influence remains deep in me, I do not didn’t particularly highlight this impact because I realized after I graduated from Tribhuvan University and started teaching at tertiary level, I didn’t follow the tradition of the Beat Generation nor in my writing nor in my teaching. But this impression has become the cultivation of my mind; it still plays a part in shaping my thoughts in some way.
I had a secret desire to seek out such writers and even teachers when I went to Britain to study and joined the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in the late 70s. couldn’t find any former Beat writers or hippies. After about a year, however, I encountered them in the most unlikely places; I found characters living with the hippie mode of quiet existence. I met them in a village on the border with Scotland. It was a great moment when I found out that they came to Kathmandu as hippies and had fond memories of the place. The couples with Zen calm and poetic detachment touched me deeply. I don’t know where they are now. How would I know anyway!
But what has struck me over the years in Nepal is a strange but interesting resurgence of interest here in Beat Generation writers and hippies. I find this surprising because those who are interested in it are young people; and with few exceptions, they work in different forms of media. They call and say they want to meet me. The purpose of such meetings would be to dialogue with me mainly about hippies and some about the poets of the Beat Generation. I took it as a simple curiosity among young people to know the strange visitors of the sixties.
But at first, I didn’t know why they wanted to tell me about this generation of Western visitors and this movement that I have always held in high esteem. There is a visceral element to my story. I always thought and still think it was purely my personal experience, a story that I always considered private. This changed, however, after I met scholars from South Asia. Meet an open-minded and poetic American scholar named Mark Liechty, a professor of anthropology and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was researching what he calls “countercultural scholars” by making the link with tourism in Nepal, has made a difference. At first reluctantly, but later with greater interest, I shared my stories and experiences with him. He published a book titled Far the Nepali edition of which came out from Martin Chautari in 2019. He wrote about our conversations in a few chapters. After reading Mark’s interpretation, I knew what it was that I was secretly carrying with me. He forcefully placed the conversation in both an academic and literary context.
A few western journalists came to tell me about this experience and posted the conversations online. But what struck me as very interesting was the growing interest in hippies and poets of the Beat Generation among young journalists for whom it is the name of an exotic culture and an experience which, according to them, has significance today because Nepal has opened up almost all communication channels. with the world. And they rightly believe that a redefinition or interpretation of the moments of encounters with the world and the experiences of people from the previous generation is very important.
A former student of mine in the English department at Tribhuvan University who was accepted by an American university for graduate studies leading to a doctorate on South Asian interest in Beat poets brought back this matter at home. The great Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s wanderings in India between 1961 and 1963 sparked an interest in countercultural reinterpretation with poetic confidence. Ginsberg realized that such a discovery was essential to breathing new life into American culture.
Beat poet Ginsberg and his compatriots like Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and others were trying to develop a creative energy that would counter growing capitalist and military cultures by evoking the mysticism and poetic power of Asian culture in general and of Indian culture. specifically. For this, they found in South Asian and Asian culture the elements of mystical and anarchist creative energy that could be used in poetry and other writing.
The Beat poets’ South Asian interest lies in their belief that the mytho-poetic culture they found here gave them a language to write about politics, culture, democracy and unrestricted freedom and to protest against the cold war situation. The range of themes discovered in Asia was wide. They believed they had found the language to address the nation, rulers, mysticism, literature, and ordinary people. Their interpretation of Indian singing and performance culture was one way to achieve this.
The growing interest of Nepalese youth in hippie culture and Beat Generation literature is perhaps not directly related to the original spirit of these 60s movements in the West. But what is interesting in their quest is that they want to draw their energy from the experience of the 60s that they encountered in literature, music, painting and colorful performances. A strange parallel exists between the militaristic and Cold War culture of the 1960s and that which is developing in the world today. Perhaps this is the reason why young people want to know more about the resistant genius of the time. I am particularly impressed by the simultaneity of the interest of young people here in the stories of the 1960s experienced by Nepal and the literature written by American and other poets and travel writers of this period. This subject is both fluid and academic.