- 5:33 pm - Fri, Mar 22, 2013
LASIK surgery: The risks and rewards
“How are your eyes?”
That’s the first question Sandhya Acharya, 26, an economics graduate, gets asked these days. It’s been a year since she underwent the surgery and people still want to know how her eyes are after Lasik. Do her eyes hurt when exposed to sunlight? Are her eyes still dry? Is she still wearing glasses? And most importantly, is her vision still blurred?
Her answer to each of the questions is a frustrated yes before complaining that her eyes burn and sting. She has problems looking at bright pictures and reading books with comparatively smaller fonts. She has single-handedly depleted the stock of Refresh Tears, a lubricant eye drop that moisturizes and relieves dry and irritated eyes, at her local pharmacy.
Photos: Bijay Gajmer
“I’ve been wearing glasses ever since I was in grade seven. Since the past few years, I had been using contact lenses. I wanted to end the vision hassle for once and for all, so I opted for Lasik surgery,” says Sandhya who sits wearing sunglasses as she speaks. As ironic as that might be, sunglasses have now replaced her power glasses.
Lasik (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis), commonly referred to as laser eye surgery, is a type of refractive surgery for the correction of myopia (inability to see distant objects clearly), hyperopia (difficulty to see nearby objects) and astigmatism (abnormally curved cornea). Myopia (also called short-sightedness) occurs due to the formation of image in front of the retina, and hyperopia (also known as hypermetropia or farsightedness) occur due to the formation of image behind the retina.
While contact lenses are a good alternative for those who don’t want to wear thick glasses, a lot of people in their 20s and 30s feel burdened by the task of even putting on and removing them on a daily basis. Dr Kamal Khadka, Medical Director at Bharatpur Eye Hospital in Chitwan, says that a lot of young people these days opt for Lasik surgery purely for cosmetic reasons.
“Personally, I don’t recommend Lasik surgery to my patients because if complications arise after the operation, then there’s no way to correct it,” says Dr Khadka, adding that when and if his patients express a strong desire to undergo the procedure, then he makes sure they are aware of both the pros and cons before referring them to Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO) for the surgery.
TIO has been conducting laser eye surgery for correction of refractive error since last year after a gap of four years. Everyone above 18 years without medical conditions like thyroid problems, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and rheumatic diseases can get Lasik. Pregnant women, however, aren’t allowed to undergo this procedure due to fluctuating eyesight because of hormonal imbalance.
The major issue with laser surgery lies in determining who should undergo the surgery. TIO’s state-of-the-art equipment and technology scans patients and takes numerous factors into consideration to ensure safety and unparalleled accuracy during surgery.
Here’s how Lasik works. A laser cuts a flap in the front of the eye. The flap is folded back, and a second laser reshapes the cornea to make a lens that’s of the right shape and focus. Then the flap is put back.
Many examinations of corneal refraction, corneal thickness, eye pressure and others checkups by ultrasound and scans are done before giving patients the go-ahead for the operation. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the surgery will have no side effects.
Puran Shrestha, 31, art director and graphics designer for an advertising agency, has been living with a permanent glare. While he’s happy that he got rid of those bulky glasses he had been wearing for over 15 years and that he doesn’t even have to wear contact lenses occasionally, the constant glare hampers his work.
“I have to constantly work on the computer and I can’t focus for too long. My vision gets blurred and I have to close my eyes and rest for a while,” says Puran, adding that he has consulted many ophthalmologists all of whom have told him the same thing: He has to live with it. There’s no way to correct it now.
After the surgery, forget the dryness and the glare that are now a part of his life, Puran also at times feels as if he has put on his contact lenses inside out. The doctors have told him that it’s most probably a side effect of dry eyes because the flaps they cut out have healed perfectly.
“Imagine having a side effect of a side effect,” he says with a frustrated heave of his shoulders.
Lasik surgery, though is a simple procedure lasting anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes, comes with a fair share of side effects. From irreversible eye damage and severe night vision problems to decreased contrast sensitivity, the side effects can be harrowing. In case of people with high astigmatism, the results of Lasik can be unpredictable. Also, sometimes people might still need glasses after surgery because of errors in calculation leading to over- or under-correction.
Explaining how Lasik surgeries are carried out, Dr Rita Gurung, Deputy Director at Tilganga, says the cornea is thinned, using laser to ensure that the image is formed on the retina.
“We ablate the middle part of the cornea to reduce the distance between the cornea and the retina to correct myopia and we ablate the sides of the same to elongate it in case of hyperopia,” she explains, adding that patients with refractive error of up to -14 and +6 can be corrected by the surgery.
Though high power alone does not make one eligible for surgery, those with less power are generally not advised to opt for Lasik. Also a person should have stable eyesight with no change in power for at least two to three years to be eligible for the surgery.
“Refractive power bec-omes more or less stable by the mid-20s. So if you’re considering Lasik, it’s wise to wait till you are at least 24 years old,” says Dr Khadka, adding that there is no guarantee that even then you’ll never need glasses again for myopia later on in life.
According to Dr Gurung, 96% of people will have perfect vision while the rest can have a defect of up to -1 or +1 after the surgery. Also, one of the major surgical side effects of Lasik is that it causes dry eye. Sandhya and Puran will vouch for that. Their eyes have never been the same.
“If the doctors had warned me of the possible side effects, then I wouldn’t have undergone the treatment,” says Puran, mentioning that everyone just harps on the pros and cons and no one provides accurate information. Sandhya adds that it could also be because of people’s willingness to undergo the surgery at any cost that the doctors don’t stress on the side effects and focus on the fact that it is a simple operation.
“It’s more or less a business because a lot of people are doing it for purely aesthetic purposes without considering the health aspect of it,” says Sandhya who now firmly believes that Lasik should only be done if wearing glasses seriously hampers your work. “If you’re doing fine with glasses or contacts, then it’s better to stick to them.”
It is likely that Lasik surgery will gain more popularity as the years pass, especially among the young crowd. Plenty of people have had tremendously wonderful experiences even as many are living with the side effects of an ill informed decision. The public deserves an honest study, free from the bias and influence of the Lasik industry. There are bright doctors and trustworthy public health officials who have no financial interest in Lasik and who are certainly qualified to perform a credible study. Without that, the public will not be able to assess the true risks, benefits of and alternatives to Lasik surgery. And under such circumstances, how is a patient ever supposed to make a truly informed decision?
Before you sign up for Lasik surgery, here are a few things to think about
• Lasik is an irreversible surgery at a very delicate part of your eye.
• As with any surgery, there are risks and possible complications.
• Millions of people have had Lasik, many very successfully, but it’s not for everyone.
• Lasik may not give you perfect vision. Detailed, precise vision may be slightly diminished.
• Even with Lasik to correct your distance vision, you are likely to need reading glasses in your mid-40s. Lasik surgery cannot correct or prevent presbyopia, the age-related loss of focusing power for seeing near objects.
• The benefits of the Lasik procedure may diminish over time, and one may require a second surgery, called “retreatment,” to restore the desired vision correction. This is more likely for people who were more nearsighted or farsighted, or had higher astigmatism before Lasik.
Aside from the actual surgery, post-operative care is one of the things that LASIK surgery patients worry about the most. Laser eye surgery, though it’s one of the most minimally disruptive procedures you can undergo in terms of recovery time, does need precautions and safety measures even in post-operation period.
Though there might not be many complications from this simple procedure, adhering to doctors’ instructions will ensure the best possible results. If you’re considering laser eye surgery, here’s a list of dos and don’ts that you should follow after your procedure.
Do’s after LASIK surgery
Do use a protective eye covering. It’s required to be worn for some weeks even while sleeping so as to prevent the rubbing of the eyes. It’s best that eyes aren’t touched at all during the recovery period to avoid damage to the corneal flap.
Do use the prescribed eye drops, as directed. Painkillers can help manage whatever pain there may be after the operation. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications might be prescribed for prevention of complications and to reduce swelling. You might also be advised to use moistening eye drops to help lubricate the eyes, as some drying is expected to occur.
Do wear safety glasses during sports or high-risk activities. It isn’t necessary to live in a bubble after undergoing Lasik surgery. But if you’ll be engaging in activities that increase your risk of eye injury, then use safety glasses.
There’s no need to seclude yourself for weeks after Lasik surgery. Normal activities can be resumed the very next day but do exercise some caution. Do avoid swimming, hot tubs and water sports for two weeks after the surgery.
Don’ts after LASIK surgery
Don’t rub your eyes at least for two weeks after surgery. Some eye discomfort is to be expected after undergoing any medical procedure, but no matter how strong the urge is, don’t rub your eyes. There may be a feeling of having something inside your eye but always resist the temptation to touch it.
Don’t get soap or water directly in your eyes. Avoid this for two weeks after your procedure. Even tap water that has been treated has the capability of carrying organisms that can do serious harm to a healing cornea. If soap or water does get into your eyes, put your head down and blink, so that your tears will wash them out.
Don’t wear eye makeup. Mascara and eyeliner shouldn’t be applied for three days after Lasik surgery. Extreme caution should be observed when removing makeup.
Don’t forget post-op appointments. Follow-up care is extremely important after Lasik surgery, so be sure to make it to all your post-operative appointments.
- 5:33 pm
Is laser eye surgery worth it?
After having myopic eye condition (inability to see distant objects clearly) for more than thirteen years, for Anushree KC, 23, corrective glasses and contact lenses have been her necessities to correct her vision. But both, according to her, are burden and a sort of hindrance while trying out many activities. In addition, contact lenses, which she is using for the past three years, though, are good replacement for glasses cosmetic-wise, are very prone to dust and pollution. Many times, she wishes to get rid of these necessities and have a normal vision.
Many, like KC, who are suffering from vision aberrations, wish for a permanent solution to their eye problems. “Many people I know have gone through the procedure of laser eye surgery and are very happy with the results,” she says, clearly voicing her enthusiasm for the procedure.
The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO) resumed its services of laser surgery for permanent correction of refractive error in January last year. The surgery is carried out by using Lasik surgery to ensure that the image is formed on the retina, which otherwise is formed in front of the retina in myopic conditions and behind it in hyperopic conditions.
Since then, laser eye surgery has been sought out by many people; and it has been popular mostly among urban people in their early twenties.
Pranita Sharma, 22, who has just completed her Bachelor’s-level studies, went through the procedure about six months ago. She was encouraged to go for the surgery after one of her friends’ brother went through the procedure and recommended it to her.
“I knew that such surgery existed long before it was introduced in Nepal. So I was clearly looking forward to it when TIO offered such services,” says Sharma. She adds that she never used contact lenses as replacement to her corrective glasses before her laser surgery as she believed that they were unusable in Kathmandu. “With so much dirt and pollution, I was scared that I might catch infection, and contact lenses never seemed like a reliable option to me, either” she says.
Though the procedure of laser eye surgery lasts only for around 10 minutes, one needs to take an appointment with the concerned doctors for initial consultation and later for pre-operative checkup before the doctors determine whether the person is a good candidate for the surgery.
Sharma says that though she was a little apprehensive in the beginning, her doubts were cleared when she visited the doctors for initial consultation. “My dad accompanied me during the consultation and he was also impressed by the amount of information provided by the doctors,” she says.
She went through surgery during the Dashain vacation, considering that she would have ample time to rest after the surgery. “No matter how sure you are, going for a surgery is always a big deal. And when it’s your eyes, you do panic a little even if the doctors ensure you of safety,” she says, adding that she had a sleepless night before the surgery day.
Ambalika Shakya, 24, who also had her laser eye surgery some six months back, and a medical doctor herself, says that she was impressed by the doctor’s consultation and friendly nature. “Being able to get rid of glasses and contact lenses gives you a sense of freedom. The surgery felt very rewarding when I could clearly see the distant objects without them,” she says.
But Shakya adds that one should not jump into laser eye surgery without preparation. “Laser eye surgery may be a 10-minute procedure but it requires detailed attention before and after the surgery,” she says.
After the surgery, one will experience blurred vision for another 24 hours. During that time, they are required to wear eye shield and keep themselves away from excessive light and other electronic devices that strain the eyes. The usage of artificial tears is also recommended for another six months to one year, according to individual requirement.
“You should always be cautious, and carelessness will have bigger consequences,” says Shakya. Though she does not have any complications till now, she recommends that people decide upon the surgery only after having complete self-assurance.
“There is no cent percent guarantee of any surgery. You might face complications as well, and in such cases psychology also plays its part. So it is better to have all the information to overcome any insecurity regarding the process,” she says.
Sharma, on the other hand, cannot contain her joy over acquiring normal eyesight and strongly suggests it to people with vision aberrations. “I think getting normal vision for your lifetime is a boon and laser eye surgery gives you the opportunity to experience that,” she says.
But for many, like KC, laser eye surgery is still a complicated decision with the technology newly introduced in the country. Many like her are also apprehensive that this surgery might have complications later in life. “My mother is against the idea of eye surgery. She suggests that I stick to contact lenses or corrective glasses,” says KC.
Lasik surgery was introduced in the United States more than two decades ago. Even India had started these services a decade back; but for Nepal, it is a new concept. While many people have gone ahead with the surgery, many are still doubtful of its success. The scare of side effects is also one of the main factors that keep many people from using the Lasik services. Laser eye surgery is definitely a sensitive process, which not only requires a skilled medical hand but also a major commitment by the candidates for healthy practices before and after the surgery.
- 5:31 pm
Solar power in the gateway to EVEREST
KASHISH DAS SHRESTHA
By combining its micro-hydro with a solar power system, the Pasang Lhamu-Nicole Niquille Hospital in Lukla is now energy independent and no longer uses the local Lukla grid.
Perched on a serene hill in the shadows of the Lukla-Ri peaks, the Pasang Lhamu-Nicolle Niquille Hospital is less than 10 minutes’ walk away from the Lukla Airport (2,860 meters above sea level). And for over seven years now, Gopal Shrestha, an illiterate carpenter who first arrived to work on the construction here, has been its default energy manager and gardener.
Since its establishment in October 2005, PLNN Hospital, managed by the Pasang Lhamu Mountaineering Foundation (Nepal) with technical and financial support from the Foundation Nicole Niquille Hospital Lukla (Switzerland), has remained a critical medical service provider in the region. But even till a few months ago, if the PLNN Hospital needed to perform X-Rays, use the operation theater, or use other equipments that required a lot of energy, Gopal would have to walk down about five minutes to the local Lukla transformer and temporarily shut down power supply to parts of the mountain village. All that changed when the hospital added its the
solar power system some six months ago.
Nepal Telecom also uses solar power for their station in Lukla.
With the hospital’s own micro hydro plant now combined with its solar unit, PLNN Hospital is energy independent and no longer uses the local Lukla grid. And the Lukla grid in which the hospital had also invested is able to serve the Lukla village without interruptions. If there’s a power crunch, Gopal only needs to decide which parts of the hospital should get its power supply briefly interrupted.
Sun and rain
PLNN Hospital’s micro-hydro has an installed capacity of 20KVA. “But we hardly get that, probably not even during the rainy season,” Gopal explains.
Nepal’s domestic electricity production is run-of-the-river-based, a model that depends entirely on the flow of rivers fed by the snowmelt in the Himalaya and rains. In the dry winter season, Nepal endures perhaps an average of 12 hours of daily blackouts.
The solar power unit at the hospital has an installed capacity of 6kWp with 30PV panels of 195watts each. Installed in collaboration with the Groupe E Connect SA (Switzerland), it took about five days to put up and solved a problem that the hospital had dealt with for more than five years.
Gopal learnt everything about solar energy in those five days when he worked on the installation. Since he cannot read the manual, he uses a photo manual to troubleshoot if the need arises. “Otherwise, I just ask the doctors to read the English parts and translate it to Nepali for me,” Gopal explains.
“Right now our batteries are charged both by the sun and the river,” Gopal explains. “But on gloomy days like this, I like to save the solar battery and let the hospital run on hydro. So the battery is off and just charging at the moment.”
To toggle between just hydro, or hydro and solar, Gopal simply needs to unplug a large hose-like cable and plug it into the source he wants. To demonstrate this, he pulls the cable out of the hydro port and plugs it into the solar one.
“See how the lights are brighter now? Now we’re using our full energy supply,” he explains, pleased with the result. “But I like to make sure the battery is at least 75-80% charged as you never know when you may need that extra power.” Demonstration over, he plugs the hospital back to hydro only.
“Now the village doesn’t have to lose power if the hospital needs it, and the hospital doesn’t have to worry about not having enough power,” he says, smitten with the technology. “Sure, I don’t have to run off to the transformer now, but I have to admit, it’s a fulltime job making sure the battery is at the optimum level while everyone’s getting to do what they need to at the hospital.”
The constant gardener
Gopal, originally from Solu, still has his wife there. Three of his daughters are married, and his son is studying hospitality management in Kathmandu. He has lived at the hospital fulltime for seven years, taking only several weeks of annual leaves.
The hospital, here in Khumbu, is his home away from home. And when not watching the battery levels like a possessive mother hawk, he works on the hospital’s garden, simply because he likes to.
Gopal´s dedication is inspired by late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, whose poster he keeps hung at his room´s door.
“You won’t believe it, but I remember winters when we would just go home for a month or two because the snow and the cold made it impossible to work,” he recalls. “Now, look at this flower. For more than a year it hasn’t stopped blossoming even once, even during the winter.”
Last summer, he grew isles of corn on both sides of the pathway that leads to the hospital building. “It looked really nice, and I ate the corn too,” he explains. He also grows spinach and other vegetables as well as flowers.
“I would’ve never imagined I would be able to grow so much here. But now people come here and take photos of what is growing and ask me about it.”
At first, Gopal thought it was simply a result of his efforts. Then he added, “I realized the weather itself has changed. It just isn’t cold like it used to be.”
Gopal’s observations aren’t just hunches. There are several new peer-reviewed scientific studies that show greenhouses gases have contributed dangerously to global warming in the last century.
Before the PLNN Hospital installed its solar power system, Gopal would have to walk to the transformer and turn off power to a part of Lukla every time the hospital needed to use heavy equipments such as the X-Ray machine.
Lessons from the Gateway to Everest
The PLNN Hospital’s micro-hydro isn’t the only one suffering from lower than projected energy production. There are recent cases of larger private micro-hydro projects that have become unable to produce their installed capacity due to unexpected reduced river flows, forcing them to face losses. The need to consider solar energy’s role in Nepal’s micro-hydro sector has perhaps been never more important.
While Gopal’s flowers have surprised even him by blossoming all year long, he’s also worried about the growing year-round presence of pests in Lukla. How will the changing vegetation patterns, and the reasons for it, affect Nepal’s agro and hydro-sector as a whole?
Gopal´s dedication is inspired by late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, whose poster he keeps hung at his room´s door.
The decision to build a hybrid energy production system has enabled the Pasang Lhamu-Nicole Niquille Hospital to move to energy independence.
“My life revolves around making sure the hospital is as energy efficient and secure as possible,” Gopal says proudly. “I could be doing other things if I wanted to make more money, but here, I get a sense of satisfaction from doing this job.”
These flowers at the PLNN Hospital have blossomed all year along, even through the winter, surprising Gopal the gardene
There are important lessons here, in this hospital on the gateway to Everest, for Kathmandu’s globetrotting policymakers.
The author is Niti Foundation’s Renewable Energy Policy Fellow 2012.
- 5:30 pm
Social Science Research Council: The need of the hour
Hundreds of researches are carried out in Nepal each year at the cost of several million Rupees, but their benefits to public life and impacts at policy level, most experts engaged in the field agree, are barely noticeable.
Questions like who are doing those researches, who are funding them, are their findings reliable, what is their usefulness, who can access them and so on have never been raised or deliberately ignored by the research community and the stakeholders so far.
But with the field growing in scope and size, if still frustratingly disorganized, it is time now for all the stakeholders to ask the above questions to ensure that the vast resources – human, financial, technical – being poured in do not just go down the drain.
Moreover, at this time of social unrest, if the research community in Nepal do not find answers to those questions, rather than clarify, researches are more likely to create misunderstandings; rather than become means to empower the disenfranchised, they will be a medium for some to channel funds for their personal gains; and rather than becoming an open platform where everyone has a say, the field will become a fiefdom for a few who can exploit information for their own sake.
“At the root of social, economic and political problems is the lack of understanding of Nepal’s social, economic and political issues, of Nepal’s contemporary issues, of the roots of those issues,” said Pitamber Sharma, former vice-chairman of the Planning Commission who currently heads Resources Himalaya, a non-profit organization. “We can’t solve our problems unless we understand ourselves better. But even today, we are struggling to create standardized data about ourselves.”
Sharma acknowledged that researches and data collection are taking place in their own way “but there isn’t any effort to maintain that data, to look for its utility and to prioritize it.”
You need a framework for that, said Sharma, adding, that is what a research council is all about.
Former secretary of the Ministry of Women, Child and Social Welfare, Balananda Poudel threw more light on the issue.
“It’s not that the government isn’t spending money on research. Different ministries have budget set aside to carry out or commission studies and researches,” said Poudel. “But we don’t have institutional arrangement to do such things in an organized way. We do have a system of collecting data but there’s no mechanism to study the data systematically and analytically.”
Poudel also pointed out another issue that is equally worrisome. “No attempts have been made so far toward policy evaluation. To date, there hasn’t been policy impact research in Nepal,” he said.
When a policy that has been implemented fails to achieve its intended result, it’s quite natural to ask, “Why did it happen?” If we begin to ask that question, the importance of research will become clear. “Evaluation of projects implemented – itself a subject for research – would clearly show why policies and projects that don’t draw on reliable data don’t work,” said Poudel.
A major problem in this regard, Poudel added, is that we lack procedural mechanism to link research with policymaking. A national-level research institution like Social Science Research Council could play an important role to address that.
“At the time of policymaking, there are several options to choose from, all of which may seem legitimate. So what should be the basis for choosing one policy over the others?” Poudel said. The fundamental principle in this regard, he elaborated, is that such decisions should be made on the basis of facts and data that come from investigations and researches and their subsequent analyses.
“What you can achieve through research is understand the specific problems of specific groups without which you can’t make policies,” said TK Oommen, Professor of Sociology for many years at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, before retiring in 2002. “In order to make legislation, it is absolutely necessary to know the social realities.”
When you collect data from policy perspective, Oommen explained, you will do it to understand the deprivation of a category of people and to help policymakers make laws that empower the vulnerable sections of the society.
According to Oommen, researches were taking place in India since a long time in the university departments, but they lacked policy focus. “The then Minster of Education VKRV Rao, an economist and the main force behind the establishment of Indian Council of Social Science Research, thought policy-relevant social science research was needed,” he said.
One of the works of the ICSSR was to finance research projects with a policy slant. Over all, the focus at the time was to get knowledge about the weaker section of society. So ICSSR gave substantial amount of money in order to conduct studies on women, and the marginalized communities known in India as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“The policies of creating seats in the educational institutions and bureaucracy for the erstwhile unrepresented segments were a result of this,” Oommen said.
At different points of time, different categories will come for focus. The Royal Norwegian Embassy is trying to encourage research in Nepal through Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF) from inclusion perspective, be it inclusion of women, Dalits or Janajati.
“A lot of fund is poured into areas that are of less importance while the areas that deserve more attention are being neglected,” said Manju Thapa Tuladhar, team leader of SIRF. Tuladhar and her team at SIRF have been supporting and coordinating with several researchers working on a diverse array of topics reflecting the country’s diversity.
SIRF itself is an example, albeit at a small scale, that it is possible to have a national-level research institution that brings together research professionals, addresses their needs, trains them and allocates funds in more equitable manner, based on priority.
Tuladhar and all other experts interviewed for this article agree that the government must have a stake in such an institution so that it has a sense of ownership and is obliged to acknowledge and act according to the findings of the studies facilitated by it.
Meanwhile, Poudel informed that the Ministry of Social Welfare is leading the effort to establish Social Science Research Council. Under the chairmanship of the Secretary of the Social Welfare Ministry, an ad hoc council has been formed that has already prepared relevant documents to be submitted to the government once there is political stability.
Political problems apart, Poudel also points out that lack of proper communication among stakeholders for an organized push for the formation of the Council is partly responsible for the slow pace in which the process has been moving.
“Research as a field has not been able to organize itself because the government has not owned it so far,” said Pitamber Sharma. “All this can be attributed to the lack of realization among political leadership that funding social research will ultimately help improve policies and programs, enable their implementation, and ultimately help us understand ourselves better.”
The government should realize, he stressed, that the most important stakeholder of an organization like the Social Science Research Council is the government itself. “After all, it is the government that is responsible for the development of the country by understanding and addressing the country’s social, political and economic issues,” said Sharma.
- 5:29 pm
Clone chic: Caught in the fashion whirlpool
Clad in tight black jeans and a short-sleeved denim jacket over a checkered shirt, Sangeeta Lama, 29, a banker by profession, scurries through the stores at Civil Mall in Sundhara, Kathmandu. She has 30 minutes left of her lunch break on a busy weekday, and she’s on a mission: to find a short beige-colored dress with see-through material on the sleeves, and a slim belt to cinch the waist. None of the other gorgeous dresses on display catch her fancy.
Why such particularities about a dress, one might wonder, when there’s a wide variety to choose from with stores boasting of chic new arrivals now that summer is here. But Sangeeta will give you a seemingly valid reason for all the fuss. She was watching a movie where the actress was dressed in similar attire.
“She looked absolutely splendid. I haven’t seen a more beautiful dress and I’m looking for something like it,” says Sangeeta as she rushes about from store to store describing the dress to salesgirls who helplessly try to provide an alternative.
But Sangeeta refuses to budge and keeps hunting till there are five minutes left of her lunch hour. As she heads back to work, she looks dejected and quickly vows to find the right kind of material and get it custom-made.
“It’ll be quite a bit of work, but at least I’ll have the dress I want,” she says as she quickly picks up a light sweater that resembles something she’s once again seen an Indian actress sport on a magazine cover.
It’s not unusual for people to want to emulate actors they see on the screen, be it taking up smoking, drinking or wanting to dress alike. Especially, the fashion trend that seems to be doing rounds largely depends on what’s seen in the movies and television. It’s also not uncommon for women to don items once or twice before discarding them for something new they come across onscreen.
A fashion trend can emerge from just about anywhere, be it a pop culture song or a photo spread in a magazine. So it´s no surprise that every year there seem to be a few movies and television serials that have huge impacts on the way we dress.
Niharika Thapa, 25, a fresh college graduate, admits to being influenced by Hindi cinema. So much so that she sometimes has her friends in Delhi courier shoes and dresses over to her. She mentions that it’s easier to find items with close resemblance to the ones shown in movies in India, which is why she solicits help from her friends.
“Instead of scouring the stores around the capital trying to find a particular item, I just google a picture of what I want and email it to my friends who find something similar and ship it back to me,” she says with a content smile.
Fashion is a form of personal expression, a display of concept and creativity. But when people start copying what they see, instead of going by personal preferences, fashion gets limited to trend. What’s ridiculous and a bit scary, actually, is the fact that every person looks like a replica of someone else, maybe even a handful of other people. The fashion trend, it seems, has molded us into a big clay pot – all monotone, all the same.
While one might assume that women are more prone to fall into traps of blindly emulating what they see, men too don’t seem to lag that far behind on the issue.
Nitesh Khadka, 26, a computer engineer, admits that his fashion sense largely stems from leafing through magazines and watching movies and finding out what famous actors are currently wearing.
“The look I’m sporting now is inspired by a Hollywood actor. He was dressed in a similar manner in one of his movies,” says Nitesh a little abashedly.
Actors inspire new trends with their onscreen attires. It’s always been the case. Over the years, the silver screen has inspired a number of fashion trends. The past few years have witnessed major changes with fashion evolving with seasonal “must-haves.” To cater for this demand, stores are constantly crammed with affordable apparels that are watered-down versions of designer wears. Hundreds of stores are filled to the brim with similar stuffs in different colors with slight design variations.
Nina Shakya, a clothing store owner at New Road, says that fashion comes in bouts, and very frequently, shoppers come looking for items they’ve seen someone wearing in a movie.
“Almost every time there’s a new movie in town, the fashion trends change. First, there was tight t-shirts with baggy pants after an actress was seen sporting that look quite often in movies. Then there was workhouse garb wear which is semi baggy pants with rolled up shirtsleeves,” says Nina, stressing on the fact that the trends keep changing with every other movie or television serial.
“Quite recently, a certain kind of sari was a rage among young women after the protagonist of a very popular TV serial was seen wearing it. But that sari was popular for six months or so only,” she says, mentioning that people’s fascination with what they see on screen is appalling but it’s what retailers like her cash in on.
“We know certain items will be on demand and people will be willing to pay extra for it just because they want it badly after seeing it on someone they admire. So we stock those pieces and hike up the prices. Every clothing store owner does that,” says Subodh Rai, Nina’s shop assistant, adding that because of the trend of copying what one sees in movies and TV, every second person you see on the road looks like someone else you’ve just passed.
Being influenced by media and celebrities, it seems like most people have forgotten their own sense of style. By letting their personal looks be conjured by complete strangers, individualism has been lost.
What’s important to understand is that we all have a unique sense of fashion. Most people believe that fashion is “the current style” which is determined by the most popular actor or movie. Unfortunately, when that happens, people blend together into one mass of the same thing.
While it’s not necessary to bind yourself to the conventional style of clothing, heavily relying on media sources like TV and celebrity magazines for updated fashion trends can be a bigger blunder. The unrealistic expectation that we can be perfect and are willing to copy anything blindly to be that perfect person will leave us chasing shadows.
But of course, we already knew that, didn’t we?
- 5:28 pm
10 things a film can’t do without
Nepali cinema has undoubtedly taken a turn for the better but the power still remains with the audience to make or break a film. And in recent years, we´ve seen both immense support and criticism. So what would make a good film? Here´s a look at 10 probable points.
Photos: Tenzin Dorj
10. Embracing technology
In a fast moving age of technology, choosing the right equipment can be overwhelming. After much homework, we narrowed it down to Canon 5D. It´s cost effective and produces brilliant results, both technically and creatively. Due to its reasonable price, investing in two cameras turned out to be a sound idea. This allowed us to take two takes simultaneously, which not only gave the actors freedom to improvise but also quickened the shooting process.
Coping with adversaries is a challenge but it makes way for innovation. While shooting “Uma,” we tapped into solar energy to battle long load-shedding hours. And DIY low-energy LED bulbs (18 watts) provided the required power to light up a scene.
Photos: Tenzin Dorji
8. Post production
Known for their brutality on the chopping board, a good editor is essential for a film. While the director´s word is final, there´s no denying that a film can fall flat if not for an editor who has the eye and the judgment to know what stays and what goes.
John Williams, Howard Shore, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, A.R Rehman. Need we say more? It´s gradually taking precedence in Nepali films as well. A film is incomplete without the score and the soundtrack.
It´s not enough to just select a good pool of actors; it´s important that they are geared with the right props. It´s a support system that helps them get into their character as well as make the experience more real for the audience.
The backdrop not only sets the tone of the film, it also provides for great cinematography. We found that in Salmitar Village in Khopasi, a natural studio.
From the spot boy to the director, no matter how big or small the role, it´s equally important. It´s the team that pumps blood into the project.
Also, special attention should also be given to the food, as that keeps the engine running. After all, “the army marches well on a full stomach.”
Actors are the face of the film. They bring the characters to life, and so a good selection of actors is paramount as it’s their performances that carry a film.
It´s been proven time and again that a film can hold as much as the weight of the story. If the storyline is weak, then at some point the film is going to fall apart. It’s the backbone, really.
The captain of the ship. The end of the food chain. The ultimate force. The buck stops here.
- 5:28 pm
The tools that help you create
PRAJESH SJB RANA
Technology has affected art by various means as well, and no matter how different they may seem, they have started up a new revolution in art.
Art. When anyone talks about art, indistinctively the names of Dali, Picasso or Frida come to mind. We imagine brushstrokes on canvas, we imagine delicate light strokes on pictures, and we imagine curved women worked up beautifully in clay. We think of portraits, of landscapes and expressionist art.
But what if a second word is brought into the equation: Technology. We instantly think of calculators, phones and laptops. We think of results and of logical reasoning. Technology has affected art by various means as well, and no matter how different they may seem, they have started up a new revolution in art.
There are newer forms of art, always adorning the Windows on the Internet. People have started mixing traditional forms of art with technology to create newer styles. There are people making electronic music with nothing less than a MacBook. Websites have also started adopting artistic designs. An example would be the Vimeo.com design. Photos are edited with powerful software, and newspaper designs worked up on the screen. New hardware have also graced the peripherals of an artist’s computer, like the Wacom Tablets, that enable an artist to sketch directly on the computer.
Technology has come a long way in helping push art into the modern age, and if you want a taste of these new forms of art, a quick visit of DeviantArt (deviantart.com), should suffice.
There are very talented artists on Internet and some of them should inspire you to work on your own. Don’t worry, though: your computer will help you with your masterpiece.
Today, art is mostly created on the computer behind a screen, so we want to cover up some tools that should help artists of all kinds.
Color Scheme Designer (colorschemedesigner.com):
It’s a very user-friendly color tool. It helps you find that exact shade of a specific color you’re looking for, or it also has the capability of suggesting color tones based on various color theories. Another handy feature about this website it that it also generates light and dark schemed previews for a website design using the colors you selected. It’s easy to use and conveniently provides you the hex color codes on mouse hover.
Background Patterns (bgpatterns.com):
If you work with computer graphics of any kind, it’s almost evident that you’ll need access to some form of pattern that has the capability of seamlessly repeating. One great sight for this very purpose is bgpatterns.com. It has a set of patterns which you can edit and mold it in your own way.
Online Photoshop Editor (onlinephotoshopeditor.com):
A photographer will almost always need Photoshop for post-production, but in a situation where a copy of Photoshop is impossible to find, there’s an online tool that will work just fine. The Online Photoshop Editor provides you with the functionality of Photoshop within the confines of your web browser. It comes with all the basic features of Photoshop and can act as a very well equipped Photoshop replacement.
For artists who specialize in painting and sketching digitally, DeviantArt’s online illustration application, Muro, is the best. It offers various forms of brushstrokes and painting tools. With a great and easy to use interface, it makes sketching digitally a breeze, and if you’re willing to fork up some American Dollars, you can get access to a lot more features and styles.
Finding an appropriate application for writers on the Internet is almost impossible. However, a Windows application by of name of Scrivener is just the tool for writers. Created by an aspiring writer who had been having trouble keeping track of the research he had done, this application will definitely help writers because of its features, like a folder for all research, and a story outline manager. It also comes with a great looking corkboard for those tiny notes and a full-screen writer that blurs out all unnecessary distractions on your screen.
There are plenty of other tools as well that can help any kind of professional and amateur artists alike. There are great art communities as well, and lot of websites that tutor and inspire. The Internet has turned into a large resource art, among a lot of other things. It has also made it easier for artists to get international recognition and sell their art online through various art communities. Some of the websites that designers and artists alike need to keep an eye out for would probably be deviantart.com for artists, 1x.com, and 500px.com for photographers and abduzeedo.com for designers. If you are more of a movie man, vimeo.com has a lot of well-directed and designed short films.
The tools are there for you to choose from and start up your own form of creativity. Get inspired, get planning, and get working.
The writer is The Week’s much loved tech guru. Email us your tech queries at email@example.com and we’ll have him answer them for you.
- 4:31 pm
Civil obedience: Any takers?
Does moral pressure still work in our society?
Neighbors, teachers and even fathers rape young girls, doctors fleece patients, politicians and government officials misuse power to enrich themselves, police protect those who fill their pockets, businessmen cheat state coffers, and journalists thrive in this vitiated climate.
Of course, not all are bad, but the few who are, it seems, have managed to sideline and dominate the morally upright.
By and large, all of us are full of flaws, and the moral pressure acts as an unseen fetter that restrains our fallacious instincts from jeopardizing social harmony.
A simple experience last year gave me some hope of how folks like you and I can put moral pressure on errant people, and through its consistent and widespread use bring back our society from the path down a slippery slope of moral degradation.
A few days ahead of the last Dashain, people were queuing up in front of a government trailer loaded with subsidized rations, waiting for their turn. But the policeman who was standing on the trailer to keep the crowd under control was taking money from the sides and giving away stuffs to those who thought “only foolish stand on queues.”
Bijay Gajmer/The Week File Photo
So just to remind the officer-on-duty why he was there, I lined up at the end, and just as the guy who was breaching the line handed money to the policeman again, I approached him and said, “What’s going on? Aren’t you doing exactly the thing you’re supposed to stop? There are people waiting in line for more than half an hour while you’re letting some people get away with goods without them having to stay in line.”
The policeman timidly replied, “He’s our staff.”
I said, “Well, if he’s your staff, have the goods delivered at his home. Isn’t this trailer meant for common folks?”
As he tried to brush me off by saying something I don’t clearly remember, the other people in the queue began making noises. The smart guy who didn’t stand in queue backed off and the police grudgingly desisted from misusing his authority after that.
It was a simple change that took place in a very small setting. But I see no reason why it can’t be replicated to larger and more important settings like, let’s say, a government department or even a Ministry.
I could take on the policeman because I was on the right side of the law. And that’s what civil obedience is all about: empowering ourselves by remaining lawful and morally straight.
Last year, after the new government took over, there were accusations that some of the new ministers openly demanded huge bribes from government officials and secretaries if they wanted to get transferred to or continue in lucrative postings.
The ministers could do so because the way our system works, it’s easy to assume that those who are in plum postings themselves might have used connections or bribes to be there in the first place. If every official in a government department is morally upright, would even a minister dare run roughshod over them?
People who break rules draw strength from other people’s moral weaknesses because the one who loses moral ground also loses the ability to question.
Nobody likes to be seen as immoral at a place where morality rules and nothing works like moral pressure. The ultimate goal of civil obedience should be to have more people on the side that respects the law and abides by written as well as unwritten civil and moral codes.
While there will always be some exceptions, when it comes to obeying rules, nine out of ten people do what others do. For example, I’ve found that if you stop your motorbike when traffic signal goes red just when you’re about to cross it, nine out of ten times those behind you are likely to hit the brakes. By the same token, most people are likely to drive on if you did so.
This fight can be won only if those who want a fair and just society take a vow never to breach civil and moral codes, pushing the violators into a minority and slowly and gradually into insignificance.
The writer is a copy editor at Republica.
- 4:30 pm
Reflections on life
“My Tryst with Writing,” a memoir, is a collection of random reflections on my career in journalism, memories and perceptions of my grandfather Baburam Acharya, the eminent historian of Nepal, and many other aspects surrounding my life.
I’m not a prodigious writer, so I haven’t written any other books. This is my first attempt. My writings were basically published in the media, particularly for radio broadcasts, newspapers, newswires along with my various contributions to journals and publications.
“My Tryst with Writing,” a memoir, is a collection of random reflections on my career in journalism, memories and perceptions of my grandfather Baburam Acharya, the eminent historian of Nepal, and many other aspects surrounding my life. I really wanted to write about my grandfather since his contributions have been worth appreciation. He authored as many as eight books even during difficult times. The books were about history, geography, culture and literature of Nepal, and he also wrote over 125 research-based articles. His main contribution, however, was finding the Nepali name of Mouth Everest: Sagarmatha.
He was a great inspiration to me when it came to writing, and he really wished to see his family members take a break from family tradition of teaching and explore their writing skills.
I think that every person has a story to tell, and I have always been a passionate reader of books, so much so that I read any book that I can lay my hands on. As long as I remember, I have always loved writing as well, and this memoir is a reflection of my childhood nostalgia, my adventures, professional achievements and some extraordinary experiences that I wanted to share.
I have also written about my experience of taking up golf as a hobby and how I later became the chief executive of the Royal Nepal Golf Club, which was one of the country’s most prestigious golfing greens at that time. My reflections are my journeys from the 20th to the 21st century on how Nepal witnessed a break in the tradition of monarchy and also endured the Maoist insurgency for a decade. But these are just a few areas that book has touched. The book is also a sheer reflection on my experience in journalism for over three decades, and about my personal life which I wanted to share with my friends and readers.
Acharya worked in journalism for more than 30 years and he started his craft at Radio Nepal in the early 1970s. He later worked as executive editor at Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS). He was also the foreign correspondent based in Nepal for the Kyodo News Agency of Japan from 1978 and his area of coverage was Kathmandu, Bhutan and Tibet. He was the first one to report on the Royal Palace Massacre from Nepal to the Kyodo News Service.
“I come from the old school and started my education in Sanskrit and picked up English in my later years. Basically, I’m a self-taught person and am still in the process of learning,” says Acharya.
He thinks that journalism wasn’t as glamorous back then as it now is, with the introduction of television and the Internet. For someone who has reported many stories as part of his career, he has also written many short stories and poems in his leisure.
Acharya is currently working on a book project pertaining to his grandfather, Baburam Acharya, and he has already translated a book which is due to be published soon by Penguin Books India. He’s also translating a 300-page book of his grandfather about the trade wars, or Nepal’s war with Tibet and China.
He is also thinking of writing a book about his friends.
“Reading and writing are the only light available to us for a better life, and thus the two are crucial aspects of our lives,” says Acharya.
Never Give In by Winston S Churchill
This is a collection of speeches by Winston Churchill, the British politician and prime minister who led the United Kingdom during the Second World War. When it comes to English prose, the writing of Churchill, Winston’s grandson, is inspiring. The author has written many articles, and he edited this compilation of his grandfather’s famous speeches. He’s inspiring to me as he has influenced me in my thought process and writing. This book is one of my favorites and I go through it time and again.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I love reading biographies, and this is one of my favorites, which is why I recommend it as a must-read. The book is inspiring in many ways. Firstly, the journey of Steve Jobs itself is inspiring, and the way it’s been projected is praiseworthy. The contents of the book are interesting and the way it’s been written is really commendable, as Isaacson has done it in such a dramatic way. The way he has unfolded Jobs’ story and taken breaks while he follows to the next chapter is gripping. The author is an eminent biographer and he has written biographies of many noted personalities as well.
The New Asian Hemisphere by Kishore Mahbubani
Mahbubani is a former Singaporean diplomat and a notable academic. I admire this book for the kind of perspectives that the author has presented. His current viewpoint is that the world’s focus and economy, politics and other things are shifting gradually from Europe to Asia and that the future now belongs to Asia. His analysis is creditable and I find it convincing as well.
Teen Ghumti by Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala
Koirala is a great storyteller and he has authored many books which I admire. He was one of the most well-read and thoughtful writers of Nepali literature who wrote short stories, novels, and poems. “Teen Ghumti” is a novel about an individual’s life where he takes three important decisions in his life which could make or break his life. The story is interesting, and no matter how much I praise Koirala, it will be less.
Acharya’s Favorite Preface to ‘Sirishko Phool’ by Shankar Lamichhane
It’s hard to pick one favorite book of his because every single book is spellbinding and well written. Lamichhane is considered as Nepal’s prominent prose writer and he has proven that Nepali language and literature can be as rich as any other languages. He had written the preface to Parijat’s most famous novel “Shirishko Phool.” I’ve read that novel more than twelve times as I really like it; but I found Lamichhane’s preface more interesting than the novel itself.
As told to Nistha Rayamajhi
- 4:30 pm
Anna: On the page
ABHA ELI PHOBOO
The 2012 film version of Anna Karenina is beautiful: The theatrical sequences, stunning production designs, Jude Law’s acting, and Keira Knightley’s luminous portrayal of Anna. Joe Wright, the director, and Tom Stoppard, the screenplay writer, have made magic in many ways.
The problem is that they are dealing with a classic, one of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpieces, and you cannot shortchange the subject of a masterpiece, especially one with an opening line as famous as this: “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
If you aren’t one of those who read books but first watch movies, then I beg you to set aside time to read Tolstoy’s anyway. It may not be an easy task – set aside a year, perhaps even two – but read it. The narrative may be slow in places, even tedious (Tolstoy would have been heavily edited if he had been trying to publish in this age) but in the patience of his pacing lies his skill.
Why read the book when you can watch the movie? Why read a book at all when there are thirteen movies made on the subject? Yes, the novel is rather thick. But it is more than that. None of the movies has been able to quite capture Tolstoy in its entirety, and moviemakers have always wanted to rise up to the challenge.
The advantage that the written word has, and the challenge that a screenplay writer faces, is that through writing, one enters into the head of a character and journeys through his thoughts. On screen, this is difficult to do. Tolstoy, like most Russian masters, did not just write a story, he wrote an experiment, explored the human mind, its response to situation, especially in society. The tiny changes are what make the book.
The 2012 movie disregards many of these changes for the faster-paced, flamboyant portrayal. Wright’s film discards the gravity with which Tolstoy handles his subject in favor of beautiful, theatricality.
There is nothing wrong with theatricality. There is nothing wrong with beauty. But both need some kind of substance to develop meaning. A film adaptation that is only a summary, no matter how beautifully it is done, remains only that – a summary. Beauty does not lie in breathtaking images but also in difficult, everyday truths.
Tolstoy’s novel is a classic not because of the frame of the story but because of everything else that makes up the frame. It is not just about Anna, but also about Levin, about the parallel relationship of both characters. It is not just about a woman who leaves her husband for her lover but also about her husband, her lover, and the people in the crumbling Imperial Russian society. It is about the anguish a person goes through when faced with difficult choices, about the hard life of the peasants, the challenges of a country person as opposed to that of a society person in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
The book starts with Anna Karenina trying to prevent her sister-in-law seeking a divorce, and ends with Anna herself trying to get one from her husband. She begins the story with a train journey as the wife of Alexey Alexandrovitch, but ends her life under a train, unable to become the wife of Alexei Vronsky.
But these are only bookends that mark the points from beginning to end. In between are small turns that take Anna away from who she was, who she thought she would be to who she becomes. The characters in the supporting role provoke her into making her choices, especially toward the end, when she meets Kitty. These seemingly small moments have been sacrificed on screen.
What is perhaps most beautiful about Tolstoy’s writing is that it is not just about beauty, but also about things that are ugly. It is not just about pretty things but also about some ugly, petty things. He does not gloss over. He stays, takes the time to pick things apart, and sometimes even explains the picking process. But in Wright’s film, everything appears glossed over, and beauty is consistently manipulated.
Wright’s movie is an audacious venture, especially since Tolstoy himself did not think much of theater. Also, Anna Karenina has already been made into films so many times that to do one again, one needs new ideas. However, to sacrifice the soul of the subject might not be the answer to the challenge. We have technology to make the world appear beautiful at our disposal but that will not beautify the world. One cannot depend on style for subject. The world is beautiful because of its flaws, just as subjects are most beautiful when flawed. Goodness doesn’t come from beauty alone. In Tolstoy’s own words: “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”