Night of Ideas: Being Alive

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Proceedings Report 25 November, 2019

Background The ‘Night of Ideas’ is a global event that takes place every year on January 30 with a central focus on celebra?ng the stream of ideas between countries, culture, topics, and genera?ons. It is seen as an opportunity to reunite and to contribute to bringing more ideas in this field by par?cipa?ng in this discussion on the main issues of our ?me. This year, it was celebrated globally with the theme ‘Being Alive’. The phrase ‘Being Alive’ can be addressed from mul?ple perspec?ves- biological, religious, moral, ethical, sociological, technological or ecological. It can also be understood as a topic that addresses mul?ple perspec?ves and raises a lot of ques?ons related to our individual or collec?ve capacity to survive, exist and fulfill our aspira?ons. At the heart of this session conducted in Kathmandu were issues around mental health, environmental issues, preserva?on of heritage, and the importance of culture and iden?ty.


Alok Tuladhar Documentary Filmmaker Bindu Bhandari Climate Change Campaigner and Policy Analyst Jagannath Lamichhane Ini?ator, Juggernaut Mindset SwosF R. Kayastha Lecturer, Lumbini Buddhist University

Moderated by:

Leena Dahal Communicator, WWF Nepal

Alok Tuladhar
 Documentary Filmmaker For Alok Tuladhar, a changing point in his life came when he got involved in documen?ng the restora?on of cultural heritage monuments. Speaking about his transi?on, he expressed that he is currently doing what he loves and his current work is the best ďŹ t for him. Elabora?ng more on the cultural aspects of our civiliza?on, he highlighted the importance of preserving and promo?ng them. There is a need to realize our own roots, wisdom, knowledge and indigenous technologies. Currently, countries like ours have been trying to keep up with the development of the western world. In this process, we have started to overlook our roots and our indigenous technologies. Having understood this, there is a big challenge in geVng the youths aware and engaged in our culture. Therefore, there is a need to leverage all the technologies that are available today to get into the mindset of the youths. Giving examples, he men?oned that social media applica?ons that are youth-friendly can be leveraged to provide informa?on about the importance of our culture. Lastly, he encouraged the youths to go and see the remaining cultural heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. The experience of seeing how the city life revolves around the city heritage is unparalleled. All of this has really taught Alok what being alive truly is and thus, he encourages the same for everyone.

Bindu Bhandari
 Climate Change Campaigner and Policy Analyst As a climate change campaigner, Bindu Bhandari understands the importance of making meaningful ac?ons to address problems in a meaningful way. She men?oned that there is a need for one to be able to root their ac?ons with the present context. For her, one can truly be alive when one is able to give their best to make the most out of every opportunity and challenge that arises. In a similar context, she highlighted some of the challenges that the world is currently facing in terms of climate change. There is a big coopera?on gap that limits the possibility to take meaningful ac?ons. On one hand, individuals do not believe that their ac?ons will translate and contribute to having an impact on the larger level. On the other hand, policymakers feel that they have liZle coopera?on from individuals. In addi?on, she stated that even though there are ample opportuni?es in Nepal with regards to all of this, people feel otherwise. Furthermore, the opportuni?es are also not u?lized properly as there seems to be a big skill gap. In conclusion, she emphasized that even though one might have various choices, it is very important to be mindful of those choices. Along with this, she also stated that it is very important to make sure that the younger genera?ons enjoy what they do and that they do not have any barriers to reach their utmost poten?als.

Jagannath Lamichhane
 IniFator, Juggernaut Mindset Mental health is an inseparable part of physical existence, which determines how one survives in the present and becomes in the future. Thus, understanding the importance and interconnec?on of emo?ons, mental health, and physical health is what being alive truly means for him. Reflec?ng on his personal journey, early on from his childhood, he was suffering from suicidal, lonely, isolated and demo?va?ng thoughts, which ul?mately started affec?ng his physical health, social rela?ons, and friendships. Only a_er sharing his story and experience in the form of an ar?cle did he gain the confidence to accept his upbringing and childhood mental health problems. Given this, he pointed out that although the vic?ms of mental health disorders feel that there is no way to express, no environment to seek help and no society to openly accept their problems, it is important to be honest to oneself and the society one lives in to be mentally and physically free and healthy. For this, he asserted that he has been using social media to disseminate his mental health messages as it provides an opportunity to directly interact with the audience. He believes that social media is a powerful pla`orm to convert messages into ac?ons and discuss the generally overlooked discourses with youngsters. Lastly, he vouched for the need to accept and overcome unhealthy emo?ons by encouraging conversa?ons around it as it can help the person suffering from mental health disorders to experience the meaning of his/her life and be a part of a larger ecosystem.

SwosF R. Kayastha
 Lecturer, Lumbini Buddhist University Swos? R. Kayastha blended her discussions around the importance of being alive in terms of both her personal and professional life. Although she chose the science stream in her high school against her own interest to keep the hopes of her parents, she soon realized that science could never be her stream of calling and thus, switched her studies without consul?ng or informing her parents. This was how she entered into the ďŹ eld of arts and how her life unfolded. She interprets this par?cular instance, of freeing herself from living in a trap set by parental aspira?ons and of accep?ng her own desires, as something that makes her alive. Moving on to her professional life, she stressed that a_er having realized the value, importance, intricacy, and history of Nepali art, she is beZer able to link her culture with her iden?ty, and express it by cura?ng exhibi?ons, giving lectures in her classes and wri?ng short ar?cles to capture the aZen?on of youths. As the discussion progressed, she also emphasized the need for the younger genera?on, whether living in Nepal or abroad, to be acquainted with their culture and history instead of just living in a virtual world through mobile phones or laptops. In light of these reec?ons, she ended her discussion by sta?ng that for her, being alive with heritage, experiencing and enjoying it as well as learning to preserve it is important.

Leena Dahal
 Communicator, WWF Nepal As each individual came from different backgrounds, Leena Dahal revolved the discussions on each panelist’s experience and the choices that they had made in their lives. The different choices that the panelists had made in their lives had taught each one of them what they really loved doing which is what being alive meant for them. In this way, she highlighted what being alive meant to different people. As the discussions covered various areas such as culture, art, climate and mental health, she steered the conversa?on to address the issues and scenarios regarding them at the present. She highlighted some of the major aspects in which we can learn from our past and head for the future. Taking the audience through an important reflec?ve exercise, she men?oned that even though one thinks about being alive all the ?me, they do not take ac?on for it.