26 December 2018: Manisha Koirala’s book Healed is yet to prove its healing power at the bookshops but the Bollywood veteran has already found a powerful reader – the ex king of Nepal. It is interesting that Gyanendra Shah should pick up the recent publication which details the Dil Se actor’s battle against and the subsequent victory over cancer because their respective historic families have met at various crossroads of Nepal’s national history.
Manisha Koirala is the daughter of Prakash Koirala, a former government minister Mr Shah himself hand-picked in 2005 after he sacked “incompetent” prime minster Sher Bahadur Deuba.
It would not be an overstatement to remark that Koiralas are the most prominent family in Nepal after the Shah dynasty descendants. Although the ex-king’s father threw Ms Koirala’s grandfather BP Koirala in jail for his democratic aspirations half a century ago, the Koiralas and Shahs have co-existed side by side through the South Asian nation’s turbulent political history. BP Koirala, Manisha Koirala’s grandfather who not only fought for Nepal’s democratic movement but also struggled against the British Raj for India’s independence, was a firm believer in the coexistence of monarchy and democracy.
In more recent history, Manisha Koirala’s great-uncle Girija Prasad Koirala was at the forefront of the 2006 popular uprising that eventually saw the last Shah King’s dethronement.
A Nepali-language website reported today that the former king was caught by a communist leader reading Ms Koirala’s book. Nagarik News reported that Mr Shah was at the Pokhara Airport on Tuesday to receive his daughter-in-law Himani Shah and other members of his family when he bumped into communist strongman Narayan Kaji Shrestha. The two, the report suggests, entered into a civilised tête-à-tête. When asked by Mr Shrestha about what the former king was reading (against the backdrop of Pokhara Literature Festival), Mr Shah apparently told him that he was reading Healed, Ms Koirala’s autobiographical book published by Penguin Random House India.
“The former king said that the book was gifted to him by Prakash Koirala and Manisha,” the website said.
Security guards apparently alerted Narayan Kaji Shrestha about Gyanendra Shah’s presence at the VIP lounge of Pokhara Airport where the unexpected meeting took place. The concerned guards were perhaps seeking to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation between the two arch-rivals except it was normalised the moment the former king acted humble by being the first to offer namaste, the traditional Nepali greeting.
Gyanendra Shah does appear to be adept at handling situations that would otherwise be expected to be uncomfortable. Ever since he began travelling the length and breadth of his former kingdom, he has had run ins with his historic enemies – but without ever losing his majestic decorum. He also carried himself pretty well when he went to attend the wedding ceremony of the president’s daughter and sat by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and engaged her in a personal conversation.
Although Narayan Kaji Shrestha walked into the VIP lounge of the Pokhara Airport, Nepali Congress’s youth leader Gagan Thapa avoided the king by staying outside once he was told by the guards about the former king’s presence.
Just as the everyday folks in Nepal do, the former king reportedly complained to Narayan Kaji Shrestha about the bad condition of the Pokhara-Kathmandu roadway due to which, he told the leader, he and his family had to travel by air.