From The Jacket
Shanti Mishra's Voice of Truth: The Challenges and Struggles of a Nepalese Woman is, as the title proclaims, the work of an author with a firm sense of purpose, one that has been shaped within the social context of her own native Himalayan kingdom. It is a study rich in the interplay between hard-won convictions and the local conditions under which they have been formed, and which they in turn have sought to reform.
The account begins in the waning years of the autocratic Rana period (1846-1950), when even owning a radio was a punishable offence. Early perseverance to obtain a good education in the end paid off and catapulted Shanti Mishra to a position of responsibility unprecedented at the time for someone of her background and sex: the post of chief librarian of the newly established Tribhuvan University Central Library. This was a trust that she was to remain faithful to for more than a quarter of a century.
Much of the book's interest lies in its captivating description of the unending efforts involved in trying to get something that Westerners take for granted - the importance of libraries - accepted in this Third World setting. The book will attract persons interested in the development process in general, and in the role information science plays in it in particular.
A simple human appeal is maintained throughout, though, so that even readers with no professional curiosity to satisfy will find themselves easily carried along by the narrative flow. Two especially interesting chapters provide a glimpse into what Intercaste marriage and fighting corruption entail in Nepal, as told on the basis of firsthand experience.
Large portions of the text are devoted to Shanti Mishra's concerns outside her professional life, which have touched on the needs of Nepalese women and the role of Nepalese creative writers.
This book offers rewarding insights for anyone wishing to learn what life in Nepal is really like, and what it means not to simply accept one's lot but o create a personal vision of life, and to make life conform to that vision's call.
Shanti Mishra is a remarkable person by any standards. Having been associated with her professionally while I was Australia's Ambassador in Nepal, and regarding her as a close friend, I was delighted to have been invited to write a foreword to her book.
Shanti Mishra is remarkable in a number of ways. In the first place, and virtually single-handed, she turned a collection of books into a library of real national standing. Under her leadership the Tribhuvan University Library has become the most important institution in Nepal for academic research. Its resources are available not just in Kathmandu, but to the students at the many far-flung campuses of the University. However Tribhuvan University Library is also a truly national institution, available to and serving the interests of all the Nepali nation.
To have built the Library into what it is today required a person with extraordinary qualities and commitment. Starting with almost no resources, but a great deal of courage and determination, Shanti Mishra took every opportunity to seek out the support which was desperately needed to expand and improve the Library. With resources virtually unavailable in Nepal, a country beset with so many basic needs, she consistently appealed to potential international donors. There are many diplomats who served in Nepal who will remember with admiration Shanti Mishra's unrelenting efforts to obtain financing, training or books for the Library.
I am pleased and proud to say that Australia was one of those countries, which assisted the Library. We did so in the knowledge that, with Shanti Mishra at the helm, the assistance would be well used.
Shanti Mishra is well known and highly regarded on the international library scene for her involvement and contributions especially in relation to the problems facing libraries in developing countries, and her achievement in providing to Nepal a library of a standard which attracted international support.
Shanti Mishra is also remarkable in another respect. In a country which, at least as I know it, allowed very little opportunity for women, Shanti Mishra stands out. Despite all the barriers she managed to rise to the top of her profession and to a position of real importance and influence. In this she earned the respect of all who knew her. She is and will continue to be an inspiration to other women.
I am sure that the readers of this book will be impressed by Shanti's achievements and her very real concern for the well being of her countrymen and women. I wish her every success.
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