The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

Summary of The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun Class 12 English

About the Author: Shankar Lamichhane

Shankar Lamichhane (1928-1975) was born in Kathmandu but lived in Banaras with his uncle at a young age. After receiving a college education at Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu, he took his first job at the age of twenty-two and worked for several governmental and cultural institutions in the capital. In his later years, he became the manager of a handicrafts store. Lamichhane was an admirer of modern American fiction and frequently mixed with foreign visitors to Nepal. His stories are heavy with symbolism, often lacking a conventional plot and more closely resembling essays, but his prose is rich and poetic. This story is taken from Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Nepali Literature translated and edited by Michael Hutt.

The story deals with the monologues of two characters a tourist guide in Kathmandu valley and a foreign tourist. The story is different from conventional stories and, instead of showing actions and events, the story records what the two characters think in a stream of consciousness technique.

Characters: The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

  1. The tourist: A Westerner or a Guest who holds aesthetic vision regarding Nepal based on his study in history, culture and religion.
  2. The Guide: A Nepalese person and a tourist guide having good knowledge about the Nepalese art, culture, geography and religion but has a feeling of inferiority in comparison to the westerners.
  3. The farmer’s family: The simple farmer’s family living in a remote village having high faith, intimacy, kindliness, and gratitude in themselves.
  4. A paralyzed child: A boy who suffers from Polio disorder and he can’t speak properly, nor he can move his body parts except his eyes indicating purity.

Main Summary:

“The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun” by Shankar Lamichhane is a simple story being told through a discussion between two characters: a tourist and a guide. It was included in the anthology Himalayan Voice: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature, which was released in 1991. The story is set in and around Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city.

In the story, both of the characters act as narrators. The first is a Nepali guide, and the second is a foreign tourist. However, the western tourist pretends to be an expert, saying, “I could take you along your ancient ways.” “You are my tour guide for today, but I feel I can help guide you as well,” the Nepali guide replies, indicating that he understands more about the subject at hand.

The story begins with a pleasant atmospheric description of the Kathmandu valley, complete with visual beauty and various colours of homes, blue hills, and so on. The guest then remarks that the East has contributed so many things, such as the Purans, ancient tools, ivory ornaments, palm leaf manuscripts, and copperplate inscriptions. The guide then tells the stories of Manjushri and how he stroked with his sword at Chobhar, allowing people to settle in Kathmandu Valley later on, as well as “the samyak gaze” of the shaven-headed monks and nuns who were receiving alms and spreading Buddhist preaching near the Kasthamandap, which represented purity.

They then discuss their passion for wooden figures, Nepalese folk music, various cultures such as Aryans, no-Aryans, Hindus, and Buddhists, and drinking wine. The tourist expresses gratitude to the guide for supplying him with Nepali and Newari cuisine. Following that, they examine the lives and histories of Princess Bhrikuti and King Amshuvarma, as well as how the King cultivated his relationships with his neighbouring countries, a storey projected in the picture and related by an elderly man to his grandson. The tourist is overjoyed by the welcoming smiles he receives wherever he goes, comparing it to the farmer’s son returning home from hard work and assuming himself and the people’s hospitable behaviour. They have one more drink for the Nepalese people’s beautiful smile.

Then they explore other types of eyes, such as the eyes in the windows, the eyes on the door panels, the eyes on the stupas, the eyes of the people, the eyes of the Himalaya, and the half-closed eyes of the Lord Buddha, referring to the country as a land of eyes. These eyes reveal a new culture, a diversity of religions, civilisation, vivid memories, and a long trip.

The guide tells about the temple of Adinath, the Shiva shrine encircled by several other pictures of Buddha- a living example of Nepalese tolerance and coexistence- but the guide takes the guest to a house where he discovers the pulse of reality. It’s a farmer’s family with a paralysed youngster (polio-affected boy) whose entire body is worthless and he can’t speak, move his hands, chew his food, or even spit, except for his eyes, which are just opposite his sister’s. As the guide introduces the visitor as a doctor, the parents are overjoyed. In their eyes, there is a depth of faith, connection, kindness, and thankfulness.

At last, the guide adds that these are mountains’ eyes, and their lashes are rows of fields where rice ripens in the rains and wheat ripens in the winter. They are as lovely as the setting sun’s reflection in the Buddha’s eyes.