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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Rabi Thapa

By Aminah Sheikh

rabi-thapa

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

It’s tempting to blame it on inner impulses that would devour me if I didn’t, but that wouldn’t be the whole story, especially with non-fiction. Simply put, I’m better at writing than I am at most other things I’ve tried my hand at (though not necessarily better at writing than most other people), and the act gives me pleasure of a laboured kind. That’s more than what you can say for most kinds of work, and believe me, the complete act of writing – from conception to execution to almost-perfection – is work.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Speaking Tiger has just published my second book, Thamel:Dark Star of Kathmandu, a biography of the tourist quarter that grew out of a medieval Buddhist settlement in Kathmandu. Writing about a place like Thamel is not, on the face of it, an urgently necessary task. At least not as obviously so as a book on our relationships with Nature (my next writing project). Nonetheless, I feel it’s useful to obtain an understanding of the totality of the environments we have spent significant time in – past, present and future. This is what Thamel means to achieve, as much as the book on Nature: to deepen our understanding of our built and natural environments, and thereby of ourselves, so we can reconsider and improve on our interactions with them.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I’m no fan of bald writing that means to drive home a social message, nor lazy writing dragged along by a pacy, racy narrative. With both fiction and non-fiction, I hope to provide serious reading pleasure, without being carried away by either the message or the medium.

Who are your favorite authors?

Those I haven’t read – names I know, names I don’t know, names that haven’t seen the light of day. They represent the titillating totality of my ignorance.

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Excerpts: Things to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale

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A howling rage took possession of the physician. ‘I’ll cure you, you glutton, for once and forever,’ he muttered to himself, and repaired to the pharmacy in the palace grounds. There, he took off his clothes and rubbed the scurf from his unwashed skin (he was not a man who favoured cleanliness) and rolled this body scurf into four miniscule pellets. These he further wrapped in silver foil, with a little cumin and asafoetida pressed in for good measure. While at it he added some anardana, the dried pomegranate seeds being his favourite ingredient and cure-all. Returning to the palace, he confronted his king. The four doses were placed on the royal tongue at quick intervals, while the fierce physician muttered curses and imprecations under his breath. These were, of course, taken as being addressed to the demon of ill health, for no one could possibly presume to be so rude to His Majesty.

By the time the third pellet was pressed into his mouth, the king was already feeling better. He beheld his loyal physician Jeewan Chandra Pant with gratitude and ordered that a bag of gold coins be given to him. The courtier who was summoned to bring the coins from the royal treasury appropriated five, but a bagful was still a bagful. The Vaidya was immediately moved to better humour and contemplated buying his beloved Pokhara mistress a gold hansuli, to frame her plump, pretty neck. Later, he was to wonder interminably about the possible conjunction of astral influences, the conspiracy of constellations, that had effected his radical cure. For the king’s digestion now flourished, the royal robes layered in purple velvet and satin rested gently on his reposeful abdomen; the queens, the prime minister, the ladies of the harem, all enjoyed the reprieve from his colic- induced cruelties.

The unexpected success of his unorthodox medicine prompted Jeewan to research further. He dreamt of formulating the perfect aphrodisiac. A Tibetan herbalist in Pokhara had told the Vaidya about the highly efficacious horny goat weed he had learnt of in China. The plant   grew in profusion around the Pokhara lake, and the royal physician had concocted a rasayan using the distilled weed and small quantities of the pink bell-shaped valerian flowers of Jatamansi. The king was offered the experimental potion, and it worked wonders. A certain royal lady-in-waiting whose husband was a confirmed catamite found herself   the subject of the monarch’s unexpected favour. He visited her bedchamber three nights consecutively and found his veerya, his royal libido, functioning as capably as that of a young man. The lady had a mole upon the inside of her left thigh, and this mole became the subject of his immediate and compulsive attention. The mole, he decided, in some leap of intuition or madness, held the key to his destiny as a monarch.

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Book Review: Garrisoned Minds: Women and Armed Conflict in South Asia

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As a journalist one has covered and read stories galore about rape, atrocities by the armed forces and militants and suppression of women in the name of religion, caste, but reading Garrisoned Minds underlines the brutality all over again.

So disturbing are some of the essays that it is not possible to read them at one go. The book follows 12 journalists across the conflict zones of South Asia—Pakistan, Nepal and India (Kashmir and the Northeast). The impact of 13 long years of war in Afghanistan is evident in neighbouring Pakistan.

The editors, Laxmi Murthy and Mitu Varma, have done well to begin each section with the historical context of a conflict. It is a bold book because it names and exposes the armed forces as well as extremists who tortured and raped women. For women, breaking the silence has severe consequences and without support, few women dare speak out. Read more


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Letters to Joanne: Two poems by Nilesh Mondal

Letters to Joanne

nilesh-mondal

Nilesh Mondal is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Power Engineering. When he’s not overwhelmed by the intricacies of engineering, he lets himself sink in a quagmire of unfinished stories and unwritten poetry.

You can look him up on Facebook, or follow him on Instagram @hungover.hamlet, where he makes a fool of himself often, or check out his blog at loveinthetimeofdiarrhoea.wordpress.com


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Exploring children’s literature in Nepal

A manuscript of 1000 plus pages with a couple dinosaur drawings sits among several piles of other children’s books at the Kathalaya office. Shanta Dahal, production manager at the publication house, has recently been going through it and it is apparent that this is a project she is particularly excited about.

“Perhaps for the very first time, we have a fictional story in Nepali with elements of paleontology. The characters here are all dinosaurs. These are basics that senior school students have to learn about in their science classes. We thought a book like this would make it more interesting for them to study,” explains Dahal.

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Kitaab launches crowdfunding campaign ‘Ganga Jamuna’ with author Sunita Lad Bhamray to help a family in Nepal

A ‘novel’ project that wants to support a real family in Nepal that inspired the writer to write a novel has been launched on crowdfunding site, Indiegogo.com

Dummy cover of the novel, Ganga Jamuna

Dummy cover of the novel, Ganga Jamuna

Sunita Lad Bhamray is an Indian author based in Singapore and she has written a novel that is based on a true story of a woman from Nepal. The novel titled, Ganga and Jamuna, is being published by Kitaab this year.

Singaporean publishing house Kitaab International Pte Ltd, together with the author, has now launched a crowdfunding campaign, to raise funds for the Napalese family that inspired the author to pen this novel in the first place. “I am very keen to support this  woman and her child who reside in far away Nepal,” Sunita told Kitaab.org.

“The story of Ganga Jamuna came to me through a newspaper article that I had read almost three years ago,” she said. “It was about the poignant story of a family from Nepal. Days passed but key facts about their hardship kept spinning in my mind, and an idea was born!”

Ganga Jamuna is Sunita Lad Bhamray's third book. Her first book was 'Triumphs on the Turf'-- a one of a kind book on horse racing in India in the seventies. Her second book, Grandma Lim’s Persimmons, is a fun read for young children.

Ganga Jamuna is Sunita Lad Bhamray’s third book. Her first book was ‘Triumphs on the Turf’– a one of a kind book on horse racing in India in the seventies. Her second book, Grandma Lim’s Persimmons, is a fun read for young children.

“Soon the idea took firm root and began to sprout leaves,” she added. “My words started to flow in multitudes and my novel commenced. Hand in hand with the saga that was being created on paper, the thought of the unfortunate family began to take on a new meaning for me and I was now on a mission. But I knew that I had to strike a balance for my readers. I had to be mindful of the creative aspect of the novel versus the humanitarian ideals that I had set for it. So I was constantly steering my words in a way that drove home a point and yet stayed true to my heart! When I was half way through writing the story however, disaster struck. Nepal, where the story had its core was hit by a massive earthquake leading to immense misfortune. Now I was certain that the quest that I had undertaken was meant for reasons way larger than I had anticipated. The novel Ganga Jamuna needed to be read by many to warrant some hope.”

Sunita clarified that the story was not a biography but a work of fiction.

On her publishing deal with Kitaab, she mentioned that she was lucky to find a like minded publisher. “Kitaab International too decided to put aside personal gains in favour of supporting the less fortunate and we decided to start a crowdfunding campaign,” she added.

Read more about the novel campaign here and show your support to this noble cause.

 


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Libraries and literature in Nepal: The service provided by the American Library in Nepal is significant

Library services existed in Nepal since the time of the Rana regime. However, after 2007 BS, library services from foreign countries came into existence in Kathmandu: American Library, British Library, Russian Library and Indian Library. The American Library, which was part of the US Embassy’s public affairs to increase mutual understanding between the US and Nepal, was opened by late Matrika Prasad Koirala, former prime minister. The changing landscape of Kathmandu has forced the American Embassy to change the location of the American Library multiple times over the years. Initially, it was situated at New Road–the heart of Kathmandu. In the course of time, New Road started becoming too crowded, so the Library moved to a more peaceful area in Gyaneshor. A few years later, due to space constraints, the Library again moved to the Hotel Complex of Yak and Yeti and remained there until it finally moved to the newly built embassy building at Maharajganj.

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Nepal Academy in bid to globalise Nepali literature

Nepal Academy, established for the promotion of Nepali language, literature, culture and arts, philosophy and social sciences of Nepal, is currently busy in globalising the Nepali literature.

The national institution established in 1957 has begun researches for the development of various languages, literature and culture.

In its bid to globalise the Nepali literature and art, it is effortful to establish close ties and work in collaboration with other literary and art organisations of India, China and other South Asian countries. Continue reading


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Two Nepali poets at the Asian Conference on Literature and Culture

The ASEAN and Asian Conference on Literature and Culture started in Phuket, Thailand, from April 22. Representing Nepal in the conference are poets Keshab Sigdel and Prakash Subedi. The conference is organised by the Department of Cultural Promotion, the Ministry of Culture (Thailand), with support from the Phuket Municipal Office and Phuket Rajabhat University. The convention was inaugurated by Vira Rojpojchanarat, the Thai minister of culture. Continue reading


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Ross Adkin joins Kitaab as Editor-at-Large, Nepal

Ross AdkinKitaab is delighted to announce that Ross Adkin has joined the Team Kitaab as Editor-at-Large, Nepal.

Ross Adkin (@ross_adkin) grew up in the north of Scotland and studied South Asian history and languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and Cambridge. He works as a freelance journalist in Kathmandu.

“Ross is a welcome addition to our network of editors who care about writing in Asia,” said Zafar Anjum, Kitaab’s Editor-in-Chief. “He will keep our readers updated with the latest news and views on Nepal’s writing scene.”

“Ross is part of a growing team of Kitaab’s editors,” he said. “We already have editors-at-large for Pakistan and Myanmar, and we are looking to appoint more editors from other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, etc. We want to have an editor for each Asian country.”