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Book Chat : Of all things glorious

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Kathmandu, April 7, 2016
Bidushi Dhungel gave book lovers one of the best hangout spots in town. Her café, Bodhi has quickly become the “it” spot to chill with a cup of coffee and a book. But it isn’t only her customers she caters to as Dhungel absolutely enjoys reading, writing, and baking. She has had years of experience in Nepali media and currently freelances in several papers and magazines. Priyanka Gurung caught up with Dhungel to talk about her collection, writing, and as we discovered, quite the controversial dislike for the Harry Potter series.

What kinds of books interest you?

It is interesting to read literature that comes from diverse communities from around the world. I like reading things that I can relate to, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. I guess it is the reason I’m not into Game of Thrones or even Harry Potter. I know this is an unpopular opinion and for the record, I do have a lot of respect for JK Rowling. However, if I had to pick something from the fantasy domain, it would be The Lord of the Rings. I feel like Tolkien is a far more complex writer. So many things that happen in the series are parallel to our world as well. There is a lot of politics and power play in it, and I relish that. Tolkien also does a brilliant job of exploring human emotions.

When did your love for books and writing begin?

I have to admit it was the Babysitters Club and, thanks to my strict, academic father, An Outline of World History by H.G Wells. It’s funny how I was made to read it when I was ten. My father asked me to finish it and tell him what I had understood. Obviously there wasn’t much. Still it helped me develop a reading habit. There were piles of non-fiction books everywhere in my house. I basically grew up with them but it was only much later that I truly began appreciating books.

What have you learnt with all the reading you have done so far?

Writing is just a skill, one that can be learnt. Thus working on your language – grammar, vocabulary – is very important. It’s how you learn how to engage people. It’s how you develop your style. I used to work as an editor in the op-ed section and it seems Nepali people still think difficult words and complex sentences make good writing.

In my opinion, you can only write well if you read a lot. To a certain extent, you have to develop a habit of reading other people’s work so that you can distinguish between what’s good and what’s not, and learn from there. Personally, I have learnt a lot from Arundhati Roy. She is my greatest love in literature and non-fiction. She is poetic even in nonfiction, and that’s an impressive feat.

Besides your articles, have you ever tried writing something of a different genre?

I won’t lie so yes, I have sat down and tried to write some kind of fiction. However, I have never been successful at it. It’s certainly a completely different kind of writing. I like that you can just tell a story in fiction and not worry about having to justify it. For me, the most difficult thing about writing fiction is knowing where to draw a line between reality and imagination. You can have fictitious characters, but somewhere or the other you will draw analogies from people and places you know, and your experiences will color your work.

What are your thoughts on everybody who writes coming with a book in the recent times?

After so many years of experience as a journalist, or as a writer, you have many things to say. There are many things you have uncovered which you can’t necessarily print in the media. This I have noticed as well. So a book becomes a good outlet to spill it all. Another reason, and a rather poignant one, especially in Nepal is that if you are a journalist and you have been doing it for years, it feels like you don’t have much to show for all the time and effort you have invested in it. Normally, it is very difficult to leave a notable mark with journalism. So you have many people dabbling in different fields from politics to teaching to, I guess, writing books. And as long as it is engaging work, why not?