So my mother language is Nepali. While I am not a linguist some facts that I know about the Nepali language is as follows:
Nepali owes its origin to the language Khas Kura which was spoken by the war tribes “Khas” who lived in Eastern Uttarakhand and Western Nepal. Like most languages, Nepali has been influenced by different dialects like Sanskrit, Tibetan etc. Thus, today it has a proximity to many other Indo Aryan languages like Pahari dialect.It gained popularity as the common language among the Nepali diaspora after Bhanubhakta Acharya translated the epic Ramayana into Nepali in the year 1836. He is regarded as the adikavi (first poet) by the Nepali diaspora.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal and is one of the official languages of India.
I truly believe that it is your mother language and the stories narrated by your mother, grandmother that make you fall in love with stories and storytelling. While I grew up with a healthy reading dose of Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew what made me a reader was the Nepali stories that was taught in school and which my mother used to explain the literary meaning of. Whether it was the novel Dak Bangla by Shiva Kumar Rai, Bhramar by Rup Narayan Singh or short stories like Gurkheh Jeep, Kheer by Indra Bahadur Rai I still remember these stories like I just read them yesterday.
To people who want to read books by Nepali authors I have listed down below some of my favorite books written by some Nepali authors in English or which have now been translated to English.
The tutor of history by Manjhushree Thapa
The book takes place during the late 1990’s in Nepal. The constitutional democracy is new in Nepal and the elected government has collapsed. Amidst all these fresh elections are announced and Khaireni Tar which is a small town near Katmandu and Pokhara is also impacted. Khaireni Tar suddenly sees a cacophony of political activities ensnarl its simplicity. The major parties contesting the elections are Congress, UML (Communist), People party.
As the election activities go on in this small hill town it touches every life in some manner. There is Rishi a confused history tutor who had joined UML but his still confused regarding the communist patronage of his. Binita Dahal a young widow sells tea for a living but certain desires of her come to the fore and became vivid as the election frenzy touches her tea shop.
Giridhar Adhikari chairman of People party has patronaged alcohol and is fighting his own devils. A popular cinema hero wishes to do something for the people this election. A contractor finds a sense of hero worship invoked in him after listening to this cinema hero.
As the elections campaign undergo it reveals a facet of the political games played and the mass reality. But amidst all these, there is an unraveling of the life and history of each character.
The book is a collection of two novellas The king’s harvest and An open and shut case. Both the stories take place in the state of Sikkim. An open and shut case starts on a New year eve with a host of people traveling to different parts of Sikkim in a shared vehicle. All seem to be in merriment with plans to spend their new year but on that night Kamala comes to the police station stating that she has killed her husband Puran and has hacked him to 47 pieces. The case looks simple with the person stating guilty but as the investigations take place different facets of the case are uncovered which is filled with deceit, unrequited love, and lies. The investigation officer Dechen faces a challenge with the truth looking blurred and multi faceted.
The second novella The king’s harvest is the story of a simple man who lives in isolation for 32 years with a belief in false stories and promises. He is oblivious to the developments that have taken place around the world. Then one day he plans to go and visit the king to give his harvest which has been lying idle. The story follows his travel across the forest with his children in an aim to meet a nonexistent king. In this journey, we come to know of his childhood and his life’s story.
Goodreads blurp- Kuldeep Chandanth, ex-Minister of the Government of Sikkim, leading light of his community, and foul-mouthed, caste-obsessed, ageing patriarch, is in the final siege of his illustrious life.
His clanspeople are helping him in his lifelong efforts to uplift them by opposing his every suggestion, and his three children have refused the responsibility of carrying forward his life’s work. Pradeep, his eldest son—from his second wife—is a feckless engineer with the Department of Village Roads. Pradeep is determined to protect the honour of his department’s lady clerks from the attentions of his half- brother Yograj, a ladies’ man committed to his pleasures. Yogita, the ex-Minister’s only daughter, works in Delhi, and is eternally on the verge of returning to Sikkim to look after him. His servant Pemba is dedicated in his attempts to feel up Ai Doma, the momo-seller who lives next door. And just as the ex-Minister gives up hope from the living, the ghost of his third wife, Sumitra, dead for twenty years, returns to point an accusing finger at him.
Set in Gangtok, The Light of His Clan follows—over days of hail, rain, mist and sun—the ex-Minister as he navigates the treachery of those once close to him, schemes for and against his children, and battles the final stiffening of his bones.
4. Books by Prajwal Parajuly- The Gurkhas daughter, Land where I flee
Prajwal Parajuly is one of the most popular Nepali author today. His debut book The Gurkhas daughter was shortlisted for the 2013 Dylan Thomas prize.
If you want to understand the Nepali diaspora his books should be your go to resource. His books though simple are backed by a strong story which peels layers into the Nepali culture, identity crisis and the politics of Sikkim and Darjeeling (these are the prominent places where the Nepali diaspora reside in India).
5. Books by Indra Bahadur Rai- There is a carnival here today, Long night of storm
Indra Bahadur Rai was one the most popular modern Nepali author. His literary style was unique as it was a blend of traditional styles as well as modern techniques. He won the Sahitya Akademi award. His novel Aaja Ramita cha has been translated into english as “There is a carnival here today” by Manjhushree Thapa and his short stories have been translated into an anthology called “Long night of Storm” by Prawin Adhikari.
Indra Bahadur Rai is a master storyteller who takes characters leading mundane lives but there is a depth to these characters that makes you contemplate on life and its lessons. The short story Kheer I mentioned above on the surface is a simple story of the act of making Kheer (rice pudding) by a group of people who work as labourers and how everyone has opinions regarding the ingredients and its quantity to be used.But, on deeper introspection one realises that he is talking about how every person we meet in our life will have some opinion as to how we should lead our lives.
Whenever I interact with my fellow book lovers and friends about non fiction books the thread of self help book and its effectiveness is discussed on. Baring a few who swear by them a majority of us including me, tend to have quite a skeptical opinion regarding them. Often we say that fiction is actually more effective in impacting our life. While I have never been on extreme ends of opinions regarding self-help books and read them, their effectiveness was something I was not very sure about.
Recently I met a colleague at work whom I often saw reading books. I was elated to see this and immediately struck a conversation with him. I realized that the majority of the books he read were self-help and he spoke quite highly regarding them. While I was still skeptical regarding them I thought well let me observe and interact with him and understand why he feels self help books have had a greater impact on his life.
Below are some of the reasons I identified which highlights that maybe we are reading the self help books in the wrong way which is why they don’t work.
Mindset with which we approach the book is pivotal. Very often even before we start reading the book we make opinions about it. I have often realized that I smirk just by reading the title of the book at times. So when our mind is already clouded with doubt regarding the book it can never work. Reading self help books requires going into the book with a clean slate and no prior notions. Still they are some books that well are not quite so good and we should be cautious about the tall claims they make. One trick I use while selection self help books are I never get books that claim to make you become something else in a short duration. These books are like youtube click bait. They are hollow from within.
Interact with the books content. While one needs to have an unbiased mindset one needs to have a communication with the book. Certain principles and methods given in the book one may not agree with it. Highlight them and question them and ponder on them. Self-help books require a two way communication to realize its impact. I guess this is the reason why a lot of self-help books have worksheets after each chapter.
A page from “Eat that book by Brian Tracy”. I have added notes in the book.
A majority of us say that self-help books are boring as they keep on repeating the same concepts. I was of the same opinion. Lately as I read them with no bias I realized considering the nature of the book the repetition is essential for reinforcement. To drill the ideas in our head the authors reinforces the ideas. As readers we often do not read deeply and get distracted so this reinforcement is actually beneficial for us.
Practice Practice!! You cannot read a self-help book to achieve your goodreads goal. Give time to them. Read maybe one self-help book over a period of a year but ensure that you are actually putting into practice the principles the book envisages in real life. For example I saw my colleague use techniques like time blocking and he had charts pinned up in his cubicle dealing with some principles or practices he was using. Organization was an area he said he wanted to work on and truth be told in the 6 months that I have observed him there has been such a drastic improvement in his organization skills.
Be selective of the books you read. Not all self-help books can be helpful. Recognize the areas where you are weak or want to improve on and then select book dealing with these topics. For example for me financial planning and time management where my weak areas so I selected the books Rice Dad, Poor dad and Eat that frog and these books have really helped me.
These are some tips to take into consideration while reading self-help books which I have identified and which worked for me. Let me know if these were helpful for you.
In my next edition of blog post I will provide some hacks on how to choose a self-help book.
The book is a memoir of Tara Westover who grew up in an orthodox Mormon family on Buck Peak, Idaho. Tara Westover has a Ph. D. from Cambridge, while some may wonder that yes this is praiseworthy but what is the novelty in it? The fact is Tara never attended school and while she was home schooled, the education she got at home involved only on Mormon saints and religious beliefs and no actual education. How then did Tara get the Gates scholarship and a Ph. D. from one the most coveted universities of the world? This book follows the heart wrenching story of Tara and her journey of being educated and discovering her true being.
The book more than anything makes you understand how empowering education is. Very often the privileged us take the good education we got thanks to our parents in a stride and do not give it the importance it deserves. Education not only empowers but it can liberate one and change ones being.
It also made me question and ponder on what can be called actual education? Education that is didactic where beliefs are forced upon one and there is no room for doubt can this be called education? True Education should allow one to question and find answers and form ones one opinion.
This book helped me realize how when we human beings suffer on a continuous basis and we do not have any form of support we become silent and internalize the pain. Very often we delude ourselves that we are actually not suffering at all.
An important theme the book touches upon is having people whose thoughts and beliefs are toxic for one. What if these people are our own family? We all know we need to get rid of people who are toxic but is this possible when it is family? The book shows how when we have toxic people and relations how often the impact is internal and we find fault in our self rather than the other person. Shunning relationships that are not good for one, needs gazillions of mental strength and the ruthless voice of the supportive people who scream at us saying this is the right thing to do.
One very important lesson I learned from this book is the need to seek help and advice from people. Very often I avoid taking advice and help for shame of ignorance. But, this book showed me how seeking help often actually opens opportunity. What would have happened if Tara never seeked help from the bishop or the professor? Would she be the women that penned this book today?
The book touches on many more theme like the nature of history, about historians, religious beliefs and fanaticism, and mental illness and their impact on family members if it remains unattended. But the above stated points were the ones that made me ponder and think a lot post reading this book.
Snippets from the book I am pondering on:
“Men like to think they’re saving some brain-dead woman who’s got herself into a scrape. All I had to do was step aside and let him play the hero!”
“From my father I had learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God—books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers—were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.”
“The most powerful determinant of who you are is inside you,” he said. “Professor Steinberg says this is Pygmalion. Think of the story, Tara.” He paused, his eyes fierce, his voice piercing. “She was just a cockney in a nice dress. Until she believed in herself. Then it didn’t matter what dress she wore.”
Positioned as a career guide the books deals with the premise of how we all are mediocre employees and how we can be the best average employee. It offers an overview of what corporate life can be right from the time you participate in the group discussion to get that job, to the time when maybe you are being fired from the same job. The author provides you with some unique ideas and methods to deal with all the boring as well as challenging activities around your job and how you can come out unscathed and victorious from the same.
I am a big fan of Dilbert comic and so I was really looking forward to this book because when I read the blurb of this book I could envision the many Dilbert comic strips. The book is divided into 6 parts and in this way, the author follows the entire arc of one’s corporate life. We start right from writing that resume and giving an interview for the job to the time when we are surviving somehow in that job to the time when maybe we are getting sacked. In the earlier part of the book, the author provides the classification of the corporate workforce into early careers, mid-management and senior management. All the tips hence vary according to this classification.
The author has written this book with exaggerated satire and sarcasm which makes this one a laugh out riot. At the end of each chapter, the author has included notes called Feel good anecdotes which tell you why your job is still good by narrating some ghastly and funny corporate instances. Kudos to the author for this research. Being in the corporate field myself the instances where the author described meetings, office parties, appraisals and the heavy usage of jargons I could relate to them and nod my head in agreement. That being said for the majority of the book I was looking forward only to read the Feel good anecdote at the end of the chapter and did not pay much attention to the tips and tricks. What I particularly did not like in the book was the stereotyping of people working in different functions. While I did enjoy the books and laughed a lot I particularly did not feel that I learned something from it other than maybe that we should not stress out regarding our works so much and learn to laugh at situations.
The past is past (Sendrathini meelaathu moodare by Subramania Bharati translated by M.L.Thangappa)
The past is past, you fools!
It never comes back.
Why cling to its vestiges.
And pine for the dead memories
Living in endless hankerings
And fretting yourself to death?
Let bygones be gone.
That you are fresh born
This very day.
Eat and drink
and be merry
Have a song at heart
All your ills
Will Wither away.
About the book:
Subramania Bharati is considered to be the stalwart of Tamil literature and is regarded as Mahakavi (The great poet). Born on 11 December 1882, Bharati dedicated his entire life to writing and penned poems, novels and worked as a journalist in many journals and newspapers including The Hindu. He was heavily inspired by Shelley and brought a new wave of change in the Tamil literature by adopting different styles like haiku and introduced political cartoons in his journalistic writings which were not done before.
During this time the nationalist movement had started in India and Bharati took a keen interest in it. He was an active participant in the Swadeshi movement and his poems became important in the freedom movement due to its patriotic flavor. Along with Aurobindo and others, Bharati sought refuge and took exile in Pondicherry to evade arrest from the British. Later when Bharati returned back to Madras he was arrested and jailed. Bharati led a life in abject poverty but it was after his death that he became famous.
Subramania Bharati with his wife Chellama (Source: Wikipedia)
Bharati had a dream that his books should be available at a very cheap price so that they are available to the masses. He often lamented regarding the lack of good publishing services and even tried to raise money for the same. Bharati died at a young age of 39. Post his death the right to use publish his works were acquired by his half-brother, while the right to use his songs in gramophone and films was acquired by Meiyappan. In 1944 demand was made that Bharati’s song should be public and that they should be rescued from private hands. The mounting pressure for nationalization of Bharati’s work then started an intriguing journey of the copyright battle between the government and the various stakeholders.
It is sad but true that there are so many great authors and poets in our country and worldwide whom we are not acquainted with due to lack of translations. I stayed in Chennai for a long time and had heard Bharati’s name and had seen the monuments build in his honor but I never really realized his contribution to our nation. The book brings out a glaring truth how at times we do not give due importance to our authors while they are living. Bharati lived in poverty and post his death even his wife and daughters had to lead a poverty-stricken life. Why do we fail to honor our authors while they are living?
The author A.R.Venkatachalapathy has done a great work in terms of the structuring of the novel. In the initial chapter, he introduces us to Subramania Bharati and the life he led. This sets up a good based for readers who are not acquainted with Tamil literature and Bharati. In the prologue, he explains the entire process of copyright and intellectual property laws for literary works which is helpful to understand why the nationalization of Subramania Bharati’s works is a landmark event.
Along the novel, one gets a glimpse into the Indian freedom struggle as well. It also gives us a rich background of the emergence of theatre and films in Madras and that is quite interesting as well. At times it is difficult to remember the names and the part played by various stakeholders as the book has a racy pace. But again I think this applies to all books which deal with history. The writing is simple and makes for an enjoyable read.
I am thankful to the author and the publisher for bringing out such an important book. After reading this one I am planning to pick up the novels and poem collection by Subramania Bharati and I hope post this book we get more of his translated books, which like how Subramania Bharati wanted makes his voice reach to the masses.
I received a copy from the publisher for an honest opinion and review.
“How many farewells can a person bear, he thought. Perhaps more than we think. Perhaps not even one. Nothing but farewells wherever we stay, wherever we go; we ought to be told this.”- Robert Seethaler (The Tobacconist)
I discovered Robert Seethaler through Instagram. One of my friend and amazing bookstagrammer Paulami posted his books on her feed. While I am not a cover buyer something about the books enchanted me. Next, I knew I was searching for this author on Goodreads. It was then that I discovered his novel A whole life and when I saw that this book was compared to the likes of Stoner by John Williams which is one of my favorite books of all time, I knew I had to get this one.
Robert Seethaler is an Austrian writer and actor. His most popular novel is A whole life which was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize in 2016. He writes in German and his books have been translated by Charlotte Collins.
Source: The Irish Time
Robert Seethaler’s novels have a calmness to it that is surreal and so unique. They make you think about life in a way that it will consume you in the most unassuming of manner. The structure of his novels has an intrinsic quality which makes you feel that you know each character very closely. There is no big bang life turning moments in his stories yet he is able to portray how it is small incidences and moments that actually shape us into the person that we are. Today in a world where glitz and glamour are what sells it is unique to find such rare books with a calm narrative and simple storytelling that fills you with an eternal warmth.
A Whole Life
A whole life is the story of Andreas Eggers set in the mid-twentieth century in Austria. Andreas has had a difficult childhood but he has never cried. He lives in a small town amidst the backdrop of the vast mountain range and leads an existence which looks ordinary. Andreas has faced many challenges in his life and has had his set of hardships and snaps of joy and success. He finds love and then again loses it. Each time he falls he picks himself up adapts to the changes and survives. Eggers life mimics the mountain ranges which is trampled on by the trekkers but which continues to stand still. He finds meaning and joy in the solitude that is present in most of his life.
A whole life with a simple story has an understated melancholy to it which just captures your attention. Life for the majority of us is simple but this simplicity has a uniqueness and Seethaler beautifully captures this essence in the story. The novel has an easy gentle pace and though there are many events that are quite emotional the devoidness of the sentimental aspect makes those emotions more glaring and touches your heart. This is one novel which I will go to again and re-read it for the surreal brilliance.
“It’s a messy business dying, he said. As time goes on there is just less and less of you. It happens quickly for some; for others, it drags on. Starting from birth you keep on losing one thing from another: first a finger, then an arm, first a tooth and then a whole set of teeth, first one memory and then all your memory, and so on and so forth, until one day there is nothing left. Then they chuck what’s left of you in a hole and shovel it in and that’s your lot”- Robert Seethaler (A whole life)
It is the year 1937. The Nazis and Hitler are rising in prominence and Austria is in the midst of a takeover by Germany. The political climate is heating up and propaganda is being spewed. Amidst all this Franz a young boy makes his way from his village of Nussdorf to Vienna to work with a tobacconist. Franz has never left his home but as finances are dwindling he needs to find a job so he moves to Vienna. Here he starts working at with the tobacconist Otto who himself has never tried a cigar in his life. Otto has customers like Sigmund Freud who visit his store.
Seethaler has done a brilliant job of while having the canvas of pre-war Austria against the backdrop the main focus is on Franz. Franz is perturbed with questions that haunt the youth right from What is love? to the longing, one feels for home while one venture in one’s career path. In this confusion of youth, the young Franz develops an unlikely friendship with the 80 years old Sigmund Freud. How the unraveling of political upheavals often crushes the desire of youth is portrayed well in the novel.
As compared to The Whole life this book has more events unfurling around and the pace of the novel is quick. Yet like The Whole Life, it is the simplicity and the unstated melancholy that makes this one stand out. Most books centered around the pre World War II period deals with the atrocities meted during this time, but the tobacconist, while it focuses largely on the turmoils of Franz youth, brings the reality of this period out glaringly. The subtle way in which this is done is brilliant.
(If you loved the books The book thief, All the light we cannot see I am sure you like this one)