Images and ‘soundbites’ from the book signing program that we saw rarely in Nepali book world. Star of the moment was Narayan Wagle, awardwinning writer of debut novel Palpasa Cafe.
As he reached the stall of Educational Book House in the Book Fair at Bhrikutimandap immediately after landing at Kathmandu airport from a week long trip to Finland and Russia, journalist/writer Narayan Wagle was surrounded by a group of fans. Everyone in the crowd had a copy of Wagle’s award winning debut novel Palpasa Café and they wanted the writer to sign the book. They also wanted to share their views of the book with the fiction writer.
Many of the readers present in the Palpasa Café signing ceremony were young and girls. For many of them, Palpasa Café was the first Nepali book (other than those included in school and university course) that they had read. “Oh…there are so many English books that I have read,” Mona Sherpa, who received Narayan Wagle’s autograph in her copy of Palpasa Café, said. “It’s impossible to name all of them now. But this is the first Nepali book I have read and I like it very much.”
Why she liked the book? “Read the book from anywhere and you will find a new story. They all come together at last and link with eachother. Description daami chha (description is superb.).” Mona’s friend Aprajita, who read Palpasa Café as the first Nepali literary creation, was standing nearby and was ready give her verdict on the book. “Story of our times,” said Aprajita (right in the pic above) who recently finished reading D. H. Lawrence’s Woman in Love. “My parents recommended Palpasa Café to me a few months ago. Initially, I was hesitant about reading it as I considered it as just another Nepali book. But as I started reading, found it very interesting.” Mona said that Palpasa Café has encouraged her to read other Nepali books as well.
It won’t be a biased opinion to say that we don’t have very good habit of reading books in Nepal for various reasons. One of them is the availability of quality child literature in Nepali. The other is obviously the financial problem; students can’t afford to by books that are out of school or university course. Plus, students are not encouraged to read out-of-course books by their teachers and parents and libraries with rich collection of books are not that much in many parts of the country.
Some books successfully grab peoples’ attention and generate talks among them. When everyone starts talking about a book, friends feel the pressure and they tend to buy and read the book immediately. I saw the same situation when Samraty Upadhayay’s Arresting God in Kathmandu was released in Nepali market. It was a fashion statement of sort to let people know proudly that you had read the book and start talking about the creation. The same is happening with Palpasa Café now and people who are not reading the book are already feeling lagging behind in socializing events.
The girl on the right, Swechha Shrestha, said that she was impressed by the book and wanted to have signature of Narayan Wagle in her copy. “The book is about present condition of the country,” she said. “I am fascinated by Drishya (the main character).” All members in her family, Swechha said, have read the book. “My mother also liked the book very much,” she said. “My mother felt that the language is good compared other Nepali writers.” Her two friends (all three are students of CA Foundation Level in Chartered Academics International) who were in the signing program said that they learned the story of Palpasa Café from Swechha.
A FM radio journalist interviews two readers of Palpasa Café (Arpana Pokharel, left, and Ruju Parajuli) who were in the program to have their copies of the books signed by the novelist.
This is an artist’s impression of Palpasa, the central character of Palpasa Café. The artist and reader of Palpasa Café was present in the signing program with the portrait. The artist is Mona Pokhrel, a Masters level student of Microbiology in a Kathmandu college. “I first heard the story of Palpasa Café in HBC FM (that has been serializing the story),” Mona said. “I emailed Narayan Wagle urging him to write a sequel to the book reviving the characters of Palpasa and Drishya.” After she received a reply from the author said that ‘books are meant to be read, not just to be listened on a radio’ she bought the book and finished reading it in almost six hours. From 8:56 PM to 3:01 AM. “Now I think there is no need to revive those characters,” she said. She has also drawn a portrait of the couple- Drishya and Palpasa.
He is Krishna Kandel, 20-year-old student of B Sc in Trichandra Campus. He read Palpasa Café three months ago after one of his friends recommended the book to him. “The story is contemporary and I found the book better than how my friend described to me,” he said after receiving a signature from Narayan Wagle on his t-shirt. “Now I will put this t-shirt safely in my room,” Krishna said.
Anjan Bahadur Shrestha, (middle, wearing a Palpasa Café t-shirt) the owner of Educational Book House, started last year the tradition of book signing programs by invited writers who have recently published their books in the book exhibition. Celebrated writers Samrat Upadhaya (Arresting God in Kathmandu, Guru of Love and The Royal Ghost) and Karna Shakya (Soch) were the guests last year. Narayan Wagle and Manju Shree Thapa (Tutor of History and Forgot Kathmandu) attended this year’s program. Another book shop also organized similar program this year in which singer Raamesh, writers Narayan Dhakal and Bimal Niva signed on their books and albums. Shrestha said that he will be inviting Samrat this year to promote The Royal Ghost that has sold more than 15 hundred copies in a week from his shop alone.
Rajeshwor Devkota, a conservative royalist politician and a well known literary personality, was also seen in the signing in ceremony. “I have read Palpasa Café,” he said. “It’s a very good book.” He was looking for a copy of international bestseller The Da Vinci Code. “I have been looking for that book for the last several weeks,” he said. “I really want to read that.” Devkota asked for the book and, considering the occasion and his personality perhaps, the book stall didn’t accept the payment and provide the book as complementary.
1. Kantipur news on the event