Saturday Features

‘Writing to make sense of the world’

Nov 4, 2017-Midway towards this conversation, when asked about his age, poet, and now novelist, Viplob Pratik said, “I have no age or caste. I am a homo sapien and I am eternal. That’s all I know.” Viplob Pratik, who wears a stark white ponytail, lives a life of a vagabond. His normal writing day starts at noon. When he is working on a novel, he writes continually for six to eight hours and when he is immersed in poetry, which he says is the “nectar of literature,” he gets a poem written within 5-10 minutes. “All you have to do is to catch the impulse that’s been germinating in your mind and translate that impulse into ink.” 

Pratik’s debut novel, Abijit, hit shelves last week. Prior to this, he has published two books of poetry—Nahareko Manchhe and A Person Kissed by the Moon, which is a work of translation of his own poems, for which he collaborated with Manjushree Thapa, among others. Timothy Aryal of the Post caught up with Pratik to talk about his novel, the inspiration behind it and about writing in general. Excerpts: 

Having been a poet and lyricist for so long, what prompted you to write this novel? 

It was an accident. I didn’t really start out writing this novel with an aim to get published. I had something in my mind that wanted a way out and I knew that the form of poetry would not suffice; the idea would require an elaborate set of characters and settings. I started out with a mindset that if it comes out all right then I would present it to the audience; if it doesn’t then the one-lakh-something words would be a good writing exercise for me. I didn’t write the book because I was disenchanted with poetry or to prove my own writing prowess. Let’s say that it is a humble attempt to give my idea that had set in my mind since long a voice and a way out. So I kept on working on it for about five years, and fortunately there was a publisher interested in publishing the book. 

 

Can you speak a bit about the inspiration behind the novel Abijit, and what is it about? 

Abijit is a story built around an unvanquished person, as the title itself implies: A really intimate story dramatised around the character of my father, who I thought was a revolutionary in his own right. Abijit is my attempt to pay homage to all those countless individuals in days gone by who carried a certain revolutionary impulse and are now all but forgotten.

 

Let’s go back in time; how did you get into writing? 

Privileged to have been born to a father who was also a writer, there was a natural impulse to do what my father was doing. As almost every writer does in the beginning, I started dabbling into poetry, which grew in me like an addiction. When I was coming of age, a tragedy befell into my family and writing was my way to make sense of this new world that was suddenly thrust upon me. Writing would provide an escape from my immediate world. As I straddled through this familiar terrain, at one point, vanity would lead me to believe that I had already become a tremendous writer. But that naturally was only short-lived. As time went by, out of, say, 800 pieces, only 300 would satisfy me. Later, I got into reading works of world literature, making sense of the world, the addiction then only grew stronger. 

 

What is writing for you; why do you write? 

I don’t write to change the world. I think I write only to sharpen my own outlook of the world, to sharpen the sensitiveness inside me and to sanitise myself. An athelete, for instance, removes the toxins of his body by exercise; in the same vein, a writer removes the toxins of his mind, the ego and anger, through writing. It’s a continous process: The more you write the more sanitised version of yourself you discover. The written word mirrors your own soul. You may fool yourself but you can’t fool your readers. If there’s a sense of jealousy or ego that has been taking root inside you, it readily gets reflected into the words you write. To put it simply, writing for me is a way of understanding myself. 

 

Were there any specific books and authors that you were significantly influenced by when you were starting out as a writer? 

I would not say I am influenced by any certain writer, and neither do I believe in Oh-I-can’t-live-without-reading-this-author kind of trash. But growing up there were several authors on whose thrall I would fall into. Khalil Gibran; Hermann Hesse; Pablo Neruda, who I think is more than the overblown Neruda we often hear about; reading Tolstoy in Hindi translation was like entering into a valley of the wild. Then there were Nepali authors such as Gopal Prasad Rimal, Siddhicharan Shrestha, Lekhnath Poudel, and Durga Lal Shrestha. I think one should read an author not to emulate their style but to enrich your own worldview. 

Before we wrap up, would you like to pass some nugget of advice to young writers? 

One ought to write if one wants to. Since in the end everything is going to get lost, the empires will crumble, the statues will be demolished, and the written words will be vanished. Nothing lasts forever. You don’t write to be famous. You don’t write to make money or to carve out an identity for yourself. You write, as I said somewhere already, to enrich your understanding of the world you live in.

Published: 04-11-2017 16:12

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