Saturday Features

The writer in you never really dies

Apr 7, 2018-

When Prakash Pradhananga first started writing, she was only 19 years old. It all started with a letter she was encouraged to write to her Guru. One letter led to another and before she knew she was already writing stories and plays in Nepal Bhasa. At 81, she still aspires to tell stories that are often hushed up and has an assortment of 10 books of short stories (Mashyang Paa:, Lufi, Pratigya, Apawad), plays (Kalakar), essays (Astha lai chitthi), and autobiographies to her name. In this conversation with the Post’s Abha Dhital, Pradhananga talks about her sixty years in literature, what made her who she is, and what it’s like to write in two languages. Excerpts: 

How did you start writing and when? 

I first started writing in 1956. I have always been enchanted by the art of storytelling. When I was still in my late teens, I frequented the local bihar just to hear the stories and lessons of Buddha. My favourite sessions were taken by Bhikshu Sudarshan. I really looked up to him—he was a writer and was proactively dedicated in the development of Nepal Bhasa literature. One day, he asked me and my friend Puspalata Shrestha (who is also a writer now) to write down our reflections in a letter to him. We were on it immediately. We were not proficient in writing Nepal Bhasa, but we wrote to him anyway. The letter came back to us with a lot of corrections in red. But we were not discouraged.  One letter led to another and before I knew both I and my friend were already engaged in creative writing. We didn’t know then, but Bhikshu Sudarshan was grooming us, and perhaps it is because of him that I started writing. 

This was six decades ago. What was the environment like back then—was it suitable to nurture the writer in you? 

I continued writing for five years straight; but then things changed when I got married in 1961. You know what it’s like once you tie the knot—you become a homemaker. I had to look after my husband and the in-laws. I also helped in the family business. Soon, the kids followed and I had to become a fulltime mother. There never was enough time to write. The passion for writing just fizzled out into thin air. The writer in me just ebbed.  With time I had given up on myself. I actually believed that I could never pick up on writing again. This one time I came across three notebooks with my handwriting on them. When I flipped through the pages, it was too much to take; I remember crying my heart out that day. 

So, what resurrected the writer in you? 

Well wishers. One day, a dear friend, Sulochana, came looking for me. We hadn’t met in ages, but she somehow found me. The credit also goes to Kashinath Tamot, a renowned researcher and a dear mentor, who led her to me. When she asked me about my work, I opened up to her about how I had stopped writing altogether and how it felt like who I used to be had been completely  swept away by the Tinau river. But I did show her the three notebooks that had somehow stayed with me. She borrowed them for two weeks, came back, and told me to my face that I was making such a huge mistake by not publishing them. By that time, I had already retired from my teaching job. We talked over and over again, and finally concluded that maybe it was time to embrace writing, my first love. We published the works from that notebook and once they were well received, I started writing again.

You write in multiple genres ranging from essays and stories to plays. Is there a particular subject that you take pleasure in writing about? 

I am primarily a fiction writer; however, if you read my stories or plays, you’ll always find heavy influence of the reality that surrounds us. I don’t really like my works when they stem out of mere imagination. I find inspiration in everyday life and everyday people—the bahulai that people refuse to accept, the jadiya who has reasons behind his drinking problems, the buhari who has to give up who she is once she is married into another family. I Iike writing about subjects that are right there in front of you, yet are often swept under the rug. 

Your stories often see women as their protagonists. How important is it to write about women in a society that is primarily patriarchal? 

I have always detested the gender inequality that persists in our society. There’s inequality everywhere—between a brother and a sister, between a husband and a wife, between a female and a male colleague. As a woman who has experienced it all first hand, it is very important to write about women and their strengths and struggles, because they make such major part of the society. It is vital to paint a true picture. I am also aware that not all men are bad and not all women are good. Hence, I have also written stories about flawed women, like the character in my story Nirlajja, who destroy everything and everyone they touch. 

You write both in Nepali and Nepal Bhasa, which one is easier and more impactful? 

I am comfortable writing in both languages. They both come with their own sets of strengths. Writing in Nepal Bhasa, for starters, is writing in my mother tongue. It is preserving and promoting my own language. Besides, it also unlocks the Newar readership that is not comfortable reading in Nepali. Writing in Nepali, on the other hand, is reaching out to a wide, wide range of readers who come from various backgrounds. 

Published: 07-04-2018 08:52

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