Saturday Features

Writing is an ageless art

Age should not be a barrier. I write because literature has become an inseparable aspect of my life today. I write so as to leave a keepsake, a profound memento for the future generation, even when I am gone

Apr 14, 2018-Born in Kathmandu and raised in Okhaldhunga, Bhadra Kumari Ghale is a significant personality in contemporary Nepali history. Eighty-seven-year-old Ghale who is a social worker, painter, women’s right activist, and former minister, is also an author with over 140 books to her name. In this conversation with Post's Abijeet Pant, Ghale talks about her love for literature and what inspires her to keep writing. Excerpts:

You read a lot. How young were you when started indulging in books? 

I was 12 years old when Durbar High School, Nepal’s oldest, opened its classrooms to girls. I started my official schooling there from grade 3. By that time, I had already finished reading religious texts such as Durga Kawach, Buddhi Chana, and Bhagwat.

My fellow villagers were fond of me because I could fluently read Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Swasthani Brata Katha to them. I often went from house to house reciting these texts. Older people also came to me to help them write their letters.

Once in Kathmandu, I made my way through grade 9, and when the government announced a few scholarships to study matriculation (10th grade) in India, I got the opportunity.

When in India, I was completely enchanted by the big libraries and the volumes of books available there. Every time I walked into a library, I was so much in awe that I just wished I could finish reading all the books there.

How were you drawn towards arts and literature?

When in India, I participated in many cultural programmes. I delved into literature by writing poems, songs, and dramas for such programmes. I eventually started writing stories and essays that touched on contemporary issues. Thanks to the environment, I also got drawn to painting around the same time. 

Could you tell us something about your writing series ‘Briddha Bodh’ and ‘Budhauli ko Ganthan’? 

Till date, I have looked after seven elderly women including my mother, who lived to be 103. When I was 70, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about aging and what it meant to be old. Now, as I look back, I know I was so wrong and ignorant. When I reflect on my ups and downs, highs and lows, I am amused by how I and my desires have evolved.

These days, I often find myself longing for love and attention from people around me. I find myself wishing people would ask me about how I am doing. 

Both ‘Briddha Bodh’—an 18-volume poetry collection, and ‘Budhauli ko Ganthan’—a 32-volume essay collection are mediums to share how I feel about growing old. They are accounts of my emotions, experiences, and random recollections.

Is it true that you have an odd writing schedule? 

Yes, I go to bed at four in the evening and then I wake up around 11 pm to start writing. I often write for three to four hours at night before I go back to sleep again. 

What inspires you to keep going? How do you stay motivated at this age?

Does age really determine your energy and motivation levels? Take Satya Mohan Joshi and Madhav Ghimire for examples. They are at least 10 years older than me and are still writing. Age should not be a barrier. I write because literature has become an inseparable aspect of my life today. I write so as to leave a keepsake, a profound memento for the future generation, even when I am gone.

You have written so many books, but only a portion of them have made their way to the readers. Is it deliberate? 

When I write, I write for myself. There was a time when I was more concerned about the quantity than the content of my books. There was also a time when I launched 40 books at the same event. Today, I don’t write to sell. I write to share. Today, I write in hopes that my books will one day be a keepsake for the younger generations. I hope these books will make their way to as many readers as possible in the future, but marketing is not my primary concern at the moment.

What are you currently working on?

I am writing bhajans these days. I always print my works in volumes. This time, for a change, instead of printing volumes I just plan to bring out one thick book of about 300 bhajans. 


Published: 14-04-2018 08:13

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