Print Edition - 2017-08-02  |  The Collegian

Writing the war

  • bookworm babbles

Aug 2, 2017-

Nabin Bibhas’s latest collection of stories, Rolpa Suina, has been nominated for this year’s Padmashree Award—one of the most prestigious literary awards in the country. In the anthology, Bibhas, who has previously published four books varying in genres, delves into the impact of Maoist insurgency on the remote district of Rolpa and the people there. A frequent columnist at various national newspapers, Bibhas in this conversation with Post’s Samikshya Bhattarai talks about his book and what it takes to write impactful stories. Excerpts:  

Your book, Ropla Suina, is a collection of fictional tales set in a very real environment from the civil war. Can you tell us about the process of creating these stories?

During the Maoist insurgency in the nation, I worked as a war correspondent. Back then, I was reporting from Rolpa itself. A native of the district, I got a firsthand insight and experience on what it is like to live in a war-torn place. I came across a lot of everyday but strong characters who were tackling with the impact of the insurgency. Common livelihood was under great threat and how people strived through it was very inspiring. Yes, these stories are about the civil war, but they are also about the psyche of people who were—voluntarily and involuntarily—part of the war. Rolpa was the epicenter of the war, and I was right there as the events unfolded. Hence, the stories came about naturally. I had inspiration and I had insights. 

But why fiction and not non-fiction, say a memoir of sorts, to put light on the same issues? What does fiction offer that non-fiction doesn’t? 

Despite being a journalist, I am more comfortable writing fiction. Fiction gives you creative freedom which non-fiction cannot. If you are writing non-fiction, you have to be very objective. You cannot emote the stories, you cannot play with your own imagination. When you write fiction you get the space to play with the words and events as you wish. Non-fiction mostly comes with a limitation—there are certain things that you just can’t publish even if you wish to write about it. The ‘ethics’ that accompany non-fiction sometimes instead of doing justice to the characters rather fails them. I wanted to explore the characters and their stories in my book voluminously, hence I decided on fiction.  

During the Maoist insurgency, you too were taken in by security forces and held under arrest for three months. Did the experience add value in bringing this book to fruition? 

Actually, I haven’t written anything related to that period in this book. There are few stories related to people who went missing based on the anecdotes I heard and I might have written on my own experience subconsciously, but that’s about it. However, I have been penning down my experience of captivity and it would be safe to say that it will be out soon for the readers to have a look at. 

The book was very well-received by the readers and has now been shortlisted for a prestigious award. Why did the book resonate so well with the audience and critics? 

Yes, the book has been received really well. I think it is because of the essence my stories have captured and the close-to-reality picture they have painted about Rolpa during the insurgency. Not many, if any, books have done the same. There are many books on the civil war in the market, but most of them are written by people who were based in the Capital and not at the epicentre. And then there are some written by Maoist comrades who have only glorified and justified the whole period through the book. These books don’t provide personal and honest account of what the people of Rolpa went through and how the war shaped and changed their lives. My book doesn’t glorify the leaders or provide a distant outlook. I was there with the people who have inspired the characters of my book. The stories are about innocent lives at stake, about people who wanted the war to end, about people who had nothing to do with the ‘whys’ of the wars. And that is what readers have been able to relate to. 

Published: 02-08-2017 08:20

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