‘A writer always needs to be a good reader’Buddhi Ram Chapain, aka Buddhisagar, on what led him to write ‘Karnali Blues’, why he prefers to read physical books, and his favourite books by Nepali authors.
Buddhi Ram Chapain, known mainly by his pseudonym, Buddhisagar, is one of the most respected writers in contemporary Nepali literature. A poet turned writer, Buddhisagar’s first book, ‘Karnali Blues’, was a critical and commercial success. It was recently translated into English by Michael J Hutt. His third novel, ‘Eklo’, is slated for release in the first week of December.
In this interview with the Post, Buddhisagar discusses his reading habit, how it helped him to be a writer and the language barrier in literature.
What drew you to reading and writing in the first place?
Growing up, I was an average student. I was also very timid. I spent much of my time reading comics and mystery novels. And since I didn’t talk much with people, writing was the medium that I relied on to express myself.
There’s a saying by the American novelist Toni Morrison that goes, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ I grew up in Nepal’s far-west region, and I have always felt that the stories and realities of the region rarely get told. This urge to tell our story led me to write my own novel because, as a reader, you search for flavours you can resonate with.
How often do you read? And did reading help you become a better writer?
A writer always needs to be a better reader. I used to read a lot, and I still do. I used to read all kinds of books in the past, but now, I have become more selective. I only read books that I can gain something from. I still do read a lot, especially physical books. I once had a kindle and tried reading on it. But I realised I like the feel of physical books more.
Could you name the first book you read that left a lasting impression on you and why?
All the books you read do leave an impression behind. Initially, I read a lot of Nepali and Hindi books. I read translated versions of books like ‘Thank You Mr. Glad’ by Anil Barve and ‘Good Earth’ by Pearl S Buck, which left quite a mark on me. I have also mentioned the book ‘Good Earth’ in my upcoming novel. The first English book I read was Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’. I first read the book in Hindi to understand the story, and then only did I attempt to read the book in English to understand the sentence structure. Apart from that, I really liked ‘At Night All Blood Is Black’ by David Diop.
As a reader, which genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I like to read all kinds of genres. There’s no such thing as avoiding any particular genre for me. From books by Stephen King to Mark Age, I read works of diverse authors. But because I write more on actuality, I prefer reading books on magical realism, a genre that blends magical elements with reality effortlessly—the kind of books by Haruki Murakami.
What are your favourite books by Nepali authors?
‘Gham ka Paila’ by Dhanush Chandra Gauram (Dha Cha Gotame)
‘Loo’ by Nayan Raj Pandey
‘Kathmandu ma Ek din’ by Shivani Singh Tharu
‘Palpasa Cafe’ by Narayan Wagle
I know these are all known names, but these are all good books and hence are so popular.
What tips would you like to give to those looking to cultivate a reading habit?
I will share two tips that I have tried and tested myself.
First, you need to have a variety of books with you. Oftentimes, when we start with one book, and it does not quite interest us, we stop reading, and it hampers our habit. But when you have a variety of books to start with, if one doesn’t interest you, you can always move to the next one.
Second, read it aloud. Because of technology, it has become harder than ever for people to stay focused. There are times when you read two to three pages of a book, but you have trouble remembering what you just read. When you read aloud, you will also be reading and listening to the words simultaneously. I have found this very helpful when it comes to staying focused.