Random online browsing no substitute for reading books‘The Digital Lawyer’ Mamta Siwakoti shares why reading is still important in the digital age and how she makes time for it in her busy schedule.
Mamta Siwakoti, also known as The Digital Lawyer, is a vibrant personality in the legal world. She is a young advocate passionate about human rights, constitutional law, legal research and policy-making.
The Nepal Bar Association honoured her with the Jyoti Bidhusi Award for Academic Excellence, celebrating her exceptional achievements as a young advocate in March 2021. She founded The Digital Law and Policy Centre to navigate the complexities of the digital world. Active on social media as @lawwithmamta and @thedigitalawyer, she shares valuable legal insights, aiming to make legal understanding accessible to everyone.
In an interview with Post’s Aarati Ray, Siwakoti shares her deep love for books and how her reading has developed over time.
How did your reading habit begin, and how has it evolved over time?
I picked up my first book from the library in sixth grade and began reading fairy tales. In seventh grade, which I believe was around 2007, I got into the ‘Goosebumps’ series by RL Stine. Throughout high school, my preference leaned towards short stories and light-hearted books.
After that, I started reading novels—especially romance novels. Some days, I spent my lunch hour with a friend who liked reading. She went to the library often, and I would join her. I even helped her write fanfiction on WordPress. That’s how, between grades 11 and 12, I read a lot of books by the Bronte Sisters and Thomas Hardy. This made me really like the British and Victorian settings in the books we read. That interest is also why I watched the ‘Bridgerton’ series recently, inspired by my love for books like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ back then.
After finishing high school, I started studying law in college. I began reading books like ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran and Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’. Later, during law school, I started reading about Marxism, communism, and political novels such as ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’ by George Orwell.
What are you reading these days?
I was known for being a good student during my school and college days. As I’ve started practising law, there’s this unspoken pressure to always do well. Even though no one says it, there’s a lot of stress and fear about making mistakes or choosing the wrong path. This has led me to turn to self-help and spiritual books for guidance. So, whenever I find time, I read some verses from the Bhagavad Gita. These days, self-help, spiritual and religious books have been on my reading list.
What is the one book that has influenced you greatly?
For me, one such book is ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. I believe everyone should read it once in their life. It serves as a gateway to spirituality.
In the section on marriage, Gibran writes, “Fill each other’s cup but don’t drink from the same cup,” and “Share bread from your loaf but don’t eat from the same loaf.”
This book advocates for independence within relationships, addressing not only love but also broader topics like good and evil, pleasure and beauty, joy and sorrow. Its deep and poetic exploration of love, marriage, and children resonated with me. I even discussed the concept of loving your children without expecting them to mirror you, presented in this book, with my parents once.
Do you prefer reading e-books or physical books?
I enjoy reading physical books whenever I can get them. I’ve also tried listening to audiobooks. Lately, though, I’ve been reading a lot of e-books. It’s convenient because I can read with the Kindle app on my phone whenever I have some free time. Audiobooks are handy, too, especially when I’m commuting or travelling.
Many say they want to read but find it hard to do so because of other responsibilities—like their job. What suggestions do you have to help them find the time for reading?
I leave for work early and return late, but I manage to “read” by listening to audiobooks during my commute. I also listen to them when I’m doing tasks at home. That is one way to “read” books even when you’re busy.
You don’t even have to buy audiobooks; there are many apps and free options on the internet. E-books offer another viable option, allowing you to read whenever you find a free moment.
Some young people consider reading dull. They question why they should bother reading when they can find everything through a simple Google search. What are your thoughts on this?
If you can learn something from sources other than books, like watching or listening, go ahead. However, it’s rare to understand the core of an event or issue by just reading one Google article or watching a YouTube short. Videos may share interesting things, but they often lack depth and fundamental understanding. In one of my classes, I learned that when someone speaks to us, we only absorb about 50 percent, and when we try to explain it to someone else, we lose another 25 percent of the information. So, reading a book with complete focus helps us understand and remember better than listening or watching.
Similarly, just reading a summary through a Google search isn’t enough. When you read someone else’s analysis, you only get their view on the important parts of the book. If you read it yourself, you might consider different things or aspects important.
Personally, reading books in high school helped me better my proficiency in English. The books I read in eleven and twelve made a big difference in how well I write and speak the language now. The same goes for my Nepali skills in court, where I have to read laws and cases in Nepali. So, if you want to improve your language skills, critical thinking and understanding of topics, reading is very important.
What advice would you give to someone starting their reading journey?
Start by reading about the things you like. Begin with just a couple of pages in a single sitting. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts to get into reading more.
In this age of information, there’s an abundance of knowledge, and sifting through it helps us comprehend various perspectives. Adaptability is crucial in today’s competitive world, and the process of learning, unlearning, and relearning is greatly facilitated by regular reading. I think the world would be a much more tolerant place if people actually read different viewpoints on things.
Mamta Siwakoti’s book recommendations
Author: Kahlil Gibran
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf
‘The Prophet’ is a book everyone has to read. A collection of beautiful essays on philosophy, spirituality and, most importantly, it inspires people. We can find in it timeless wisdom on generosity, morality, faith and companionship.
Gone with the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers (United States)
‘Gone with the Wind’ is one of my earlier reads that still holds a special place in my heart. The book explores themes like social class and status, gender roles, race and slavery. I especially admire the character Scarlett O’Hara.
Bananas, Beaches and Bases
Author: Cynthia Enloe
Publisher: University of California Press
Year: 2014 (revised edition)
Enloe beautifully portrays how women’s daily lives are influenced by things like gender, ethnicity and social class in ‘Bananas, Beaches and Bases’. This book challenges the gender bias in global policy-making and interactions aiming to create a gender neutral foundation for international relations.
Author: James Clear
Publisher: Penguin Random House
I love ‘Atomic Habits’. It shows how small habits can completely change your life. Clear shares practical strategies to help you build good habits and master small behaviours that, in time, lead to impressive results.
Author: Krishna Dharabasi
Publisher: Pairavi Book House
I appreciate ‘Radha’ because getting to relearn Mahabharat from the perspective of Radha is refreshing. We generally hear/read the story from the man’s perspective—including Krishna’s —so, this is a nice change.