Book Review: Fiction/Palpasa Cafe by Narayan Wagle, Random House India, 256 pp; Rs199 (Paperback)
The English fiction writing in Nepal has not yet entered into a matured phase from where the mass issues can be broadly presented for meaningful orientations. This is little bizarre, as in the category of non-fiction English writing, especially those done by the leading journalists have found accolades both in the country and outside. In absolute terms, Nepali literature is quite rich with an amazing consistency of its development-even in present time, the pace is intact and that is the matter of great solace. Though in recent times, Manjushree Thapa and few others have also did sporadically well to bridge the gap in English fiction writing…this work/Palpasa Cafe of Nepal’s leading journalist, Narayan Wagle is also appears very refreshing in a sensible English translation of Bikash Sangruala.
Set in the backdrop of Nepal’s transitory democratic scene, this novel could be termed very much the replica of those painful years started with the royal massacre of 2001. That brutally mysterious incident left the balance of royalty, mass belief, democracy and approaching radicalism in a prolong state of weirdness whose signs are still very much visible in Nepal. Palpasa Café is a sort of original work, that’s completely woven around the realities, with those the Nepalese lives have suffered immensely in last two decades. Inside the novel, Palpasa is a female protagonist, representing the insecure generation of her country with vivid charm and bewilderness. Her muse like involvement with the artist assures at some point, love can take lead even in the deep darkness of war and uncertainty!
But also is truth, those adversities tests the relations on its own hard terms where emotions alone don’t last long before the extreme convictions. Under the guise of unpleasant circumstances, Palpasa meets untimely but faithful end, and her better half part relies on artistic continuance and follow up ethical bearings. Which overall reaffirms that the benign functionalism of bond can be easily also coexists beyond the conventionally restricted trees of relationships. Being familiar with both the India and Nepal’s length and width, Narayan Wagle’s description from Goa to the valleys of turbulent Kathmndu allows readers to know and sense the events with comfortable ease. On individual characters, his reliance to assert his news centric opinion also creates interest rather confusion, that’s definitely a big win for this debutant author at quite ripe age.
Those who have enthusiasms for knowing the political history of Modern Nepal, advent and shaping of democracy in the nation can be more blessed entwining with this highly factualised fiction. Practically, like a scribe and astutely as an editor, Narayan Wagle delineates Nepal’s essential events of last few decades through a very balance vigour, which keeps reader informed and entitled with the development in envisaged plots. Moreover, better concentration over the conflicts among community and vested political interests of different political groups necessitates knowing the ongoing struggle of Nepal’s democracy not in monolith frame. If Palpasa’s end comes so easily, that it can be taken less than a loss of a human for the strife believer Maoists or other insensitive political participants, then atleast momentously it looks more believable to accept “disenchantment “from the existing institutional frameworks as “mainstream move”!
The book tries well to establish those disenchanting urges with the directionless political development in Nepal. This gives the effort of author a much desired broadness. Through knowing by one’s own impulses or getting in term with a work like this, views strengthens that the pain of Nepal’s democratic transition is far being over in the days to come. The big gulf that created with the end of monarchy or even much before, from the royal massacre, is still haunting the prospects of political normalization in the country. A nation with rich cultural past and gifted human and natural resources, Nepal certainly deserves to retrieve its normalcy and peace back. Over the years, Nepali journalists have been playing the vital role in forming balanced international consensus in favour of Nepal, time has still not lapse have they start thinking to concentrate more on homeland!
Atul Kumar Thakur
March 15, 2012, Thursday, New Delhi