‘A dialogue not in full English, is no longer wrong but more colourful’

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Prajwa Parajuly
Prajwa Parajuly, 29, writer Photo: AFP

Is there one incident that triggered or informed your writing?
Most other writers had childhood aspirations to be writers. I did not. I quit a dead-end job, travelled and having nothing else to do, started writing. In New York, one day, I picked up a Nepali newspaper and saw how difficult it was for me to read the language. Nepali was slithering into the background for me and I had to do something about it. Writing came from a desperation to do something with my life.
Writing about Nepali diaspora, how do you and your characters negotiate identity?
I grew up in a belt that has always been vocal about a demand for it’s Indian identity. Much of the Gorkhaland movement is in my new novel. Growing up, I’ve tried putting my Nepali roots over my Indian roots, and vice versa. Nepali speaking Indians have to stress on their Indian nationality when they mention ethnicity. But I’ve come to see many of these conundrums as self created. I don’t know if that’s an easy solution. I’ll be glib here, but I don’t write to tell the world about issues that my people are grappling with. I write fiction to tell stories. Once the book is released it ceases to be mine. So, it is perfectly okay for people to have their own perceptions.
What role does language play?
My characters speak Nepali and I think in English. The writing process is fraught with translation. It’s tricky, but we have grown up reading South Asian writers who made the path somewhat easier. A dialogue not in full English is not wrong, but more colourful. It talks about the difference in culture. I’m asked why I used so many Nepali words in my short stories. I want to be unapologetic about Nepali. It’s a beautiful language that employs onomatopoeia better than any other.
How do you deal with ‘mainland-India-syndrome’?
Every story of mine has a map, showing exactly where the plot unfolds in India. This is to inform not just foreigners, but also ‘mainland’ Indians about these places, whose inhabitants are also Indians.
Could your writing get lost in an existing glut of South Asian fiction?
I don’t think so. A good story that resonates with some editor will get published. Did my book get picked partly because it’s about an esoteric part of the world? Probably. But would that have happened if I wrote crap? Perhaps not.