For the Love of Reading

I have a deep appreciation for American culture that nurtures a love of reading. We’ve been reading books to our daughter since she was only a few months old. She reads every day and expects us to read her bedtime stories every single night. It is very endearing to witness her love of reading.

I come from the land of myths and folklore. We grew up on stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana. Being born in a Buddhist family we also invited monks in our home for ‘Paritran’ to share stories of Buddha’s teachings. Storytelling is embedded in our culture. But most of our stories were so soaked in religion, I feel like I never really inculcated the habit of reading, solely because I wanted to stay away from the influence of any religion. Some of my very good friends however, grew up reading and they still are such voracious readers. I remember being curious, but not enough to feed my curious mind. Maybe the kinds of books I wanted to read were not available. Perhaps my options were limited. Perhaps they were too expensive. The reasons are plenty!

I think about how I would possibly tell a tale of Mahabharata to my daughter, a kid’s version would probably do the trick! I doubt it if kids versions of these mythological stories are even available in the market.

But fast forward today, Nepal’s own reading culture is growing immensely. With Nepali authors like Narayan Wagle, Manjushree Thapa, and Buddhisagar stepping into the international market, it is exposing Nepali stories to an ever-growing audience. So the trend in Nepal is very promising. Even the Nepali movies today celebrate authentic Nepali narrative. With globalization, it seems the need to tell our own story is gaining bigger momentum. And I’m all for that!

Oh, the places you'll go
Oh, the places you’ll go

Coming back to America, one of the reasons why the reading habit is an intrinsic part of its cultural fabric, is the way the system works. There are great networks in place to support this reading culture in America. One good example is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Available countrywide (even worldwide to an extent) and bolstered in the community level. They send in free children’s book every month until the child is five. Since we’ve signed up, our daughter has been getting brand new books every month. Some of her most favorite books are from Imagination Library. I hope someday in Nepal, we can have a similar mechanism in place to support young kid’s love of reading.

Check to see if your region qualifies for free books:

Also, you can buy second-hand books for so cheap in thrift stores across America. There is that system of sharing and recycling, which I don’t think is prevalent in Nepal. Our per capita income is so low that our first worry is how to put the food on the table versus what story to read.

Koili ko Katha
Koili ko Katha

But having said all of that, today’s Nepal is so much well-read than the Nepal I grew up in. Some of my daughter’s favorite books are also in Nepali (some of which I have shared on this post). There is now growing support for the illustrators, the writers in Nepal, and I hope this trend only continues to get bigger and better!

Time for a hug
Time for a hug

Here’s to our love of reading!

Pictures shared on this post:

  • Sanu and Andhiberi – written and illustrated by Bandana Tulachan. Translated by Samip Dhungel
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  • Koili ko Katha – written by Jayashree Deshpandey and illustrated by Kedilaya. Translated by Deependra Bhatta
  • Time for a Hug – written by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green. Illustrated by David Walker

Nepal Tourism – Kantipur Conclave

Kantipur Conclave and its various sponsors deserve a pat on the back for shedding light on some of the most pertinent issues of Nepal and having this public discourse with the experts on the panel. They have some great sessions on Nepal’s present and future, technology, economy and much more. I haven’t watched all of them, but looks like all sessions are quite susbtantial.

With this one particularly, felt like I had to write about it because tourism is one of the major drivers of economic growth in Nepal. Despite having so much potential, it seems that Nepal has not been able to fully tap into its resources. As I kept listening and watching, it felt like this session was very critical of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and was too fixated on the number of two million visitors.

You have to give NTB the benefit of the doubt. Yes, we all know it is all about the infrastructure. Can the Nepali infrastructure support the onslaught of two million visitors? Yes, it is all about focusing on quality, not quantity. We all know that. But are we really drawing unexpected expectations?

Since this session focused so much on the two million number, let me address the number bit. Two million is really not that big of a number. Now numbers are all very relative. Are we really thinking that Nepal will get two million visitors in one day? I hope not. Cause if that’s the case, yes, Nepal cannot handle that many visitors. There are many similar countries like Nepal or geographically way smaller countries like Croatia that hosted over 18 million visitors in the year 2018. Now, I know what you are thinking: they have a great infrastructure, they have a great government, the placement of the country in the world map is bound to attract so many tourists, their population is so well controlled…on…and on… Yes, I agree, but can we begin somewhere? And why that cannot be two million?

Really, look at all the work that’s being done. New Lumbini airport? I didn’t know that was happening anytime soon. Clearly, the government is making a big push – so at least can we collectively appreciate the government ‘s effort?

Let’s face it, to get somewhere we have to begin somewhere. Numbers alone do not tell the complete story but at least it helps us to an extent understand a situation. I am not concerned whether we would be able to hit the two million mark. I am curious what will happen post-2020 Visit Nepal. I am curious about what kind of benchmark it will set. If not anything, I think this Visit Nepal 2020 would be a great case study. I am curious how tourists will respond from all strata. I am curious where it will lead Nepal, I am curious about the innumerous possibilities.

In a country where it is so hard for even a small change to take place; the fact that government is simultaneously getting its hands on the airport development, transportation development, road expansion in the context of visit Nepal – is a positive welcome. I think it will set a great precedent for future endeavors.

For way too long, the emphasis has been the number. The conversation should have shifted towards what is the government doing to support that number of visitors. Our Everest route is probably the biggest money maker. There are a huge need and scope to streamline the Everest industry alone. I would have liked to hear more about that. How are they handling the cleanups, the insurance scams? Perhaps better equipping Lukla airport with medical teams so people didn’t have to lose lives just cause they weren’t able to be flown to Kathmandu or Pokhara on time. Giving quality service and having a proper game plan. But regardless, this was an overall interesting discourse. As a citizen of Nepal, I appreciate the effort that the government is making to elevate Nepal on the global map. Hope it all works out and good luck!