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At the Rhododendron High School that the protagonist Sumnima attends, students are fined for speaking in Nepali. Some readers will remember ‘boarding’ schools in the 80s, the rise of FM radios and the craze for celebrity RJs that Sumnima adores. She confesses (only to herself) that she eats dal-bhat twice every day, and yet in friends’ auto books she writes that her favourite food is ‘pizza’. Youngsters these days do the same: leave behind rustic roots, pretend they were never there, and head out for sophisticated western horizons.
The meandering story does not necessarily have a plot, even though every little sub-plot about the extended Tamule family offers fascinating nuggets of life. Ghale confesses that she did not start out with a clear plot in mind, but accumulated sections she wrote at different times, and had to cut out many parts that did not fit.
The stories are a continuation of the bits of fiction Ghale penned in her college days, imagining herself to be in league with great writers. “I loved Gustave Flaubert and Virginia Woolf, I did not just want to write like them, but sound as good as them. Writing this book became an exercise in humility for me, when I realised my own limitations. Every day you wonder where your work is going, if you will ever finish it, and if it will ever be any good,” says Ghale.
Hopefully, acclaim for her first novel will motivate Ghale to write a sequel, which many have already advised her to do. The novel ends just when things are getting more interesting, with the country about to plunge into a civil war. Ghale ends it there with a riveting epilogue that leaves you yearning for more.
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