The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Tales of the Khukri: Short stories that bring alive the world of the Gurkhas

BooK: The Gurkha's Daughter

Author: Prajwal Parajuly

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 272

Price: Rs 499

When a book comes along that shows a side of Nepal’s bravest in everyday settings, it demystifies the very premise of what is stoic, indomitable and durable. The eight short stories, most of them set in Nepal, have characters that live through their inadequacies with hope and an unfazed determination to make life work. Be it Kaali, the maid with a dark complexion and a cleft lip who dreams of being an actress and is told “there is a time and place for everything”, or Amit, the immigrant in Manhattan who lives in the threat of returning to his home in Nepal, or orphaned Rajiv who has to host his mother’s family in his dilapidated four-bedded room.

Prajwal Parajuly, said to be the youngest writer to sign a two-book deal with Quercus (they are represented in India by Penguin) resuscitates the short story form through visual description and language control. His theatre background lends itself to the title story. Wearing mustachios, two friends imitate their respective fathers, and through their eyes we see the plight of soldiers in the British Army.

Through the sweep of loyalty, tribe bonding, superstitions and religion the reader sees the forgotten world of a Gurkha. The book also deals with the Nepali diaspora at large, scattered in India, Bhutan and abroad.

The story that remains with the reader is ‘No Land Is Her Land’. Debunking the romance of Bhutan, the world’s happiest nation, this story lifts the curtain on a refugee camp in Nepal where disenfranchised Nepali-speaking Bhutanese have been expelled from their country.

Written with a cadence of its own, the freshness of perspective which allows characters to transcend their plight, gives the book a lightness of being, though its message lingers — of a world where even the bravest have battles to fight, sometimes in their own homes, sometimes in their heads.

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