Are there any institutional support systems for writers?
Yes, Nepali language writers do get some support and validation from the Nepal Academy, though this is orientated towards the canon, as represented by the topi-wearing old school. This is not applicable to us for the moment. As for the government’s investing in Nepali writers in English, they’re hidebound. New culture does not permeate unless it comes bundled with flashing lights.
In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, he wrote, “You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” Did Thamel give you any answers? If so, what was the question?
To me, Thamel is the answer to the question, “What the hell happened to this damned city? How did it go from A to Z in no time at all?” People come here, and they only see the surface of this place. There’s no coherence in Thamel when you look at it like that. That question, which I guess has been in my head with regard to Kathmandu as a whole, was answered by Thamel. As I said in the book as well, Thamel is this microcosm of Kathmandu, which is a microcosm of Nepal.
Who are your favorite authors?
Those I haven’t read – names I know, names I don’t know, names that haven’t seen the light of day. They represent the titillating totality of my ignorance.
Can you describe the mood of Kathmandu as you feel/see it?
The Kathmandu Valley is three medieval towns that have sprawled into each other in the last half-century. Depending on where you are, the mood is chaotic and very “Third World,” or tranquil as can be, even sublime. I see and feel the city through a prism of nostalgic appreciation, frustration, and qualified hope for its future regeneration.