I have a weakness for books. Anyone who knows me knows that. For some reason, it manifests itself strongest while I’m traveling and surrounded by little bookshops with titles in foreign languages or locally-published editions you know you won’t find elsewhere. I’ve been guilty of carrying extra pounds in the past so I’ve become a bit more selective but as they say, old habits die hard.
One of the books I came across in Nepal that I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to elsewhere was “Arresting God in Kathmandu” by rising Nepali-born writer Samrat Upadhyay.
In his first published book, fiction writer Samrat paints little narratives about his native culture through this collection of nine short stories, all the while bringing to light lots of controversies that one wouldn’t expect from such a conservative culture (such as extra-marital affairs and homosexual tendencies). The fact that Samrat moved to the US at a young age is reflected in his writing and you get that sense of an outsider looking in.
During some parts of the book you, the reader, feel like you’re peering into the secret lives of the inhabitants of Kathmandu, which can be eye-opening and discerning at the same time. You feel the sadness, the frustration, the addictions, the complacency and the joy within his characters who could be anyone in the world really.
Besides the powerful story-telling, “Arresting God in Kathmandu” is an easy read that you can go through while traveling (which is what I did). One recommendation for a Nepal-bound traveler would be to try and visit the actual sites that set the background in the stories, such as the Pashupatinath Temple, the Bagmati River and the colorful Asan marketplace. It’ll help you to better envision the sights, sounds, rituals and sensations he describes through the different complex scenarios painted with his words.