For the love of books

Dr Bishnuraj Uprety has authored of a total of 45 books. He is best known for his expertise on Nepal’s civil war and the Maoist insurgency. He writes about, among other things, Nepali landscapes, environment and natural resources. He is also the executive director of the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR). Narendra Raule caught up with the author to talk about his love for books and his reading habits. Excerpts:

What are reading currently?
I am currently reading three books: one, Nepal’s Peace Process at the United Nations, which is a book about Nepal’s peace process penned by Ian Martin; two, Lost in Transition, by Kulchandra Gautam; and Chapamaar Yuwati ko Diary, by Tara Rai.

What books have you completed recently?
Anne Zonne Parker’s Multi-ethnic Interface in Eastern Nepal; Eugene Bramer Mihaly’s Foreign Aid and Politics in Nepal; and Pooja Kataria’s Conflict Resolution.

You seem to have read lots of books written on Nepal by foreigners; how do you like them?
Most books written by foreigners on Nepal that I have read are not complete. They point out the problems but shy away from putting forward solutions. But in any case, we have to depend on them to know about the issues going on in Nepal; I feel the ‘outsider’s’ perspective is very important.

What challenges do you face while writing a book?
First thing, you have to read a lot of books to be able to write a book of your own. Then you have to collect the reference materials that could come in handy while writing. When the whole process gets completed, it takes about one-and-half year to come up with a book.

Can you talk a bit about your writing process?
It has only been about four years that I started writing on computer. I wake up early, at about 3 am in the morning, and write till 8 am. I find this particular hour of the day very comfortable, because it is quiet. I feel, the quiet ambience prompts one’s brain to come up with exciting, new ideas. There are instances when I would write voraciously, like for 18 hours a day! Once, I completed some 65/66 pages in a single day. That’s my own personal record.

How do you relate writing and reading? 
Writing and reading are complementary. One has to read voraciously to be a writer. Writing is very draining; I love reading the more.

What sort of books do you enjoy the most?
I like books that offers a conclusion after a long research and investigation. Moreover, I also love books on development, conflict resolution and management, natural resources and security issues.

What are you favourite books?
To name a few: BP Koirala’s autobiography; Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace; and Johan Galtung’s Conflict Management by Peaceful Means.

Do you re-read books often?
Yes, I do. BP’s Aatmabritanta—I like it so much that I have read three times; it speaks volumes about international relationships, politics and it does cast an intimate gaze into BP’s personal life. I have read Tolstoy’s War and Peace twice because I didn’t understand it at first attempt.

How much do you spend on books monthly?
I can’t come up with a particular figure. A few weeks ago, I purchased books worth Rs 52,000! In my archive, I reckon I have books worth Rs 55 lakh. There are books whose price range from Rs 200 to Rs 30,000. Books are the things I have spent most of my income on. Every time I am travelling abroad, I buy books. I feel no sense guilt spending on books.

Any book that you want to read but haven’t?
I have a yearning to read a book written on ethnic conflict in the South Asian region, written by CIA’s ex-chief. I once had it brought from abroad but a friend of my borrowed it and never returned it. Another book I wanted to read is the Peace Encyclopedia. It is a four-volume book and costs about Rs 225,000. I know it will empty my pockets, but someday I hope to get my hands on it.

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