Nepal Literature Festival

September 30, 2013 , by Sewa Bhattarai, 2 Comments
Nepal Literature Festival » My Dreams Mag

Ncell Nepal Literature Festival is a 3-day event which brings together writers, thinkers, professionals, and readers. Each day of the festival has 6-9 sessions of panel discussions followed by audience interaction. There were nearly 40 sessions in all, with two parallel sessions running in two different venues most of the times.


Ajit Baral and Niraj Bhari are the proprietors of Bookworm, an eclectic book-store that orders any book the reader wants, and home delivers it for free. For the past two years, they have also been organizing the Ncell Nepal Literature Festival, a 3-day event which brings together writers, thinkers, professionals, and readers. Each day of the festival has 6-9 sessions of panel discussions followed by audience interaction. There were nearly 40 sessions in all, with two parallel sessions running in two different venues most of the times. Apart from discussing different genres of writing such as fiction, poetry and children’s writing, sessions discussed diverse issues such as translation, song lyrics, writer’s block, Nepali film industry, plagiarism, journalism, etc. Both the past events were noted for significant attendance and tremendous support from the audience. The festival is the first of its kind in Nepal.


When asked how they got the idea for the festival, Ajit smiles. “I used to read the Indian magazine Outlook, and they always had gossipy pieces about what happened at the Jaipur Literature Festival. In 2008, I attended the festival, and came back inspired.”

The Jaipur literature festival was started at a very small scale. The first year, it was held at a museum without much promotion. Those who entered the museum, saw what was happening and were curious enough to stay back, were the only attendees. In contrast, with enough promotion, in its first year itself the Ncell Nepal Literature Festival was able to attract the number of people that attended the Jaipur festival in the third year.



What I liked was the ambience there” says Ajit. “Famous faces would be found milling around in the crowd, reading in the lawns, and people would go up to them and talk to them about their writing. That is what I wanted to recreate. Today, Jaipur festival has grown much larger, with increased audience attendance and media attention. Such intimacy with writers is not possible anymore, as most attend their own sessions and leave. But in Nepal, it is still possible to create that milieu.”

While the ambience had inspired Ajit, for Niraj, it is his passion for Nepali literature. He has eyes on the stars, no less, as he says that his aim to make Nepali literature world class.



I asked them how the festival can help to do so. “The festival is like Dashain for readers, writers and publishers,” explained Niraj. “Even in Dashain, the Jamara and Tika are symbolic. The main purpose is to meet our near and dear ones. The same is the case with our festival. For example, after the release of Sudheer Sharma’s book, I get 4-5 requests everyday for his number or email. At the festival, all those who want to meet him can find him at one place. I know many other readers who read books and long to meet the writers.”

Ajit had more practical insights to share. “We have books of the participating authors, and they always sell. People queue up to authors for autographs in newly bought books. The media covers it, and discussions arise. It is a forum for writers to talk about their work, so it is highly beneficial to them. Of course, writers nowadays have many options, many kinds of festivals going on all over the world, so they can pick and choose. We need to make our festival good enough for them to want to come here.”

Both agree that the challenges were mainly logistic. “We had never done a festival before, and we mainly had to learn by doing” Niraj began. “We did not know how to get the resources, the funding, how to organize the events” Ajit finished up for him. Many mishaps occurred while they were trying to juggle their responsibilities. In the first year, both Niraj and Ajit reached one press conference late. Due to many hassles the first year, Niraj and Ajit were not sure about taking on the responsibility again, but Ncell was keen to repeat the festival after the success of the first. But still, the second year, as they were checking off things in the to-do list the day before the event began, they realized that the stage and backdrop were not made. They gave measurement and details in a hurry the next morning, and were still building the stage when guests arrived. The inauguration was an hour late because of that.


Their other challenge was to find writers. “It is easy to get Nepali writers, most of them we know through social interactions. But we had no idea how to go about contacting international writers” said Ajit. That is why he regards getting a noted BBC journalist Mark Tully to attend in the first year, and Vinod Mehta in the second year, to be the festival’s major achievements. This year, he is looking forward to having Shobha De.

Though the festival was much liked by most of the media and audience, there was also some criticism. I asked them how they handled it. “We did receive criticism, but it was so little in the face of the overwhelming support we received from the audience and media, that the criticism seemed no more than small glitches” Ajit said with a broad smile, which soon turned into a worried frown. “As the festival grows, so will criticism. We need to be more prepared to handle it.”


This time, they are more prepared and organized about everything. “Of course, there are some problems that preparations can never solve, like silly questions from the audience” Ajit laughs. “And the worst thing is, those who ask the silliest questions are to be found at the front row of every session!” But with the experience gained from the first two years, they know how and where to assign their volunteers, “Besides, this year, Ncell is going to look after the venue” says Ajit, visibly relieved. “That means arranging for the seats, tents, and posters, etc. That is one of the most important tasks, and also the most likely to create hassles. To have it off our back means we are free to focus on the creative aspects.”

Which means that they are busy planning the best sessions. This year, Ajit would like to include only talented people. “The last two years, maybe we lost focus because we tried to be inclusive, and maybe that compromised on the quality in some sessions” he explains. “That we are able to do this festival for the third year in a row is a great achievement, and is testament to the faith our sponsors place in us” Niraj adds, “but also comes with a great challenge. We cannot include everyone in a single year, and those who we include one year may be offended when do not have them in the next.”

Both of them are optimistic about the future. “We would like to make it a truly international festival” says Ajit. “Until now, we have only been getting writers from India. Getting a writer even from Pakistan may cost close to one lakh rupees for transportation alone, and our budget simply cannot cover that right now. Our sponsors have been supportive, but we definitely need to find more resources.” Here is to wishing them luck with their third year, and to hoping they bring us close to our favourite writers of every nationality. 


Words from the participants of the event:


Abhi Subedi

Abhi is a noted Nepali writer and litterateur. He gave the keynote speech for the Literature Festival in 2012.

Subedi had “a great time” at the festival. “This was an attempt to bring together different facets of literature on one platform, and I for one appreciate it. In fact, I even urged others to attend this event, warning them that they could not move ahead until they kept in touch with the latest trends.”

Personally, the event proved significant for Subedi, since his speech received wide acclaim and has now been included as the first chapter of his latest publication ‘Sahitya Ra Aam Britta.’ “It was a tremendously fulfilling experience, interacting with a literature loving crowd. The range of topics under discussion and the people who turned up, both the ones on stage and the audience, were brilliant.”

Subedi feels that such festivals help litterateurs network, which they can carry on later on. It gives people better ideas on writing, motivates them, and makes them feel that they are in the right path. “This is the emergence of a whole new culture.” He concluded.


Advaita Kala

Advaita is the writer of a book Almost Single. The lively audience interaction during her session had provided a lighter vein to the event in 2012.

The NCELL Lit Fest was a wonderful meeting of minds and mutual exchange for me, a challenging and much needed platform of interaction with my favorite neighbor!” says Advaita. For her, the trip to Kathmandu was a special one because she had spent time here in her childhood. “On a personal note, I was delighted to return to my childhood home of Kathmandu and revisit long cherished memories” said she. “I wish the festival much success and may it grow from strength to strength, I look forward to returning.

Amar Nyaupane

Amar is a writer and winner of 2069 Madan Puraskar for his work Seto Dharti.

Nyaupane has fond memories of his session, Regionality in literature, which he moderated. “Regional flavor, language, is extremely important in literature. When the world is becoming a global village, regionality becomes even more important, because only works with regional flavors are distinct” he opined.

On the role of such festival for writers, he concurred with organizer Niraj Bhari. “This event is like a festival for us writers, like Dashain and Tihar. Though the world has become so small with email, internet, and all kinds of virtual media, face to face interaction still energizes writers like nothing else. We love to hear from our readers. And such festivals provide dual modes of interaction: formal one on stage and informal one off of it. In both, readers have a chance to learn new things. This is sure to promote literature.


Momila is a writer and poet.

Momila had the good fortune to attend the literature festival in both 2011 and 2012. “Those who come here are the true enthusiasts of literature” she mused, “Their enthusiasm is infectious. To a writer, their heartfelt support is a bigger prize than any given by an institution. ” So important is it to connect to the audience, that Momila felt the time allotted to every person was not enough. “It is not good to leave things half-said, I wish we all had more time.”

As a poet, such forums have an added attraction for her. “Writing is the first part of poetry, but recitation brings poetry alive!”she added “it is great to be able to recite poetry for discerning audiences.

Anoopam Pokharel

Anoopam is a teacher and an avid reader of Nepali literature.

I enjoyed the literature festival very much, it let me interact with many writers and publishers at close quarters” says Anoopam. “I enjoyed the Ghazal duet, and session on the proper use of language the most. Rituraj and Sharad Chandra Wasti debated on the subject, with Wasti emphasizing structural clarity. Basanta Thapa insisted that the language has to be sweet, and that accuracy doesn’t matter much.” Anoopam vividly remembers the Thapa giving an example of Bob Dylan’s song Times they are a changing. The session was very relevant to our times, when the use of informal and not strictly correct language is increasing due to the influence of social media and the need for fast communication.


Shital Kadembini

Shital Kadembini is Ghazal writer. Her Ghazal duet with Rajendra Thapa was the most well liked, and consequently, the most talked about session at the festival. Long after the allotted time had ended, the sessions had continued to the audible delight of the audiences.

I am glad that this festival gave Ghazal its due space” said an exulted Shital. “Serious litterateurs and critics sometimes disregard the Ghazal, but Ghazal has a unique charm. One line of Ghazal can express what epics struggle to do. Only its connoisseurs understand it.” Since Ghazal sessions are typically very interactive and received a lot of audience feedback, she prepares for them by selecting appropriate pieces. “My creations are always suited to the audience, and at the literature festival, I am glad I got to perform for those who truly understand and love Ghazal.


Upcoming International Literature Festival : 25th to 28th October, 2013
For Event Updates, visit their website: http://www.nepalliteraturefestival.com/





Text by: Sewa Bhattarai
Images: Fineprint 

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2 comments on “Nepal Literature Festival

  1. anis says:

    Ms Bhatrai advertising her bhenaju’s publication, events and relatives. it cant be coicidence.
    baral senior and junior’s photographs also here.
    this is called advertorial or article?

  2. anis says:

    huda huda tag pani Fine Print and Ajit Baral re!
    Nepali literature, Literature Festival, Literature esto esto po hunthyo ta.
    editor afai le esto kam gardo raicha yo patrika ma ta

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