Bhabani Khatiwada, a 50-year-old travel writer, is the second woman in the history of Nepali literature to write a travelog in verse poetry. She has two books to her credit and she was awarded the Sahityapost Uttam Kriti Puraskar in 2023 for ‘Gham Bhanda Pahile’, her first work, and ‘Char Khola Ko Aaganima’, a verse poem.
She writes about mountain travel and has gone on many solo trips. So far, she has traveled to Sagarmatha Base Camp, Kala Patthar, Kongma La Pass, Cho La Pass, Renjo La Pass, Gokyo, Dolpa, Shey Phoksundo, Tilicho, and Thorong La Pass. She also works as an Agricultural Extension Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. Babita Shrestha from ApEx talked to Khatiwada about her writing and traveling experiences.
What in your opinion is a good travelog?
For me, the best travel writing is that which carries the reader along on the writer’s journey. Every travel writer explores new stories in their journey. On my trip, I found a single mother, who was crying because her daughter from Surket had fallen victim to trafficking. Fortunately, Maiti Nepal saved the girl and contacted the mother. She wanted me to come with her to bring back her daughter because she was scared to travel alone. I couldn’t leave her alone so I helped her get into the Biratnagar bus route and contacted my friends who lived there for help. I wrote this story in different characters. Other literary forms are structured but, in my opinion, travelogs have the flexibility to incorporate other forms, such as poetry and stories, into their framework.
How did you become a travel writer?
I love reading. When I first started reading travelogs, I was able to experience and see the scenes without even watching or listening to any audio-visuals. It gives the impression that I’m traveling alongside the author and participating in all of the travelers’ activities and experiences. The best travel authors like Pratik Dhakal and Yuvraj Nayaghare inspired me a lot. After reading their works, I started doubting my own existence and how little of this world I had actually observed. Travelog offers you a completely new perspective of the world. These writings allow you to explore your emotions. When I traveled, I could experience more than what I had read. I also observed that people have little to no knowledge about Nepal’s potential travel destinations. So I felt obligated to share a message through my travel memoirs.
Have there been some unforgettable moments during your travels?
I was on my way to Kongma La Pass. Above 5000 meters, the weather, avalanches, and glaciers can be uncertain. There were a lot of scary incidents that still give me goosebumps. In the mountains, life is unpredictable. Many people have perished in the mountain storm, and I consider myself blessed to have survived. However, there’s also beauty within these risks and adventures. I once experienced altitude sickness at Everest Base Camp. I was mentally and physically unstable. I recovered after going back to Lobuche (a mountain in Nepal). Although I have encountered many difficulties along the way, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy any of these thrilling experiences.
Is there any particular incident that has stayed with you?
I also remember my journey on Cho La Pass. There was a lot of snow everywhere and we could hear the burbling of the river. There was a crater and the land was slippery too. Sometimes I would feel like walking right into it. It was while having that thought that I realized the brevity of human life. Life felt just like a mere flower. Once plucked, it’s gone forever. The dangerous puzzling path sometimes made me think about my own existence. This memory still gives me chills. Also, once I reached above the snowline, I started feeling unwell since I hadn’t acclimatized well. I was weak. At that time, I remember missing my family and energized myself with the memories I had of them. I truly believe family is our greatest strength even when they aren’t around all the time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into travel writing?
Reading others’ work is the key to becoming a better writer. Books that have already been written are like a heritage which we are losing due to our poor reading culture. Another piece of advice I would like to give is for mountain travelers. In a high-altitude environment, skipping one crucial component can lead to difficult circumstances or even death. So you must know the procedures and rules.
Ananda Bhumi Ko Aagan by Pratik Dhakal
Ananda Bhumi Ko Aagan by Pratik Dhakal is a travelog on Sagarmatha Base Camp. It was published by Dikura Publication and is 246 pages long.
Yakji by Yuvraj Nayaghare
It’s a book about Yuvraj Nayaghare’s travels to Dolpa. Nayaghare received the Madan Puraskar for his work ‘Ek Haatko Taali’.
Aparichit Anuhar by Mahesh Paudyal
Aparichit Anuhar by Mahesh Paudyal is a Nepali short story collection published in 2021 by Shiksha Books.