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Prateek Dhakal discusses travel writing and tourism literature

Prateek Dhakal discusses travel writing and tourism literature
Prateek Dhakal, 63, is a senior travel writer from Jhapa in eastern Nepal best known for his contribution to tourism literature. His writings are mostly about mountain travel. His notable works are ‘Himal Pari Pugepachi’ and ‘Ananda Bhumi Ko Aagan’. Babita Shrestha from ApEx talked to Dhakal about tourism literature and its relevance in Nepal. How did you get into writing? During school, we had to read about national heroes and I was so obsessed with them that when I was six years old, I wrote a poem titled, ‘Dhar’, which referred to Balbhadra Kunwar. Also, as a result of my excellent academic performance, I received a collection of short stories. After reading that, I got interested in books and kept going to the library and became more inclined toward reading and writing. I started with translation work before I got into writing. I translated several books, including ‘Bright Red Star’ by Li Hsin-Tien. I started working on travelogs in 2002. Since then, I’ve published books like ‘Beyond the Himalayas’, whose initial edition was released in Belgium.

What keeps you interested in travel writing?

When I was transferred to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, I was often sent to different places as a liaison officer with tourists. That way I got the opportunity to visit many places. In the Khumbu region, I was mesmerized by the mountains. It was surreal. I felt a sense of duty to use my writing ability and the chance the government job offered to contribute to the tourism sector. I felt obligated to inform others about Nepal’s breathtaking mountains. In Nepal, words like ‘Che’, ‘Ri’, and ‘Khang’ are frequently used as suffixes for mountains. They all mean ‘peak’. I realized how important it was for Nepalis to understand their national identity, language, and treasure. Mountains have a mysterious beauty which is what inspires me every time to write in-depth descriptions of them and that is possible only through travel writing. Can you run us through your writing process? I research the place I’m about to visit because mountaineering requires understanding the climate and nuances of the area. When I’m traveling, I make sure to bring notes with me. Sometimes I choose to record when I can’t write because of the cold weather. After returning home, I try to jot down everything. While writing, I prefer to use the present continuous tense as it engages the readers. I try to keep my language light and loose. Also, to avoid things from getting too monotonous, I use monologues as well. Looking back, what’s your take on your books? My book, ‘Sagarmatha ko Adhar Siwir Bata’, is about my trips to Solukhumbu. Apa Sherpa, world record holder for most Mt. Everest summits, and Lakpa Gelu Sherpa, known for holding a world record for the fastest climbing of Mount Everest, launched the book from the summit of Mt. Everest. My other travelog to Dolpa and Upper Mustang is titled ‘Himal Pari Pugepachi’. It’s a place that’s not often regarded as a tourist destination. To help the tourism industry, I have tried to capture the captivating beauty of Dolpa in my book. ‘Ananda Bhumi Ko Aagan’ criticizes negligence in the field of mountaineering. In this book, I have also praised the Sherpa community, who have contributed a lot to making the mountains popular and accessible. My work on mountain writing focuses on exploring the cultures and civilizations of Nepal’s mountainous regions as well as promoting the mountaineering industry. For instance, I portrayed Mugu, Karnali, Jumla, and Kalikot in my book ‘Tyo Ujyalo Karnali’. Here, along with highlighting the mountain’s beauty, I have captured the brilliance of Karnali in terms of its natural resources, culture, language, and history. What are the challenges of being a travel writer? You can never truly express how you felt in a particular moment. For instance, when I visited the Khumbu region, everything was frozen and mesmerizing. I can never describe how thrilled I was. The magic of snow cannot be captured through words. So, for me, a huge challenge of travel writing is the lack of terminology to explain all the experiences and emotions. But I’m lucky as I get to be the protagonist of my narrative. You get to write what you experience, whether it’s about a place, art, language, or custom. You can find descriptions of places online, but what makes travel writing different is how a writer connects with a place and expresses that. Dhakal’s Picks Kalyani Dharti by Tikaram Sharma This is the translation of ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S Buck, a historical fiction novel published in 1931. Aparichit Anuhar by Mahesh Paudyal Aparichit Anuhar by Mahesh Paudyal is a Nepali short story collection published in 2021 by Shiksha Books. Madhabi by Madan Mani Dixit Madhabi is a Nepali mythological novel published in 1983 by Sajha Prakashan. The book won the Madan Puraskar in the same year.