While buying a copy of Narayan Wagle’s debut novel Palpasa Cafe and asking him to sign it, I didn’t thought I would be reading the novel within next 12 hours. This is possibly because I rarely read his column ‘coffee guff’ not because I don’t like it but I don’t like to read something serialized in a newspaper. But once I started the novel’s preface out of curiosity, it started gripping me and I couldn’t put the book aside before I finish it.
The best thing about the book was that I didn’t know what’s it about. A few of coffee guff column I have read was always light one – so possibly I was looking for something like that. It started with a love story – I thought it would be nice to read one by someone I know. But soon the novel moved into the current scenario – how can a journalist-cum-novelist write a love story when he has been listening to almost first-hand experiences of the current events.
What I liked most about the novel in its early chapters is the style of writing (which I generally find in one of my best Nepali writers Dr Dhruba Chandra Gautam) – the abstractness and the humorous absurdity (some people call it extreme reality of life, I believe). For example:
“It’s my fortune to have met you.”
“It’s an oppurtunity for me.”
“I am fortunate.”
“Then, am I opportunist?”
Here the two who love each other do not share a chicken sizzler or momo instead they keep the other looking while they eat.
But the smiles on my face faded out soon as the novel progressed. With the short tales of people’s lives living under the Moaists’ and state threats, its all about tears – it’s all the reality of the country reeling under the insurgency. I couldn’t help thinking about the country for a few minutes and how life feels like in the villages and consider myself unfortunate to experience all these.
Despite being a fiction, Palpasa Cafe is more like a non-fiction with a message to everyone – let’s do something creative. Crystal clear is the writer’s message – let’s stop the bloody war and be creative to develop our beautiful country.