Sun, 16 Jun, 2024

"Arresting God in Kathmandu" : Reviewing Chapters

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In this particular chapter of Arresting God in Kathmandu, the writer has expressed his views of typical culture of Nepali society. He has made it clear by the line that it was better to have a drunkard son in law rather than no son in law. This particular line has made it clear how society views people and what one regards prestigious. People sacrifice to maintain their prestige in front of others. Writer has also introduced the limping bride in such a way to describe how a person can be changed with the help of love and affection. He also has introduced the character Rukmini after the death of Hiralal’s wife Rammaya. The writer has given a brief concept about the power that love can do to people by giving an example of the drunkard son Moti who has been slightly changed by the new bride Rukmini who looks and acts as similar to his late mother Rammaya. One important point in Samrat's story was the recognition that people are imperfect, and that the more we are acquainted with each other the greater our recognition of those imperfections can be. All people limp a bit. But for a marriage to work, the partners have to recognize the good in spite of the inevitable flaws. But Samrat's "limping bride" was not flawed in her basic nature. She was only imperfect, as we all are.


This story particularly covers about a unique human emotion that cannot be exactly defined. In this story, a normal character, a man, gets attracted to an actor working in a play. He knows that it is not physical attraction but he gets the feeling of déjà vu. He feels like he had known the actor for years but actually he’d never seen him. The presence of that actor affects his life. He gets closer to his wife whom he used to ignore all the time and he becomes happier than before. In a nutshell, I think that this story tries to show us emotion and excitement that all of us have when we see or meet new and interesting people. 


Aditya is a normal man, not attractive though, short and thin with a crooked nose. Shobha is a shy woman, who never goes against her husband and never asks anything. Aditya hadn’t made love to Shobha since his mother had died. And then, a surprise to both of them, he came closer to Shobha. This all started a few days back when Aditya saw a man with a long hair. The man with a long hair is a mysterious chapter in which at first we see Aditya as a gay man for he never felt for his wife; however, seeing that man made him excited and he thought the man was beautiful. But later on Aditya realizes that the only reason he wants to be like the man, get to know him is because he is beautiful and Aditya envies him. Aditya thinks that Nirmal (the man with long hair) has come across in his life because he has something to pass on to Aditya, teach him of living his life to the fullest. And the entire story revolves around Aditya, and him being so much affected by Nirmal.  The story is very much relatable, because the way the writer has presented Nepal in this story makes it very easy to imagine. It would have been hard to imagine if the play was Hamlet, but Muna Madan is something we have heard since we were small. There, let me not spoil the story for you guys. Give it a read and then think about it. Think about the man, why Aditya envies him, and why after his encounter with the man, he becomes a happy and a changed man. 


For me, this is the best story of the book, "Arresting God in Kathmandu".  This story shows human psychology in different perspective and also what potential can a girl possess. The story shows the psychology of the servant who serves his master from all his heart. As the title of this story suggests, it is about the house, where the servant works. His master is a wise man, he meditates every day, and the environment in the house is very peaceful. As time goes on, a girl comes into the life of master and his master gets married to that girl. Later, the story changes. The environment becomes different in the house, everyone gets happy but this happiness does not live long. Moving forward in the story, the girl cannot adopt to the environment of the house so the girl’s behavior changes and the great man’s house only stands as a figure of cement and bricks. There is a saying– “If a girl has good behavior in the house, the house is also happy”. But the situation in that house was reverse and the behavior of that girl changes. The great man becomes ill and comes into the situation of death. This story was told on the perspective of the servant and hence, it shows the psychology of that servant. 


The good shopkeeper is the first story in the book Arresting God in Kathmandu, by the writer Samrat Upadhyay. The book is a series of short stories, all related to life in Kathmandu, and its people. The book has a familiar nostalgic tone to it, and many Nepali readers will feel instantly connected to this book.

It begins with a man being fired from his job. He and his wife are in a really weak financial condition, so the loss of his job affects them badly. To add to their problems, they don’t even have money for the coming month’s rent, which would make them, and their seven-month-old baby homeless. His wife, Radhika thinks of asking her cousin Sambhu-da for help, but Pramod seems to not want his help, as it would make him look weak, in front of his in-laws. Pramod was a religious man, so he prayed that Lord Shiva’s blessings would help him. He visited Pashupatinath temple almost daily, after losing his job. He meets an old co-worker, who asks about his job, and he begins to feel even worse about his situation. Even though he doesn’t want to go to his wife’s cousin for help, he gradually agrees, because he doesn’t see any other way out. Sambhu-da promises him a job in a few days, but he never gets an offer.

Meanwhile, he continues to go to Pashupatinath temple, where he meets a woman who looks like a servant. He doesn’t think much of her at first, but agrees to go to her house for tea. He sleeps with her, and stays there till dusk, without thinking of his wife, or their child. When he gets home that day, he seems happier than usual, which makes his wife think he might have gotten a job, which he didn’t.

He still looks for a job during the daytime, but during the late mornings, he reserves for the servant girl. One night, he even stays at the servant’s house, and his wife gets in tears, when he returns that next morning. His wife once suggests that they sell the land that they owned, and start a shop, but thinking it would be a lowly job for him, he disagrees.

After several days searching for a job, and being with the servant girl, one day he returns home from the servant’s house, and sits down to eat with his wife. He looks very hungry and starts eating vigorously. His wife asks him again about opening a shop. This time, he doesn’t discard her idea, but instead asks her if he would make a good shopkeeper. He also jokes about having to grow a mustache. He forgets about shop keeping being a lowly job for him, and thinks that it wouldn’t be so bad. Instead of being embarrassed about being a shopkeeper in front of his relatives, he thinks of ignoring them. He would even ask the servant girl to come into his shop and drink the tea that his wife might prepare for her.

So, the story resembles the financial problems, of an average Kathmandu citizen, and shows a situation of a man whose perspective changes with time. The writer shows how his mindset changes as the situation turns worse. This story, in a way, sets a benchmark for the rest of the stories in the book. It shows that the writer wasn’t hesitant on using any means necessary to make the story more relatable and interesting for his readers. 


Deepak Misra is a Nepali man who gets married to a foreign woman, Jill. Deepak and Jill meet at a party in Kathmandu. She was crazy and romantic. They get married. But things do not go as they plan. He realizes that she was different. She was passionate in drawing and could not give much attention to him, which led to disputes in their relationship. One day, he found Jill had left him. But still love for his ex-wife, Deepak could not let Jill go way from his heart. He tries though, but cannot. At office, Deepak hired a secretary, Bandana-ji who was talented and dedicated but she was not as beautiful as Jill. She was dark in complexion and had mole in her face. She had so much dedication in her work; even her boss was startled looking her working. Deepak found Jill had returned to Kathmandu and is hanging around Birendra. This makes his heart cold and pain. He started not going to office and drinking all day and night. Meanwhile, he starts liking his secretary, and has physical relationship with her. He could not figure out what is going on. And he lets her go away from his office and his life. Later he realized her affection towards him, but then it was too late. Nepali and foreign cultures are totally different. Nepalese prioritize family and life where as foreigners prioritize career and passion. This is the common story for a Nepali and foreigner being married together. 

THIS WORLD Neesha Dhungana 

This world is a story based on the psychology of Nepali youngsters who are living in foreign countries for higher studies. The story tells us about how the new generations think about their relationships, how the relationships become complicated and how the complicated relationships affect their lifestyle.

The story begins with a young Nepali woman named Kanti who is living in United States for her studies. She is a type of girl who misses her home the most but then again cannot survive in judgmental society of her country. She falls in love with a man who simply takes her as another girl to hang out with. The story shows the Nepali society where the relationships before marriage are not acceptable. Me, as a young girl of Nepalese society can easily relate the mentality of Kanti’s mother who wants her to marry a man of her choice. The greatest nightmare of Nepali parents is having an unmarried daughter at home. The fear of having old maid at home can be felt from the story. For me, the story is about getting free from the judgmental society, having freedom to choose what we want to do. It is about choosing our happiness. It is something like having relationships may be important but what more important is to love yourself before you love someone else. Kanti represents the girls who want to live a life on her own and not the life what others want her to live. The story may have different interpretation as per the writer but for me it is about a woman who lives on her own and do not care what the society thinks about her. It’s about the girls of Nepali society, who are away from home, who miss their home but also does not wants to be guided by society but want to guide her oneself. 


“Arresting God in Kathmandu” is the collection of short stories. All the characters and the stories are different but the theme that writer Samrat Upadhyay wants to explain is same. The stories of the book explain the psychological and emotional aspect of the characters dealing with their social and sexual life. I find most of the stories relatable but might be quite offensive to Nepalese society. All the stories reflect the unseen reality of our society.

There are total nine stories in this book. “The Room Next Door” is one of them, which reflects the fact of our society. What I like about this story and overall book is that it ends in such a way that where writer let the readers to create their own scenario and plot their own story. Writer exposes the real world of Nepalese girl (Shanti) who is pregnant without marrying. At the beginning Aunt Sakuntala (Mother of Shanti) has gained respect from her neighbors and relatives and has raised her children well. Her husband Mohandas is lazy person and she calls him “an idiot”. But she has to accept what’s in her fate. Here, the writer tries to show the compulsion of women to accept everything. Through Aunt Sakuntala, Upadhyay wants to show that how we are too concerned with what other people think about us. She is ashamed when she knows that her college daughter has a bastard child in her womb. She tries to hide Shanti from society but cannot succeed because that’s not the matter that could be hidden and our society is too concerned about the others matter, too concerned to back bite and cross the words. At last, Shanti has no other choice than to marry “Lamfu” who is jobless and shows the sign of being retard. It was acceptable to marry retard man than to live with a bastard child.

The story of Shanti is the story of many girls of our society. I have seen many of such cases with my eyes. While reading this story, I can relate it with the real cases that I have seen. Girls like Shanti commit mistakes during their youth and suffer throughout their life. And there are parents like Sakuntala and Mohandas who love their daughters and can forgive their mistakes but are afraid of the society. In this story, writer has exposed the real fact of such scenario in masterful style with fascinating characters and perfect description.


The book “Arresting god” portrays the different colors of love, hate, lust, jealousy, remorse, estrangement and spirituality in the social-cultural aspect of Kathmandu. Each story revolves around the problems in the Nepalese society and the hardships that every individual or family must face in the society in the constant search for peace and happiness.

 The cooking poet tells a story about a very famous poet who, during his heydays, wrote poems criticizing the infamous rule of the Rana dictators, which lasted for one hundred and eight years. He got thrown in jail because of those poems but after the revolution, the poet, generally known as Acharya, was regarded as a hero and was given several prestigious titles. His flame never dazzled Acharya though because he thought of poetry as an art, not as a means to achieve personal accolades. In his later years, he spent his time guiding aspiring young poets and helping them to success. One of his students, named Giri, made an immediate impression by the deep insights expressed in his poems. Acharya was so inspired by this young man’s writing that he decided to write a final masterpiece himself but he found it very difficult to write as soulfully as Giri did. He found himself doubting his own abilities as a poet. Giri, who used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for the Acharya family, hence given the name “The Cooking Poet”, had massive respect for Acharya and always looked up to him. So in the midst of winter, when Giri did not show up for 3 weeks, Acharya grew worried. Giri, along with his interest in poetry, was also an avid follower of politics. He had gone to participate in a protest rally in Bhairaba and was killed in the subsequent shooting. The complete account of the shooting came to Acharya in pieces; the whole family was in disarray. Acharya found it difficult to comprehend what had happened. He was never the same again. He thought about how he never gave Giri enough praise for his poems. He never finished the masterpiece he set out to write. Giri’s writings had such a big impact on him that he found all of his work lacking and mediocre and finally one night, after he had torn to shreds nearly twenty of his recent verses, he quietly shut his notebook and left the study. 


"Arresting God in Kathmandu" is a fictional novel, basically a collection of short stories, by Samrat Upadhyay. Among nine fantastic short stories, I will be highlighting my interpretation of the chapter "The Room Next Door". Story plot, characters and their setting in the story relates to our society and their beliefs. 

Story begins with Mohandas and Shankuntala, showcasing their weird marriage relationship. Story more focuses on what Sankhuntala thinks about her husband and her life. Sankuntala is considered as perfect wife, a perfect mother and perfect in everything. Although she is taken as an example but yet not satisfied with her life but rather seeks more in everything. She thinks she deserves more and has been struggling for her entire life. I also think the same. This story reflects the bitter truth that lies in our society. Unlike western culture getting pregnant in young age is considered as the greatest crime of all. Having sex with a man not duly wedded as your husband and then bearing his child after being cheated and ignorant about the safety measure, god help the those victims from back bitters of our society.  Aunt Shakuntala's daughter Shanti gets pregnant, who would expect worse. Her mother in order to save her pride in the society chooses her pride over her daughter but still her love for her child does not let her abandon her child to live by her own. She fetches her child from the city and then secretly hides her from the society but such critical matters cannot be hidden by only one's will.

In Nepalese society, people are more concerned about other's family then their own, in most of the cases. Yes shanti made a mistake; she should have taken precautions before involving into such activities but she shouldn’t be punished as such. Her own mother starts treating her like she never existed in her mother's life. She could not go out and feel fresh, nor was allowed to have contact with the outside world. Yet worst of worst was yet to come. Her mother arranged marriage ceremony of her and a psychologically differently able person or can be considered as a retard or "Pagal". Shanti accepts this reality and does not speak a word against her mother's decision. I don’t understand why people do so in our society. Girls are treated low and soulless in so many parts of many, yet no one complains. This story reveals bitters truth of our society that still prevails in our minds and our own hearts. How much we tend to force the fact that we have moved on with time and modernized our thoughts, deep inside, someway or the other it revels itself and we yet cannot deny it.

No man can be perfect. Samrat's stories clearly demonstrate the fact. There are so many hidden truths that lie behind our behavior and psychology. We tend to become blindfolded in the course of time as well. We become intimidated, attracted, betrayed, shattered but yet we all try to stand to our best in life. All the incomplete stories and lives of characters demonstrate a hidden treasure in itself and let its readers create an imaginary world of the characters. This reflects a deep relationship that the writer is able to make to its readers.