Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay is a collection of short stories written by the Nepali-American author about everyday life in Kathmandu. The characters are full of flaws making them relatable in a completely uncensored way. It took me a while to finish the book because I’d read one person’s story, put it down, and then pick it back up a week later to read another, but each story was unique and appealed to me in a different way.
One story tells of a man who is jealous of his talented protégé. Another tells of a man having an affair with a women of a lower caste. While one is about a woman who cares too much what everyone thinks when her daughter gets pregnant out of wedlock. Each tale shows the intricate details of daily life in Nepal as well as the way which people think and react in this country. I found it extremely insightful to read about a culture that I’ve been living amongst for the last five months.
When I first arrived in Nepal, I was starry eyed and thought it was a perfect world, albeit a little dusty, but it seemed everyone was happy. Like a strange utopia. The author describes one western women in the book as, “in a romantic haze, love-struck by the mountain beauty and simple charms of the people, but grossly naïve about their suffering.” Only after spending more time here, did I start to see the many problems within the society. How people gossip, lie, or compare themselves to others. Kathmandu is like any other city in the world, but here, I’ve found people care a great deal what others think, and secrecy keeps a lot of things from rising to the surface.
Reading contemporary stories about people within the city and seeing how locals think has been even more eye opening. This book is honest and open and shows what real life is like here beyond the fairytale that tourists picture when they arrive. A Nepali friend once told me, “There are good and bad people everywhere, even here.” The depth of these characters shows that no one is perfect and that Kathmandu, like any other city, holds many dark secrets.
What I love most about this book though is the authors take on so many different points of view. He never once tries to defend his characters or their actions. There is no hero or villain. There is no good or bad. Everyone is doing the best they can given their circumstances and their environment. Being able to create each character without judgement, as an author, is brilliant. I was able to both love and hate every single person in every single story, which I think is pretty rare.
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.