This interview is taken by NRI affairs reporter with a Nepalese-born Australia based writer Shiva Neupane regarding his latest book Falang Food Dictionary and the letter he got from the Prime Minister of Australia.
Writing is one of the prestigious professions among many. Could you please tell us something about your writing journey? When did you start writing articles and what made you compile a dictionary?
Well and truly, this is a great question! Thank you so much for this lofty question. It is important for me to underscore some of my nostalgic moments of my life about how I embarked upon my writing journey. I was born in a small village of Nepal which is located in the western part of Nepal. It is known as Falang and the dictionary is named after my village. The reason why I named my dictionary as Falang is because of my emotional attachment to it and another crucial reason is that I had scribbled down thousands of vocabularies on the walls and ceilings of houses at Falang when I was a school boy. Therefore, I have that sentiment to give linguistic credit to my village by naming my dictionary as Falang English Dictionary.
Circa 2001 my first poem got published in The Kathmandu post, the national daily of Nepal and after which I received more accolades from my teachers, families, relatives and well-wishers.
The continuous support and motivations have energized me at large, which was why I had published an anthology of English poems, “My Waves” in 2004. In the pursuit of Utopian Life in Australia in 2012, “The elixir of my voice” in 2013, Falang English Dictionary in 2015, Falang Food Dictionary in 2018 and Second edition of Falang Food Dictionary in 2022.
Despite publishing aforementioned books, the idea of publishing an English dictionary was something that came out of the blue.
Truly, I did not have any plan in advance to publish a dictionary. My colleagues were preparing for the GRE and SAT to pursue their studies in the United States. They came to me and read aloud the passages and vocabularies. Initially, I was annoyed because I was not interested in academic activities.
However, over time I gradually got inspired by what they were doing. There are other few reasons that have genuinely inspired me as well. I was lucky enough to get in touch with elites who once lived in our village for substantial years. They were American families who came for development projects in our country. And there were other high-profile people who came to work for similar projects in our village. I was brought up in such an environment where there was an influx of elites. Therefore, directly or indirectly I was influenced by the English language that they used to communicate with people. I felt a sense of urgency to speak in English since I was a school boy because of my schooling in private boarding school and the environment that I was brought up in. These are the crucial reasons that have navigated my lexicographical trajectory for compiling a dictionary.
The most remarkable moment in my life was when I was awarded with the certificate of appreciation for becoming the first international student to publish an English dictionary in 2015. Personally, I feel this grand recognition is a lifetime achievement award in my life.
These aforementioned achievements give me great pleasure and help magnify my profile in the national and international journals. Recently, I have published a few poems in American journals. Similarly, my articles have appeared in the Australian Newspaper “The Age”. And eventually, this unshakable ritualistic writing habit made a headway in my search for a milestone in literary highway. Which I think I am on today.
Could you please tell us something about how you have been responded to by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison regarding your Food Dictionary? And tell us how your food dictionary represents the spirit of Australian multiculturalism?
Well, the response was very immediate on the part of the Prime Minister, given how hectic he would have been. The letter was all about his recommendation regarding the cover page of my food dictionary that represents multicultural cuisines. I took his advice and words wholeheartedly. His letter really inspired and motivated me. Additionally, it made me feel like I was showering with his panegyric compliments when it came to seeing his encomiastic wishes and motivational words that he inked for me. What I like to reiterate here is that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s way of acknowledging immigrants’ multicultural success stories is magnificently miraculous.
As a writer, I felt a sense of literary euphoria while receiving a letter directly from the Prime Minister of Australia. In a nutshell, his letter is a literary turning point in my writing career because it boosted my ambition for exploring my linguistic potential. And as per your second question, I would say that my dictionary palpably represents all the festive foods and cuisines from all over the world. My food dictionary brings everyone on the common ground to feel about what they eat every day in and day out. As we know, food diplomacy is a secret mantra to bring about societal euphoria. A few weeks ago, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison was preparing a chicken curry that made all the communities from the Indian subcontinent culturally elated.
How did you get inspiration to compile a food dictionary?
Well, initially I did not have any idea about compiling a food dictionary. However, after working for many years in the hospitality sector I came up with an idea to publish a food dictionary. To make a long story short, my career in hospitality gave wings to ideas for compiling a food dictionary and which is why I am immensely enjoying being an author of Falang Food Dictionary. The inspiration for bringing my food dictionary on the shelves is owing to my Epicurean journey for a decade or so. As I sailed through the ocean of culinary experience, I discovered many intriguing things about the importance of food and its cultural and historical importance associated with various societies across the world.
What would you like to say to people who would like to write books?
It is always nice to have a pragmatic plan to write a book that you are passionate about. However, what little I know about writing is that it takes a lifelong commitment for someone to become one. First and foremost, before writing a book a person needs to read a great number of books so as to get the general ideas about how other published authors have inked their literary work on the papers. By reading more books one would gain an ample writing skill. To me, writing is the reflection of what you read. Therefore, an art of writing always comes down to how you have been treating yourself by being a reader. An avid reader can possibly become a good writer.
Mr. Shiva Neupane is a Nepalese-born Melbourne, Australia based Writer. He is the author of several books including his latest book “Falang Food Dictionary”. He writes articles for the American journals and The Himalayan Times. He was awarded with the certificate for being the first international student to publish an English dictionary while studying in Australia in 2015. For the feedback or general questions regarding writings, he can be contacted at [email protected]