Cuppa With Prajwal Parajuly

February 6, 2013 , by Bibek Bhandari, Comments Off
Cuppa With Prajwal Parajuly » My Dreams Mag
Prajwal Parajuly's debut novel has been hailed by critics. With The Gurkha's Daughter, he has entered the literary world with a bang. We catch up with the author to find more about his book and beyond. 

With his debut book, The Gurkha’s Daughter, 28-year-old Prajwal Parajuly has been creating quite a buzz. Sidelining the fact that he secured a double book-deal with UK publisher Quercus while a graduate student at Oxford University in 2011, becoming the youngest author to be signed by Quercus, the writer has also caught the critics’ eyes, gaining rave reviews for his writing.

Parajuly grew up in Sikkim to a family of Indian and Nepalese heritage. While he finished his high school in Gangtok, Sikkim, Parajuly moved to the United States for his undergraduate degree. He graduated in Communication from Truman State University in Missouri. He then moved to Oxford where he completed his higher education in Creative Writing. In between, Parajuly worked in advertising sales at the Village Voice Media in the US.

A full-time writer now, Parajuly’s collection of short stories The Gurkha’s Daughter, according to the Financial Times is an “accomplished debut collection.”

Manjula Narayan of the Hindustan Times writes, “The Gurkha’s Daughter with its quiet irony and fluid writing is the best short story collection you’ve read in a while.”

In December 2013, Parajuly is also set to release his first novel Land Where I Flee.

To find out more about the young writer, DREAMS caught up with Parajuly for a short chitchat.

DREAMS: Growing up, did you think that you would become a writer – did you write a lot, and if so, what genres mainly interested you?

Parajuly: Interestingly, no.

I always knew I could write, but I didn’t think I was an excellent writer. I still don’t believe half the wonderful things newspapers have written about me.

Growing up, I wrote the occasional column for my hometown newspaper called The Weekend Review but didn’t dabble at all with fiction.

So how did The Gurkha’s Daughter happen – can you tell us the back-story behind it?

It happened as a result of boredom.

I had just quit my job and travelled around India with a college roommate. He was an accountant who couldn’t write to save his life, but he blogged about his travels every day. That’s when I started writing nonsensical Facebook notes about my travels.

People whose writing I respected were encouraging, and someone suggested I compile a book of American mouse/ Indian mouse essays that would detail the perspectives of an Indian who’s been away some time and contrast them with an American who’s never been to a third-world country. I gave the idea some thought, but once the roommate left, I wrote my first story.

I first wrote a story based in Kalimpong, then I thought I’d write a story based in Gangtok. And Kathmandu. And Darjeeling. And Bhutan. My decision to choose places where Nepali-speaking people lived just happened.

And now there is a new novel in the pipeline – can you share a little bit about that?

It’s a family saga – four siblings living in various parts of the world convene in Gangtok, Sikkim, and things happen.  For now, that’s all I can reveal. The novel will be out in December 2013. When I signed with Quercus, it was a contract for a two-book deal, the second of which needed to be a novel.

The Gurkha’s Daughter and your new novel delve into the issues of identity and migration. Can you elaborate a little on this – did it have something to do with your own life?

Photo Credits : Dream Mag


Well, for one, I have parents who come from different countries. Then there’s the question of having lived in America and England as a non-American and non-English.

My life is boring, though – it wouldn’t make for a very interesting book, which is why nothing about my life finds its way into my works.

I don’t write fiction with the intention of calling attention to social or political issues. For that, I could always employ long-form journalism, opinion columns and essays.

With fiction, I want to tell stories – stories of everyday people. I am all for writing character-led stories and not issue-led ones. Of course, one can’t completely isolate the social and political climate of the place a story is based. These issues are secondary, though. People’s stories are far more important to me.

What does it takes to write a book – it’s not a day’s work or a week’s worth of work. Can you tell us a bit about what goes in your mind, how you put down the ideas together and actually produce a series of short stories and a novel for that matter?

It isn’t a day’s work, you’re right. It takes time. It takes effort. A lot of both.

I’m an ill-disciplined writer. I don’t write for months and write only when the mood strikes. So far it has worked for me. Often, when I hear people tell me stories, I think, “Wow, this would make an excellent short story” or “This would make a lovely novel.”

I now have been writing for long enough to know that when that burst of productivity hits me, I should learn not to let go of it. I, therefore, do nothing but write those hours.

Do you ever have writers block? If so, how do you deal with it?

I think I perpetually have writer’s block, which is why I can’t write every day or every week. I don’t feel guilty about not writing or not being productive.

When I don’t write, I read, play cards or watch mindless TV. I see no point forcing myself to write – the writing just doesn’t come out “right.”

The critics have hailed you as South Asia’s next biggest thing in literature. In Nepal, you certain might have been compared to other Nepalese writers who write in English like Samrat Upadhyay and Manjushree Thapa.  How do you deal with this – is it an extra pressure for a debutant writer like you? 

Sometimes, the hype is scary. But I have learned not to take such labels seriously. I am writing about what I want to write the way I want it. I am grateful for that.

So as a writer, can you tell us one thing that you absolutely love about writing, which in fact keeps you on the go? In other words, why is writing important to you?

Despite the difficulties involved, writing can be rewarding – getting a father-daughter relationship just right after hours of trying, for example, is thrilling.

But I may even get bored of it one day. Writing is important to me right now because it’s my job. It has treated me well. I will continue writing until I like doing it. At times, I miss a 9 to 5 existence, but then I look at people trudging to work at 7 on a Monday morning and thank my stars I don’t have to do that. It’d be fun to teach six months in a year and isolate myself from the world and write for another six months.

More from the writer

Favourite writers: P.G. Woodhouse, J.D. Salinger, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Tom Wolfe, Jeffrey Eugenides, Murakami, George Orwell.

Favourite books: The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe), Puss in Boots (Charles Perrault), Animal Farm (George Orwell), and A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens).

Three tips to write better: Don’t use too many adjectives. Don’t worry about syntax, etc., in the first draft. Pay scant regard to tips given by debut writers on writing better.

Photo: Marzena Pogorzaly

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Categorised in: Interviews