Book Review – Karnali Blues: Story of Rural Nepal

Name of the Book: Karnali Blues

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Author: Buddhisagar

No. of pages: 398

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

Last April, while preparing for my exams, I also read Karnali Blues (though the name is English, the book is written in Nepali language) by Buddhisagar. The story is heavily based on the writer’s own experiences but he does not make the storytelling boring by adding long description. Within short and sweet sentences, he has been able to express a lot. The only drawback is that the writer does not explain to readers, the dialogues in Tharu and Khas language. Except that, the content of the book, especially the epilogue touched my heart.

Karnali Blues is a story about the experiences of a middle class family. The narrator remembers his childhood in Kailali and Kalikot as his father lies paralyzed in a hospital at Nepalgunj.

Karnali Blues is a story of growing up. The narrator is notorious as a child. He swims in the Amauri Khola (a distributary of the Karnali river), beats up people, steals things, sets his house on fire and asks for things which his father’s earnings can not sustain. But his father never complains. He provides the narrator everything he asks for. The narrator believes that his father is the best in the world.

But while his father lies on the deathbed, the narrator realizes that his father was the one who has suffered a lot. From leaving his family share in Surkhet to selling his pharmacy to Kalikot (more remote place), the narrator’s father has suffered a lot. And the narrator, too had been one of the causes of suffering. He had never obeyed what his father told. While he could have studied in Surkhet, he goes Kathmandu for higher studies following the whims of his friends. He has no job and is dependent on his parents despite their low income. By the end of the story, the narrator gains maturity in his thoughts.

Karnali Blues is about change. An excavator changes the village in which narrator lived most of his childhood. A bridge at Chisapani changes the fate of a town where his father ran a pharmacy. A change in mind takes the narrator to Kalikot instead of Surkhet. And his death changes the lives of his wife and son forever.

Karnali Blues is a story of life and death. An old Tharu lives on the bank of Amauri Khola because he has no children. A polio-struck child (friend of the narrator) leaves home in search of his brother because his father beats him up. The narrator’s family migrate to different places in search of better living. The narrator witnesses deaths of several people. A girl, who is a friend of narrator’s sister, dies of meningitis because her parents do not allow medication. “They buried her alive,” a villager says. A man named Hasan drowns. A porter from Kalikot, who takes the narrator there is killed by the soldiers calling him a Maoist. An old man dies in a hospital by coughing. And in the end, the narrator’s father dies.

In short, Karnali Blues is an apt description of the lives of poor people living in the rural area.

P.S.: You can read some English translations in the book’s Facebook page.

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