Binita Baral’s debut novel may be news for many, but those who have been keeping close tabs on the actress’s activities aren’t exactly surprised. After all, fans were used to spotting her articles in Nepali papers. In the pieces, she mostly shared her experiences as she set about her work in the film and modeling industry. So this leap into the world of fiction seemed to be in the offing. However, Baral chooses not to give too much importance to it.
“Juino, my book, isn’t serious literature. I simply had a story in my mind and I wanted to tell it. This is one of those books that you could probably finish in one sitting but I have worked hard to make this simple story a memorable one,” explains Baral. Apparently the book had been in the works for almost three years. Priyanka Gurung sat down with Baral to talk about this journey to her very first book release.
So what is this story that you wanted to share through the book, Juino ?
Funnily enough, you could say this book began as a sort of an agriculture diary. I run an organic vegetable business and in the beginning, I was working the fields and everything. This got me incredibly invested in farming as a whole and I began jotting down the experiences as well as the lessons I was learning. I wanted to share these accounts with the youths in particular. I wondered if I could change their attitude towards agriculture. It’s rather unfair that so many people look down on farming as a profession.
However, my close friends were rather blunt with their feedback. They insisted that nobody would be interested in reading an agriculture diary and it was true. So I decided to set a story on my topic of interest. Juino ties the contemporary characters and their relationships with the authentic Nepali concerns and struggles.
How has the whole experience of being a writer and publishing a book been?
Due to various reasons from the reworks to earthquakes, it took quite a while to release this book. So naturally there have been ups and downs. Since this is my debut novel, it has been a learning experience. I knew how the story was going to go. But still, the possibilities between the first and the last chapter felt infinite. I could take the characters and plots to so many different directions. Sometimes it felt like even I didn’t have the control. As you write, many things unfurl on their own accord. Figuring it all out and putting it on paper was certainly an experience.
Then there was the initial rejection. I finished the first draft of my book all by myself without any consultations or feedbacks. In hindsight, that was certainly a mistake. I was rejected when I first approached Fine Print. They cited several technical errors and apparently because of them, they didn’t even see the point of reading more than a couple of pages and that was a massive blow for me. I was completely distraught.
What kept you going then?
I approached poet, Biplav Dhakal, after the rejection. I asked if he could give me a couple of pointers. He agreed that there were many technical errors but at the same time, he insisted that the story was worthwhile so I shouldn’t give up. That was really encouraging. He suggested that I rework the format of the story, adjust the language, add more dialogues and such. I did all that and more. I put in more research the second time around.
As actors we are all familiar with character development and story lines. We put in a lot of effort into understanding them while filming. However, by working on this book, I realized that nobody could be more immersed in the story than the writer herself. Nothing less than hundred percent devotion and commitment will work. The second time around, Fine Print agreed to publish my work. The thrill of hearing that news was simply indescribable.
Are you concerned that people might dismiss your writing because you are an actress?
This is a distinct possibility. I’m well aware of that. Actually ever since the book has been released I have been feeling very empty. The joy of being in the process of having your work published seems to have disappeared now. Before the release, I felt secure knowing that I could tweak or correct certain aspects of my book if I wanted to. But now things are no longer in my hand. Even if people don’t like Juino, I can’t do anything to improve it, and that’s that. It’s such a harrowing feeling but I have been told it is normal for writers to feel this way.
Still add to the fact that I’m an actress. Many probably think we can only dance. So in a way, I’m carving a new identity. This will naturally take some time. My publishers and those who have read the book assure me that it is good work so I just have to be patient.
On Baral’s bookshelf
Sallipir by Nayan Raj Pandey
Here we witness Pema grow from a kid in the treacherous Himalayas and become a man determined to find a footing amidst the struggles and hardships of life in the region. It’s an absolutely engaging story and I especially enjoyed the analogies he presents. They were all so on point.
Seto Dharti by Amar Neupane
I especially recommend the younger generation to pick this book because I think many of them can’t even imagine that there are still many people obliged to live such tragic lives in our society. Learning about their stories from this kind of intimate angle through the protagonist, the eight year old widow, should be interesting for many.
Karnali Blues by Buddhi Sagar
It’s been quite a while since Karnali Blues was released and it has established itself as one of the modern classics in Nepali literature. Sagar is one of those handful of writers who has the ability to compel a reader to want to finish a book in a single sitting. The prowess of his writing style is undeniable.
Summer Love by Subin Bhattarai
Who doesn’t enjoy a good love story? I think it is very hard to resist a romantic novel especially when it has been portrayed so well. He not only introduces his characters to the readers but also does a brilliant job in making us feel invested in their journey and story.
Damini Bhir by Rajan Mukarung
I have always been partial towards books that have been based on societal issues so I’m going to go with yet another Madan Puraskar read. This book is set in a period when our nation was going through a transitional phase. Mukarung brings forth the culture, circumstances and mindset of people at the time – all fascinating to say the least.