Mehek Bhandari, a ninth grader from Janajyoti Secondary English School, Kathmandu speaks with one of our editors, Sreejana Chamling on occasion of international book giving day. Originally, this interview was broadcasted via a live program organized by Merocreation and later was translated by Dasharath Rai as he enjoyed listening to the perspectives and thoughts of the ninth grader. We believe you will enjoy it too.
Interviewer: If you go back to your primary level, how was Mehek in relation to reading books?
Mehek: Indeed I wasn’t interested in reading books at primary level. I didn’t pay much attention to books. I even didn’t know what was there in books. Mostly, I used to enjoy looking at pictures and interpret in my own way. Later, I started developing reading habits in upper classes. It has been almost four years since I started additional books beyond my course books.
Interviewer: Well. you were not interested in reading in the primary level at all and your interest in reading became intense in secondary level. What inspired you to do so? Is it self-motivation?
Mehek: If you look at my family background. Everyone in my family loves reading books. I believe that we grow up according to the kind of environment we get. I frequently saw my aunt reading or my sister reading books, which motivated me in reading. I used to think, “Wow! my sisters are so talented and intelligent by reading books.” Why not me? I can also generate ideas by reading books. Then, I started with an essay and then a poem. And finally, I read Isabella Tree’s ‘The Living Goddess’.
Interviewer: In upper classes, you have to give time to your school assignments, exams and all. In such a situation, how do you manage your time for reading?
Mehek: That’s right. It’s difficult to manage time. I must reach school at 8 a.m. at any cost for coaching and I return home at 6:30 pm. However, I do one thing; after having snacks and doing homework. I manage one and half hour time for reading books. Then only I start doing my homework assignment. It’s because I can’t sleep properly without reading a book. People might think I’m exaggerating, but it’s true. I know textbooks don’t provide me with all kinds of knowledge. This is the reason I prefer reading additional books.
Interviewer: What kinds of books do you prefer to read?
Mehek: In fact, I love exploring history. I have been reading ‘The Living Goddess: A Journey Into the Heart of Kathmandu’. This book has analyzed the whole history not only where the tradition of Kumari came from but also the tradition of worshiping young girls and rigorous selection process of Kumari. It helped me a lot in social studies and I gained a lot of knowledge from it. Moreover, the writing style and presentation of the book by the British author is outstanding. Many new vocabulary have been used. Along with the history, what kind of thoughts come to mind as a Kumari, has also been shared. It’s completely about someone’s personal life, which we general people can never explore.
Interviewer: You have intensely been reading additional books. How much has that benefited you ?
Mehek: Actually, its benefits are countless because nowadays students are either confined to technology or their homework. Our knowledge has been limited to our textbooks and we are basically growing up in the culture of ‘rote learning’ through our teaching and learning. There is no space for outer knowledge. If you read out of curriculum books, you can collect not only vocabulary but also get to learn about the experience of the authors. If you ask someone about his or her real life experience, you are least likely to get it but in books, the author expresses his views, ideas, experiences and knowledge systematically. Nothing is worth it.
Interviewer: You said you have been reading ‘The Living Goddess: A Journey into the Heart of Kathmandu’. How do you review the book briefly in your own words?
Mehek: This book was written by Isabella Tree in 2015. It presents how only the girls are selected as Goddess based on the spiritual beliefs and practices. Besides, it also explores the The book present not only spiritual beliefs but also expresses the pains and suffering of a girl. For instance, in this modern age we don’t prioritize our culture and religion. We damn care it! But if you read this book, your perspective towards God and religion will definitely change.
Interviewer: Would you like to add anything more about the book?
Mehek: This book is not only written for gaining knowledge but also to showcase the experiences of life. The ultimate goal of life is to collect experiences either by playing games or reading. For instance, I’m speaking confidently now but a few years back, I used to shiver while I had to speak in front of a few people. I took part in different activities, which boosted up my confidence. People say that the elephants haven’t grown giant by education. This is an air-fairy. I believe that no one can be the most capable and honest than a person who reads. This book provides life experiences to the readers.
Interviewer: You said the reading developed your confidence? Do you think that all books are up to that level ?
Mehek: I think, if the books had not met some standards, they wouldn’t have been published. If we want to learn, we don’t have to read bulky books. We can gain a lot of knowledge from slender books or simple essays as well. I remember one incident. When I was in grade seven, our school organized one poetry competition. And, I was so afraid because I hadn’t written any poems until then, and I used to read whatever was in the books and nothing more. That day, I could not sleep the whole night thinking what to do the next day. Finally, I read some essays and other books and composed a poem on the title ‘mother’. The interesting thing is; I had written that poem by borrowing words from an essay. I learnt countless positive aspects through reading. For instance, I haven’t read the book ‘Chino Harayeko Manchhe’ but I have heard about it. People comment that the book is really emotional. Whatever ups and downs a character faces in his/her life that really inspires us in our lives too. We are inspired by others but we must have that sense to feel and perceive.
Interviewer: Generally, parents manage course books for their children and ask them to ‘Read’ all the time but they rarely buy additional books (besides course books) for their children. How is it at your home?
Mehek: In my case, at the beginning they told me to read my course books. On the other hand, books were regularly brought at my home. I saw my aunt and sister reading. I used to read their books in my leisure, when they were out of home. I used to google to know more about those books and make notes. Moreover, I don’t think that we should necessarily have a book (physical) for reading. We can also explore books on our mobile and read some time when time permits.
Interviewer: So, family play a crucial role, don’t they? They must encourage not only reading course books but also additional books. Coming to the point of book gifting, have you ever gifted any book?
Mehek: Yes, I had a couple of story and essay books which I had already finished reading. I thought keeping them on the shelf is worthless. So I gifted those books.
Interviewer: How do you select the books to read ?
Mehek: Every person has a different taste and preference. I prefer history and literature, somebody may prefer a love story or tragedy. It’s not necessary that our perspective should be the same. While talking about my book selection style, first of all, I google and read the review. If I find the book up to my interest, I read that at any cost.
Interviewer: What would you say to the authors, if you got a chance to see them in person?
Mehek: I wish the books would have such words, of which I need not to search their meanings in a dictionary. But, some words make me tired of searching for their meanings. Therefore, I would like to request the authors to use simple and comprehensive language suitable for all types of readers.
Interviewer: If you were to recommend books, what kinds of books do you recommend?
Mehek: If I were to recommend books to my younger brothers and sisters. I would suggest them to start from simple stories and poems before jumping into bulky books.
Interviewer: Finally, what role do parents and teachers play to promote reading culture in the children of your age?
Mehek: I was motivated to read books as every member of my family used to read (read now) books and I grew up in that environment. So, parents should role model themselves, if they wish to develop reading habits in their children. In addition, schools should organize various competitions related to reading which improves students’ language skills and comprehension. These competitions create interest in students, which contributes in promoting reading culture.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for giving us your valuable time.
Mehek: I felt blessed to be here with you today. Finally, I would like to suggest everyone to develop reading habits rather than only playing games. If you want to be addicted, get addicted to books. And I would like to request parents to create a conducive environment for their children’s reading. Thank you!
After reading this interview, please drop your comments, feeling or questions in the comment box below.
Interviewer : Sreejana Chamling
Translator: Dasharath Rai