Q&A: Mohul Bhowmick, Author of 'Seeking Kathmandu'

Mohul Bhowmick lives in Hyderabad, India. He is a national-level cricketer who represents Hyderabad in numerous age-group tournaments conducted under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Having completed a bachelor’s degree in commerce, he is now a post-graduate student of business administration from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Vivekananda College, Osmania University, Hyderabad. He also works as a sports columnist for the e-magazine Sportskeeda. He is also a passionate photographer. He has written three poetry collections till date, which include This Means War, An Audience Of One, and Soaked To The Skin. Seeking Kathmandu, which is a travelogue based on a solo trip Mohul took to Nepal, released in April 2021 and is his first venture into non-fiction writing.

I chat with Mohul about his book Seeking Kathmandu: Travails of a Solo Traveller across Nepal, what inspired him to write this travelogue, book recommendations, and much more.

Hello, Mohul! Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a national-level cricketer from Hyderabad. I am a poet as well, having published three books of poetry to go with my current book Seeking Kathmandu, which is a travelogue. Apart from working as a sports columnist for the e-magazine Sportskeeda, I also take a deep interest in architectural and wildlife photography.

I quite believe that this may lead to many readers thinking that I am a 'Jack-of-all-trades’ kind of person, and I cannot disagree! It may seem a little odd, given the background I come from and the varied flavours of my works but I pride myself on having a broad horizon and not being restricted to just one field in life.

Which authors and books were your early formative influences?

Jean-Paul Sartre, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky have all played more than significant roles in moulding my refinements in writing. Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment are perhaps the two most significant books which have influenced my outlook on life. Among contemporary writers, I enjoy Ken Follett, Lee Child, Jeffrey Archer, Ian Rankin and Vikram Seth the most. Seth, I believe, is perhaps the greatest writer in English our nation has given birth to.

If you could only describe your book Seeking Kathmandu: Travails of a Solo Traveller across Nepal in five words, what would they be?

Juxtaposition of solo travel and self-discovery.

'Seeking Kathmandu: Travails of a Solo Traveller across Nepal', published by Notion Press

Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?

Seeking Kathmandu is based upon a solo trip I took to Nepal in early 2020. I was only 21 years old then, and it seemed like a big step – going to a foreign country and fending for myself without any discernible means of support to fall back upon. This solo trip led me towards knowing things about myself I would not have known had I stayed back within my comfort zone, or worse still, travelled with companions.

The book records all my experiences in a land so close to ours, but so alien in its tastes, choices and representations. I have tried to do justice to the natural beauty that is prevalent all across the country of Nepal, and only the readers will be able to tell if I've succeeded. There are several anecdotes recorded in it and many of the people whom I met along the way make appearances; the readers can also expect to be left enthralled by the paradox that this great Himalayan kingdom is.

What inspired you to write this travelogue?

Travelling alone at such a young age is not unheard of in the West, but it is still frowned upon in our country – or at least in the Deccan – where I come from. I realised the magnitude of what I had undertaken not while I was immersed in it, but when people who were much older than me began to guffaw in astonishment at my apparent ‘courage’. I did not register any such acclaim, but I did understand that it was a highly uncommon thing that I had done; the recognition that this story needed to be told came soon enough.

Can you tell our readers about some interesting episodes from your Nepal trip, which find a place in this book?

There are several gripping episodes from this trip that have found their place in Seeking Kathmandu. One was when I was sitting beside the ghats on the Bagmati river across the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and another when I came across a ‘Living Goddess’ in the city of Lalitpur who was supposed to be the reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju Bhawani. Yet another was when I got a tiny yet not insignificant glimpse of Mount Everest from the hill town of Nagarkot. These incidents took me to a metaphysical perception that I had not endured in a long time. They made me examine the futility of living an unremarkable life and question my faith in organised religion. I really can not divulge more; the readers would much rather like to know about these incidents on their own.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?

It would be far too easy to suggest that the readers would be inspired to go on solo trips of their own after reading this, and I will not indicate so. What I do hope is that they will be able to understand that there is nothing wrong with travelling alone and that one comes across experiences that one would not have if they were doing so with companions.

Apart from the actual journey undertaken, solo travel also takes you one on one within yourself and questions the inflation of your tiny ego. The book aims to depict the natural beauty that Nepal has to offer and the generosity and kindness that its people possess in abundance. In the end, this is a travelogue and not a dissertation, and I do hope that the readers will be able to enjoy soaking in the sights of Nepal through my portrayals.

How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?

It has been a difficult time for all of us, and it breaks my heart when I come across incidents in which those who were less fortunate than us had to suffer more than we did – the exodus of the migrant workforce comes first to mind – but it is also important to stay positive and focus on what is important at the moment. Representative cricket was reduced significantly by the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) last year, and I do hope that it is not going to be so this year as well.

What are you reading currently? Do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

I am reading VS Naipaul's India: A Million Mutinies Now at the moment and I cannot believe how much I am enjoying or should I say, savouring looking at our country from his critical eyes. But then Naipaul is Naipaul, and you either agree with him or you do not; it often does not matter which way you end up tilting because the narrative is seldom slow and regularly brilliantined. I am a big fan of contemporary collections of poetry too and would highly recommend Hugo Williams' I Knew The Bride and Vikram Seth's All You Who Sleep Tonight. Ian Rankin's latest book A Song For The Dark Times is also unmissable!

The book ‘Seeking Kathmandu: Travails of a Solo Traveller across Nepal’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.

From Jammu, J&K; Studied in DPS, Jammu.