This Has Been a Good Year

At the beginning of the year, nothing was going right in my life, both career and personal. I was really broke, for one thing. As the year ends, still not many things are going right for me. One of my biggest dreams came tumbling down, started to collapse with the beginning of the year, and by November it had crashed to the ground. It came like a shooting star, like a lone star among the millions, and went out before it had lived to fulfill it's purpose in my life. It reminded me of Gene Hackman, who once was one of my heroes, I can't remember where I heard or read this line from him, but it stuck to my head, and for much of the year it kept ringing in my skull. 'I've always been a lone wolf.' I believe that now about me.
Can you believe that smile is from a lone wolf?

When to Kiss is to Sin: Dating in Nepal Pt 3

Normally, I don't kiss and tell, but this happened so long ago that it doesn't matter much. Sometime early in 2010, shortly after I arrived in Nepal, a time when I was still single and had not yet met the Filipino bombshell. A time when I was still befuddled with that timeless question: what is the meaning of love. This is probably the last post recounting my personal experiences of dating in Nepal. (Read here part 1 and part 2). The two years I spent there, I was more concerned with their love and marriage customs, for I was making a film about inter-caste marriage, but some mistook my interested to be a veiled expression of my desire to find a Nepali wife, so I got my fare share of proposals, probably more than most foreigners would get, because I spoke the language and lived in a rural community.

This is what I once found on my doorsteps. Read it here.

The Fun of Dating in Nepal pt 2

She got married so I guess it's okay for me to write about this, though I'll still not say her real name. I saw a status update on facebook, and I know she is married. Nepali girls wouldn't write such a status, or else it hurts their honor.
A couple on a date in Thamel, Kathmandu. Lama's Cafe.
I first saw her early in 2010, must have been March, for the winter had just ended, and I had just moved from Kathmandu into Dhanghadi, the small town in the far west of Nepal where I was to stay for the next two years. I still loved watching football back then, and wouldn't miss a weekend match for anything. (Now, I don't even know what a ball looks like!) So I went to a cable company to subscribe, and I saw her at the reception. She had large eyes, a little unusual for a Nepali girl, and long eyelashes, which weren't fake. I was still single at that time, so you ladies should not think I am a macho-monster, but I was just beginning research into this Untouchable Love documentary. I was clueless about the dating habits of Nepalis. I had read a bit about it, but I thought I would learn more if I actually dated a Nepali girl.

Street entertainment from my childhood


I never knew how much we remember from childhood until I wrote this story, The Puppets of Maramudhu. One reviewer, when talking about it, said “Dilman's story is unique, not that it is alien or experimental. It is neither of these. In fact, it is the kind of stories we love to tell, orally, but which we rarely ever write, unfortunately, perhaps because of our quest to remain realists.” Read the review here. I always wonder why we endeavour to remain realists, yet our socialisation process conditions us to believe in the supernatural, to point at spirits and unknowable forces when explaining strange phenomenon. As children, the stories we loved to hear the most were those with magic in them. Why is it that as adults we shy away from them?
Razor Blade, a street child rapper, and his audience.

Three Stories on Amazon

It's been an exciting year for me, as a writer. I got shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and then longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa. I've heard two books out in print, and two short stories to appear in anthologies, one is already out, the other coming in December. Busy, busy year, and I expect next year will be even busier. Which unfortunately might mean less blogging :((
So here are the books. They went up on amazon at nearly the same time, the first being in September and two this month.

The Terminal Move. A novelette, written in a genre I loved so much as a boy, and which I still think is my niche. It's basically a zombie tale, but set in Africa from way back in time, before the nations as we know them today were formed. Which makes it a fantasy as well. Take a peak at an interview I did for the publisher here.

My Favourite Peter Sellers Comedies

Last night, I watched The Party. It put PeterSellers at the top of the list of my favourite comic actors. He makes me laugh with the least effort. I used to think Mr. Bean is hilarious, that Leon Schuster is awesome, that Jim Carrey was the god of comedy, but they all disappointed me at some point. (Okay, he does not beat Woody Allen. I think Woody will be my favourite of all time, because Woody is not just a comic actor, but also a funny writer and director. I’ll do a list of my favourite Woody Allen’s next). With Sellers, every film of his I’ve seen is a riot. Or well, maybe not The Man Who Never Was, but again, it was a very entertaining film, and it only confirmed to me that he was gifted actor, able to fit any role, be it comedic of serious. As happens in the industry, he got typed with comedy (I think) and so most of the films he was given were in that genre. 
Peter Sellers. London, 1973. Photo from Wikipedia

Travel Videos on YouTube

Have you been to our YouTube Channel lately? Those of you who have will notice that we have started putting up travel videos. I was looking through my archives and I saw I had a lot of stuff that I filmed in Nepal, as well as in Uganda, and that I had filmed while making one documentary or the other, but ended up not using. Then I thought of making them into short docs, webdocs, whatever they are called, but these are stories that will give you insight on the different cultures I've encountered, as well as tips on how to travel, what to do on your travels, and such things.
Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Love Made Me Run Mad


The other day, I was looking through my archived videos of Nepal, trying to decide what to delete to create space in my backup hard drive. I found this interview of Binod, a resident of Saptari district, a man who ran mad after his love affair with an upper caste girl came to an abrupt and violent end. I came upon him by sheer luck. While making Untouchable Love, I was visiting their home to interview his younger brother, Manoj, whose affair with Parbati, an upper caste girl, had led to a war in their village when I learned that that Binod too had been involved in an inter caste affair. I thought I had struck gold. Two dalit (untouchable) brothers fall in love with upper caste girls, causing a lot of trouble in the village, hmm, the kind of stuff every storyteller would jump at.

Ghost tales on the road to Nairobi

When the year begun, I was broke. I had spent much of last year finishing The Felistas Fable, and had not earned much during that time. I felt low, for it is not possible to quickly make a profit from selling a film. Sometimes you have to wait a whole year. I felt depressed in frustration. Then, out of the gloom, I got shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I had a reason to smile. I had waited for this kind of news for twenty years, since I became obsessed with writing at the age of fifteen. The frustration of not making it compelled me to branch out into film making in 2006. Shortly after that, I got nominated for the Million Writers Award, in 2008, which was a sign that I should stick to writing. But by that time, I already had one leg in both places. when the Commonwealth shortlist came, it was more than just a sign. It was a reminder that I should return to my roots, or rather that I should concentrate less on film and throw more energy onto writing. Winning the prize would be the best thing to happen to my career.
The first story I published, about a cowardly soldier in the front line.
The Sunday Vision, February 2001

Scenes of Labor Day


Retired. Relaxing. Is he enjoying the labor of his youth?
A grandfather passes the time in Nakapinyi, Mukono district.
It's the day when we remember workers of the world. I do not know what made me look through my scrap folder, but I found this poem, which I wrote in October of 2009, shortly before I went to Nepal. I cannot remember why I wrote it, what the 'inspiration' was, but it is clearly about a vegetable seller struggling to make ends meet, and failing to impress his wife. I dedicate it to all working men out there who are going through tough times, who cannot seem to fill their pockets with happiness, however much they try. I normally don't publish poems, though I have written quiet a tidy pile of them, but I do hope you enjoy this one.

Quick recipes for a love-hunting bachelor


Food will bring love to your heart.

They say that the way into a man’s heart is through his stomach, and that the best way to get into a woman’s pants is through her mouth! Ah, so food has great romantic values. It is the essence of every relationship, and if you are looking at a girl whose heart you want to win, food can fast forward your dating past the boring stuff and straight into the bed stuff. Of course, what every man does is to take her out to the fancy restaurants and impress her with fine dining and seven course meals and wine. But I’m going to tell you a secret. You can save yourself all that money and thrill her with a meal in your bachelor pad. Women totally love men who can cook. Pans will get you into her pants. Pots make her hot. Ahem, before I offend women here, let me rephrase. The easiest way for a man to get a woman to love him and be his wife is for him to cook for her a really good meal.

The Great African Love Bus


Welcome to He Says, She Says Sundays! A battle of the sexes. Two different opinions on a jointly enjoyed experience! Have fun reading them both! 
 He says:

The idea of traveling by bus from Kampala to Mombasa seemed romantic. But I did not know it would turn out to be like something from a Robert James Waller novel! When I mention The Bridges of Madison County, it does not mean I met a forty-something year old farmer’s wife who was looking for Prince Charming. I had a princess right by my side when I set off from Kampala. But with all the cameras dangling on my neck, I did feel like a younger version of Robert Kincaid who is courageous enough to steal Francesca from the sexless and passionless farm, and that dreary life in Madison County, and run away with her to live as wanderers, not knowing where tomorrow will find us. 

I did not think of that analogue as we set off, but twenty four hours on the road made me think of that fictitious NatGeo photographer. And there being very few toilet breaks, it seemed even longer. It was the longest bus ride I had ever taken in my life. But the decision not to fly was a good one, because for a tenth of an air ticket, I got the adventure of my lifetime and a free safari through the game parks of Kenya!

An African thief finds a wife


This story is fictional, inspired by this photo
of the love of my life.
In spite of the thermal underwear, the cold dug into his bones and froze him in a bleak mood. The sun tried to smile from beyond the mountains, but her frigid rays could not cheer him up. He longed for Africa, where the sun shone all year with the sweet warmth of a lover.

He decided to go back home immediately after searching the last temple. The whole trip had turned out to be a complete waste of time and money. A friend had deceived him that the temples of Kathmandu were littered with golden statues. It would be an easy job. Sneak in. Steal a few. Flee back home a millionaire. How foolish he felt when he discovered that the golden statues were not made of gold. Still, he hoped that the last item on his list, the Chandeswori temple had a roof of pure gold as one book claimed. So he ignored the cold and hurried to this temple.

On the way, in ancient streets of Old Banepa, he saw her.

The Troubled Children of Uganda


Street children begging in Kampala.
Broken family values is largely responsible for this.
To continue the story of the pregnant girl and the monster teacher (read it here), I agreed to be her father. She wanted to make money out of a man who had impregnated her, and she wanted me to pretend being her father. She was only fourteen years old, and I battled with my conscience over what I was doing. But I was thinking of a documentary film about the troubled children of Uganda today, about parents who fail to handle rebellious teenagers, about the breakdown of family values, which has left children at the mercy of forces beyond their control. 

Randy pregnant girl and the Beastly Teacher



Who will protect the little girls of Africa?
Shortly after Christmas, I became a father – or rather, I nearly became one. I do not know how to put it exactly. I did not know I was old enough to be a teenage girl’s father. She must be sixteen, or maybe fourteen. I could not really tell. I had never met her before. 

I spent Christmas holed up in my little office, behind the laptop, sometimes putting finishing touches on my first feature film, The Felistas Fable, other times rewriting my first romance novella, which will hopefully come out later this year. I was feeling bad about myself that I had made a feature film before publishing a book, and that the first book I’d ever publish is a romance. Or rather the publisher thinks it’s a romance and I was not seeing it like that at all. Anyway, being holed up with two big works on the desk meant I had not shaved for a long time. Maybe I thought was Father Christmas and so had to grow a really long and unkempt beard, and maybe that beard made this girl think I could be her father. 

Snorkel in Mombasa with Captain Wagna

Captain Wagna, the snorkeling king of Mombasa
Some people trot around the world just to see animals, or to ogle at old buildings, or to take photos of a ‘wow factor’ that has been photographed a billion times already. True, with me, I find myself going to places that have been talked about over and over again, which is why I went to Mombasa, but the one thing that lures me to travel to such places is the chance to stumble upon stories that have never been told before. Stories that can never be told because travel books are full of stuff like ‘the best hotels in Mombasa’, or ‘the top five places to visit in Kenya’. Stories like that of Captain Wagna, one of the millions of unknown faces who work in the background to make sure visitors enjoy their holidays.

Who Will Tell this Tale?

The search for love, motivated me to tell Ranjana's story.
She is in the photo below, with greenish sari.
A few years back, I used to have a certain kind of anger against foreigners who came to Uganda (and by extension other ‘poor’ countries) to make films. “Who gives them the right to tell our stories?” me and other filmmakers/artists would ask ourselves in our silly workshops. “They are only going to misrepresent us.” “They only tell negative stories that stereotype us in pictures of poverty, sickness and war.”