I’m covering a book here – a gorgeous book by dear Bhutanese friend, Ugyen Gyeltshen. Dear Seday. The title of this book says it all - it’s a novella written in the epistolary style. To my surprise, the entire book is one letter. This letter, yes, this book astoundingly chronicles the author’s remotest memoirs, his delicious childhood days.
Should you wish to read this book, I drop a few more lines here. Its narration though. Nadola, 32, is the protagonist in the story. He works as a road supervisor at Thrumshingla Pass. It’s “pouring rain” one day and the road gets blocked.
On that day, at that moment, he sees Seday, his high school sweetheart, inside a car stranded on the roadblock. By the way, he hasn’t met her for the past 15 years. It makes him jump in the rain. And instantaneously, he starts writing a letter to her.
He tells his readers that this letter “should have been written fifteen years ago.” It hits you with a fresh curiosity. Why he didn’t write it before? What has happened in their love? How they separated? Does he still yearn for her love? Many questions roll on your head, and this would urge you to turn pages of this book one by one until you know what happens to the last word on the last page.
And his letter to Seday is this gorgeous book, Dear Seday!
As Nadola writes the letter, the book moves slowly, sumptuously, across the terrain of different places and time – his life’s journey that he has travelled in the last 15 years. And everything in the past unfurls. It takes you back to 15 years of time in a lovely place of the Khaling countryside in eastern Bhutan where Nadola is born and raised. Through his story, the book depicts the typical Bhutanese life in the rural farms and the difficulties of rural parents to send their children to school.
You would be brilliantly amazed at the way Ugyen Gyeltshen could remember and write down all his childhood and school memories. This is, indeed, a strange talent. He brings flashbacking everything; moreover, he has woven all that together beautifully, humorously. His first encounter with television. Nicknaming teachers. Night hunting. Digging in girls’ garbage. Befriending school cook for foods. His crush on Seday.
Let me tell you one more thing. His words are full of bluntness, straight and punctuated with honesty in this raw and beautiful book. You’d feel like you’re listening to one of your best buddies. So much of his book reminds me of what was my childhood. It seemed to me that I was reliving my childhood life once again. And the story he narrates becomes a part of mine too.
This book is more than a love letter to Seday. It’s also about the change of time - from adolescent to man, from remote to urban, from being naïve to facing the reality, from being young and shy to growing old and truth-telling.
Final words. I almost can’t tell you more about this book than ‘read it’. I will tell you why. Because Nadola, the main character of the book, is so humble and dear to us that you would simply accompany him to the end.