In her autobiography, Is Life a Thorn or a Flower? that won this year's Madan Prize, Jhamak Ghimire writes about her struggle to learn the written word despite suffering from cerebral palsy that left her unable to speak and paralysed since childhood. Ghimire taught herself to write by clutching a twig with her toes.
At 30, Ghimire has now been thrust into celebrityhood with an autobiography that describes her struggle for self-expression, battling discrimination from the community and family, fighting fatalism and superstition in Nepali culture at the same time.
She describes the first time she wrote the letter 'ka'."I could not share that moment's joy with anyone, my first letter was written in the dust on the ground and in my heart I could pronounce it. I was so happy that I rewrote the letter many times."
Besides her prize-winning book, Ghimire has published four volumes of poetry, two books of short stories and many newspaper columns. "I am very happy to get the award," she wrote, replying to questions with a pen between her toes. "But at the same time I feel a sense of responsibility. I will start writing again soon." Ghimire's book will soon be published in English.
The prominent Nepali novelist and translator Manjushree Thapa praised Ghimire's work. "Jhamak Kumari Ghimire's expression seems to have gained elegance not despite, but because of, the physical challenges she has overcome," says Thapa, "she speaks for an entire generation when she writes: 'Father! Why are you siring /renegade children like me?'"
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