Swapnabhumi Book Review: Exploring Dreams and Identity

“Swapnabhumi” is a thought-provoking novel penned by Tulasi Acharya, PhD, that delves into the challenges faced by Nepali students in the United States while pursuing higher education and seeking employment opportunities. The story revolves around the protagonist, Deepak, who undergoes tremendous struggles to complete his university education in the US. The novel explores various themes such as migration, identity, culture, love and sex, economy, separation, relations, and the longing for freedom.

One of the central themes of the novel revolves around the dreams and aspirations of today’s Nepali youth, who see their future in foreign lands. The allure of better education, job prospects, and a higher standard of living compels many Nepalis to leave their homeland in search of a brighter future. However, the author raises concerns about this growing trend, questioning whether the foreign land or the motherland is the real dreamland. The answer to this question depends on one’s perception, circumstances, and the personal journey they undertake.

Deepak, the main character, initially believes that the United States is his dreamland. He envisions pursuing higher education, marrying a foreign girl, and becoming a professor at a prestigious university as the epitome of happiness and success. However, as he faces numerous setbacks and hurdles, he begins to question whether his American dream is worth sacrificing his emotional well-being and connection to his homeland.

The novel portrays the harsh reality that many Nepali students in the US face, where earning money takes precedence over education. Deepak finds himself engaged in menial jobs like dishwashing to support his university expenses, reflecting the financial struggles faced by most Nepalis in foreign countries. The author draws attention to the disparity between the primary concern of earning and the secondary importance given to education.

Throughout the story, Deepak experiences cultural clashes and the pain of separation from his family and his Nepali roots. He longs for the taste of traditional Nepali food, the celebration of festivals like Dashain and Tihar, and the camaraderie of friends. Despite the physical development and comforts offered by the US, he finds himself yearning for the emotional connections and cultural richness of his motherland.

The author skillfully incorporates references to Mahakavi Devkota’s essay, “Ke Nepal Sano Cha?” (Is Nepal small?), emphasizing the significance of one’s provenance and the real dreamland. Deepak’s failed relationship with Malisa, a foreign girl from an Irish and Catholic background, due to a clash of cultures, adds another layer of complexity to the story. The longing for love and the pang of separation further solidify Deepak’s realization that his ultimate dreamland lies in his motherland.

Acharya’s writing prompts readers to question the true meaning of happiness and success and challenges the perception that material comforts alone can fulfill one’s dreams. The book portrays the struggles and sacrifices made by Nepali students abroad, highlighting the emotional toll and the complex relationships they develop with both Nepal and their adopted country.

“Swapnabhumi” is a compelling novel that explores the journey of Nepali students in the US, their dreams and aspirations, and the conflicts they face along the way. The author’s keen observations, coupled with thought-provoking themes, make it an engaging read. However, the narrative could benefit from a more polished execution, as at times the plot feels disjointed.

“Swapnabhumi” offers a profound exploration of the challenges and dilemmas faced by Nepali students pursuing dreams in a foreign land. Tulasi Acharya, PhD, presents a heartfelt narrative that encourages readers to reflect on the true essence of a dreamland and the importance of cultural identity.

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