A career in hospitality gave wings to ideas for compiling a food dictionary: Shiva Neupane
Shiva Neupane, a Nepal-born, Melbourne-based writer, “felt a sense of literary euphoria” when he received a letter of appreciation from the Australian Prime Minister. However, this was not surprising to many as Shiva was working on a subject dear to Scott Morrison, South Asian cuisine.
Shiva Neupane has published a “Food Dictionary”.
Shiva is the author of several books, including his latest book “Falang Food Dictionary”. In addition, he writes articles for American magazines and The Himalayan Times. He received the certificate for being the first international student to publish an English dictionary while studying in Australia in 2015.
However, the idea for a food dictionary came out of nowhere. In a QnA, Shiva shares his journey as an author and celebrity appreciation for his latest book, the “Falang Food Dictionary.”
Writing is one of the most prestigious professions among many others. Could you please tell us something about your writing journey? When did you start writing articles and what prompted you to create a dictionary?
Well, and really, that’s a great question! Thank you very much for this noble question. It’s important for me to highlight some of the nostalgic moments in my life about how I embarked on my writing journey. I was born in a small village in Nepal, located in the western part of Nepal. It is known as Falang, and the dictionary is named after my village. I called my dictionary Falang because of my emotional attachment to it. Another crucial reason is that I had scribbled thousands of vocabularies on the walls and ceilings of Falang houses when I was a schoolboy. Therefore, I feel like giving linguistic credit to my village by naming my dictionary Falang English Dictionary.
Around 2001, my first poem was published in The Kathmandu Post, the national daily newspaper of Nepal and after which I received more praise from my teachers, families, relatives and supporters.
The continued support and motivation energized me as a whole, so I published an anthology of English poetry, “My Waves”, in 2004. In pursuit of Utopian Life in Australia in 2012, “The Elixir of My voice” in 2013, Falang English Dictionary in 2015, Falang Food Dictionary in 2018 and Falang Food Dictionary Second Edition in 2022.
As the author of the aforementioned books, the idea of publishing an English dictionary came out of the blue. Honestly, I hadn’t planned to publish a dictionary in advance. My colleagues were preparing the GRE and SAT to continue their studies in the United States. They came to me and read the passages and vocabulary aloud. At first, I was annoyed because I wasn’t interested in academic pursuits.
However, over time, I gradually took inspiration from what they were doing. A few other reasons also really inspired me. I was lucky enough to come into contact with elites who once lived in our village for many years. They were American families who had come for development projects in our country. And other personalities have come to work on similar projects in our village. I was brought up in an environment where there was an influx of elites. Therefore, directly or indirectly, I was influenced by the English language they used to communicate with people. I have felt a sense of urgency to speak in English since I was a schoolboy due to my schooling at a private boarding school and the environment in which I was raised. These are the crucial reasons that guided my lexicographic trajectory to compile a dictionary.
The most remarkable moment was when I received the certificate of appreciation for becoming the first international student to publish an English dictionary in 2015. I think this great recognition is an award for my entire life.
These achievements above give me great pleasure and help to enhance my profile as a national and international journal. Recently, I published some poems in American magazines. Likewise, my articles have appeared in the Australian newspaper “The Age”. And finally, this unshakeable habit of ritualistic writing made headway in my search for a milestone on the literary highway. Which I think I’m on today.
Could you please tell us something about how Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to you regarding your food dictionary? And tell us how your culinary dictionary represents the spirit of Australian multiculturalism?
Well, the response was very immediate from the Prime Minister, given his trepidation. The letter was about his recommendation for the cover page of my food dictionary that depicts multicultural cuisines. I took his advice and his words to heart. His letter really inspired and motivated me. Plus, it made me feel like I was showering with his eulogy when it came to seeing his enthusiastic wishes and the words of motivation he had inked for me. I want to reiterate here that Premier Scott Morrison’s recognition of the multicultural successes of immigrants is beautifully miraculous.
As a writer, I felt a sense of literary euphoria when I received a letter directly from the Prime Minister of Australia. In a nutshell, his letter was a literary turning point in my career as a writer because it reinforced my ambition to explore my linguistic potential. And according to your second question, I would say that my dictionary palpably represents all of the festive foods and cuisines around the world. My Food Dictionary gives everyone the common ground to feel what they eat every day. As we know, food diplomacy is a secret mantra to induce societal euphoria. A few weeks ago, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison prepared a chicken curry that has culturally excited all communities across the Indian subcontinent.
How did you find the inspiration to compile a food dictionary?
Initially, I had no idea about compiling a food dictionary. However, after working for many years in the hospitality industry, I had the idea of publishing a food dictionary. Long story short, my career in hospitality gave wings to ideas for compiling a food dictionary, which is why I greatly appreciate being the author of Falang Food Dictionary. The inspiration for bringing my food dictionary to the shelves came from my decade-long Epicuren journey. As I sailed through the ocean of culinary experience, I discovered many intriguing things about the importance of food and its cultural and historical significance associated with various societies around the world.
What would you say to people who would like to write books?
It’s always nice to have a pragmatic plan for writing a book you’re passionate about. However, the only thing I know about writing is that it takes a lifetime commitment for someone to become one. First and foremost, before writing a book, a person should read a large number of books in order to get a general idea of how other published authors have inked their literary work on the papers. By reading more books, one would gain vast writing skills. For me, writing is a reflection of what you read. Therefore, the art of writing always boils down to how you treated yourself as a reader. A good reader can become a good writer.