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Suvani Singh

Suvani Singh and her partners started Quixote’s Cove as a book shop in 2009. But they have gained popularity not just as a traditional bookshop but for the literary events they organize and their work with schools and colleges to set up libraries and manage projects with a focus on developing a reading and writing culture. They also supported the founding of Word Warriors, Nepal’s first spoken word poetry group, in 2010 and continue to engage thousands of young people interested in art, literature and poetry through this platform.

Currently, they are managing the U.S. Embassy Book Bus, a mobile library and creative learning space, through which they work with communities all over Nepal. The Book Bus functions like a public library that serves its community by providing access to information, conducting innovative education programs, creating safe spaces for communities of practice, and encouraging free expression. Moreover, they also work with a pool of writers and translators to provide publishing services like writing, copy editing and translations. And they occasionally publish books through their imprint, Safu. Notably, during this pandemic, they are producing digital content as well.

Quitoxe’s Cove has multiple verticals. They have diversified into creating content in different mediums over the past decade. Being surrounded by books, writers and artists means there is never a dearth of ideas to explore and stories to tell.

In this edition of B360, Suvani Singh shares with our readers the five things that have impacted her work and life.

Working Amid Challenges

The creative sector in Nepal is an emerging industry. Nepal has a rich cultural and artistic history but our educational system and policy regimes are not designed to support creation and innovation. Within such a scenario it is imperative for any person seeking to think outside the box to learn from people working in different industries and coming from diverse backgrounds to engage in a variety of perspectives. If the diversity in Nepal is represented in every level of the economy and governance, it will be easier to veer towards a more creative and innovative culture that can address the problems of today and mitigate the injustices of the past. There are also a lot of challenges in creating feminist work spaces in Nepal. And so I am thankful for the advice, suggestions and critical feedback I continue to receive from people I work with. It helps me identify my blind spots, learn from my mistakes and better my practice.

Living for Others

I am inspired by the many people who have stood up and continue to stand up against inequality. Looking at the world today, it is disheartening to see how some of us have continued to profit and prosper on the misery and pain of others. The people who stood up against these systemic forces, many of whom lost their lives to the violence that these regimes internalise, have directly contributed to the freedoms we enjoy today. Our freedom and self-expression are luxuries that are constantly under threat from the totalitarian ideas of people, who imagine themselves as heroes and saviors. I draw inspiration from those who dedicate their lives for the creation of a better tomorrow, one that doesn’t just replicate the systemic oppression of the past.

“I will refrain from engaging in an exercise where I have to imagine one person holding so much power that they are able to change a world event. Change comes through collective effort so if we wish to undo something, then we should reflect on our failures and work on sustainable and egalitarian solutions.”

The Working Culture

I realised very early on that being able to start a business was a privilege and this has significantly influenced the way our work has moved forward. The history and traditions that shape my privilege have been challenged by people in the many democratic movements that have shaped Nepal. Unfortunately, the extractive system that I am embedded in has only gotten stronger and more insidious. Much of this realisation shapes the work we do and the working culture we seek to realise. We’ve tried to create safe spaces, but that doesn’t put us beyond criticism and fault – you have to feel safe to express yourself but with this comes a responsibility to your peers and to yourself, else you’ve just gone ahead and created an aristocracy of exclusion. I believe that trying to make our businesses and society more inclusive is our collective responsibility.

Learning and Unlearning

Working closely with young people from diverse backgrounds is what I am most grateful for. My team keeps me grounded as I learn a lot from their experiences and their perspectives guide me in learning more about myself and the changing work landscape. New developments, ideas and externalities – like the ongoing pandemic – provide both opportunities and challenges for us to adapt our work, learn and grow. Over the past decade, I have worked with three generations of youth who have now moved on elsewhere. It is a pleasure to see some of them fulfill their potential, continue to struggle and come out stronger. It is a constant reminder that things are always in flux and will never remain. I am always trying to make our work and working process reflective of our evolving values and the changing realities of today’s world. Creating a work space that provides a safe space for our team members to be themselves and challenging them to become better professionals and people means that you have to consistently be learning, unlearning and re-imagining, re-creating and re-doing.

Change is a Collective Effort

I will refrain from engaging in an exercise where I have to imagine one person holding so much power that they are able to change a world event. Change comes through collective effort so if we wish to undo something, then we should reflect on our failures and work on sustainable and egalitarian solutions.

Ujeena Rana is an academic and writer. She has worked in media for more than a decade. She enjoys walking, wondering, creating, listening to podcasts and singing lullabies to her toddler. She devours national and international news on a daily basis like a hungry person devours everything on the plate.

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