Finding Friendship in The Pomelo

In March 2023, I was looking for cheap places to crash in Delhi, India. I needed to stay back for a couple of days after my parents returned to Nepal. Excitedly, I messaged Nangsel “Do you know any cheap dorms to stay in?” Almost without batting an eye, she replied “There are, but you can also stay with me.” The offer was welcoming but I had  second thoughts about agreeing to stay with someone whom I had never met in real life. Even though I have made many online friends over time, and a part of me does trust them despite standard reason and logic.


Around 2 years ago, I left my full time job in a research firm to pursue freelance writing. 

In desperation as I looked for writing jobs, I stumbled upon The Pomelo’s post with #callforeditors.  I sent out a cold email. Almost immediately came a response from Nangsel Sherpa. Next day, we met over Google Meet. I don’t remember much of the first meeting but I remember having a warm feeling when it ended.

Co-founders Nangsel and Fatima Hamid explained to me that it was a publication started by women of the Himalayas highlighting stories of minorities in the increasingly intolerant and hostile world they lived in. They hailed from Darjeeling which I think has a soft corner in the hearts of all Nepalis. But I was even more excited to finally find an accessible South Asian literary space which could accommodate Nepali voices. 

Soon, I was one of the editors of The Pomelo. We met over weeks trying to find opportunities for this publication to survive and grow. We worked together in calling for submissions and putting out issues. Despite being a scholar in making herself, Nangsel would repeatedly ask for my feedback on submitted articles. The kindness with which she listened to and pondered on everyone’s suggestions and feedback made us feel like we were on the cusp of creating something substantial and important, however voluntarily. 

In the beginning of 2022, we put up our Spring Issue. We are clear about the feminist voices we want to include across genres. It is also interesting to read people from diverse locations having diverse points of view.  But it also means sometimes questioning ourselves on how political the writings we publish can get. However, the doubts are always overshadowed by our commitment to include as many marginalized voices as we can.

As much as this small community which surpasses our national boundaries helps us, it is also not easy to put up a publication with no funding. It certainly does not help when we are ourselves full time students and employees. It’s disheartening when you spend weeks drafting a proposal only to hear back “the work sounds interesting but it is not a fit for us.” However well-intentioned, the rejections do stir something in you. 

In our last meeting before I left for India, we reflected on why we need to write and publish in the first place. We questioned ourselves on what we meant by Himalayan voices and whose voices we want to amplify. Nangsel has ancestral origins tied to Nepal and Tibet. There are two of us from Nepal. We have another team member from northeast of India. Where do our identities intersect? As a team we are trying to find commonalities.  I think we strive to find it in this space of brainstorming, collaborating and creating. 


Few months ago, when I finally reached Delhi, Nangsel came to pick me and my family up at the metro station. As soon as we saw each other, I was seized with a familiarity. My parents marveled at how the two of us had met. There is no way to explain how you can trust a person through a video call. So, I have always left this to my gut feeling. 

This was our first meeting. But she welcomed me and took me in her arms with the faithfulness I had observed over video calls. She treated me like a little sister helping me through everything, asking me what I needed and how I could make myself most comfortable (at her home and her workplace). Our last evening together, as I tried to find cheap but good quality clothes in a market, Nangsel was engrossed in a work call. But the moment I showed her two t-shirt options, she immediately poured all her attention towards me. I think that’s the feeling you never really forget. 

Recounting her days in a university, Nangsel told me “Everything I learnt there was because of my female friends.” In the beginning of this year, we wrote a series of articles on female friendships. There is intimacy, there is safe space, but there are also heartbreaks in these relationships. That’s what I wrote about in my piece, talking about breaking up with a girlfriend. After reading the piece, Nangsel messaged me saying she resonated with what I felt and how heartbreaking friendship breakups can be. “But as adults, it is also not so easy to make new friends,” she said and I suddenly found myself reevaluating my own efforts on breaking and making up these friendships. 

In between our walks and short auto rides, we talked about where we have come from, where we are now and where we’d like to go in the future. It is uncertain for both of us, but we do have a lot of dreams and hopes. And I think this is the space where we really bond. There is uncertainty- from personal/professional lives to taking forward this little publication seeking submissions, writers, volunteers and readers. But there is also understanding of this uncertainty. So, despite time, resources and other constraints, we continue to work together, attempting to create a safe space. These female friendships encourage us to dream of whatever little difference we can make. And I hope they live on irrespective of what we achieve and what we don’t. 

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