With only a day left of this year, I look back at 2016 and I can see one figure who has stood out and grown with every post. The Nepali blogosphere may be growing rapidly but when I have to think of Nepali bloggers that are actually worthy of mentioning, those that actually exist to share good content, there’s only a good handful. With every blogger specialising in their own area, it’s unfair to compare them. One blogger who has not only caught my attention but the attention of many since the past few years is Neeraj Pun who blogs on NeoStuffs.com
The Baglung born blogger first came up with the idea to start a blog focusing only on positive stories and stories that would spread a smile after realising that non-Nepalese colleagues would only be informed of negative stories of Nepal. That was indeed a blessing in disguise as now Pun’s NeoStuffs has rapidly become a favourite for young readers preferring to read in English. Being based in South Korea has not stopped Neeraj from being in-the-know of Nepali entertainment news to giving his opinion on the latest social media trends and controversies. He’s thoughtful in his writing, openly engages with his readers and responds pretty well too. Surprisingly, even his teeming online presence as a blogger has yet to reveal many things about who actually Neeraj Pun is.
Let me take you on a ride to get to know Neeraj Pun, one of the most memorable Nepali bloggers right now.
LEX: So I was trying to find as much about you as possible but I really couldn’t dig much information. Let’s start with your background please?
NEERAJ: Well I was born in Baglung but I moved to India when I was one with my family as my father was in the Indian army. We lived in different parts of India from Punjab, Goa to Nainital. My father retired in 2007 and I came back with him and then we settled in Pokhara where I joined Prithvi Narayan Campus and did my bachelors in Major English.
After I completed my studies, my first job was at Nepal Adarsha, a well-known school as an English teacher but after three years I shifted to an NGO where I worked as a chief operating manager for another three years.
LEX: You’ve certainly got quite an experience already! When did you move to South Korea?
NEERAJ: It was only in the August of 2013 I shifted to South Korea. I work full-time in a textile company as a textile designer and also handle admin duties. I am also a freelance voice artist as I am fluent in English, Nepali, Hindi and my Korean has improved a lot too.
LEX: You’ve had quite an upbringing from Nepal to India and back to Nepal – growing up in India did you have Nepali friends?
NEERAJ: Mostly, I had Nepali friends in the neighbourhood in the army camps but in my school, in my class, there weren’t many Nepalis…
LEX: As a young growing person, we often say “I want to be this when I grow up”, what did you want to be when you were young?
NEERAJ: A chef! As a teen I’d often say I wanted to be a chef in a 5 Star Hotel. I am not even a good cook and I have no idea where the idea came from, probably because I wanted to be something unique and chef happened to be that at the time. My interest has died down now. In the future I want to work towards starting an entrepreneurial venture in Pokhara with my brother who is based in Kathmandu as a software engineer.
LEX: I’ve seen you ask readers about their experience of living abroad so I want to ask you, what are some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve faced?
NEERAJ: I believe racism is felt everywhere, even in Asia. The feeling of being an outsider is not a nice feeling and at times even in my workplace, as I work with my junior colleagues I feel at times that I am treated differently due to my nationality being different to theirs. Language was a huge challenge and a barrier in the beginning which I am tackling well now and food is still something of a problem. I miss Nepali food a lot. Occasions is another one… it has been three years already but I miss being with family and friends so much.
Living and working abroad makes you respect all different types of professions and people. That’s a good lesson and equally I respect the people working in Nepal a lot. I made the decision to move and work here but so many of my friends are still there, trying and doing something in Nepal which is not only good for them but also for the country. That is something I really respect and that also inspires me.
LEX: Now I want to know how you used the internet before you started your blog?
NEERAJ: I did have a wordpress blog, a personal one which I used to post once in a while before NeoStuffs. After I left Nepal, I mainly visited news websites to see what was happening in Nepal, I felt more concerned about Nepal than my local area here. I also visited few other editing websites, of course your blog as well.
LEX: Your blog covers a wide range of topics, issues and has a great focus on young emerging talents too. How are your readers and where are they from?
NEERAJ: Though I initially only started with the aim to focus on positive stories, I now also write about social issues. The blog is heavily focused on entertainment and glamour industry and my readers are mainly from Nepal, United States, Australia and the UK. The entertainment posts are the most engaging with several going viral already. I also have a group of readers that like to read about social issues and social messages and also get many requests from them asking me to write about different causes or problems from working conditions in the Middle-East to Animal Rights.
LEX: What is a goal you would love to achieve as a blogger through NeoStuffs?
NEERAJ: At the moment, my blog is an independent blog. I do all the writing by myself and I have only my brother who at times helps me with the technical aspect and at times, the graphic side. A part of me really wants to expand it by bringing in content writers and good graphic designers to develop it into a good media house where people visit for daily updates. At the moment, I’m only one person and I fit blogging around my professional life, I think of content and what to write when I’m on the tube going from work back to home or on my way to a voice recording.
LEX: I’m sure you’ve written many posts that have been memorable for their own reasons but can you share of a significant post that is very memorable for you?
NEERAJ: In 2014, I wrote a post about Sahana Bajracharya and Suraj Giri’s car controversy and that was one of the first post that became viral from the blog and brought in many readers. I shared a supporting document from the Chitwan police on the post and that probably gave the post a valid reason for many to share. It was that moment I felt that one post can make a huge difference and it made me believe that blogs can also spread the truth.
LEX: Social media is huge! It has been huge for a while and every person is able to have a voice and an audience. What are your thoughts on the power of social media?
NEERAJ: Social media is hugely important right now, an example of this can be seen through the BOB vs Kriti short-film example that happened earlier in the year. My friend Aneel Neupane simply wrote a Facebook public post about the Indian short-film being a copy and his post got picked up by so many people to well-known Indian media sites. This shows that when used correctly, social media can be a powerful tool to spread messages. Unfortunately, so many misuse it and we see online harassments, fraudulent profiles and much more as a result. It’ depends on you on how you use social media.
LEX: Well said! And on the matter of blogs, there are so many Nepali blogs and sadly not all of them are there for the right reasons. What do you have to say about that?
NEERAJ: Bloggers are mushrooming right now and for majority, the primary reason is to get as many viewers as possible and try to make money through AdSense. This desperation leads many to create foolish titles to attract readers and it’s really bad to see that happening. They take one scene from a film and blow it out of proportion and write really bad headlines which might affect the person or the actor. We need to take more responsibility online, writing in such style might work a few times but after that, people will know that your blog/website isn’t genuine. Good things will be appreciated no matter how long it takes.
LEX: Unfortunately, there are also many people that quickly read the headline and assume that whatever is written is true and share the links immediately on their profiles. Do you have any advice to social media users and readers online?
NEERAJ: My first advice is do not believe everything you read on the internet. If something bad has happened, check with atleast a couple of news portals to verify the news. Many jump to the conclusion and share the articles straight-away without questioning the authenticity or even checking what type of website it is. Readers can also create a reputation by sharing only good content, content from authentic websites so maybe your friend can say “they share links from good trustworthy websites”, we can try to do that.
LEX: Focusing on a lighter subject, a Nepali film you watched and enjoyed?
NEERAJ: JATRA is a recent film which I found to be very good. The presence of theatre actors Dayahang Rai, Deeya Maskey, Najir Hussen, Khagendra Lamichhane and others are uplifting Nepali cinema and it makes me really happy to see that. Even Anmol KC and his films attract people to watch Nepali films. It’s a great thing to see and blog about.
LEX: You blog about celebrities a lot, is there any celebrity who’ you share a good blogger-celeb link with?
NEERAJ: Priyanka Karki is a great sport! She’s gutsy too! Earlier this year I thought of doing an April Fools Prank where I would fool people in believing that a Nepali actor was making a Hollywood debut. I was expecting a cold response but I decided to approach Priyanka Karki anyway and she not only agreed to the April Fools Joke but she also shared it herself which made the joke even bigger. We managed to fool a lot of people. She has a lot of trolls and still, that didn’t stop her from agreeing to be part of it. I really appreciate her for being such a rounded person, a good actress and having a good social media presence.
LEX: So when you’re not working, what do you like to do during your spare time?
NEERAJ: Mostly blogging, watching films or listening to music. I don’t go out much, it’s not my thing. I’m online mostly and the ones who haven’t met me may think I’m outgoing and talkative but I am someone who takes time to open up. I enjoy my own company, I guess I’m different to my social media self.
LEX: You’ve been blogging since 2014 so I have to ask do you still enjoy blogging?
NEERAJ: I still enjoy it. There have been gaps at times and it can get tiring sometimes but it’s something I enjoy outside of work, I look forward to writing posts and sharing. There’s always something to write about too.
LEX: Before I forget, why is the blog called NeoStuffs?
NEERAJ: Neo is actually my nickname. I tried to acquire NEOSTUFF but as the domain was unavailable I added an ‘s’ and it became NEOSTUFFS. Many have told me that’s incorrect but I want people to read it as a collection of stories and articles of Neo, like Neo stuffs it in the box!
LEX: Finally, thank you so much for your time! Is there anything you’d like to add before we proceed to the final rapid fire round?
NEERAJ: Thanks! Before we end this, I want to thank my readers so so much. The two years journey with NeoStuffs, I never thought I’d reach this level… I’m not saying I’ve made it very far but this level where I am, to have a group of good readers who trust and enjoy my posts is amazing. I’m happy I’ve been able to do this and entertain my readers and especially want to thank them for their support so far.
WordPress or Blogger?
Facebook or Twitter?
Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy?
Samsung Galaxy all the way!
Good comments or High Views?
Loadshedding or Lack of water?
Pokhara or Baglung?
Pokhara over any other place!
Pani-Puri or Chatpate?
Aastha Pokharel or Aditi Budhathoki?
Khagendra Lamichhane or Dayahang Rai?