CONTRIBUTED BY PRAKASH KC

 

PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SHRIJANA SHRESTHA

This is the picture of my mother, Aama with her two best friends at Tatopani taken in the year 2027 B.S. Tatopani is one of the closest springs to Kathmandu situated near Kodari. One can get to this Tatopani from Kathmandu by car in about three hours. Tatopani was as popular a site to visit in those days as it is today. Shankhardev College, where Aama studied, had planned on taking its students for a picnic there. Aama wouldn’t go anywhere without her two best friends so the three of them went to the picnic, where this picture was taken. Aama tells me that there was a trend of wearing Shiffon saris in college, so Aama and her buddies decided to wear saris for the picnic as well.  They saved a total of Rs 500  from their pocket money to buy those saris,  especially for the picnic. Details »

PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SHILU MANANDHAR

I was going through old photo albums at my mamaghar over a breakfast of crunchy and mouth-watering ‘jeri swari’ The syrup and rich ghee from the ‘jeri’ dripped, making the table sticky. My grandmother longingly gazed at my half eaten ‘jeri swari.’ I offered her some but she refused. Being a diabetic patient, she could not afford to indulge in these heavenly bites. Wiping the excess ghee off my hands, I continued to flip through the albums, with covers from which all colours had faded.

A photo then took my fancy as it stood out from other group photos and I asked my grandmother to tell me more about it. She said a few things and left it at that. I looked at my grandmother: her silvery black hair was neatly rolled into a bun, and she was dressed in a printed cotton sari. I looked at the young woman in the photo—she was smartly dressed and had a captivating smile. My instinct told me that there was more to this photo so I nagged her to tell me more about the photo. Reluctantly, she gave in. And for the first time, I saw my grandmother in a new light; I saw her not as my grandmother but as a woman. Her voice had a new momentum as she shared chapters of her life. I was enchanted by the memories that surfaced as my grandmother relived those moments again. Details »

PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SAURAV KIRAN SHRESTHA

It was 1974 when my uncle, my dad’s youngest brother, Tripur Sundar Shrestha (21 year) posed for this picture. This picture was taken in a dormitory at Keiv, the capital city of Ukraine. At that time, Ukraine was under the Republic of Soviet Union.  He had a dream to be an actor; a film hero. However, Nepal at that time had not developed as today, especially in the field of art, media and cinema. He had got opportunity to pursue his further education in USSR. He wished to study in the related field of film making but his elder brother, Krishna Prakash Shrestha, did not find any scope in the film arena, and thus suggested him to pursue further education in Law.

The picture had captured a moment of his student life. The rack full of books and documents is a proof that he loves book. Or, at least he loves to collect books. The glasses he was wearing also shows how studious he was. But…hold on a second…here! I have never seen him wearing a study glass here in Nepal. So I doubt, he might have put on those glasses merely to pose a photo; because he loves acting. An interesting thing is that while taking this picture, he was inspired by a Hindi actor Rishi Kapor (he had watched the movie ‘Bobby’ in Russian language in Ukraine). Details »

PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY APARNA SINGH

I was rummaging through the stack of old photos that were lying in front of me when this particular picture caught my eye. “What on earth could be happening here”? I was curious to know and putting on my Sherlock Holmes cloak, I got ready to unfold the mystery.

A pen and a diary in one hand and the photo in another, I walked up to my uncle wondering if he could curb my curiosity. Frankly, I didn’t expect to get much from a man enjoying the French Open sipping his Scotch on a Friday evening. But to my surprise, he flashed a smile and took me through this wonderful journey.

The year is 1973. It is King Birendra’s birthday and the Consulate General’s hall in Calcutta is set to soar with laughter. Glasses waiting to be clinked, musicians ready to display their finest symphonies. But the party doesn’t start without this event. So with eyes glittering in amazement, everyone watches while IGP Rom Bahadur Thapa pours the rum to the bandmaster signaling, “Let the party begin!” Details »

CONTRIBUTED BY PRAKASH KC

LUCKNOW, INDIA, 1933
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SHITU RAJBHANDARI

I was not close to Bajai, my grandmother. She never showered me with goodies or gifts or even a bedtime story. I never spent the night at her place and she never let me fall asleep in her lap. She was always too sick and tired to do any of that with me, her seventeenth grandchild.

But that did not mean she did not love me, she did and she showed it in her own special way. “Hip…pie,” she would say in between breaths, long before I understood what the word meant or was aware of the Flower Power wave that hit Kathmandu in the 1960s. She must have sensed the free spirited woman I was going to grow up to be very early on in my life. She must have sensed it in the way I watched clouds roll by for hours from the old window in her room, turning around to only tell her that I wanted to be a cloud when I grew up. I remember it always made her smile. Details »

PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SHRIJANA SHRESTHA

This photo was taken in 2043 B.S at my house. It is a picture of a 5 month-old me and my loving caretaker “SusmaRai,” originally from Amlekhgunj . I don’t recall much about this time, but according to my parents I was apparently very attached to my caretaker. My father told me that our family used to call her Didi but when I was one and started to make recognizable sounds, I called her “Titi” in my baby talk. When my parents were not at home she looked after me all the time, caring about all my nitty-gritty needs. My cries. My wails. She treated me like her own daughter. She would also buy me chocolates very often and would take me on long picnics. As far as I can remember, she was the one who taught me to write my name. She also gave me the red toy dog, which is in this photo, as a gift. Till now, my parents have safely kept that toy in my cupboard, as a memory of her. At that time, the toy was really expensive but she didn’t mind paying the money and bought it so that I would remember her when I grew older. Susma Didi took care of me until I was six years old.

Afterwards, she had to move back to Amlekhgunj with her Lalitpurey husband. Sometimes, my parents tell me about that particular day when she had to leave me. She really cried a lot that day, my mother tells me. Though I don’t remember much, they tell me that I had also cried when she let go of my hand.   I was running after her shouting “didi, didi!” I held onto her so tight that my parents had to struggle to pull me away from her. My mother says, the last words of Susma didi were, “I do hope she will remember me”.

Many years have passed and I am not sure where she is now but I hope that someday I will be able to meet her. I think I will, if I am lucky enough.

GUHESWORI TEMPLE, KATHMANDU, 1927 AD
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY NARENDRA LAL MASKEY
TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY KANCHAN JOSHI

This photo was taken circa 1927 AD on the banks of the Bagmati river near Guheswori temple. It was taken during a puja of the Maskey clan from Ason tole. I have always seen this photo hanging in my grandfather Narendra Lal Maskey’s room. He was one and a half then (2nd row from bottom, 1st from right). The lady next to him was his mother. My grandfather’s sister and elder brother are also in the picture.

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY ALOK TULADHAR

BOMBAY, INDIA, 1935 AD
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY KESHARI SUWAL
TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY ERISHA SUWAL

This photograph was taken in a studio in Bombay in 1935. Kul Bahadur Maharjan, my maternal great-grandfather, is seated next to a friend from Kathmandu. Nobody in my family knows any more about this friend.

Kul Bahadur was a chef at Shankar Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana’s palace in Kathmandu, Harihar Bhawan. He got the job because of his father Kul Bir Maharjan, who had impressed one of the Ranas with his khuwa making skills. Despite being a Jyapu from Tyagal Tole, Kul Bir was able to distance himself and his descendants from their traditional occupation of farming.

The influence of Kul Bahadur’s acquaintance with the Ranas is evident in his personal presentation, especially his “ghopte” moustache. “When he walked out of his house in Tyagal Tole, people used to come out to look at him,” says Kanchhi Bajai, Kul Bahadur’s daughter. Kul Bahadur’s grandson adds, “He got to travel so much because he was one of Shankar Shamsher’s favourites.” My uncle and mother note with pride that his passport number was 271. Kul Bahadur was probably one of the first people from Tyagal to travel outside Nepal.

GORKHA, NEPAL, 19 MARCH 1986 AD
PHOTO & TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY ASHOK ADHIKARI

Every time Father saw my long hair he’d say with disgust—”You look like an ape! Get a haircut!”

Mother would tease me about my narrow trousers. She’d say, “Do you want me to wash your leggings too?”

There is a photo of my parents in the old album. Father has long hair in it. One day, when he bugged me to cut my hair short, I showed him the photo in which he is wearing a pair of tight trousers just like mine. He laughed, and said, “You thug!” Details »

NEW ROAD, KATHMANDU, CIRCA 1970 AD
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SWETA BANIYA

A picture preserves life and the moments that have passed.

When I stumbled upon this photograph in my family album, I did not recognize the young man in it. “Who’s this?” I asked Fupu, Dad’s older sister. “Tero bau pani chindinas?” she replied. Don’t you recognize your own father?

In the 1970s, Bollywood – and my Dad – influenced the fashion sense of his hometown of Thankot. He is twenty years old in this picture, taken at the Royal Photo Studio in New Road. When I asked him about the photo, he said, “Rishi Kapoor dressed just like this in the movie Bobby.” He was fond of bunking college to watch movies.

My father was very particular about what he wore. He was always neat and clean, with ironed clothes, polished shoes, and long hair that covered his ears. In this photo, his shirt does not have a pocket: this is his own design. The bell-bottom pants covered rabbit skin shoes with two-inch heels. The Seiko wristwatch imported from Hong Kong cost around 850 rupees at the time, enough to buy a tola of gold.

Now, my Dad is a giant with a big belly who does not care about how he dresses. I imagine his youth must have been his sweetest dream.

GODAVARI, LALITPUR, 1976 AD
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY SNIGDHA BHATTA

My aunt Laxmi stares into the pond and my mother, Sandhya, stands guard behind her. They were very close, as can be guessed from this picture, taken in 1976 at Godavari Kunda. Godavari was a sanctuary for them – a place where the two sisters could be on their own and nobody would complain or nag them. They lived in Gabahal and it would take them an hour to get there but the distance never stopped them.

My aunt always spent her weekends at Godavari. My mother tagged along and tried to soothe her. Their alcoholic father caused so much chaos in the family that they were having serious financial problems. My mother remembers how sad they were the day this picture was taken.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” my aunt would always say. She would spend hours in silence, contemplating her reflection in the pond. She enjoyed watching the fish swim about freely, and envied them. The fish would dive and dart around and my aunt could do nothing but stare at them, sometimes crying uncontrollably. She felt chained. She must have felt like she was drowning in waves of self-pity. Her sombre expression hints at just how melancholic she was, just how desperately she sought freedom and independence.

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY SANDHYA SHAH

TRIVANDRUM MEDICAL COLLEGE, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERELA, INDIA, CIRCA 1960
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY RABI THAPA

Observe the scene. Trivandrum Medical College, circa 1960. A Nepali student, barely out of his teens, swots by the light of a table lamp. He is apparently oblivious to the photographer. It’s a picture of academic diligence, worthy of a Colombo Plan student from Biratnagar.

Think again. The camera is on a tripod, the lighting deliberately calibrated, and Narayan Bahadur Thapa, my father, is more into his new hobby than the heavy medical tome he is pretending to explore. He is happy to disillusion me. “That’s not a bad photograph, is it?” he says proudly. “Difficult to get right, too.”

My father still takes photos, albeit now with a digital camera, and discourages us from mucking around with the old models that clutter up a cupboard at home. Perhaps he senses the transient nature of our interest. Back then, he took any opportunity to take photos. Those he framed in misty hill stations like Ooty, he even sent in for competitions. He never won, but for the albums of our childhood, we are grateful he kept at it.

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY RABI THAPA

ST. MARY’S HIGH SCHOOL, LALITPUR, 1962 AD
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY RABI THAPA

For my mother, the excitement of living in Nayabazaar with 10 siblings was followed by the more sober charms of boarding at St. Mary’s High School, Lalitpur. As the brightest and oldest daughter, Jana Rayamajhi was the only one to enjoy the privilege. This picture shows the 13-year-old Jana in Class 9, posing with her own mother, Tirtha Kumari Rayamajhi, and Mother Benedicta, an Anglo-Indian. She sometimes slipped at home, coming out with “Mother…” in English, but my grandmother was not easily ruffled. “I’m your Ama here,” she’d laugh, “and she’s your mother there.”

Others were not so accustomed to the nuns. To my mother’s chagrin, the family tailor sent to the school for measurements for Dasain clothes kept on calling them “Fatherni”. And one day, when a servant came to deliver lunch for my day-scholar aunts, he caught sight of two approaching nuns in their full-length black winter habits. He ran to my aunts, and tried to drag them away – he’d thought they were ghosts!

BIRGUNJ, NEPAL, 1966 AD
PHOTO AND TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY RISHI AMATYA

Each member of the graduating class of 1966 from Thakur Ram Campus, Birgunj, received a copy of this photo. Of the nine new graduates, one refused to have it framed and hung on the wall of her house.

Vidya Pradhan, the only female graduate, simply walked back with the photo tucked away in her bag. “We were one of the first to graduate and we were very proud of that fact,” she says. “Everybody was very excited, they were talking about the photo during the graduation ceremony. Most of my friends said they would frame it and preserve it.”

But Vidya only wanted to keep the photo somewhere she would not be reminded of her struggle to become a graduate. “My father was not totally against education but preferred us to stay close to home,” she says. “He wanted us closer to the walls of our house. We had to struggle a lot to break through that wall.”

“The last thing I wanted to do was to hang my graduation photo on it.”

MARSHYANGDI, BENITAR, 1970 AD
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY GOVINDA ADHIKARI
TEXT CONTRIBUTED BY PRAWIN ADHIKARI

The bridge on Prithvi Highway that crosses Trishuli just after it merges with Marshyangdi makes much of Pokhara’s contemporary commerce viable. In this hand-coloured photo, my father, Govinda Adhikari—red shirt, topi—crouches on a raft that was the most modern form of cross-river traffic when the track-road for the Prithvi Highway was being opened through Khaireni.

This photo was also taken using a tripod, likely set at the far end of the raft. The man in blue is important in the history of my birthplace, Abu Khaireni—for nearly twelve years, Purna Basnet was a contractor with the highway, supervising the blasting of massive granite cliffs between Muglin and Khaireni, and opening up the track-road. He came from eastern Nepal, and lived in my maternal grandparents’ home. Thousands of vehicles daily use the road he helped build, but this might be the first time he is being recognized in a public space.

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY GOVINDA ADHIKARI