Karuna Sthapit(right), and Kalpana Tamrakar(left), on the last day of the Suryadarshan rites in which Newar girls marry the Sun God. Cousin Bindira Rajkarnikar(center)  acted as the Baarapaasa, accompanying the girlsthrough the twelve day ceremony. In this photo taken in Bhotebahal, circs 1975 AD, Sthapit and Tamrakar wear similar dresses bought for the rites.


This is a photograph of my aunt Lalita Raj Gurung (third from right) – now married and named Laila Sanhulla – with her Senior Cambridge classmates. The photo was taken during a Loreto Convent social in Darjeeling, circa 1961. The girls are standing on stage to perform a song for their friends. Lalita bari – as I call my aunt – is wearing the traditional Nepali phariya cholo with the mujethro shawl hand tailored in silk and crepe, as her friends wear saris or western outfits. My grandmother, herself educated by missionary nuns, encouraged her daughters to take pride in wearing their traditional Nepali attire, despite educating them in English speaking convent schools. At the time it was considered prestigious to follow the English language and culture. My aunt later went on to marry my Uncle who is Malaysian, and now lives with him and their two children in Malaysia. She says it saddens her that she is not in touch with a single one of her friends from this photograph.


This picture was taken in the late 1970s, in Singapore, where Bhimi Gurung (right) was the wife of a Gurkha policeman, R. B. Gurung. They had just moved to the small two-bedroom apartment seen here. The TV was a prized possession: Bhimi and RB’s daughter, Muna, remembers many photos with people posing next to this same television set. The photographer was someone else from the Gurkha community, a man who had his own camera, and was frequently invited from one home to another to capture the lives of other Nepalis. Bhimi’s and Aunty’s (left) matching outfits tell the story of their friendship, and the trend at the time for friends to dress alike. If one woman had a particular outfit or item of jewelry, her friends would try to get the same. Just before this photo was taken, R. B. had won a lottery. The prize wasn’t huge – somewhere between a few hundred and a thousand Singapore dollars – but at the time, it was a significant enough for R. B. to stay awake all night with the excitement of winning. Bhimi had always wanted a necklace like the one her friend had, so from his newly won riches, R. B. bought her this gift.


This is among the very few photographs of my mother’s friends, all of whom were married off young into villages at least half a day away, if not half a few days’ walk removed from their parental village, and the support of their friends. The Nepali woman’s lot was to be cut off from everything familiar at a young age, to be sent to slave away in households where they were often no more than chattel to work the fields. More than family, friends were lost: this severance must have added to the loneliness and despair of a young woman reduced to mere property, bereft of voice. At least, the joys of unexpected and rare reunions like this rekindled old friendship, and allowed daughters and sisters and wives to exist outside the parameters so strictly drawn by a patriarchal system.


A shopkeeper from Gorkha Bazaar who was traveling to Kuringhat, Ghanashyam was Adhikari’s friend and photography guru. Adhikari had joined him with his Yashica A camera to promote his own roaming photo studio. The girl was from Kuringhat Bazaar. Ghanshyam and Adhikari were just having fun, teasing Gurung women. Adhikari says he doesn’t know where the girl is now.


Although he visited the house in Jhonchhen often, Shrestha says that he was never very close with the girls, at least not as close as he was with Kedar: it would not have been appropriate. Still, they let him photograph them, and so the memory of the visits remains.