Dil Shova Sthapit’s memory of her marriage at age sixteen is less than joyous. After weeks of refusing to get married, one night she was hurriedly awoken and rushed to the wedding platform. In this picture, she is twenty. In the photo, from the left, are her sister, mother, Dil Shova’s son, Dil Shova, and her younger brother. The photographer’s identity remains a mystery. “Maybe our uncle had a camera,” she muses. Sthapit is wearing a sari from the ‘supari diney’ ceremony of her marriage. She is carrying a navy blue bag brought from India by her mother-in-law. “I bought this special dress for my sister at Nepal Singh Stores – now Peanuts in New Road! – an Indian satin sari for my mother, and the brown pants and checked shirt for my brother,” she remembers. Sthapit was invited to her parents’ home for the dewali puja or the kul puja, an ancestor worshipping ceremony that takes place every two or three years, but to which a married daughter is only invited once. This is one of the last photos of the family taken during the ceremony: for various reasons, the puja hasn’t been held since.


This is a picture of my mother, with her two best friends at Tatopani taken in the year 2027 B.S. 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. Aama tells me that there was a trend of wearing Shiffon saris in college, so Aama and her friends decided to wear saris for the picnic. They saved a total of Rs 500 from their pocket money to buy those saris, especially for the picnic. Being very shy, Aama and her two friends would run away from cameras. One of her friends, Ajay, who used to tease them by calling them “The Three Jalparis” planned to take their photos by strategically placing the river in the background so that their nickname would have life. Aama once told me that Tatopani is such a divine spring, that it has the power to get rid of physical deformities and provide loads of energy. Whenever she shows me this photo, she says, “Chori I feel 17 again”. Hearing her nostalgic words, in some corner of my heart, I feel her pain of not being able to enjoy her youth now, because she can’t go back to that moment. So when Aama sees this photo, she remembers her youth but when I see this photo I recall the slogan that my Nepali teacher, Miss Ambika, used a lot in class, “Maukaa aucha parkhidaina bageko khola farkidaina.” Years later, I would read the line, “we can’t step twice in the same river,” in Sophie’s World. And I guess that’s what happens in everyone’s life. Aama realizes this fact today that: she can’t be 17 again and neither can she go back to the same Tatopani because the waters she washed in have long flowed elsewhere.


Sandhya’s younger sister on a five-day pilgrimage to the Vaidhyanath Temple, one of the twelve sacred dwellings of Shiva, located in Jharkhand. Photographers on cars and motorbikes would follow pilgrims and occasionally stop with this cardboard cutout of Shiva and Parvati and offer to take a picture. She is wearing a lungi sarong over a salwar. She is holding two containers of water which she intends to carry all the way to the temple. Shah was married by then, and therefore did not go with her siblings on this pilgrimage, but she has made five pilgrimages to the temple so far.


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.


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 these picnics were one of the few ways in which groups of the more privileged people from Kathmandu could socialize beyond festivals, it was very rare that women went on picnics on their own or with their friends. In fact, Shrestha remembers fondly some picnics that he went on with his friend Kedar. But, he notes, it was not customary for the women around him to go on picnics.