Fourteen year olds Dil Shova Sthapit (left) and Shanti Baidya (right) are holding hands in this picture taken when they went to get ID pictures made for the grade eight District Level Examinations. With her Sadhana-cut hairdo, purple dress, fashionable 90 rupees pointy-shoes bought after a fight with her father, and the Indian watch gifted by her Uncle, Sthapit poses for the photograph with her best friend Baidya. This pair was highly influenced by movies like Do Kaliyaan, Gauri and Milan. Before they took the picture, Shanti said to Dil Shova – whom her friends also called Mala Sinha – that they should hold hands as a symbol of their friendship, mimicking the films they loved. “We will never be apart”, Baidya said as they took the photo. Today, Sthapit says, their friendship is as strong as it was years ago.


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.


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.


Renu Tuladhar (left), with childhood friends Sarojani Malla (center), and Madhuri Singh (right), in a photo taken at Muni’s Art Studio in Chikamugal. When asked about their short dresses, Tuladhar recalls that there was no objection from the parents. She had very fashionable cousins who designed dresses after watching Hindi movies. Malla is wearing pointed shoes, which were very popular then and cost around 90 rupees. “We didn’t wear kurta suruwal much those days, but dresses like this and after enrolling in the college only, I started wearing sari, which was a matter of pride then,” Tuladhar chuckled.


This picture from Renu Tuladhar’s collection shows Meera Shrestha, whom Tuladhar met in 1978, during tuition classes at Padma Kanya Campus. Although the two didn’t interact much, Tuladhar remembers Shrestha as being very beautiful, just like an Indian movie actress. “She was a very stylish girl, but was married at a young age,” Tuladhar says. This picture was taken at the Central Zoo. Tuladhar found this picture extremely beautiful and she asked Shrestha for it, to add to her collection of photos of her friends.


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.


Sandhya Shah’s grandmother (seated), aunt Parvati (right), Parvati’s daughter-in-law (left), and Parvati’s grandson. This photo was taken at the Gadimai fair in Rautahat, which takes place every five years. Shah says that she must have been about seven or eight at the time. Shah’s aunt Parvati and her daughter-in-law had a very close relationship. As the wife of Parvati’s eldest son, who had finally given birth to a child, Parvati cherished her daughter-in-law. Parvati and her mother, on the other hand, did not see each other that often. Once a daughter had married and gone to the husband’s house, it was not customary for her to go back to her parents’ house often. If she did return, she was expected to stay for a longish period. When she left for her husband’s home again, she was showered with gifts.


Sunhera Sthapit, (right), married at age nineteen, in 1972 AD. This picture was taken during the third day of parties after her wedding, around the time of the wonjala procession. “I was very shy that day. I did what I was told to do. I don’t remember who took this photograph,” says Sunhera. Most likely captured by a photographer hired for the job, the picture was taken at Kathmandu’s Bijeshwori temple. The woman on the left is Sthapit’s mother-in-law. By tradition, she too was dressed as a bride to welcome her new daughter-in-law into her home. Both women are wearing similar lu swa head-pieces considered essential in Newar weddings. “I don’t have any photos of my youth except this. I didn’t go to studios to take photographs like others did,” Sthapit recounts.