This morning, a 7.3 temblor rattled the already-ravaged nation of Nepal. More buildings have crumbled; more lives have been lost in the rubble and fall.
The initial quake that shuddered down temples and houses across the Kathmandu Valley and triggered avalanches and mudslides in the Himalayas jolted the world to attention. After a certain point, however, death counts and images of rubble lose meaning and become abstractions.
This is where writers come in. As writers, we believe that stories are the wormhole from one person’s experience to another’s, and that writing heeds its highest calling when it works to ignite empathy for what lies beyond one’s own experience. Thus, in what follows, we have gathered together writers who know Nepal–as home, as heritage, as adventure or holiday–to write the fractured country as it was, if glossy for memory, and as it is now, still quaking, at the onset of what will inevitably be a long suffering and a slow rebuilding.
We are grateful to all of the remarkable contributors featured below, and we encourage readers to add their responses in our comments section. At the bottom of this page you will find links to relief organizations operating in Nepal.
When no one was looking
I hurled my half an apple
into the street. You said,
Don’t eat the skin.
Below us, a crowd gathered
to play their new drum.
I was terrified. Why did you
bring me here to leave me
with more questions?
How do they make a flute
out of a dead boy’s femur?
What did the goddess say
when we sat before her,
knees touching? She laughed,
you didn’t translate.
Relatives from my family’s Tibetan refugee settlement in Pokhara used to mail me photographs after I moved away. One print, which I had long forgotten until just now, is of my late grandfather, Popo Datsing. He is in his seventies and his fourth decade of exile. Seated on the edge of a bed with a mound of white silk scarves draped around his thin shoulders, he is celebrating his birthday. Cousins surround him, holding small gifts wrapped in shiny cellophane, joyfully performing this foreign ritual of marking birthdays.
I learned about Popo’s death ten years ago by e-mail when I was at my college library in Vancouver. I walked into a washroom and cried a little, but quickly left the stall because I could hear a line growing outside. I walked to the bus and turned my body to face the window so I could be alone in my grief. But his death was far away, and I did not know how to feel that sorrow from that place.
In the last lecture of his life, Foucault said that the great public ritualization of death began to disappear in the late 18th century. He said that for many, death had become invisible, and that this process continues into present day.
But Foucault was speaking of the Western world.
In Nepal, death is visible. People still shroud their loved ones in red cloth and marigolds and carry them above their heads as they walk through the streets. They cry without shame or hesitation and play wailing music to fill the narrow alleys, bringing both strangers and street dogs out to join in their parade of grief. Bodies are burned along the Bagmati River in a steady stream of ash and smoke and prayer while errant teenagers play marbles and fortunetellers bring out their doves and decks of cards. Even the royal family turned to ash there by that river.
And standing on the gray banks, just as you grieve before a loved one’s cremation, just as you feel your pain as singular, you see a priest building another pyre nearby.
We have a list. We tick the items off slowly. We have yet to go to the movies. We have yet to whistle in the theatre when the hero and heroine kiss behind a tree trunk. We have yet to join in the lusty silence that follows the wind that suddenly blows through the heroine’s hair when she appears onscreen, the fluttering edges of her sari never knocking down a flower vase or a photo frame.
And what exactly will we see now on our ride to Godavari? Loose bricks and neon tarps? The last time we tried, it rained in the morning and we picked warm French toast and espresso over peddling in soaked clothes. That was the eighth item on our list. We wanted nature, we wanted exercise in our muscles, we wanted to get away from our city.
As for the sixth item, let’s board the green Sajha bus on the north side of the valley and ride all the way through Kathmandu to the southern tip. If cockroaches in the cracks of the seats were a distraction last year, this year, we will make sure to hold hands, wear cotton masks and smell the air. Because we have learnt by sight what the sharp edges of metal roofs blown and then bent in the debris can feel like; we can even gauge the wetness of a dark broken wooden pillar from our computer screens. But smells? That, even photographs and videos can’t teach.
We will follow six with seven and jump off that bus in Jawalakhel and go to the zoo. The last time we were there, we were children with separate families, eating peanuts and throwing pulled wisps of cotton candy at the hyenas– the pink fluffy sugar barely floating in the air before gently being impaled on the fence.
The third item on the list, we hear, is broken. That it is hollow, like a baobab tree.
Is it true what they say about Ghanta Ghar, the Hour House? That the structure still stands, but the hands on that clock face haven’t moved since 11:56AM. They continue to remind us of when the grounds turned liquid wavy, and the buildings and wire poles swayed as though on swings. But we have new times now, so we make new language: there is the same old year, month, hour, minute, and second, but finally we have before and after.
Right now, in the after, my list reminds me that here too is a quake, only 7,523 miles away from the epicenter. And these days, the events of the week align themselves in heartbreaking, corny ways. A teary-eyed student will hug me and tell me that she has donated and written prayers to Nepal, that she hopes it will help. Then, I will hold in my hands tickets to a Haitian writer speaking of violence from disasters and dictatorships as I try to find answers in the pauses between her words. Finally, on my way home, two men will sing Redemption Song on the subway platform, and as the train doors close, I will hear the words “‘cause all I ever have” fade away.
Walking to Varanasi
Winter fog hangs heavy in Nepal’s plains. In Youngest Uncle’s courtyard, my son, Amalesh, prepares for the final steps in his initiation. He slips on new clothing: a kameez, salwaar, embroidered slippers. One cousin brings him a colorful woven cap. Another drapes a garland of grass and tinsel around his neck. Amalesh poses for admiration and photos, opens a black umbrella, then begins his journey.
Neighbor women surround me.
“You must call him back,” they say in Nepali.
I gave birth to Amalesh in this village nineteen years earlier. For days since my return, women have been explaining this moment, how I must weep and beg my son to stay. He’ll insist he must go out into the world first, sever his close ties to me. Become a man.
“Call him back,” women say.
“Aau, chora,” I say, watching him stroll down the path between house and garden.
Symbolically, he’ll walk hundreds of miles across the plains of Nepal and India to that ancient center of learning on the Ganges River: Varanasi.
In reality, he’ll only walk to the gazebo and back.
Dressed in multi-colored saris and sarongs, women––both Hindu and Buddhist––jostle closer. Some grab my arms and shoulders.
“Louder. He can’t hear you.”
“Aau, chora,” I say with more volume.
“No! NO––.” An elderly Brahman man in a traditional tunic and vest steps out of the crowd. “You’ve got it wrong,” he says. “It’s not the mother who calls him. It’s his Guru-ba calling him back to study.”
Wagging his finger, he lectures us about the old days when Hindu boys went off to India to study because Nepal didn’t have centers of learning. But now Nepal has its own gurus and schools. Boys can study in Nepal with a designated guru-ba––teacher-father. “It has nothing to do with the mother,” the man says.
“It is the mother,” a woman says.
“Yes, it’s always the mother who calls him back,” another woman says. Others bobble their heads and murmur, “yes, yes, always the mother.”
“No, it’s his Guru-ba,” the man says. Other men cluster around him and repeat, “Yes, indeed.”
A group of women face off against the men.
“It’s the mother!”
“No, it’s the Guru-ba!”
I step away from the shouting to watch my son’s procession. Some women crowd around me again.
“Ignore the men. Call him back.”
“Aau, chora.” I can hardly hear my own voice amid all the noise.
Amalesh reaches the gazebo, turns to face the crowd, and stands for more photos. Calls for his return grow louder. Those who were arguing now try to outshout, rather than win over, their opponents.
“Come back, your mother misses you.”
“Come back, you can study with your Guru-ba here.”
“Aau, chora, aau,” I call softly again and again. But I can’t project my voice as far as others around me.
This is the place I learned to mother a boy. Now that boy has become a man. I stop trying to make myself heard and simply wait for his return.
“My Heart Can Not Stop Shaking”
Rattle open earth rattle brick
rattle lung house collapse rattle temple
collapse white dust gold statue collapse.
The mountains are ringing. Look
at me alive
do not complicate
my living with dying.
I construct listening paths, to hear
you stone home windows thrown
open like a breath,
like someone about to speak.
The earth shakes
The bricks collapse to hold your body closer
to the earth to make your mantle
death shelter shudder heavy temples
rearrange over you a moment the dust
moment bricks birds releasing the air inside the sky
the darkness punctured between bricks
your stone shower bower death shelter. I don’t know
how to write the air out my lungs collapsed village.
Orange petals caught in the back waters
The following section comes from the writers of Galli Salliharuma, a public writing initiative that maps Kathmandu with stories.
In the minibus that circuits Ringroad, I sat on the lap of a nice lady, who was feeding me grapes from the plastic bag in her hands. As she rubbed each one in her cotton sari, she asked “Where is your mamaghar?” I replied “Kathmandu.”
No, Kathmandu was not New Road. It was not across the Thapathali Bridge or the Balkhu Bridge. At least, not until I was much older.
Kathmandu was the wide lobby and the bright adjoining rooms on the top floor of a three-storied cement house in Kimdol, Swayambhu.
Misinterpretation of information follows me like a nagging mother. Even after four years of engineering school, I am in directional crisis. But when they taught us compass directions in secondary school, I was sure that if I stood in the lobby facing the wall framed by the tendrils of money plant around the sketch of the old woman my aunt had drawn hanging off-centre, southeast would be the stairs that led me to Kathmandu every Saturday.
South was the steps that took us to the kausi where the monkeys and sparrows have witnessed countless haircuts, and where I had to be coaxed into stillness with bribes of dahi-chuira.
Southwest was my grandmother’s complaints of counter-tops in the kitchen.
West was the marbled toilet with the shower that was way better than the one in Lalitpur.
Northwest smelled like my grandfather’s khukuri churot, aila, boiling saresh*, and the treats of Thin Arrowroot biscuits he bought for me piled one on top of the other.
North was filled with hand-me-downs: my auntie’s silk skirt tied with a ribbon a little higher than my waist, heavy engineering books, white windows and a bottle of aila with a broad red cap that served as a shot glass for nightcaps.
Northeast was the plush, deep red sofas in a room that didn’t have enough light in it for me to recollect anything else.
East was inheritance, a garble of heavy metal music from my mama’s stereo, more engineering books and my cousin’s baby pictures that I could have easily mistaken for my own, photographs that someone kept for safe-keeping and forgot. But no, they are of a child, who, in the midst of family feuds, has grown out of my likeness and grown away from me. My memories of her are like the room in the north-east, estranged and isolated in this cluster of bright rooms my mother helped build. My family’s drama could rival the plots of Hindi serials that my mother half-watches, while her eyelids droop to zoom-ins and zoom-outs on faces with too much make up. When I catch her dozing off, she tells me she is still watching: the story is getting interesting. She finds semblance with her own stories. Like the silence between her siblings could be accompanied by dramatic music. Like my memories of the little girl will become bright as well.
Three years ago, southeast was how I got to Kathmandu for the last time. My mother was visiting my grandfather on Father’s Day. For almost a decade, my visits back to this house had become pilgrimages, a yearly ritual like Dashain and Tihar. Between my father’s aversion to everything religious and the absence of an older generation in my family, I have not celebrated Dashains and Tihars for quite some time now. When I reached Kathmandu that Father’s day, I saw that the lobby had lost the sketch of the old woman. With it, I lost my sense of direction, too.
Now, I hear, Kathmandu has moved to Dhungedhara.
*Saresh is a solid brown chip that is melted and used as base for paint.
Letter to the Absent
Have I told you that I thought of you atop the Eiffel Tower? I missed the familiarity I witnessed from the circular balcony on your eighth floor. Even high above the ground there was a sense of intimacy, some kind of ownership. Your tiny balcony with more people than its frames could handle offered a view of my city, my home and everything I had ever come to know. “Mine,” I whispered to the wind and the city had honked back in approval.
I couldn’t converse with that kind of ease and confidence with the cold Parisian wind. It made me smile though, thinking of the time a few non-Nepali friends had made fun of you for being the tallest building in the capital. I smiled for the anger I had tried to suppress then and the silence that had followed. From that day onwards you became my compass to navigate the city and its tiny alleys. I often referred to you as a phallic symbol around which this concrete jungle revolved. You stood out; you stood tall and gave this dust bowl of a Valley an identity and sense of direction.
Since late last year we began sharing moments each time I walked passed you during my daily commute. I would look up at you and you pretended not to notice me. But you often gave signals of acknowledgement through mouthwatering smells of sekuwa and sweet tea, and cobblers that lined your outer ring. My favorite was when you played peekaboo using Sahid Gate for a shield as the sun set behind you. The sight of you glowing in the fading sunlight always took my breath away.
On the 25 of April, you bowed down to the shake under your feet. The tremor brought down the 213 steps that had once taken me to the top a decade ago on a rainy afternoon. I felt you sway that day but still can’t piece together the Saturday morning that broke you in two places. Your fall was the first I heard of and at that moment realized that my city would never be the same again. My dearest dear, tears haven’t stopped flowing ever since then.
Yesterday, I stretched my neck with a hope that you would still be standing tall and all this was a nightmare. Empty space greeted me and at night I imagined creating a hologram of you as I lay in bed.
I wonder how Sahid Gate handles your absence because I surely don’t know how to.
We left the house at 10. Kaka wanted to take pictures of Indra Jatra and Basantapur and he asked me to tag along. I immediately said yes, because I always liked the idea of walking the streets of Kathmandu at night. And it’s Basantapur we were talking about: the Durbar Square area of the city filled with tall temples with wooden carved struts and big platform-like stairs, old ancient houses with tiled roofs and intricately detailed wooden windows, and a palace, a blend of two to three different architectural eras. Basantapur, that night, was dazzling in light like a Bihe Ghar, where a wedding is set to take place. When we got to Maju Degal, the tallest temple in the square, we climbed up the staircase and took a spot in the corner of the falcha. If you visit this place during the day, it is filled with young people hanging out with their friends and lovers; a favorite place for many because while you can see the whole square from that height, those on the ground cannot really identify you. Kaka took out his camera and started fixing settings. I sat on the stone and clay floor of the falcha, staring out onto the square. Although it was late at night, because of the Indra Jatra festival, the crowd still moved about in the place. Some were busy preparing the stage for the Das Avatar dance show on the raised platform of the dabu near Kumari Chhen. Some others were busy taking pictures of the square all lit up for the night. Kaka was trying to teach me how to create a special light effect by adjusting exposure and shutter speed but I was busy being mesmerized by the view in front of me: Gaddi Bhaitak, the white Rana era building of the Hanumandhoka palace, now used as an observation deck for the Jatra, a balcony only for the Head of State. I thought to myself, I will learn these camera tricks next year.
Little did I know that there would be no next year, as the Maju Degal along with other temples in the area would be turned to dust on April 25, 2015.
Before I came to study in Nepal, I’d heard a Tibetan Rimpoche in India reminisce how the fog in Kathmandu was like yogurt.
“Everyone has Shangri-la fantasies,” countered the Buddhist general. “That’s silly.”
I looked away, guilty as charged.
In Kathmandu, I looked for yogurt in the fog, for the lotus in the golden stupa. But I was distracted by what skittish awareness I did have. By dank hashish. By a pair of post-coital dogs, still stuck together. By Cat Stevens songs playing in the tourist shops in Tamel. By a bandaged child asking if I’d buy him powdered milk, and then another bandaged child, and then another. By the marching Maoists. By marigolds and banyans. By tea and more tea.
“Living without bodily awareness is like a cow crossing the street,” said the old monk on what we his students assumed was a tangent. “The other animals see the car coming and retreat, but a cow just keeps lumbering ahead without noticing.”
I understood that he was referring to aimless Americans like us, dumb with privilege, grazing on trash and lilies alike.
Later that day I nearly stepped on a gray snake that lay stretched out on the back stairs from Swayambhunath. The next week I turned an ankle and went down hard, right in the street.
I hobbled onto a bus to Pokhara, boarded the ten-seater prop plane that pitched in the wind off the Annapurna ridges, and finally skidded to a stop in the blue shadow of Nilgiri. I would have sworn off small planes in mountain ranges right then, if it weren’t a six-day walk to a real road and I was still out that ankle. Instead I put two feet on the ground, sucked in thin air, waited for my stomach to still, and wished for a reprieve from bodily awareness.
A reprieve is what I got.
That first December of the new millennium, Jomsom was a two-tractor town. Coca-Cola and Marlboro cigarettes came by yak train. Rowdy young men raced through town on souped-up Himalayan ponies. The Mustang District was one of the “lost” kingdoms of Tibet, but Jomsom wasn’t any more or less pure or authentic than any other place. Life was joy and struggle. My hostess doted on her chub-legged Babu and scrubbed pots until her hands were raw. The two ten-year-old kitchen girls, who had left their homes to cook and clean in exchange for the chance to go to school, giggled whenever I tried out the Nepali words they’d taught me.
I was sick and sore and out of breath, but I filled pages of my journal trying to describe my happiness.
Those weeks in Mustang were, of course, the still golden morning before the searing afternoon winds roared down off the mountains. Within the next year Nepal’s royal family would bleed out on the palace floor, I would fly to New York and see two spires of smoke rising, Nepal’s Maoists would be named a terrorist organization, I would move to a small country still in earthquake aftershock and learn to feel the earth move under me, and Nepal’s mechanism of civil war would shift from sabotage to violence.
Shangri-la may be a fantasy, geographically speaking. But I like to think it is a state of proto-being wherein we live until we are shaken awake, into bodies, into awareness, and the kingdom is lost.
A Shower at Base Camp
In the spring of 2010 I was invited to cover a Mount Everest expedition. Although I lacked the mountaineering skills and obsessive desire to climb sacred Chomolungma, I was obsessed by the inner workings of the surreal, Skittle-colored pop-up city perched on rock and ice.
Over my month-long stay at Base Camp, I lived in a tent next door to the Ice Doctors, a team of Sherpas who woke at 4 a.m. and played Buddhist chants on their boom box to gather strength and focus before setting out to fix ropes and ladders up the ever-shifting Khumbu icefall. After waking to the wafting music, I would eat a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and, sometimes, Fudgee-O cookies, in the dining tent, then explore camp, interviewing Sherpas, climbers, expedition leaders, and Everest ER doctors. In the afternoon I would monitor radio communication from the mountain, write dispatches, and save enough daylight to hike down-valley to find solace from the drama stirred up by Base Camp politics and fickle weather. More than the life-or-death scenarios playing out up high, I was fascinated by the grit and muscle required just to keep Base Camp humming.
One mystery I wanted to unravel during my stay was how the hot water arrived—as if by some miracle—in the rubberized 30-liter container in the camp shower. So after a grungy eight-day trek from Lukla to Base Camp and going on my second week living in a tent—high time for my first rinse—I made a deal with Chuldim Dorje Sherpa, the camp’s 38-year-old “cook boy.” If he showed me how and where he got the water, I would haul it back to camp myself.
Chuldim grabbed an empty plastic water canister and we walked over loose scree and boulders to an ice-covered glacial lake, about 30-feet in diameter. I lobbed a huge rock into the center to break the ice and Chuldim filled the canister. When he finished, he broke his promise and wouldn’t allow me to haul it back to camp. Instead, he sat down on a rock, strapped the tumpline around his forehead, and, using massive quad strength, stood up and started hauling the 75-pound jug over the boulders. This was at least his fifth water-hauling trip of the day.
Back at camp Chuldim brought the water to the kitchen, where our cook, Deli Raj, heated the water with kerosene, also hauled to Base Camp on the back of a porter. When the water was piping hot, Chuldim poured it into a rubber bag and dragged it down a rocky ledge to the “Shower,” a flagstone floor surrounded by a blue nylon tent built, of course, by the Sherpas.
Stripping off my many high-tech layers, I was left with only the brittle thin air and the certainty that humans don’t belong at 17,500 feet. The deluge of hot water lasted 15 heavenly minutes. But the pleasure melted away when I thought about Chuldim’s work and the resources required to create it. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, as they say, but I decided that a little down-to-earth dirt and sweat for the duration of my stay would feel even better.
From Far Away
On Saturday, April 25, I woke up to the news that, while I had been sleeping, safe and sound in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake had struck my home country of Nepal. Terrified for my family, I called and called, until finally my brother answered and said they were all safe. The next day, I tried to call again, but there was no phone and no electricity in Kathmandu. On the third day after the first quake, I saw on Facebook that my grandmother, who is 90 years old, was sleeping in a tent on the street.
Normally my grandma lives outside of Kathmandu in a serene ancestral village home. Lots of her time is spent discussing the whereabouts of her relatives and talking to my mother who sits on the porch. Recently she went to stay in her middle daughter’s house in Kathmandu while she underwent treatment for a back problem. She was just beginning to improve when the earthquake happened.
When I was finally able to reach my grandmother, she told me, “I have never experienced such a big earthquake. When it came, there was a huge noise. I had to hold onto the bed and your aunt came, held me, took me outside. There was so much noise. Just before my own eyes, houses were crumbling. When I came outside, it was as if I was somewhere else. Once, when I was sleeping in the tent outside, the wind brought so much rain that everything became wet. I will never forget this in my life. What do I have to see in this old age? On one hand, I cannot even walk and I had to run. I came here for treatment but I became even more frail. I had to sleep outside in a tent. On all sides, there was chaos.”
So far away, I miss my parents and my family. I grieve for all that has been lost, the lives and the old monuments. I grieve because Nepal has changed from a steady, peaceful land to a traumatized place, and the aftershocks keep coming. One part of me thinks that, if I were in Nepal, I could give my family moral support and at least be there with them. Another part of me is glad that I am safe.
I wish that the earthquake was what it feels like from far away—a very bad dream.
A Call for Unbuilding
Smriti Jaiswal Ravindra
We build tall boundary walls iced with broken glass to keep the thief away. There are spikes on our gates, sharp as arrows, so nobody slices our throat while we sleep. Our houses are heavy bricks and stones. If we want to hang a picture in the living room, we need at least a heavy iron hammer if not an electric drill to push the nail in. We fear our fellow human more than we fear the storm, the earthquake, the flood, the landslide.
We build also for pride. The king wants to leave behind forts and castles as his mark. The father wants to leave his children a home that he hopes will protect them when he is no longer around. We want to last through our structures, to achieve through sand, cement and iron a framework for immortality. But structures grow old, and like doomed regencies, what was solid and strong become hollow and frail, waiting to fall.
If we want to build for longevity instead of legacy, for life instead of death, we must restructure our fears and our desires. We must build societies that are safe so we can live without boundaries and build without rocks. We must celebrate transience over eternity and be happy being ephemeral beings who, like flashes of light, exist briefly but beautifully. But more than anything, we must accept and respect nature more than we fear each other. Our houses must be made flexible and permeable, that, like leaves and shoots of bamboo, bow to the forces of nature.
Cover photo by Isan Brant.
Find more ways to support the relief effort here.
About the Artists
Niraja Adhikari was born and raised in Nepal. She earned a BA in India and an MA in sociology in Nepal, where she worked as a journalist and conducted field research in sociology. She moved to the U.S. in 2005 and has just graduated with a new degree in Early Childhood Development and Learning.
Molly Beer is an essayist and a regular contributor to Vela. She studied in Nepal with the School for International Training. More at www.mollybeer.net.
Isan Brant is a visual artist living and working in the mountains of the American West and Nepal. She is a student of master painter Lok Chitrakar in Kathmandu.
Cedar Brant is a botanist and poet. She spent three winters living and traveling in Kathmandu and the remote mountain regions of Nepal with her sister, Isan Brant. She is the author of Like Any Other Dream Will Do (FootHills Publishing), and her poems have appeared in Whitefish Review, Camas, the anthology Poems Across the Big Sky (Many Voices Press), and elsewhere. She lives in Fort Collins, CO, where she studies poetry at Colorado State University, and works as the managing editor for Colorado Review.
Nasala Chitrakar is almost an engineer and is working with the Word Warriors, a Kathmandu-based spoken word group, until she can decide what she wants to do with her life (at least that is what she tells her parents). She is obsessed with words, wool, and walking.
Elizabeth Enslin is the author of While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal (Seal Press 2014). She earned her Ph.D in cultural anthropology from Stanford University in 1990 and has published literary nonfiction in The Gettysburg Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Raven Chronicles, Opium Magazine, and other journals. Recognition includes an Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the Oregon Arts Commission and an Honorable Mention for the Pushcart Prize. Currently working on a sequel to her first book, she lives in a straw bale house and raises garlic, pigs and yaks on a farm in Wallowa County, Oregon. Visit her website at www.elizabethenslin.com.
Eliza Griswold is a poet and author of I am the Beggar of the World: Landaus from Contemporary Afghanistan, a collection of reportage and translations of Afghan folk poetry. She has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard University, and the New America Foundation, and her poetry and reportage have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among many others. In 2005 she reported “It’s not easy here in Katmandu: Caught between the Maoist rebels and the king’s army” for Harper’s Magazine. More at www.elizagriswold.com.
Muna Gurung directs a high school writing center in NYC. Her fiction and translated works have appeared in Words Without Borders, HimalSouthasian, and La.Lit. She received her MFA from Columbia University, where she was a teaching fellow. Muna started KathaSatha, an effort that fosters a public writing and storytelling culture. Galli Salliharuma is a KathaSatha initiative. She is currently a Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers Workshop.
Smriti Jaisal Ravindra is a Nepali writer currently living and working in Mumbai.
Tsering Lama is a Tibetan writer born in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is a recipient of grants and residencies from the Lillian E. Smith Center, Wildacres, the Canada Council for the Arts, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and Columbia University. Her work has been published in the Malahat Review, Grain Magazine, Brave New Play Rites Anthology, Himal SouthAsian and La.Lit. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia and is currently at work on her first novel.
Stephanie Pearson is a freelance writer and contributing editor to Outside magazine. After earning her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she served on Outside’s editorial staff for 12 years. Pearson has also logged many hours in the field, including an expedition to Mount Everest Base Camp. Pearson’s stories have been anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing and have also appeared in National Geographic Traveler; Wired; O, The Oprah Magazine; Men’s Journal; Lonely Planet books, and others.
Shuvechchhya Pradhan likes to call herself a dreamer and a wanderer at heart. She loves to write, travel, tell stories, and confuse people.
Shitu Rajbhandari is trying to write herself home despite the realization that there is no longer such place as home. She stands on a bridge that connects two worlds and is relearning her own culture through analyzing other cultures that she comes across. She is a Fulbright Scholar who received her MFA from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 2014.
Thank you to all of the writers who participated in this project, to those whose work appears above and also to many who were not able to write on such short notice but did share ideas and help make connections. Extra gratitude goes to Muna Gurung who coordinated the Galli Salliharuma segment and understood what this project was all about before there was anything on paper.