What is Nepali-ness? How did it all come together in our precious little valley, a stage that has seen so much, through which so many have passed, acting out their parts before fading gently into the background to make way for the new, leaving behind their imprints and wrinkles to the throbbing Nepali-ness. What drove one of us to carve out the creamy textures in the thighs arms shoulders of Budhanilkantha’s Jalasayan Narayan floating ethereal above the cosmos, almost fourteen hundred years ago?  Much later, why did the Malla kings nurture art with such manic, sustained fervor, supporting the Newa artisans as they created paintings, carvings and buildings of impossible beauty? After the stage turned, what led us to rise up en masse against tyrannical rule of the otherwise venerated Shah monarchy for the first time ever…in 1842 CE? What raced through Jang Bahadur’s busy head three years later as he galloped home, having shot dead his maternal uncle at our King’s command? Did he decide to night at a friend’s house to avoid his mother’s gaze?

What are our prejudices vices dreams? Has the lot of Everyman improved in the successive mirage of dynasties, massacres, revolutions and strongmen that dance before us, pretending to be real? What is that dank sweetmusty smell of our tole corner, hidden from sun, infused with mashed flavors of rain sewage incense oil chiura cow dung aila and wet smoke?

Why does our sarangi weep so?

Can all of this be captured in words?

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[Frontispiece: Excerpt from a letter by Jung Bahadur to his brother, acting Prime Minister Bam Bahadur, written during Jang Bahadur’s visit to Europe in 1850. Translated here from the Nepali original published in Jang-Gita by Kamal Dixit.]

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