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The Hikers Bringing Contraception to Remote Villages in Nepal

Outside Magazine

(This piece was an Editor's pick at Longreads.com)

One morning last winter in a village in Baitadi, a district in far-west Nepal, Kabita Bhandari sat down with a group of women to dispel local rumors about long-term contraceptives. Bhandari is 22 years old, an auxiliary nurse, a mother of a two-year-old girl, and an employee at the reproductive-health agency Marie Stopes International. Earlier that day, she had arrived in Siddhapur from Patan, the capital of Baitadi, which, like the rest of this midhills region of Nepal, has few roads and is notoriously difficult to supply with modern services. As one of its six visiting service providers (VSPs), Bhandari completes a two-week circuit across the district every month, navigating steep, treacherous trails to administer long-term contraceptives to women in far-flung villages. This was her first stop.

(Photo: UNFPA Nepal/Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi)


Why Nepal Once Led the World in Electric Buses

CityLab/The Atlantic

If you take public transport in Kathmandu, you have three options. There are buses and microbuses, different only in size. During rush hour in Nepal’s capital, both are often crammed to almost twice their stated capacity and on the prowl for more passengers. Both feature gruff conductors who hang off the vehicles like they’re heeling sailboats, crying out a string of bus stops so fast the names blur into each other. As the buses slow down, the conductors slide open their doors and hustle people inside, in scenes reminiscent of drive-by kidnappings.

The third option, Safa Tempos (literally, “clean three-wheelers”), stand apart from the fray. They lack conductors, for one, and many are driven by women, an otherwise uncommon sight. They look like large, white tin boxes, with benches to seat 12 people and an open entrance at the back. And they’re battery-powered.

(Photo: Niranjan Shrestha/AP)


Burning Resentment 

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The Caravan Magazine

“We’ve worked here so fucking long, they should give us an award, send us off with flowers and five or seven lakhs,” Gyan Bahadur Acharya told me one morning last January. We were inside the premises of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, and Acharya, a slight, scowling man, was sitting cross-legged near the steps of the Bhasmeshwor ghat. On a row of raised stone platforms in front of us, bodies burned on wooden funeral pyres. Tending to them were cremators in white dhotis, many of them Acharya’s protégés. One lobbed packets of vegetable oil into a fire, followed by bundles of straw; another, using a long bamboo pole, gently reversed the course of a blackened foot that had drifted from the rest of the body.

(Photo: Narayan Maharjan/Getty)


Storeyed Past

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The Caravan Magazine

ON A SUNDAY MORNING LAST OCTOBER, in a cramped office overlooking Kathmandu Durbar Square—an iconic plaza surrounding Nepal’s old royal palace—a small group of volunteers was frantically preparing for a public exhibition to be held that afternoon. The subject of the event was the reconstruction of Kasthamandap, a giant pagoda-like building that gave Kathmandu its name, and which, for more than a thousand years—until it collapsed in an earthquake in 2015—had been a public fixture, sheltering ascetics, weary traders, and on occasion, men exiled from their homes for the night by their irate wives. The office had the chaotic air of a crafts fair. People rushed around wielding scissors, stepping over paper scraps, glue-bottle caps and chunks of styrofoam. At one end, nine volunteers pieced together a 3D paper-model of the plaza outside. 

(Photo: Narendra Shrestha/EPA)


In post-quake rebuilding, Kathmandu's carvers reclaim a fading heritage

CS Monitor

(This piece won the 2018 "Outstanding Arts & Culture Reporting on South Asia" award from SAJA – the South Asian Journalists Association)

PATAN, NEPAL — In a workshop inside the courtyard of a 17th century palace, Tirtha Ram Shilpakar is surrounded by the guts of ancient temples. The floor around him is crowded with carved wooden beams, ashy with age. The walls are lined with pillars and detached windows. A few steps off lies an 11-ft.-wide doorway, dissected on the floor.

Tirtha Ram sits hunched in a corner, one leg curled over a giant beam. Amid the scream of power saws and the blare of '80s Bollywood hits, he carves into the beam, hammer and chisel in hand, copying a floral pattern from a sketch beside him.

(Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)


In Nepal, 'appalling' river runs cleaner in wake of unusual partnership

CS Monitor

KATHMANDU, NEPAL — On an April morning last year, more than 100,000 people congregated on the banks of the Bagmati, the largest river flowing through this city.

As news helicopters whirred overhead, people lined up along the length of the river on either side and linked arms from Sundarijal, in the hills north of Kathmandu, to Chobhar, at its southern tip, forming a “human chain” 17 miles long.

 “The message was: we will not let you litter in the river,” says Ram Sah, a volunteer at Bagmati Safai Abhiyaan, the movement that organized the event to mark its 100th week of work.

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