Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths among Nepal's Yolmo Buddhists

Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths among Nepal's Yolmo Buddhists

Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths among Nepal's Yolmo Buddhists

Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths among Nepal's Yolmo Buddhists

Synopsis

"One of the most powerful ethnographies in any field that I have read in recent years. . . a model of anthropological analysis that addresses questions on the cutting edge of the discipline."--Veena Das, author of "Critical Events: An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary India"

Excerpt

One vivid memory I have of Mheme, of a way of looking, to be precise, is from July 1997. I had already been in Nepal several weeks that summer and had hiked up to the Yolmo region to visit the villages I had lived and worked in eight years before. I hoped to meet up with old friends, including Lhatul Lama and Dawa Lama, two adult sons of Mheme who I had come to know well while I was living a few houses down from them in Gulphubanjang in the 1980s. in visiting Lhatul, I learned that his younger brother had traveled with his wife and children to Kathmandu a few weeks before to stay at their father's home in Chabahil. Norki, his wife, was expecting, and they wanted to assure a good birth by staying in the city, a quick taxi ride away from a hospital.

The morning after I returned to Kathmandu I set out to visit Dawa at his father's house. Karma Gyaltsen, another Yolmo friend, gave me directions to the place, which I had never visited before; I had met and talked with Mheme on several occasions during my earlier stay, but only in Gulphubanjang, when he had come to stay with his sons. It took a while to find the house, a modest, three-story structure framed by a courtyard that opened out onto a mound of dirt, apparently the remnants of a house that once neighbored it; the house stood alongside a narrow footpath that ran through a neighborhood of lightly colored brick houses. Mheme's daughter Maya happened to be washing clothes in the courtyard when I arrived. Upon learning who I was, she led me up a creaky set of stairs to the third floor, where Dawa sat with his wife and children in a sparsely furnished room. Surprised to see me again after so many years—“O-ho!” he shouted—Dawa invited me in and offered me 20 . . .

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