The Kathmandu Times; The Lives we have Lost

By Atul Kumar Thakur:

Manjushree Thapa, through this book, exudes her concern for the Himalayan state. Most of the 29 essays in the book have already appeared in different newspapers/magazines across the world, but the compilation provides a greater cohesion and grip to the stories — one taking forward the tale left untold by the other. It helps understand the complex political dynamics within Nepal.

In The Lives We Have Lost, Thapa examines the dramatic transformation witnessed in Nepal between 1990 and 2009. Incidentally, the decade began with greater democratic aspiration in the country, as the monarchy under king Birendra agreed to delegate more powers to elected representatives. But as the years passed by, democracy was again imperilled — this time not only by the monarchy, but also the Maoists.

Despite hailing from a top military family — and her father being a minister with close ties with King Gyanendra — Thapa deserves admiration for maintaining a principled stand against the institution of monarchy. She lucidly showcases the development in democratic movement since 1990 along with inconsistent responses from the monarchy. According to her, King Gyanendra’s attempts to dominate the country’s political milieu post 2001 reveal the self-destructive elements within the monarchy.

Nepal was an isolated country in the 19th and 20th centuries. No wonder, even during the mid-20th century, it remained a feudal nation under the canopy of the “quintessential monarchy”. Somehow, Nepal did catch the modernisation flu in the 1950s, thanks to the new educated middle class that was in touch with the changes in India. By the 1990s, however, Nepal not only witnessed the strengthening of democratic forces but also emergence of the Maoists, adding a new twist in the hitherto bipolar power division in the nation.

Gyanendra’s regime further supplemented the political chaos. Thapa provides the candid picture of those uncertain years where two Ms — Maoists and monarchy — dominated the political landscape, weakening the democratic forces in the country. The author fondly recalls her Delhi days and the support she got from her Indian journalist friends.

The last essay of book, ‘In our House’, is written with great sense of attachment towards the legacies left by the monarchy. Thapa underlines the importance of the monarchy when she says that even the most overt critics of the institution, the Maoists, now concede the good works done by King Birendra.

Read this book to know more about Nepal’s difficult times.


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