“You fought valiantly, comrade,
Sacrifice yourself for the country.
Your blood now
Paint the spring red.
Junmaya Nepali, “Hot Blooded Revenge”
For most of my childhood, an old photograph hung on the walls of my grandparents’ living room in Kathmandu. The photo was of our great-grandfather, at least that’s what we were told, the children. It was only after being taken apart that I discovered that the man it contained was actually Joseph Stalin, whom my grandfather, a staunch Communist at the time, had idolized.
The discovery that it was Stalin who had looked down on us all these years coincided with my political awakening. For most of the early days of Nepal’s civil war in the late 1990s, I had been immune from what was going on in the country. Living in Kathmandu, far from the areas of concentration of fighting, there had been only whispers: two police officers killed in an ambush, seven villagers shot dead suspected of being Maoists. In 2001, after the Maoists attacked a Royal Nepalese Army barracks and killed many senior government officials, the king declared a state of emergency. Now the conflict has exploded into everyone’s consciousness, mine included, with more frequent and inevitable news of attacks, rising death tolls, and restricted civil rights.