Only Ghosts is not a ghost story, but the Nepali villagers of Batuwaa don’t know this. They believe an ancient soul dwells in a mysterious pool near their village. Asha and Arjun, lovers from separate castes, clandestinely meet in this hidden grove and discover its secrets. Certain that nothing haunts them, they perceive they are safe. This mistake will cost lives. During Nepal’s tumultuous transition to democracy, no one is safe. When Asha and Arjun’s forbidden love gets tangled up in the village’s visions of wealth and revolution, the lovers are forced make a difficult choice between challenging their traditions or losing one another. Their choice will forever alter the sleepy village of Batuwaa.
Only Ghosts is about Nepal’s clash of the mystic and the modern. The magic realism in this story contorts the village world, bends its edges, and plays with its images. The effect is similar to the ghost-like lovers floating under a cobalt moon in Chagall’s surreal paintings. Nepal’s sultry flatland provides both character and setting. Through it all pulses the haunted pool: the place the villagers fear, and because of this fear, the place unlikely partners are free to love. Of course, all freedom has its cost.
The author experienced Nepal’s democratic movement while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1990’s, the time period of this story. Her writing about Nepal has won Best Short Story at Third Goal, is in the magazine ECS Nepal, and is online in Peace Corps’ Digital Library. A founding member of the writers’ group, The Guttery (www.theguttery.com), her latest project is a performance of Only Ghosts with Portland musicians and Guttery poets. Some of her public readings are featured at the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s Whitman Project, The Oregon Literary Review, Show and Tell Gallery, and Love Outlives Us.
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