In her village in Ilam district in eastern Nepal, she does what most other young women here do: help out her family in the farm. But in the evenings she works on her new novel. Tara left school at 15 and joined the Maoist cultural wing. Three months later, she was arrested by the army and sent to Ilam jail, where she nearly died after falling sick. She was treated by the army in prison and recovered. The near-death experience seems to have left an indelible mark on this fighter-turned-writer.
Tara's book took the market by storm when it was published last year. All 5,000 copies were sold out within two months. Different from the usual narratives of Nepali war literature, it neither demonised the enemy nor was it over-burdened with ideology. It gave a heartfelt, honest account of a girl's struggle as she battled adversity, forged emotional bonds with her captors and finally broke off from her party to start afresh.
The sympathetic portrayal of the army in the book and her questions about the use of violence for political ends put her at odds with her comrades in the party. Tara realises how lucky she was to come out of the war alive. "I was not raped, abused or tortured," she says with characteristic simplicity, "I know that many of my friends were not as lucky. It goes to show there are good and bad people everywhere."
Going back to her family after her release, Tara had to live the life of a social outcast for being a Maoist. For an entire year, she was afraid to step outside her village. Alone and disillusioned with war, she took to writing initially as a therapy.
Today, five years after the signing of the peace accord and finding success as a writer, Tara is still struggling to assimilate. Many of her friends are now in Maoist camps awaiting either rehabilitation or integration. Many of them are young girls like her who left school with lofty dreams of liberating the country from feudalism.
"Our hopes have been dashed and promises have been broken," Tara told Nepali Times with a choke in her voice, "it is always the poorest people who suffer the most in any war."
She reads papers to follow national politics and is ambivalent about the new prime minister. She has also heard about new calls to go back to war by the Baidya faction, but says she doesn't agree with them. She tells us: "Before taking up arms again, they should think why they want another war, who it is against and to what end."
BOOKS ON WAR
Through ten years of civil war till the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006, journalists, writers and even police officers and guerrillas tried to gain a clearer understanding of the conflict by examining the roots of the war and its effects on the people and society. A selection:
Chhapaamaar ko Chhoro (Nepali)
Mahesh Bikram Shah
Written by a Nepali Police Officer, the book consists of several short stories which deal with the violence and destruction during the war 1996-2006.
Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal (English)
Onesto presents a largely sympathetic first-hand account of the 'People's War' through interviews and photographs of top ranked Maoist personnel, guerrillas, villagers and political leaders which she collected and published in 1999.
Himalayan People's War: Nepal's Maoist Rebellion (English)
This anthology investigates Nepal's political, economic and social backdrop of the ten year war. Authors also provide a comparative perspective through discussions of Marxist rebellions and communist uprisings in other parts of the world.
Mayur Times (Nepali)
The novel presents a fictionalised account of the war through the lives of two young journalists, Parag and Lisara who work for a small newspaper in the Tarai.
Palpasa Café (English and Nepali)
While the basic premise of the novel revolves around the love-story between Drishya, an artist and Palpasa, a first-generation American Nepali, Wagle compels his readers to delve deeper into the problems faced by war-torn Nepal during the heights of conflict.
Urgen ko Ghoda (Nepali)
Pathak's book, written from the perspective of the Tamangs tells the story of Mhendo who takes inspiration from mythical Tamang hero Urgen and his horse and launches her own war against the state.
Nepal is taking money away from public welfare to rehabilitate and compensate Maoist warriors. But it may be the price we have to pay for peace.
The five-year ceasefire, EDITORIAL
No war, no peace, RUBEENA MAHATO
No surprise that we have all forgotten the fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Accord this week
War during peace, DHANA LAXMI HAMAL
A ceasefire is a time to build peace, not prepare for another war.
The way ahead, KUL CHANDRA GAUTAM
The 1 November agreement breathed new life into the Comprehensive Peace Accord five years after it was signed.