Aarti Basnyat's profile of Devendra SJB Rana's exhibition of photos ('Thalara's black and white world', #243) raises quite a few concerns. Exhibiting the pictures is indeed innovative but it needs to be analysed historically and analogically. Firstly, it seems the photographer was exaggerating Thalara's neglect and deprivation. There are numerous Thalaras throughout Nepal. But this Thalara is different because it represents the house of Nepal's feudal lords, the babusahib Singhs of western Nepal who dominate the area. The attitudes they bear have been handed down to commoners which largely impacts the lives of the women and poor.
Secondly, trying to explain the poverty of Thalara through the optic of ke garne and fatalism obscures the exploitative and entrenched social and economic power relations. The ke garne mindset is not only rife among the Thalarians but is pervasive in all human beings. This subjugated mentality cannot be seen in isolation and is not restricted to the life attitude of the poor. Indeed, in a class-based society, the sociology of fatalism is also hierarchic. The poor man's fatalism can be ascribed to his inability to comprehend the development model from outside, whereas, a city dweller nobleman's fatalism can be of his inability to secure a ministerial portfolio, a foreign trip, a discotheque in a luxury hotel or a casino. I remember one of the prime ministers of Nepal taking advice of a tantrik-jyotish and not removing a swallow's nest at Baluwatar in the belief that if he did something ominous may happen.
The identity of Thalara poverty must not be confined to ke garne and fatalism. Thalarians are surely hard working people, the lop-sided discourse as presented in the article trivialises the inner-agency of the people striving to come out of poverty. It may be more pertinent to look at how their fatalistic attitude developed over time that has a link to poverty.
Badri P Bastakoti,