Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-vii

Note on Transliteration

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pp. ix-x

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Kurāgraphy

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pp. 1-19

“Many years before,” Mheme Lama related, “when people would die, the body would vanish along with the soul, and people would cry and get very upset. It was like this a long time before. My father’s grandfather and other people from before told about this. Before, before, at the time of dying, the body would vanish like ‘phet’! Then the family of the dead ...

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Hardship, Comfort

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pp. 20-53

One vivid memory I have of Mheme, of a way of looking, to be precise, is from July 1997. I had already been in Nepal several weeks that summer and had hiked up to the Yolmo region to visit the villages I had lived and worked in eight years before. I hoped to meet up with old friends, including Lhatul Lama and Dawa Lama, two adult sons of ...

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Twenty-Seven Ways of Looking at Vision

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pp. 54-101

Ideas and motifs of vision, of perceiving, thinking, or acting through the medium of the eyes or the mind’s eye in some way, informed much of what Ghang Lama had to say about his life. By no means was he an “idiosensant,” living and remembering by means of a single sensory modality. A wealth of varied, interinvolved senses patterned his life. In ...

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Startled into Alertness

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pp. 102-132

Very present in my mind are the dominant tones of Kisang Omu’s speech: crisp, sharp, lucid, with a clarity of sound and expression, at turns reflective or grievous or joyful. Her voice is foremost in my memories of her. We first met in the winter of 1998, a few days after the Yolmo losar, or New Year, activities ended for that year and shortly after I had returned to ...

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A Theater of Voices

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pp. 133-151

Think of a fabric—a piece of cloth, say, or a carpet, or a shawl. Consider the ways in which different threads are woven together in forming a texture of interlacing strands. Karma asked me to do just that, one afternoon as we sat at a cluttered table in my home in Massachusetts and discussed Kisang’s narrative of ...

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“I’ve Gotten Old”

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pp. 152-160

As Yolmo men and women age, they inevitably grow weaker and frailer. A person’s age “decreases” or “becomes less” (N., umer ghatnu) in the sense that his or her life span decreases as the years wear on. To have become “old” among Yolmo wa situates a person in a particular bracket of time and in a social grouping that is distinct from being young or ...

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Essays on Dying

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pp. 161-175

Some of Kisang’s words told of acts of dying. They spoke of the decease of loved ones, of the ways that harmful actions could cause someone’s end, and so carve out a “chapter of sorrows” within a woman’s life.1 After her marriage to Wangel Lama, Kisang stayed with him in Shomkharka, in a house adjacent to the gompa, or temple, that her ...

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“Dying Is This”

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pp. 176-181

Kisang’s account of her first husband’s death involved a different narrative voice from the one expressed in her tale of her marriage to the lama. The tone was somehow more direct, more mature, even a bit world weary. It was the voice of a worried wife, one who had already mourned the death of several loved ones. The narrated I, Kisang, was also more ...

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The Painful Between

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pp. 182-188

Cultural forces shaped how Ghang Lama spoke of dying similarly to their shaping of Kisang Omu’s words. But the means were different. Mheme approached death in ways distinct from Kisang Omu’s approach, and the tenor of his last years was unlike that of Kisang’s. For him, being on the “verge” of death meant mostly a liminal time of fear, uncertainty, and ...

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Desperation

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pp. 189-200

Desperate times can lead to desperate actions. Within the fabric of Yolmo lives, it can be said of one woman that she felt compelled to remarry; of another, that she died of jealousy. The consequences of Wangel Lama’s death in Kisang Omu’s life were several. In the days that followed his passing, she had to make arrangements ...

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The Time of Dying

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pp. 201-205

So the woman who left Ne Nyemba suffered an uneasy death years before, whereas Kisang herself was still alive. All the same, an abiding question for Kisang and others was why she had come to live for so long, and, consonantly, whether her “staying” was the karmic fruit of either good or bad deeds that she previously ...

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Death Envisioned

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pp. 206-218

“A bugbear.” “The sleeping partner of life.” “Pale priest of the mute people.” “A black camel, which kneels at the gates of all.” These are but a few of the ways that humans have given image to death in different lands and centuries. Death has been designated as a transfer, as annihilation, as “the ultimate horror of life,” as an “ugly fact.” In poetry it has been ...

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To Phungboche, by Force

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pp. 219-229

Some recollections nagged at old wounds. They rehearsed contemptuous deeds, retraced scars, marked a woman’s defiance. The marriage between Rinjin Lama and Kisang produced two children: a first son, who died at the age of five, and then a second son, who soon acquired the name Kbnchb. Living in the lama’s home in Shomkharka ...

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Staying Still

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pp. 230-235

Kisang’s account of her forced passage to Phungboche parallels other narratives of marriage among Yolmo wa, particularly those tales that speak of a woman’s “capture” by unfamiliar others. In many ways, the account stands as a distorted image of Kisang’s first marriage, as though the violence enacted upon her during what would have been her third ...

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Mirror of Deeds

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pp. 236-244

Different lives bring different betweens. For Kisang Omu, the bardoic interval between her present life and her next one was characterized by a moribund stasis. For Ghang Lama, both the “bardo of dying” and the more general “death between” that would transpire just after he died were marked by turbulence, disorientation, and discombobulated states ...

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Here and There

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pp. 245-254

Words for Kisang could sow memories. They could recall a disgraceful scene or denounce a relative’s actions. They could track a mother’s displacements or question why things happened the way they did. In the years following her divorce from Rinjin Lama, both before and after she was taken to Phungboche, Kisang lived in a series of ...

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“So: Ragged Woman”

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pp. 255-274

“If it’s not good, don’t show it,” Kisang told me late one morning. “If it [my talk] is good, then show it. If it’s not good, don’t show it. What to do?. . . What to say? I don’t know how to compile my talk well. It’s all jumbled up.” She spoke these words toward the end of one of our tape-recorded interviews ...

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Echoes of a Life

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pp. 275-308

“Shyi mandi mareko hoina. Sareko ho.” I heard these words as I drove south along Interstate 84, gliding past Worcester and Hartford and a world of unknown places as the magnetic trace of a voice recorded months before sounded through an unreliable tape deck sitting on the seat beside me. Time and again I listened to the voice and tried to soak ...

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A Son’s Death

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pp. 309-314

One more story still. One last meditation, on the occasional need for words to rephrase the past, to suggest how things really happened. For a time in the late 1970s, while Kisang was living with her daughter and son-in-law in Kathmandu, her second son, a man known as Jho Bharpa, was staying with them as well. He was planning to build a house ...

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The End of the Body

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pp. 315-327

Her body was eroding, Kisang’s words sometimes implied. Once, when we praised her ability to speak well, she answered in Nepali with a slight, possibly self-effacing laugh, “Jiu chaina. Ani bhbsb mbtrai cha. Jiu siddiyo. Ke garne?” (There’s no body. So there’s speech only. The body ...

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Last Words

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pp. 328-351

Certain forms recurred, certain ways of talking. “Before dying,” Karma told me in 1997, “when a person feels that now he’s going to die, he calls his sons and daughters, he says everything to them, he talks about everything, and these are the last words to the relatives.” Kha jhem is the proper Yolmo term for those last words spoken to family ...

Notes

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pp. 353-373

Glossary of Terms

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pp. 375-378

References

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pp. 379-388

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 389-391

This book draws from ethnographic research I conducted in Nepal in 1988–89, 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2001. The most recent field studies were supported by a grant from the American Philosophical Society, a fellowship from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, and a ...

Index

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pp. 393-396

Production Notes

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pp. 397-397