Uma Shankar

Railway station of Janakpur

Courtesy of the artists

Before mechanized vehicles, humans used beasts of burden: bulls, horses, elephants, and camels. When trains were introduced to Nepal in the 20th century, individuals started using these antiquated modes of transport to reach the train station and were then ferried to India on iron pathways. The train also functioned to import objects of industrialization as people bought lamps, cycles, and radios from India.

During the British Raj these very routes were used to export timber from the forests of Nepal’s Terai region for the construction of the Indian Railways. In this fantastical etching, Uma Shankar Shah uses motifs from the Mithila cultural world to illustrate the material, spiritual, geographical, and kinship ties between Janakpur and northern Bihar in India. The locomotive scene is replete with quotidian commuters, couples who have crossed borders for love, a radio blasting Bhojpuri tunes, and posters for movies Shah viewed as a child in India after taking this same railway to Jaynagar.

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