Nibha Shah was born in 1971 into an aristocratic Rana-Shah family in Kathmandu, Nepal. She spent most of her early childhood in the southwestern part of the country, first in Kailali, then later in Achham, where she completed high school.
Although everyday injustices against Dalits and menstruating women in her community set the tone for her first rebellion as a young girl, it was in her college days in Delhi, India, that Nibha took up the identity of a Marxist. At that time, she was staying with a cousin who was an active member of the Marxist-Leninist student union, and her apartment was littered with leftist literature. Maxim Gorky’s Mother landed in Nibha’s hands and there was no turning back. When she returned to Nepal in 1996, what became known as the decade long People’s War had already begun. Nibha joined the Maoists, and at first, she was viewed with skepticism: Who is this woman of privilege coming to fight with us? Is she a spy? What does she want?
She went underground in 2001 but was caught in 2003 and jailed for a period of ten months. The Maoists and the government were in talks when she was released from jail, but when the talks didn’t go anywhere, Nibha found herself underground again until the war ended in 2006. Nibha says that her disillusionment with the Maoists leaders came about when she read the open letters written to the Nepal Maoists leaders by the American and Indian Maoist parties. “I was in love with the mission of making Nepal into this beautiful country where food, health, clothes, homes would all be free and everyone would be equal. Meanwhile, the leaders I’d been following were ferrying themselves across to safety and leaving the rest of us in the middle of the river to drown.”
When the war ended in 2006, Nibha decided to focus on writing. She has published three books of poetry, Inquilab Jindaabaad (Long Live the Revolution, 2006), Kalapani Ki Draupadi (The Draupadi of Kalapani, 2009) and Mansara (Mansara, 2015), and is currently working on a novel and a play. Her poems in this selection were taken from her first book and were written during her time in the war.