When you are trekking, you tend to view life through the lens of the trekking season—you meet people in the tourism industry and miss the nuances of life in the small villages along the routes. The Annapurna circuit is one of the more popular trekking routes in Nepal. Having walked this route a few times, I wondered what life is like beyond the window of the trekking season. My photographs of Marpha village in Mustang district were sparked by that curiosity.

This work represents my attempt to understand the people of Marpha and their relationship with the land. It is a reflection on the silence and rhythm of life on the other side of Annapurna. The village and the people are beautiful beyond doubt. Yet there is a sense of emptiness about the place. Many of the young have left the village in search of work. And those left behind have a faraway look in their eyes, as if they too would like to go somewhere else.

The more lucrative jobs in the village have historically been in the hands of the Thakali community, whereas menial and agricultural jobs are largely performed by Dalits and seasonal migrants from other rural parts. However, this has slowly changed, with many villagers migrating abroad, increasingly to the Gulf countries. Those who are left struggle to survive from one trekking season to the next. Dalits are particularly vulnerable to the seasonal fluctuations. When a trekking season is over, a sense of desolation hangs over this striking landscape. People live in limbo, uncertain of what the future holds.

A Pariyar family.

 

A mule is a cross between between a male donkey and a female horse. They still are prized possessions used to carry heavy loads. Their numbers decreased in recent years, after the road reached the village.

 

Binshu Gurung takes a break from cutting grass.

 

An unused football field.

 

Kiran Pariyar at home. When there is no school, he takes the mules and horses out for grazing the pastures.

 

Empty chairs at a wedding at the Marpha community hall.

 

A woman waits for a bus early in the morning.
A mother with her newborn daughter.
Last bus to Jomsom.

Cover photo: The Village of Marpha along the Kali Gandaki river.