thE scholArly journEy recounted here spans many years and
has been enriched by crossing many lives. This book is first and fore-
most a product of gifts—of time, conversation, and insight, as well as
institutional and material support. I owe great intellectual and per-
sonal debts to those whose contributions, small and large, made this
project possible.
My gratitude reaches back to 1991, when I first visited Nepal as an
undergraduate. In the winter of that year, I joined a Carleton College
Semester Abroad program that inspired my interests, curiosities, and
commitment. I am grateful to Professor James Fisher, who led that
program, and for the care with which he introduced a very lucky group
of students to the rich histories, languages, and cultures of Nepal. It
was also in the winter of 1991 that I first stayed in the home of a family
that would continue to welcome me into their household over the
nearly two decades to follow. I am grateful to them beyond words for
their warmth, generosity, and enduring friendship. In many ways, this
book is for them.
I am also deeply grateful to the many friends, colleagues, and infor-
mants in Kathmandu who contributed to this study. Geeta Manan-
dhar, Shambhu Ojha, Banu Ojha, and Sama Adhikari were patient,
careful, and rigorous teachers of Nepali over my years of fieldwork.
The staff of Lumanti Support Group for Shelter, particularly Lajana
Manandhar and Sama Vajracharya, offered essential assistance by pro-
viding access to the Lumanti Research Center and by teaching me
about the riparian sukumbasi (landless migrant) communities on the
Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. Huta Ram Baidya gave generously
of his time and wisdom, guiding me to understand his ideas and as-
pirations during countless walks along the riverscape. I would also
like to thank several organizations for their cooperation with my re-
search and endless inquiries. These include iucn- Nepal, iciMoD,
sAgun, sEArch, Friends of the Bagmati, the Asian Development
Bank, usAiD, John Sanday Associates, the Asia Foundation, KEEP,
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