Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk’s novel, Only Ghosts, is set during the 1990 democratic movement in Nepal’s flat lands. This land the Nepalese call the “Terrai.” Tkaczyk talks about why she set her novel in this part of Nepal rather than the more famous Himalayan mountains.
Terrai towns have two horizons. The eastern line is a distant fence, which extends to the ghostlike Sanskrit print of foothills and higher still to Everest’s icy gate masquerading as cumulus clouds against a blue sky. This distance fence may be less tangible than Kathmandu’s cinder-block gates roofed with broken glass, but is no less ominous. Though most Terrai-Wallas have never traveled far enough west to stand in the shadow of a Himalayan Mountain, they know they’re there. It is a part of the Nepali psyche.
When a Terrai-Walla faces west, the sky stretches boundlessly. While neighbor India lays underneath that rippling horizon line, a lion ready to slam shut the border and drive up the price of kerosene again, the trained eye of a Terrai-Walla travels beyond India. In the year King Birendra hands the keys to the kingdom to the people, the western vista expands on and on and further west to the exotic, to the mythic, to the democratic.