Prof. Sen’s reputation in the field soon earned her a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to do exploratory research in native dance forms in any country of her choice. She selected Nepal, a tiny country, nestled in the Himalayas in Far East Asia. Now, as her flight was landing in Kathmandu, the country’s capital in a narrow valley, Prof. Sen noticed from the sky only rows of congested buildings, sprinkled with the domes of a few historic religious temples. In 2015, Kathmandu experienced a devastating earthquake, destroying many parts of the capital as well as killing thousands of people. Foreign aid poured in and reconstruction went ahead in full steam due to city’s importance as the getaway to climbing fearsome Mt. Everest. Proliferation of modern technologies of smart phones and flat screen TV-s displaying international channels in local bars has been ubiquitous.
In her second day in the city, Prof Sen was drinking her morning coffee in a local café, when she picked up the city’s only English-language daily newspaper. Hidden in the corner of the last page, there was a report about the death of a teenager from a poisonous snake-bite in a village, not that far from the capital. Her family was practicing a centuries-old superstitious act, locally known as “chhaupadi”. The recently menstruating woman was not allowed to spend the night in the family house in fear of “bringing bad luck”. Instead, she was sleeping in an outdoor open hut inviting the snake-bite. The report mentioned her lifeless body still holding to her smartphone.
Prof. Sen wondered whether modern-day technological inventions would ever be able to get rid of ancient superstitions involving women, still practiced in various patriarchal societies worldwide, when it came to women’s rights and equalities!