Mansi Pal

Khokana is a traditional Newari village on the outskirts of Kathmandu which primarily
thrives on cultivation of mustard oil. Despite the proximity from the main city, the village
is lost in time. The 2015 earthquake crippled the village, with families who live out of
makeshift tin homes. The village is shrouded in darkness with regard to their future as
the promised funds to rehabilitate the village is yet to see the light of day.

This is the story of Sarla & many other women like her, who go through a barrage of
emotions & dilemmas on a daily basis; the dilemma of coping with another woman who
favors your male sibling over you; the dilemma of behaving ‘properly’ and holding in the
urge to laugh out loud, scream in exasperation or just take off at a moment’s notice.
Spontaneity is discouraged from an early age under the garb of safety & keeping up
with societal norms. The hypocritical gender rules continue to choke women from truly
being themselves – good, bad or ugly. This is a story of a woman who is conditioned to
internalize conflict & curb free expression from a very young age. Society raises women
to constantly cover up scars of the mind, body & soul and a free-spirited woman is
assumed to be promiscuous & selfish. Stretch marks, body hair & blemishes are
covered up to appease society’s image of a perfect woman.
We all eventually find or stumble upon an outlet to be uninhibited, to follow our rawest
instincts and to freely choose a way of life without the pressures of being watched or
observed. These life decisions range from choosing a life partner to choosing the length
of your dress. This outlet sometimes comes after years of dealing with self-conflict, selfdoubt
& internal angst.
Sarla’s is a story of one such woman. She internalized the pain of being a girl child by
bandaging her breasts because she wanted to be the brother her mother favored. She
eventually found an outlet through her hair-styles. She went from short hair, to punk, to
bald, to long, colored stresses, to curls. She played with her hair style, in a
subconscious effort to make sense of her internal chaos within – chaos that turned
heads, shocked people, distressed her family & attracted men. Her hair became a
symbolic gesture of standing up for herself & going after things without the fear of being
judged. If this meant being politically incorrect, so be it.
This photo essay is a raw tale of women chasing life, love & lust; of women who choose
to be real rather than perfect.


Mansi is a backpacker of the mind and places, who believes in Angels, but is
skeptical about God. As she traveled as a young adult without the comforts
that comes with travelling with parents, she realized that there is more than
just beauty around her. She embraced the unpredictability, the cultural
sensitivities & outlooks shaped by decades of tension. The more she traveled,
the more restless her camera, curiosity & spontaneity became.
After having spent 8 years in marketing & as a freelance travel
writer/photographer, she joined the Pathshala International programme to
embrace what the school calls creative chaos.
Photography & words is how she best expresses her innate sense of irony,
satire & humor. Her style of photography is inspired by the unpredictability &
complexities of the world & its people – who, like places, inspire her. Her aim
is to capture moments that stir the inner self; moments that evoke comfort &
tension at the same time. In short, a beautiful mess.

Rose Head
This is a fictitious story built using archives collected from old photo studios
in Dhaka. This is a fantasy tale of a woman who has gone missing from her
family portrait. She wanders through lives of strangers with a mystical “spiritspo
Jer” called Rose Head.
The spirit-spoJer takes her through a magical journey through time, showing
her glimpses of people’s lives – strangers and family alike.
The exaggerated photoshop and a glimpse into yesteryear Bangladesh using
disparate photos is an aJempt to demonstrate the magical quality of the
journey of the protagonist, and a subtle jab at the ridiculousness of these
staged studio portraits.