Nepali Times

Narrow escape

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
(l-r) Israeli survivors Linor Kajan, Yakov Megreli and Maya Ora.

(l-r) Israeli survivors Linor Kajan, Yakov Megreli and Maya Ora.

The first trekkers from Israel, Hong Kong, and Germany rescued from the Mustang side of Thorung La were brought to Kathmandu on Wednesday and are undergoing treatment for severe sunburn and frostbite at the Army Hospital in Kathmandu. After a night of heavy snowfall and high winds, some of them had decided to walk down because the sun was out.

“Our plan was to stay in the tea shop to ride out the storm, but when we saw that it was all clear and bright the next morning we decided to walk down,” said Yakov Megreli (pic, center) at a press meet. But the snow was chest-deep and they got lost on their way down. After five hours, they could finally make a call on their mobile.

“We called the travel agency and embassy, and asked them to send helicopters. They picked us up on the mountain and flew first to Muktinath before bringing us to Kathmandu,” says Maya Ora.

The Israelis credited their porter Pasang Tamang, 46, of Rasuwa for saving their lives by guiding them through the snow when the blizzard started around 10am on Tuesday. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if he wasn’t there, we all got a second lease of life,” says Linor Kajan.

But Tamang himself was not so lucky and perished as he stayed on the trail to guide arriving trekkers. Two other Israelis were also buried in an avalanche below Thorung La along with two Poles and eight Nepalis. At Phu, four Canadians, one Indian and three Nepalis were killed.

At Dhaulagiri Base Camp, two Slovak climbers and their three Sherpa guides from a 11-member expedition have still not made contact after being caught in an avalanche.

List of survivors who were brought from Mustang to Kathmandu on Wednesday.

List of survivors who were brought from Mustang to Kathmandu on Wednesday.

Thirty two people are so far confirmed dead and hundreds are stranded and unaccounted for after Tuesday’s storm in the Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu areas. Seventy trekkers were rescued from Manang and 47 from Mustang as this paper went to press on Thursday evening.

Manang, through which hundreds of tourists attempt to cross the Thorung La (5416m) into Mustang every day, was worst hit. Eighty-five of the 345 trekkers who registered at the ACAP checkpoint on Monday en route to Yak Kharka and Thorung Phedi haven’t made it over to the other side.

Trekkers contacted Germany through a satellite phone and said there was a “large group” of them on the pass waiting for rescue. The message was relayed to the Nepal Army which had three rescue helicopters in the area on Thursday.

The Army had brought out nine bodies from either side of the pass on Wednesday and Thursday. District administration office in Manang said eight trekkers were also buried in snow in the Phu Valley near the China border.

Linor Kajan, Yakov Megreli and Maya Ora talk to journalists at the Army Hospital on Thursday after being rescued from the Mustang-side of Thorung La on Wednesday. They credited their guide and the army for saving them. 

Sunir Pandey

Read also:

After the storm Kunda Dixit

Anatomy of a Himalayan tsunami Kunda Dixit

Dangerous business Editorial

Extreme Everest Bhrikuti Rai and Matt Miller

Working in high places Ayesha Shakya

Taking chances in Chomolungma David Durkan

A dangerous place to work Jon Gangdal

Royal ex-king

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Rabindra Mishra of the BBC Nepali Service, Facebook, 13 October

ftnp parasA lot of people have expressed sympathy after seeing the latest pictures of former crown prince Paras Shah being arrested on drug possession charges in Thailand. This is understandable and it is a sign of humanity.

But his parents, Gyanendra and Komal, also deserve some compassion. Gyanendra became king very young, and lost the throne. He lost his family in the palace killings, which he was blamed for. He became king again, and inherited all his brother’s wealth.

Soon after, he lost his people’s respect, he lost the throne again, he lost the monarchy, he lost all the wealth inherited from his brother. And we’ve seen what has become of his only son.

All this time, he never lost patience, he remained decent and civilised. He was smiling when he left Narayanhiti Palace. He was never crude. What surprises me is, where were all those qualities when he was king? That’s why I call him the ‘unroyal king/royal ex-king’. Like a lot of commentators, I think Paras needs help, not contempt. Those who still detest him must understand: we are all human, as are our families and relatives; who knows what crises we may have to face in the future?


Pearls before swine

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Prakash Dahal, son of UCPN(M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Facebook, 11 October

Prakash Dahal at his pig farm

Prakash Dahal at his pig farm

I only wish people did more research before commenting on my pig farm. Some friends seem to be stuck in the past. Some say Bahuns shouldn’t be farming pigs. Some say I am showing my worth. Some say black money, some say it’s because politics did me no good. I thank you all for coming up with comments that display your own abilities, but I wish to especially thank some people and say the following things to them:

  1. This is an age of equality, where you don’t look at caste, colour or gender. If you are the type that stirs up ethnic discord, you must be from another planet. And that is that.
  1. There is such a thing as dignity of work and I don’t think work makes anyone greater or smaller. Are all the world’s animals worthless? Are pigs worthless? Is it right to mock farmers like this? Apart from being the world’s most respected profession, agriculture is also the traditional line of work of most Nepalis. People who keep their backyards barren are trying to lecture me about my capacity and worth.
  1. Some say I kept 10 sows to legitimise my black money. I would like to challenge these people to look everywhere for black, red, green, yellow, or any other colour of wealth that is in our family’s name. They can take everything for themselves if they just give me Rs 100,000. With that money I would buy four more sows and expand my farm. Use your heads. I don’t know about other people in the party, but if you find any trace of my wrongdoing I will gladly kill myself. Please, my Facebook friends, find out my black money.
  1. I am not a senior leader of a party. I have been walking around the hills with our people’s militia since I left high-school 14 years ago. I am only a cadre and I will remain in the party and work for Nepal’s benefit as long as I am breathing. I have nowhere to go except politics. Is it sin for us in politics to be creative in other ways? How do you think we earn? Where does the money to study abroad come from? I am farming pigs in my free time so that I don’t have to beg from anyone. I don’t have a degree in my hands.

I also want to discourage youngsters from mortgaging their land and going for overseas labour. Instead they could use that money to invest in their own land, work four solid hours everyday and watch gold grow out of the land. Is it not more dignified to work four hours a day in Nepal than to be treated like an animal for 18 hours in the Gulf? When I see barren fields and villages empty of youth, I despair. My ambition is to show these youngsters that it is worth doing something right here in Nepal. If youngsters want to try out agriculture, we must respect their choice. Rest is up to you.

Read also: 

Prakash raising livestock

Devoted to painting

Sunday, October 5th, 2014
Lok Chitrakar

Lok Chitrakar

Nepal’s paubha master takes Kathmandu’s traditional art to Japan

Lok Chitrakar, 54, is Nepal’s most famous painter of paubha, the devotional art form that went from Nepal to Tibet to become the thangka. Now, he is taking 32 of his paintings even further to Japan where it will be part of a larger collection on permanent display at a museum.

As an autodidact, Chitrakar came from a family of artists and started using brushes at 12.  Today, his work is renowned worldwide with some of his paintings featuring in permanent exhibitions from Pakistan to Finland.

Chitrakar has been working with the Kanzouin Museum in Tokyo for the past 12 years which already has 30 of his paintings, and soon will be adding 32 more to complete a series that will ultimately have 108 paintings from Kathmandu.

Lok Chitrakar was working on a mandala for a Japanese client in 2000, and had to learn Japanese techniques to complete it. For this he got in touch with a Japanese friend who showed his work to people in the art scene there. There was no looking back, the Japanese were hooked.

Lok Chitrakar paintings 2


Lok Chitrakar paintings

Paubhas were first taken from Kathmandu Valley to Tibet in the 8th century when Bhrikuti was married to king Sron Tsan Gampo. She took paubha artists with her to Tibet, and this style later evolved into the thangka, which is distinguishable by newer Chinese styles. Thangkas depict Buddhist subjects or even deities from the pre-Buddhist Bon faith, while paubhas contain Hindu and Buddhist deities, reflecting the ancient symbiosis of Hinduism and Buddhism in Kathmandu Valley.

Some of the Paubhas that will go to the Kanzouin Museum in Tokyo were on a brief farewell display at Yala Maya Kendra from 26-29 September. “I like to show my work to the Nepali public before sending them abroad,” Chitrakar says of the paintings that will be shipped out later this month.

Green Tara

Green Tara



Six pictures in the Yala Maya Kendra’s exhibition were from private collections, like the striking Green Tara and Ganesh. Artist Ashmina Ranjit, who was at the exhibition said she has always been mesmerised by Lok Chitrakar’s work. “His paintings can put us in kind of a meditative state,” she said.

Given how intricate the paintings are, Lok Chitrakar is often asked how long it takes to complete one painting. “I never count the days, otherwise I’ll be discouraged,” Chitrakar replies laconially. “I just write the date on which I finish the work at the bottom.”

Lok Chitrakar paintings 3
Paubhas are a visual representation of religious philosophy, and always feature a central deity with moral and spiritual significance. The background and the details are up to the artist, but for the deity there are strict standards: body postures, facial expressions, skin complexions and hand gestures all carry important symbolism, developed over many centuries.

The deity’s eyes are always painted last. Chitrakar makes his own paint with crushed stones and vegetable dyes such as indigo, sometimes mixing silver and gold dust.

Lok Chitrakar is now used to international acclaim at various exhibitions he has been asked to put up at Harvard University or the Historical Museum of Shiga, Japan. When asked if he is proud to represent Nepal’s original Buddhist art form to the international public, Chitrakar answers simply: “I’m just proud to be an artist.”

Stéphane Huët

Read also:

Bring back the paubhas, RC Cone

The art of the gods, Tsering Dolker Gurung 

Nepal’s biggest paubha muralSalil Subedi

Nostalgic for the future

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Jan Salter says her retrospective exhibition was to remind herself that she is an artist

Jan Salter

Jan Salter

Many people know Jan Salter for her selfless activism at the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (KAT) to save the city’s stray dogs and pets that she founded in 2004. But few remember that she is an accomplished artist.

The public saw that other side of  Jan Salter in ‘A Retrospective Exhibition’ at the Nepal Art Council from 22 September-10 October with 206 of her paintings and sketches.

“My work rescuing animals took me away from art, and this exhibition has helped to remind myself that I am an artist,” admits the 78–year-old Briton who first came to Kathmandu in the 1960s and never left.

These artworks were done from 1968 to 2014, most of them during treks around Nepal. “These pictures have remained in corners of my flat for years,” she said at the opening of the exhibition. “It’s only when seeing them displayed at the Nepal Art Council that I realise how many I did.” Still, there could have been even more paintings, as the artist has sold many of her first drawings.

Jan Salter had been sketching portraits from her early childhood, but it was only when she came to Nepal in 1968 that she really wanted to become an artist. “I felt in love with this melting-pot of faces,” she said.

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

Her style was refined after meeting famous Affandi in Jakarta, the famous Indonesian artist who had a different style from Jan’s, but she had been blown away by his work. “Affandi was the first person who told me that I had a chance as a painter,” she recalls. “He gave me confidence.”

After Indonesia, Jan traveled around the world for two years. Back in Nepal, she worked as a visual anthropologist, celebrating the diverse cultures and ethnicities of Nepal with striking portraits that first appeared in the book, Faces of Nepal.

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

A Retrospective Exhibition by Jan Salter

Many of her first drawings were sold. “I needed money to support my Nepali son,” she recalls. “But after some time, I just found I couldn’t sell them anymore.” The artist considers her pictures as her own children. “I think every artist must feel this,” she says.

Above all, it became clear to Jan Salter that her paintings were actually a part of Nepal’s heritage. The creation of the Nepal National Ethnographic Museum by the Nepal Tourism Board became an opportunity to give an exposure to Jan’s works. “They are planning to create an ethnic village in Champa Devi where 24 of my paintings will be on display,” she says.

After more than four decades painting the faces of Nepal, Jan’s main regret is that many Nepalis have lost the pride in their traditions. “I would like to think that my paintings could remind these people from where they are,” she hopes.

Jan Salter also feels a little bit nostalgic of the time that Kathmandu used to be calmer, and some of the paintings celebrate that time. Nonetheless, Jan is optimistic about Nepal’s future. “I believe the new technologies will bring people together, but I guess I won’t be there to see it,” she laughs.

Moreover, Jan is pleased to see that Kathmandu is becoming a vibrant place for arts. Her involvement in KAT doesn’t give her the time to follow the evolution of the art scene as much as she would like to. But Jan admires a some of the new young artists she has met in Kathmandu. She adds: “I think I have a lot to learn from the new generation.”

Stéphane Huët

Read also:

Faces of Nepal Jan Salter

Feline shrewdness

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014


The Rabbi's Cat

The Rabbi’s Cat

Alliance Française of Kathmandu has been organising Les jeudis du cinéma (The Thursdays of Cinema) during September and for three weeks, movie buffs enjoyed an eclectic selection. From teenage comedy (The French Kisses) to classics (The Big Day by Jacques Tati), from drama (Violette by Martin Provost) to documentary (The Shebabs of Yarmouk by Axel Salvatori-Sinz), it was an exhibition of French cinema at its piquant best.

Although the Thursdays of Cinema is coming to an end on 25 September, viewers will get the chance to watch more movies in the coming months. This time around, the finale will feature Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat.

Sfar, who is a cartoonist, became famous after directing a live-action movie in 2010. In Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, he portrayed the tortured life of the French singer Serge Gainsbourg. The following year, Sfar collaborated with producer Antoine Delesvaux to adapt his own comics series, The Rabbi’s Cat, into an animated film.

The story takes place in the 1920s Algiers, before Algeria’s independence, a time Jews and Muslims seemed to live peacefully together, but were despised by some French colonists. At the beginning, a rabbi’s cat starts speaking after he eats his master’s parrot. As a result, the animal then becomes an astute and sarcastic observer of religion, and exposes some inherent incoherences when it wants its own bar-mitzvah to become “a real Jew”.

The quiet life of the rabbi and his cat gets is further disturbed by the arrival of a strange Russian Jew who fled the anti-Jewish pogroms taking place in his country in order to reach Ethopia, the “African Jerusalem.” A hectic road-trip across Africa starts instantly, and the two Jews are joined by a sheik, an alcoholic, a painter, a donkey and the cat. This adventure, beset with fear and violence, turns out to be an enlightening voyage.

In his second movie, Joann Sfar also makes two implied references. First, he fools around with Tintin, Hergé’s famous comics character, who is portrayed as an arrogant, colonialist hunter. Then he also invites in a fellow cartoonist, Ivorian Marguerite Abouet (author of the brilliant Aya of Yop City) to play the voice of the ‘African girl’.

The film’s script might seem disjointed at times as different characters wander in and out. Perhaps, this is because Joann Sfar adapted only three out of five volumes of his comics series. Still, the film is a sequence of short pleasant stories, all of which address religious issues with humour. Sfar notes the complexity of multicultural dialogue and the absurdity of religious fanaticism.

With the bright colours of the 1920s Algiers and the Arabesque music from the Maghreb that remind you of hookah scents, The Rabbi’s Cat is purring for your presence.

Stephane Huet

The Rabbi’s Cat


25 September, 7pm

Alliance Française of Kathmandu, Tripureshwor



Watch trailer:

Death of justice

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Nanda Prasad Adhikari

The body of Nanda Prasad Adhikari being taken into an ambulance in Bir Hospital on Monday. Photo: Bikram Rai

Nanda Prasad Adhikari, who had been on hunger strike for 11 months to demand justice for the war-time murder of his son, died on Monday afternoon at Bir Hospital. His wife, Ganga Maya, is still on hunger strike and knows that her husband is now dead.

The elderly couple had been on intravenous feeding in the hospital’s intensive care unit for the past year. Nanda Prasad, who was just skin and bones, slipped into unconsciousness five days ago, but had been revived. On Monday, his condition deteriorated and the end came at 5PM.

The Adhikari couple want justice for those accused in the murder of their son, Krishna Adhikari, and they went on a fast when their pleas went unheeded by successive governments.

Krishna Adhikari was 18 years old when the Maoists took him away from his home in Phujel of Gorkha district on 4 June 2004. His body was later found in Chitwan after he had been tortured by being dragged behing a motorcycle in a sack. Nanda Prasad and Ganga Maya went to the National Human Rights Commission, civil rights activist groups, the police, and district administration to lodge a complaint. No one listened to them. Back in Gorkha the Maoists hounded them, killed all their livestock and chased them out of their homestead in Phujel.

So, out of desperation and with nothing left to lose, Nanda Prasad and Ganga Maya came to Kathmandu in January 2013 and staged a hunger strike outside Prime Minister Babu Ram Bhattarai’s official residence in Baluwatar. The police picked them up and dragged them to the Kamal Pokhari Station, where they were illegally detained for 48 days. Later, they were handcuffed and taken back to Gorkha in a jeep and dumped there, even though the Maoists had evicted them from their home.

The couple returned to the pavement outside Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital again in a hunger strike protesting the lack of police action against their son’s killers. Passers-by would crowd around them, but their plight was often drowned in a capital with so much misery.

“We went to Baluwatar because no one listened to us,” Nanda Prasad used to tell journalists, “we thought at least the prime minister from Gorkha would. But they locked us up.”

The Adhikaris named the Maoist cadre who they say are behind their son’s murder: Januka Poudel, Chhabilal Poudel, Kali Prasad Adhikari, Baburam Adhikari, Ram Prasad Adhikari, Shiva Prasad Adhikari. Among them, Januka Poudel was personal asssistant to Baburam Bhattarai’s wife, Hisila Yami.four of the accused were detained by police, but had to be released after a court determined last year for lack of evidence.

After their son’s murder, the Ahdikaris were threatened by the Maoists and were told their other son would also be killed. The CDO of Gorkha, Krishna Karki said last year the couple refused to take the Rs 1 million compensation for families of conflict victims, and insisted that they wanted the murderers prosecuted. “But it is not possible to file a case because all conflict-related cases like these were scrapped in 2008 by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government,” Karki said.

The Adhikari case has become emblematic of the Nepali state’s inability and disinterest in addressing conflict-era crimes. There is a tacit understanding between the two warring sides to sweep under the carpet documented cases of extra judicial killings, disappearances and other excesses. The Bhattarai government promoted army officers accused of war crimes, and ordered the dismissal of cases like the torture and murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa in 2004, where the executioners in Dailekh had already confessed to the crime. Bhattarai also protected Bal Krishna Dhungel, who was convicted by the Supreme Court for the murder in Okhaldhunga in 2000 of Ujjan Shrestha.

The reluctance to address conflict-era human rights violations by the state has also impacted on the delay in setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances.

Read also: 

Just want justice, Dambar K Shrestha  

Justice denied

Justice delayed and denied Rameswor Bohara

From Cabin 16-17 Kanak Mani Dixit