Monday, July 25, 2011

A Tribute to Bishwa Lama (Glan)

In memory of Bishwa Lama
21 November 1978 -15 July 2011

It is with great sadness that I write this tribute to my friend Bishwa Lama, who was found dead in his apartment in Queens on Tuesday, July 19th. He was last seen by his new roommate on the evening of Friday the 15th. When he was not heard from over the weekend or on Monday, the police were called to investigate on the afternoon of Tuesday the 19th, and he was found in his bedroom.

Many friends from the Tamang community came to his apartment, worried about his well-being, and waited outside on the street in front of the building. There seemed to be an endless procession of investigators and medics, none of whom were helpful with sharing any information with any of us. I'm sure that they were all doing their jobs, but by the same token, it seemed to me that they were remarkably discourteous. Many of us from the community were there for four or five hours, and none of us were given any answers, even when we asked to be told where his body would be taken or what they were going to do. All we were told was that his body would be taken to a medical examiner's office but not to which one. It was not until the following day, from Bharat Lama, President of Tamang Society of America, that we learned Bishwa Lama's body was in the coroner's office in Jamaica Queens.

The preliminary coroner’s report suggests that the cause of death was a heart attack. Our guess is that it likely occurred sometime early in the morning on Saturday July 16th.  It came as a terrible shock, especially since he always seemed to be in perfect health. According to his death certificate, he was born November 21st, 1978. He was born in Rasuwa, in Nepal, and he had been living in New York for approximately four years.

Bishwa Lama was well known in our community, where he was respected and well liked by all who knew him. He was a very kind, gentle and generous person. During my tenure as President of the Tamang Society of America, Bishwa Lama hosted the Society’s web site free of charge, and after my presidency was over, he stayed on designing and updating my personal web site.

The last time I saw him was at my home, where he came on the evening of July 6th to post for me the announcement I had prepared for Ruth Ford’s 100th birthday. He stayed past midnight so it would appear on her proper birthday, which was July 7th, and as he worked he showed my daughter Zina each step of updating my web site. He said, "You're going to become a web designer," and he told her he would come back another time and teach her more. I drove him home and it was about one o’clock in the morning when we said goodbye, and he seemed perfectly fine.

Bishwa Lama had an interesting life, and having worked as a waiter on a luxury liner, he got to see a lot of the world prior to coming to New York and enrolling in college classes. He was on the board of the US-Nepal Sports & Cultural Development, Inc, and as a sportsman, he was an excellent bowler. He worked tending bar in an uptown Manhattan bowling alley to help pay his expenses. He also worked as a web site designer, designing and maintaining web sites for a variety of people in our community, and he operated his own web site as well.

I know that he struggled and worried about not having enough money to get by, but he was a hard worker, and had a positive outlook on life.  Recently he had expressed his desire to meet someone and settle down, and it is very sad to me that his death occurred at such a vital time of his life, leaving so many of his wishes unfulfilled. I feel fortunate to have known him, and I know that he will be missed. My wife Radhika has been lighting a candle in his honor every day on our prayer altar. For my part, I wish that his soul finds comfort and solace in a beautiful resting place where there will be happiness and peace. 

25 July 2011

To see Bishwa Lama's web site, follow this link:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wishing you a Happy 100th Birthday "Ruth Ford"

Today marks the 100th birthday of Ruth Ford. She was born July 7th, 1911 in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and she died in August 2009, at the age of 98. She lived a long and full life, much of it spent right here in the New York where she was an important figure, not just as an actress, but also as a muse to other artists and as a salonnière. Ruth made things happen for other people, people were introduced to others in her famous salons, and those meetings were often fruitful.

Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents met in Ruth’s living room one night and went on to collaborate with Leonard Bernstein on the movie West Side Story. Edward Albee, Isak Dineson, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and William Faulkner were all good friends of Ruth’s and spent many evenings in her living room. Allen Ginsberg supposedly washed his feet in Ruth’s sink. William Faulkner wrote his one and only play, Requiem for a Nun, specifically for her.

Because the end of Ruth’s life is so recent to me, right now the most vivid memories I have of her are from the last years of her life in the apartment at the Dakota. The parties had been over for a long time by then, and life was quiet and simple. But I also remember her very well from the day in 1974 when I first met her, when I was introduced to her in her living room by her brother, Charles Henri Ford.

At that time, I was 21 years old and I’d only seen my first movie the year before, so the fact that this lady I was meeting was a famous actress was meaningless to me. Her late husband Zachary Scott, who played the villain opposite Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, was equally meaningless, and I had no idea who Joan Crawford was either. I had no notion of the art world, or the theater world, or the world of literature. Needless to say, Ruth and Charles introduced me to a universe I could never have imagined, and they opened my eyes to art of all kinds, which has enriched my life immeasurably.

I will always remember my first impression of Ruth. I could see that she was strong and full of life. She was still a wild lady, beautiful and very glamorous. She had a much younger boyfriend, a writer who also lived in the Dakota then, named Dotson Rader. The age difference didn’t bother Ruth at all. She talked very openly about it in a story People Magazine did about the two of them in 1975. Ruth was a free spirit. I remember Dotson Rader well from that time, and funny enough, one of my most vivid memories is of him showing me how to operate the laundry machine down in the basement of the Dakota, which had slots for dimes and quarters.

By the time I came on the scene in the 70s, Ruth was no longer throwing her big famous parties, although she still hosted smaller gatherings there in her living room. She was still very outgoing and social, and she attended a lot of parties given by other people. Sometimes she would invite me to accompany her to one and I would go. I remember a birthday party for Anthony Perkins where they gave out little disposable cameras, and I took a snapshot of Richard Avedon that night.

There were many years of exciting and interesting things that I was fortunate to experience thanks to Ruth and to Charles, and then there were the many years after Charles passed away when Ruth was quietly at home, and I spent countless hours with her, just the two of us.

By that time, I was married and living in Queens, and driving to the Dakota every day was a familiar routine. So was the job of looking after Ruth. She liked to read the New York Times in the morning with her tea, starting with the weather report, and she would set aside articles she thought I might enjoy—anything about Nepal for example. And having outlived so many of her friends, she always scanned the obituaries, a habit that I got into myself and keep to this day.

In the evening, after cooking dinner for her and sitting with her in the kitchen while she ate, I would help her back into her bedroom. There was always the photograph of Zachary Scott on the bedside table, and a framed poster for a gallery show in Paris signed to her from Man Ray hanging on the wall. She’d settle in and I would make sure she had everything she needed for the night. There always had to be chocolate within reach since Ruth had a midnight sweet tooth. And each evening when I said, “If there’s nothing else, I’ll be going now,” she would say, “Goodnight, Indra Darling, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

There was a part of me that thought Ruth would live forever, but of course no one does. Today I will stand in the room where I met her 37 years ago and wish her a very happy 100th birthday and let her know I’m thinking of her.