Friday, November 7, 2014

A Memorable Trip To Nepal After Thirteen Years

A Memorable Trip To Nepal After Thirteen Years

Baudhanath Stupa. Baudha, Kathmandu, Nepal.

A big part of this past summer—June 27th through August 21st—I spent in Nepal with my wife Radhika and daughter Zina. They had both been to Nepal in recent years, but for me it had been 13 years since my last visit, and I am recording here some of the highlights and impressions from the trip.

Upon arriving in Kathmandu we were received by my bother Suraj, his son Nirajan,  and my cousin Shanta Thokar along with his son Samir and his friend Prakash Shrestha at the airport. After that we went directly to our house in Gyaneshwar, where my brother and his family live. Ever since I first lived in that house, which Charles Henri Ford rented in 1973 and later bought, I’ve thought of it as “Charles’s Hermitage”, since he always referred to it as The Hermitage. It is a very old house, much of it in disrepair now. Since I last saw it, the area has become more crowded and modernized, and Charles’s Hermitage looks like a real antique sitting there now, surrounded by much newer and taller buildings. 

The rice paddies around the city have all but disappeared and everywhere you look are houses, built with money mostly sent from abroad. (Many, many Nepalese people have gone to other countries to find work as laborers and they send money home.) When I was young, there were hardly any modern buildings in the country but now there are many. Kathmandu has become a concrete jungle like New York City. There are also big disparities in how people live in Kathmandu, which has a lot of shantytowns and real poverty, but a lot of very luxurious homes as well. I saw people living in tiny shacks made of paper right in the road, and if you look between or behind the new luxurious buildings, you’ll see houses made of rotten metal and tires and plastic trash bags where very poor people live. Shantytowns have existed in Kathmandu for a long time, but now there seem to be more. As the population grows, so do the classes: upper class, middle class, lower class and sadly, some people have no class at all. Most of the politicians live in luxury. I visited a few houses belonging to people I actually know that were so luxurious—with marble floors and beautiful bathrooms and expensive Western furnishings—they made our house in Queens seem like a dump in comparison. Two especially unfortunate things about Charles’s Hermitage were a shortage of water and mosquitos. There was barely enough water to flush the toilet, and the plug-in mosquito repellent only worked when we had electricity. That meant that nighttime was bad for us but good for the mosquitos!

But what mattered the most to us was seeing all of our family members who welcomed us with such happiness. We were all very glad to see each other, and the phone never stopped ringing. The very next day of or arrival we went to wedding reception party of Radhika’s niece Roshani Lama, where we met many of our friends and relatives. After few weeks, we met our good friends Penny Rana and her husband Hemadri Rana. They were our guest when they were in New York a week before we left for Nepal. I had known Penny since her childhood when she used to be our neighbor in Gyaneshowr. They took us to tour Bhaktapur and Nagarkot, and they treated us with lunch at Nagarkot. They also invited us to dinner at their house in Baluwatar some weeks later. On July 12th, I hosted a get together party for my friends and relatives at Lotus Banquet Hall, Kaldhara, Kathmandu. Many of Radhika’s family, friends and relatives came from Boudha to attend. I had invited several former diplomats from New York who now live in Kathmandu. Among them were Mr. Madhu Raman Acharya (former Nepalese Ambassador to the United Nations, NY) and his wife Dr. Geeta Acharya, and Mr. Madhuban Paudel (former Ambassador to Kuwait) and his wife. Several people I have known from New York were present at the party. The Nepalese cyclist Furtemba Sherpa came with his family, and a number of entertainers—actors, and singers whose music I’ve listened to for years—and in total, about 400 people with known and new faces were present. Also on the guest list were members of the Tamang Media Group in Nepal. I used the occasion to present them with a donation of money, raised by about half a dozen people including myself, on behalf of the Tamang Society of America. It was a very enjoyable party for all. The only sad thing was that we had planned to bring all of the relatives and neighbors from my village of Phakel, and booked three buses for that purpose, but on the day preceding the party one of our neighbors in the village died, so the people were not able to come. 

I went to visit my village four times, all four of those trips riding the back of my brother’s motorbike. How different that is from the way it used to be, when we walked on pathways and the trip from Kathmandu took almost a whole day. On the motorbike it only took an hour and a half. The village itself has changed very much since I left, starting with the fact that there is a road now. There is also electricity and running water, things that were unheard of when I was growing up. These days everyone has a decent house to live in, everyone has cellphones and many houses have televisions. 

On my third trip, I gave a party in the village and invited all my relatives and neighbors to make up for the one that they missed. This time I took my wife Radhika and daughter Zina to visit my village, which was their first visit ever. I also invited singers Prem Lopchan, Roj Moktan and Sanjeev Dong as a guest to the party and they generously performed at the party with their songs. The event was very entertaining, and all of the guests had fun. When I asked Zina what she thought of my village, the one thing Zina didn’t like were the toilets, which are squatting-style toilets flushed with water from a bucket. When I was growing up there, of course, we just went into the bushes when we had to answer a call of nature. It reminded me of something years ago in Charles’s Hermitage: we installed a Western style toilet in the house, but many of our visitors had never seen such a toilet. So they climbed on it and squatted, or they straddled it, which was not very comfortable, so I replaced it with a squatting toilet. 

Me and Radhika at the party we organized in my village of Phakel with former Member of Parliament Mr. Bir Bahadur Lama.

Radhika was not particularly impressed of my village at first, but eventually she came to like it. It is similar to the one where she grew up, Kakani, her mother’s village. Both our home-villages are in high altitude, full of nature and fresh air. Kathmandu can get very sticky, humid and hot, and the air quality isn’t good either, so going to one of our villages, where everything is dry and light, feels completely different and very pleasant. In Kakani, Radhika’s mother owns a plot of land. Radhika along with her brothers and sister-in-laws arranged for busts of her parents to be made and erect on a small plot of that land. She had invited fifty or sixty people from Kathmandu for the occasion of unveiling the busts, with a Buddhist ritual ceremony conducted by several monks. Radhika and her brothers and sister-in-laws also gave a after-party for the guests there after the ceremony.

Busts of Radhika's parents erected in Kakani 

Another nice memorial in Radhika’s family, to which she contributed, are the seven or eight water fountains in Asapuri, built in her parents’ names by her brother and uncles. People use those fountains for bathing. Traveling to Asapuri was a very frightening experience. We took a bus and the only route was very narrow and steep dirt-road. The bus seemed to be driving on the edge of the road and it really looked as if it might go straight over the cliff, and some of the passengers on the bus actually cried. Zina was one of the terrified bus passengers who cried. Had we known how scary and dangerous the ride would be, we would have brought her in one of the cars on the trip instead.

One thing that has not changed in the village is the presence of goats and chickens running around, and the attitude of the roosters is the same as their ancestor roosters who lived there when I was young. Much of the surrounding forest has not changed as well; in fact, I think it might be denser than it was years ago. The farming styles have been modernized so people don’t graze their animals in the forests anymore. Mushroom farming, as well as growing cabbage, cauliflowers, carrots and all kinds of other vegetables have replaced the corn and millet growing of the past, and now the farmers have trucks to carry their produce to the cities. I will always remember, as a kid, the way we carried our produce on our backs almost all the way to the city, walking. All the young people in the village now have motorbikes, and the paths we used to walk on are no longer used, so they have become overgrown with bushes. One of positive consequences of this is that without so many people and animals using those paths, leeches have all but disappeared. When we used those pathways, the leeches would smell us coming. They’d lie waiting on the leaves and grab on as we passed. I’m not sure if they are disappearing for that reason, but it would seem that with less blood drinking they are not reproducing as much. Even so, I did get bitten by one of the few leeches still hanging around. It itched like mad for weeks!

During my Nepal trip, I also had chance to visit Pokhara, a beautiful city approximately 200 km west of Kathmandu. One of the members and previous secretary of Tamang Society of America, Amar Tamang, who from Pokhara, had recommended me as chief guest to honor students graduating from local high school organized by Nepal Tamang Bidharthi Ghedung, Kaski, coordinated by Deepak Waiba. So we traveled there, where I had the privilege of meeting board members of Tamang Ghedung Sangh, Kaski District, and signing the certificates of appreciation for Tamang students. I also made a donation of a little sum of money as a contribution to their organization. My brother and I made the trip together, and he wrote me a fine speech in Nepali. I made another trip to Pokhara with my family and stayed three or four days. I had a good time there. I have always liked Pokhara. It is better for walking, because it is surrounded by mountain peaks and very pretty when it is not cloudy, and the city itself is less crowded than Kathmandu. It is also not as muddy or dusty. When it rains, the water runs off, it doesn’t flood, which means no mud after the rain and no dust from the mud when it dries, whereas in Kathmandu rain means lots of mud and after that, lots of dust. Many people wear masks because of the dust and pollution in Kathmandu, where the traffic is very heavy as well. I must give them credit, though, for expanding the width of the roads in Kathmandu, although it would be better if certain rules would be applied to motorcycles there. They go every which way, and I had no desire to ride one in the city.

At the ceremony organized by Nepal Tamang Bidharthi Ghedung, Kaski, as chief guest to honor and present certificates to Tamang high school graduates.
Photo by Suraj K. Tamang

I felt very humbled to receive a number of honors during my trip, including one for a contribution I made to Chhyorten Tashi Tamang Monastery in Kathmandu. They presented me with a unique certificate which was printed in a Thanka. It was handed to me by the head monk of the monastery Tulku Losang Namgel Rimpoche. I was received by the President Navaraj Lama, Vice-President Man Bahadur Lama, General Secretary Hari Bahadur Lama, Treasurer Kumari Maya Lama along with founder Karma Siddhi Lama and all of the general board members of the monastery with Khada in the ceremony. I was also invited by Nepal Tamang Ghedung at their headquarter in Putalisadak for briefing of their Tamang Cultural Building Construction Project. We had brief discussion about their prospective project of the cultural building. As I am the coordinator of Tamang Cultural and Buddhist Center, a project of Tamang Society of America, I presented them with brief introduction of our project of building a Tamang Cultural Center in USA. The meeting was very fruitful, and we exchanged ideas and views of our projects. Buddhist Monastery is something my village does not yet have, and I know that people are hoping that I will help to build one. Few years earlier, I donated money to construct a crematorium in my village, for which I was honored by the village committee on one of my visits. If the villagers initiate the construction of the monastery in future, i will be obliged to help with my ability. I was also invited at the 20th anniversary of Tamang Prasaran Diwas organized by Tamang Sanchar Samuha’s Central Committee where the president of Tamang Sanchar Samuha, Jagat Dong, presented me with Certificate of Appreciation for Tamang Society of America. At that ceremony I met Dr. Ganesh Yonjan (former ambassador to Japan), Amrit Yonjan (a Tamang Culture  and Linguistic Scholar), Kumar Yonjan (President of Nepal Tamang Ghedung) and many more popular and respected Tamang figures.

Receiving Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of Tamang Society of America presented by Tamang Sanchar Samuha. Kathmandu.
Photo by Prem Lopchan

At the end of July, I made a special trip to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, with my family, my brother, a few relatives and singer Prem Lopchan, total of ten people. We took two cars for the trip, five people on each, which were graciously provided by Sanjeep Dong and Radhika’s Uncle Bir Bahadur Lama, who were with us on the trip. Lumbini lies down in the southern flatlands, the only area where I felt a little like I was a on an American road trip with straight, long roads, but before the long roads we took a very roundabout way full of sharp turns. We had a good time in Lumbini, which is full of monasteries and tourists from all over the world. Every country has built their own monastery there, and interestingly, the best and most accurate monastery, according to Buddhist religious rules, belongs the Germans. We visited the palace in Tilaurakot that belonged to Buddha’s parents, or the site where it was supposed to have been in. Now it’s just a bare ground, but you can see bricks in the earth which imply where the rooms once were. The actual birthplace of Buddha was about 34 miles far away, where his mother gave birth to him under the trees. The local guide showed us where the gates had been in the palace, and which way the young Buddha went when he took his horse and left to seek truth and become enlightened. 

Birth Place of Lord Buddha. Kapilvastu, Lumbini, Nepal. 

After Lumbini, we stopped at a famous wildlife sanctuary, where some of us wanted to ride an elephant and some of us didn’t. It was raining nonstop. Radhika didn’t go, nor did her uncle, but Zina and I went. I was barely able to protect my camera in the heavy rain, which made riding the elephant not very enjoyable, but I caught a cold afterwards. We didn’t see a single wild animal, except one sleeping little deer. We were supposed to see rhinos and tigers, but in the pouring rain they had all gone into the bushes to sleep. 

Our visit to Nepal flew by and our many planned events took up most of our time, so we didn’t get to visit all the places we would have liked to, or visit everyone we wanted to see. But in this way, we left something to look forward to for our next trip. Meanwhile, it’s always nice to return back to New York where there is light with the touch of a button and the toilet always flushes. 

A brief journal of my visit to Nepal was written by Ngima Pakhrin and published in Everest Times, a nepalese paper of New York, on Oct 16-31, 2014 issue. I want to thank both Ngima Pakhrin for writing and the Everest Times for publishing the journal. I also want to thank Romy Ashby for helping me to translate this blog post and Samir Tamang for helping me in the final editing of this blog post. 

Finally, I want to end this by thanking all of the family, friends, well-wishers and supporters who made our home coming trip so nice with their warm welcome. We are very grateful to all of you and we look forward to seeing all of you again.

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Charles Henri Ford 
10 February 1908 - September 27, 2002

      Twelve years ago today Charles Henri Ford left this world at the age of 94. As most people acquainted with Charles will know, he changed the spelling of his middle name from Henry to Henri as a very young person to avoid any confusion with the Henry Ford of automotive fame. In poking around the internet, I discovered by accident that the very first Model T Ford car was assembled on this very day, September 27th, in 1908. September 27th is also noted as the day that the Balinese Tiger was declared extinct in 1937, and in 1968 on this date, the musical called HAIR opened in London. The actress Clara Bow, "The It Girl," as they called her, died on this day in 1965, and I'm sure that Charles must have seen all of her movies in his youth, because judging from his early diaries, he never missed a show. This is just a note to let him know, wherever he is now, that he is not forgotten, his dates of entry and exit are always remembered, and this will always be so.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On the Occasion of Ruth Ford’s 103rd Birthday

On the Occasion of Ruth Ford’s 103rd Birthday

July 7, 1911 – August 12, 2009

In 1911 on this day, July 7th, Ruth was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi. If her brother Charles Henri’s diary entries are to be believed, the two of them had an idyllic childhood full of fun together. They loved to swim if it was warm enough outside, and they found all kinds of ways to amuse themselves around home. On June 23rd, 1922, Charles wrote in his diary: “Sister & I had a circus out in the back yard. We had fortune telling, the Siamese twins, the remains of Lot’s wife, bathing beauties, clowns, a shooting gallery and lemonade. We made $1.05. Not bad…”
A movie ticket cost about a nickel at that time, and Ruth and Charles went to as many as they could manage to see. Early on, Charles thought that his sister had something special that might work for the movies. Soon after Ruth’s 11th birthday, he wrote in his diary that a movie star had come to Memphis, where they were living at the time, and had chosen four ladies and three girls for tryouts. “Sis was one of the girls,” he wrote. “I hope she ‘registers’ right.” He also kept a clipping from the local newspaper from July 12th, 1922, which read:

“Miss Maude George, prominent film star who is making a host of friends during her local engagement at the palace Theatre, was greeted by a large crowd of women and children yesterday in Lowenstein’s millinery salon, where she chose types that would “register well in films.” In order to see how these types actually register, a moving picture will be made of those selected by the star and shown at the Palace Theater and afterwards sent to Universal City, Cal., where it will be observed by directors and producers in need of material.”
Moviestar Mauda George

Maude George really was a prominent actress of her day, starring in movies with titles like The Devil’s Pass Key and Foolish Wives, and she worked with Erich Von Stroheim. I wish I could ask Ruth what she remembers about her first screen test, because whatever the outcome, it didn’t make it into Charles’s diary. However, he was right in his thinking that Ruth had something special, because she ended up being an actress. In addition to her work on stage, she made quite a few movies, especially during the 1940s. Strange Impersonation, Lady Gangster and Adventure in Iraq are just three of the movies Ruth made in those years, and you can see them without paying even a nickel, right here on the Internet. 

So, dear Ruth, you did it. You ‘registered’ well, and you will always be beautiful and young on the silver screen. Wherever you are, I wish you a very happy birthday.

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Driving Trip to Florida

Driving Trip to Florida

Cherry Blossoms in Maryland.

 This past April, when Zina had a two-week vacation from her school, we decided to spend some of that time taking a trip to Florida. We left New York on April 12th,which was a Saturday, and headed to Maryland, where we would spend the first night at our friend Sumitra’s house. The next day, Sumitra, her husband Keshab and her 85-year-old Mother got into the car with us. Radhika’s Mitini (best friend), Pancha Maya, was also with us, making us seven in the car. Before continuing further south to Florida, we visited the cherry blossoms in bloom in Maryland, and then we crossed Washington DC. We had made an appointment to have tea with the President, of course, but to my disappointment he was not available, having other things apparently higher on his priority list than having tea with us.

That night, Sunday the 13th, we spent in a nice motel in Georgia. Everything along the road in Georgia was pretty to look at and the next day, leaving Georgia behind, we drove many hours until we reached Orlando. We decided to skip Disney World since everyone in the car was old except Zina, and she had already been there once anyway, six years ago. So we continued on to the home of Radhika’s cousin Sunny, who lives two or three hours from Orlando at 4743 NW 82nd Ave., Lauderhill, FL 33351. Sunny lives with her mother, her husband and their two little boys. They also have three dogs, in three varied sizes, the littlest one making all the noise. Sunny kept them in the bedroom, and her mother made a big dinner for us. We spent the night there, and then the next day we drove all the way down to Palm Beach.

At the entrance of Disney World, Orlando, FL. 

In Palm Beach we took a little sightseeing trip on a boat, with the captain very busy showing everyone the houses belonging to all the famous actresses and actors and basketball stars and Cuban singers. He pointed out one that had belonged to Elizabeth Taylor and another belonging to Jackie Chan, and we were told that those islands are strictly exclusive to the people who own those palaces, and to visit, one needs a special invitation from a resident. Some of the homes pay taxes of $10,000 a month, and one particular house had 80 palm trees imported from Africa planted around his yard, each one costing $10,000. People were living in heaven on earth in this place in these trophy houses, some of them for just one week a year while spending the rest of the time elsewhere, making movies or doing whatever else they do. Then we drove around looking at all the fabulous gardens and houses in this unimaginable paradise. Everything was green and lush on every road.  

We also took a noisy boat ride through the Everglades. It was full of birds and crocodiles and all kinds of plants and weeds. The boat held 15 or 20 people, and we went speeding through the swamp with the motor up above the roof. The blades couldn’t be beneath the boat because the giant weeds in the water would jam them in no time, and with the motor over our heads, the boat just glided over the water. When it stopped, crocodiles would come towards us trying to sniff us out, but then the boat would move again so as not to give the crock a chance to grab anybody, thankfully. They look very weird, the crocks did, with their always-wanting- something-to-eat expression—and given the chance it would definitely grab someone, and that person would be eaten. It was a package tour, and towards the end of the program they had a crocodile show in an enclosure. There were quite a few crocodiles in this place, where a young man and woman gave demonstrations. These were all crocks that had been captured from people’s back yards rather than the wild—crocks who had attacked pets, etc. They were stray crocodiles, we were told, picked up from the road and from yards. The man explained things about them while woman climbed onto the crocks and played with them. She could put her chin at the tip of the crock’s snout and terrible open mouth, fearlessly.  The crock was held inert under her weight. I took some pictures of that moment. It’s not something I would ever try myself without becoming an expert. The woman would also tempt the crock by putting her hand right near its mouth and then snatch it away just as the crock snapped at her. It was an extraordinary thing to see. 
Daredevil Demonstration with Crocodile. Everglades, Fl.

Back at Sunny’s house, we spent another night after a grocery shopping. Her mother, Radhika and Sumitra made dumplings for dinner, which was delicious. The next day we bid farewell to Sunny and her family and headed back North. We spent the night near Orlando.  From there, on April 18th, we drove many hours back Maryland, arriving at Sumitra and Keshab’s house at almost midnight, and spent the night there.

With Sunny’s family at her residence. Lauderhill, Fl. 
April 19th we drove back to New York, Zina, Radhika and myself. Before making the trip to Florida I had thought, Oh, boy this will be an adventure. And as they say, curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction brought it back. It’s a good place, Florida, overall. I would imagine it would be a nice place to live. But you do have floods and hurricanes to worry about. I would have liked to visit Key West, but it was a little too far. I think it would be interesting to go back there some time, to see where Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Harold Stevenson all spent time. I would definitely visit Florida again, but as for living, I have to say that I’m happy where I am, in New York. And even through hurricane Sandy and a few blackouts, we’ve been very lucky that our house has never been affected.

On May 14th, I attended the submission of one million signatures to the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at United Nations, gathered as part of a campaign to declare Lumbini, Nepal the birthplace of the Buddha. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has already declared Lumbini, Nepal as his birthplace, but the signatures were intended to remind people that Buddha was born in Nepal and achieved his enlightenment in India, since some school textbooks have mistakenly printed India as his birthplace. As printed on the World Heritage web site:

“Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.”

Few years earlier, a handful of people started a campaign to collect signatures to reinforce information about Buddha’s birthplace and further spread it around the globe, an effort spearheaded by Prem Guragain.

May 14th saw a very colorful group of people with Nepali flags and some wearing Nepali dress gathered with news media personnel in front of the United Nations on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. It was a full moon day. According to the legend, Buddha was born on a full moon day on 623 B.C. He also achieved enlightenment on a full moon day and died on a full moon day, which makes full moon day very sacred in Buddhism. 
The event was reported on in the Himalayan Times:
Nepalese people with Nepali flags in front of UN building on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti for the campaign to submit a million signatures to Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon. May 14th 2014. New York NY.
Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 

Friday, April 11, 2014



Prime Minister Sushil Koirala arriving at JFK airport, NY. 
Not long ago, I posted a blog piece about Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, soon after he was elected. Now he’s in the world news again for having edged out José Mujica, the president of Uruguay, for the title of Poorest World Leader. 

Both leaders are admired for their frugality and known for being truly concerned about the welfare of ordinary people. But even though President Mujica is reported to sometimes work without wearing any shoes, he does own a very old Volkswagen Beetle, which in 2010 had a value of $1,900. Prime Minister Koirala owns no car and his only property of any value are three mobile phones, one of which doesn’t work. His rejection of his own inheritance in favor of living a life of austerity and public service is considered the exception rather than the rule, since not many politicians anywhere appear to have an interest in following his example, or that of President Mujica.

The Himalayan Times, however, posted a different kind of article about one of Prime Minister Koirala’s activities in Kathmandu yesterday: the inauguration of a five-day Mahatma Gandhi Story Telling in the capitol, organized by the Mahendra Narayan Nidhi Memorial Foundation. During his inauguration, PM Koirala spoke of Gandhi’s commitment to  non-violence and peace. He stressed that movements of non-violence would bring about positive social and political changes, and praised the many people of Nepal who have chosen to follow that path as well. 

Official Nepalese Government Document of PM Koirala’s Property:

If you want to find out about other Nepalese Politician’s Properties click link below:

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 

On the Passing of Leee Black Childers

On the Passing of Leee Black Childers

Leee Black Childers posing in NYC. 1990. 

I don’t remember exactly when I met Leee, but it had to be soon after I came to America, which was in 1974. In 1976, Charles had a show called POSTCARDS TO CHARLES HENRI FORD at the Iolas Gallery at 52 East 57th Street. Leee was the person who took the photograph for the invitation. In the years to come I took several portraits of him, and he was a frequent visitor to the Dakota. Very often he came for tea by himself, just to sit and talk. He also sometimes brought punk groups with him to meet Charles, and if memory serves, I think he brought Marianne Faithful to visit one day. 

In the 1990s, Charles took portraits of Leee as part of a photography series he made using projection. He rented a big loft on Greene Street for that purpose, and he’d ask whoever was coming to sit for him to bring slides along—their own work or something they liked—images which he would project onto the person and then photograph them. I think Leee brought slides of models he had photographed. After Charles photographed him, he gave him the contact sheets and the negatives so he could have prints made and Leee never returned them. So there are photos that Charles took of Leee, at least one or two contact sheets, somewhere in Leee’s archives. I just hope that all of his work will be preserved, by someone somewhere. You assume that it will be, but it’s not unusual for a person’s whole archive to end up in a dumpster. I hope his work will be preserved in a good place.

Leee Black Childers. 1995.
For a while, Charles and I saw a lot of him, and I’m quite sure we ran into him at Studio 54. I don’t remember him going around with a camera there. I think he mostly photographed people in the studio with his Hasselblad. That’s not the kind of camera you use to shoot on the street or in a club. I believe he used the Hasselblad to collect a lot of his stars back then, although I could be wrong about that. 

At some point after 1980, Leee went to London for some years, and eventually he came back to New York and began all over again. He would take photographs of celebrities and up-and-comers both. I remember running into him at the Limelight one night. Charles and I sat down with him and a blonde lady, who he introduced as his wife. He was a character. I remember running into him on 57th Street one day—I don’t recall now whether it was before or after Charles passed, but I ran into him on the street and he was wearing two completely different shoes on his feet. One foot with one colored shoe and the other with another. Since that I’ve wondered about what it signified. I’m sure he did it on purpose and I still wonder: what was the significance of that? I’d like to ask him, but now he’s gone.

I wish I had seen more of Leee. Charles liked him very much and I did too. We enjoyed his outgoing, friendly personality.  It was through Andy Warhol that we came to know him. Meeting Andy and the Warhol crowd was how Leee got his first opportunities to photograph all those people that he did, and in the collection Charles kept of postcards sent to him over the years is one from Leee: a portrait he took of Jackie Curtis posing as if ‘waiting for someone,’ you know, the way I used to see girls ‘waiting for someone’ along 42nd Street. 

Today I dug up the old invitation to Charles’s show at Iolas—a postcard—with the  photo Leee made of a crowd of people, including Ruth Ford, Ned Rorem, Holly Woodlawn, Charles, myself and quite a few others, and the message: “Having wonderful time—wish you were here! Charles Henri.”

Invitation card for "Postcard to Charles Henri Ford" show that used photo by Leee Black Childers. 1976. 

Quite a few of the people in that photo are still with us, but it feels like many of the people we knew in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s have been dying like flies lately. It was always wonderful to be in Leee’s company, and although we hadn’t been in touch for some time, I was very sorry to learn that he passed away. I will keep him in my memory. 

Leee Black Childers at Charles’ Apt at Dakota. 1979.

July 24, 1945 – April 6, 2014
May he rest in peace

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Shirley Temple in her childhood as an child star.

Recently, I received an email from my dear friend Daniel Haber, who lives in Nepal, telling me how sad he was to learn that Shirley Temple had died. He wrote that she was his favorite child actor, and that she made many people happy with her cute dancing and dimples during the depths of the Great Depression. “I lit a butter lamp for her at the Great Boudhnath Stupa here,” he wrote, “and prayed that in her next life that she’ll make others happy in the Dharma and to become free from repeated births in Samsara.” He went on to tell me that on the Valentine’s Day in the English class he teaches, he taught his students to sing a line from “Everyday’s a Holiday When I’m with You,” one of his favorite Shirley Temple songs.

Until I came to the United States in 1974, I had never heard of Shirley Temple. But I remember seeing her on TV in my early years here, and I liked her. She was such a cute little girl, and I saw quite a lot of her old movies. The only thing I knew about her in later years was that she became the ambassador to the Czech Republic, which is of course very impressive. I would imagine that it must have helped her in her diplomatic affairs to be able to remind people of who she was. Because I think everyone, all over the world, likes Shirley Temple if they know her.

When I made a blog post on February 10th this year for Charles’s 106th birthday, I didn’t know that Shirley Temple had died on that day. There was a little coincidence that she passed away on the date that Charles was born, and she died in Woodside, California, while I live in Woodside, Queens.  

I’ve been lucky to have gotten to meet many interesting people; actors and writers and all kinds of characters, but I never got to meet Shirley Temple Black, and I think I would have liked to, very much. It seems that she never did anything in her life that wasn’t somehow good. Her earthly presence will surely be missed. 

Shirley Temple Black
April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved. 



Dinner hosted to honor present PM of Nepal Mr. Sushil Koirala at my resident Woodside, NY. 

As everyone has heard by now, this month the Nepalese parliament finally elected a new Prime Minister, ending the political standoff that had dragged on for years. The new Prime Minister is Sushil Koirala, a man I’ve written about before (Blogpost July 2010), and whom I have the privilege to be acquainted with. 

In the article that NEW YORK TIMES published on February 10th, he was described as an unsmiling man who gives dour speeches, but the Times also reported: “In his youth, he took acting lessons in hopes of becoming an overseas movie star. King Mahendra’s coup in 1960 dashed Mr. Koirala’s acting dreams, and he spent the next 16 years in political exile in India.”

Having been in the position to have known a number of actors and some very well (Ruth Ford, for example), I think it is interesting the way that actors often turn to politics. When I think about it, some acting skills probably come in handy to be a politician. It’s no coincidence that with the global issues we face, leaders of nations are often referred to as Actors on the World Stage. In the New York Times article, political commentator Kanak Mani Dixit remarked, “Koirala is going to have to gather all of his skills to persuade his partners to stick with him in governance and constitution writing.” 

I’m well known for not following politics closely, nor for giving many opinions about politics, but it’s impossible for me to ignore this big event, in part for personal reasons. In June 28th 2010, I was unexpectedly honored by Janasamparka Tayari Samiti USA, and Mr. Koirala, the acting President of the Nepal Congress Party at the time, was the chief guest of the program. (Approximately two years later he became the official president of that party). I had met him several times before in New York, having been involved in all the programs hosted to honor him, and I’ve written about how very polite, sincere and understanding I found him to be. He was always so friendly and accessible to everyone, and now he probably won’t be able to be so accessible for security reasons, and that is very understandable. 
Program held by Janasamparka Tayari Samiti, USA. June 28th 2010.  From left: Ms. Mridula Koirala, Radhika Tamang, Indra Tamang, His Excellency Gyan Chandra Acharya (Ambassador to UN at the time), Present Nepalese PM Mr. Sushil Koirala, Mr. Khagendra GC. 

On the day that I was being given the honor, I felt slightly uncomfortable at the notion of being in the spotlight, with a “why me?” ringing in my head. But in giving me the honor, Mr. Koirala managed to make me feel both humble and important, and all of the misgivings I’d had about being publicly honored suddenly vanished. He has a gift for making others feel confident and self-assured, the way he effortlessly made me feel that day. He was anything but unsmiling and dour as the New York Times article described him. He was rather warm and charming and his good will was contagious.

So, while it is true that I don’t like to give political opinions one way or another in general, I do think that the gift Mr. Koirala has for empowering others with his humility and sincerity will go a long way, along with his true desire for democracy and equality, to achieving what Kanak Mani Dixit said in the Times that he will need in order to succeed. If anyone can persuade others to stick with him in governance, and govern in a way that is just and balanced, it is Sushil Koirala. And as the Prime Minister of Nepal, he is now officially an actor on the World Stage.

I wish him the best of luck in all of his endeavors, good health and heartfelt congratulations. May God give him strength to lead and govern  in the best interest of the whole country.

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

101, Like a Fever

101, Like a Fever

Charles Henri Ford. Crete, Greece. Summer 1980. Photo by: Indra Tamang

It has been a century plus six years since Charles Henri Ford was born in Mississippi on February 10th, 1908. If he were still alive, he would probably call himself “101,” like a fever, because he always claimed that his birth year was 1913, erasing five years off his age.  Both Charles and Ruth liked to give themselves a little discount on age, in order (they thought) to appear younger. But as much as he might not like to admit it, Charles’s true age today would be 106, not 101. 

His windows in the Dakota still look down over the park and everything is the same, while at the same time, all is different. His rooms are full of boxes filled with letters, papers and art. Reading some of his letters, many of them sent to his sister Ruth, reminds me just how full and exceptional a life Charles led. And reading the letters makes me feel he is still here, and that everyone he mentioned in those letters is still here too, because in the letters they are forever still here and living life as he described it. Charles was always doing so much that the way he lived could have been called “feverish,” with all that he was creating and observing. But it was the kind of fever that feels very good, like flying. 

From one letter that Charles wrote to Ruth from Paris in 1931, these quotes:

“Jean Cocteau I haven’t met because he’s ill most of the time from smoking opium. And he’s recovering from a typhoid attack he got in Toulon this summer.”

 “Djuna’s ‘A Little Girl Tells a Story to A Lady’ is in her book of shortstories, A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES, and is the favorite one of mine. I told her what you said about it being about a lady with a little idiot daughter and she said you were very clever.”

“Day before yesterday Jacques Bossard (you will like him) had me to lunch and begged me to go on a small house party at his father’s chateau in Brittany. But I refused because it’s just too far (10 hours on the train) and I have had enough traveling for some time to come.”

“The last word from Miss Stein was that she would return to Paris late in October.”

His letters are full of such thoughts and bits of news. He wrote to Ruth many, many letters over his long life, all of which Ruth kept.

In honor of his birthday, I want to announce a little series of chapbooks I plan to make containing writings and artwork by Charles. You’ll hear more about that in time. For now, I want to wish him a very good rest after his long fever of a life, lived to the fullest. As Charles said in that letter, “My dear, I could write more but I want to get this off on the next boat and the maid is waiting to take it out before it’s too late.”

Charles Henri Ford 
10 February 1908 - September 27, 2002

-Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.