Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Recent Visit to Nepal

My Recent Visit to Nepal
Waving Nepal's Flag with Mr. Laxmi Narayan Silpakar, flag bearer of Kathmandu, at Basantapur Durbar Square.
Behind me is a temple reduced to rubble after the devastating earthquake.
Photo by Arjun Pakhrin, Radio Sagarmatha.

As many of you know, after the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, I put together a fundraiser, Help Nepal Benefit Concert, to raise money to help the earthquake victims. The Concert, which was held on May 30th, 2015, here in New York City, had performances by many famous Nepalese artists as well as American, British and Japanese musicians. We successfully raised $12,000 from the fundraiser. 

In October last year, I traveled to Kathmandu, and with the help of Tamang Artist Association of Nepal, a program was organized at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu, where I was able to hand over the funds to the selected recipients personally.  The money was distributed among seven different earthquake impacted districts, where it will be used specifically for schools in small villages. I contributed a hundred thousand rupees myself to the Tamang Artist’s Association for their help, and my cousin from New York as well as well known social worker Mr. Banshalal Tamang made a generous contribution of his own. There was a good turnout for the program, with many speeches made by prominent Tamang figures, many famous tamang singers, although there were no performances. Mr. Rudra Singh Tamang, Chief and Executive Officer, Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, attended as the Chief Guest of the program. Among the attendees were famous linguist Mr. Amrit Yonjan, President of Tamang Ghedung Sangh Mr. Kumar Yonjan, social worker Mr. Gajendra Kumar Lama and formal parliament member Mr. Bir Bahadur Lama. The event was well covered by the media, both local and US based outlets, including the Everest Times, US Nepal Online and Nepali Bulletin. Mr. Manchhiring Tamang, Chief Editor of Nepali Bulletin, was also present at the program. Handing the funds over was a great relief to me, and my little speech was something to that effect; that the burden of using the funds effectively was now shifted onto the recipients. 

While I was there, I saw only a tiny fraction of the tremendous damage caused by the earthquake, but what I saw was spectacular. So many houses were crumbled to the ground. In my own village, the two houses which I built for my family were both very unsafe to live in. The members of my family who had lived there are in a temporary shelter outside, but they still go into one of the old houses to cook, which I think is taking a big risk because there are still aftershocks. Both houses are too badly damaged to be repaired, so eventually they’ll have to come down. Something else I found in my village was that the little creek where we used to get our water as far back as I can remember, is now dried up as a consequence of the earthquake. So now everyone has to go much farther to get water, which is difficult and affects everyone’s life very much.
Earthquake survivors. Sindhupalchowk
Devastated house which claimed a life at Dilli Bazaar, Kathmandu.

My cousin's old house damaged by earthquake
Aftermath of earthquake, Sindhupalchowk.

Dried up Creek at my village.
Adding insult to injury after the earthquake was the blockade, with India not allowing fuel and provisions into Nepal. I was in Kathmandu during the time of the Dashain festival, which is the main festival, and everything was closed. There was also no gasoline available so there were no cars about. There was no cooking gas—meaning not even a cup of tea—and worse than that, no basic medicines for people needing dialysis and other life sustaining services. At the same time, some greedy people were taking advantage of the blockade with black market gasoline, making big profits who gladly prosper from the suffering of the many, and as usual. It’s always the ordinary honest hardworking people who are suffers. I saw mini buses, crowded with people sitting all over the roofs, listing to one side like ships with the weight imbalance which is very unsafe. I didn’t ride a single bus, but I did ride on the motorbike with my brother. 

My brother and his family, along with our mother, had been living outside in Kathmandu since the earthquake damaged my house there. But since the winter has started, they’re taking their chances and staying in it anyway. The house is the one Charles Henri Ford originally bought so many years ago, and it’s a very old house, now noticeably unstable. The walls and ceilings are full of cracks and gaps. I stayed there during my visit, and at night little pieces of dirt or plaster would fall from the ceiling onto the floor. I would hear the sound and wonder if it meant the house was trembling. Somehow, I managed to get enough sleep anyway. 
Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu.

Remaining piece of Dharara also known as Bhimsen Tower. Sundara, Kathmandu
Water shortages meant few baths, and there was usually no hot water, so I washed my hair with cold water every day. In twenty days, I must have had only two or three hot showers. People who have better houses or houses with no damage do have hot water, but my house was not one of the lucky ones. As for drinking water, people play it safe by buying large bottles of water, and to be absolutely certain they boil the water they buy so that it’s safe to drink. 

During my trip, I also had chance to visit His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery. Along with me were Bansalal Tamang, Pemba Sherpa Hyolmo, my brother Suraj Tamang and few others. His eminence gave us a brief tour of the monastery and his eminence treated our group with delicious lunch. It felt refreshing to visit the monastery in midst of the earthquake aftermath and economic blockade. 
On the rooftop of a building at Kopan Monastery with His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche. Kopan,  Kathmandu.
Photo by Suraj Tamang.

I’ve only roughly summarized my trip here, but I do feel that I was able to accomplish quite a few things during my short stay. I returned on November 1st to New York, home sweet home, feeling good about having gone. 

Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

On the Occasion of Charles Henri’s Birthday

On the Occasion of Charles Henri’s Birthday

Today, February 10th, is the birthday of Charles Henri Ford. He would be 108 if he was still here, and he’d probably like that. On this occasion, I thought it might be nice to publish a short letter he wrote to Gertrude Stein on this date in 1930. 

144 MacDougal Street
New York City
Feb 10, 1930

Dear Miss Stein,
L’adorable c’est ici. for number 8.
More beautiful, so are things complicated.
heart tremblings in n.y. So are paris.
So are stein
so blues
so what the hell.


The building in which Charles wrote this letter, at 144 MacDougal Street, no longer exists—it was replaced by an NYU law library—but once it was a print shop where Anais Nin printed her first three books. The number 8 in Charles’s little letter refers to the 8th issue of his magazine, Blues, to which Gertrude Stein made contributions. 

I get letters regularly from scholars asking about Charles, and about what he did and what he knew. The interest in him has not lessened. If anything, it just keeps growing.

Happy Birthday, Charles. You live on through your marvelous influence.

Charles Henri Ford. Chania, Crete, Greece. 1980.
Photo By Indra Tamang

Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.