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Showing posts from April, 2009

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

Crown Prince Dipendra is said to have kept several guns in his room, he was always shooting crows or bats in the palace grounds, he was ambidextrous concerning firearms, and these were the character traits cited for shooting up his entire family! I don't want to sound like a spokesperson for The U.S. National Rifle Association or its Nepalese counterpart, if any, but it is true that guns do not kill people, only people do. We grew up with guns all over the house; Dipendra did not enjoy monopoly on this score.

When I was young my favorite pastime was to check all the guns my father had, dismantle them, rebuild them again, take aim and click the trigger. There was an assortment of handguns and rifles. There was the German 9 mm Luger Pistol dating back to Hitler's Third Reich with an attachable butt to make it into a rifle. There was also the American Colt .45 caliber automatic U.S. army issue pistol, the one my father killed a tiger with. It was heavy; I could hardly hold it in m…

GAMES FROM MY FATHER

Kathmandu was an overgrown village in the early sixties. It would be difficult to imagine it now but old guide books alluringly described the valley as having as many temples as peoples' houses, a point not far from the truth as we indeed have 33 million deities in our Hindu pantheon whereas Nepal had a population of only 10 million then, a reassuring 3:1 ratio to protect us in our innocence.

My father's mansion Kiran Bhawan located on the heights of Sanepa with magnificent views of the mid-Himalayan range was an island of seclusion just five kilometers from the city center with rice fields ringing it from all sides. Inside we had a bucolic existence - there was a vegetable garden, several orchards, horse stables, milking cows, homing pigeons and, occasionally, even wild boars for the family table - an exercise in self-sufficiency perhaps we need to emulate in our federated Nepal! Living there was truly being isolated from the world outside, except for the games we played.

Th…

THE LAST TIGER

I learnt to play gin rummy in the most unlikely spot imaginable, in the heart of the dense jungles of the Terai, in a hunting camp! My teacher was the last hunter hosted by Nepal Shikar Pvt. Ltd., the big game hunting outfit my father had started after retiring from the military. Although his name unfortunately escapes me, I remember his fondness for the game and his only interest in the jungles of Nepal was bagging a tiger, nothing less and nothing else. As days dragged by without a tiger being sighted or taking a bait, I was with him in the camp all day long playing the game of cards while my father was gone with the shikaris and trackers in search of the big cat. In the late afternoon we tried partridge shooting in the fields near our camp, quite a tough feat as the birds are shot while they fly zigzagging across the corn field. The client was an expert shot while it was a learning curve for me.

The year was 1972, the last year hunting was allowed in Nepal. India had already banned …

THE WOOD AND IRON GAME

I remember the early morning wake up calls I got from my father during school holidays. In those days I only wish that I were as enthusiastic as father was. Late mornings were what I looked forward to at home after the Godavari school regime of 6 o'clock bells ringing right next to our ears. My father had re-invented the game in Nepal, years after the golfing Ranas had packed up their bags and left since the Gauchar (cattle pasture) became an airport. A handful of Nepalese exposed to this game during foreign postings or military training afar were the first members of the golf club my father helped start as its founding president. Rest of them were foreigners on deputation here. My father General Kiran Shumsher J. B. Rana had retired from the army as its chief in 1956 A.D. and, with significant influence this post held even after retirement, he had been able to wrest a good chunk of pasture land to the north-west section of the airport for a golf course. He became the founding pre…