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Showing posts from November, 2009

RETURN OF A PRINCESS

There was this slim beauty standing her ground meeting a variety of guests at a foreign legation as if planted there by some grand design. At closer look, required due to Nepal's transformation to a republic thereby erasing from our collective memories familiar royal visages, I realized that my wife had just shaken hands with Princess Himani, the last crown princess of Nepal following an introduction by the French Ambassador.

I could only wonder why such a scene did not take place more often when royalties were gracing the erstwhile Kingdom of Nepal. Ordinary Nepalese did not get the opportunity to be up close and personal with their sovereign king and his family zealously guarded and isolated by privileged courtiers. Too, the family members all but shied away during most occasions preferring isolation to high visibility, a bad and ultimately costly decision in image building. More than for reasons of security perhaps it was acts of lèse-majesté the inner circle feared most but in…

DANCING WITH A KHUKRI

Decapitating a he-goat with one stroke of the Khukri is not for the faint-hearted. My rite of passage into manhood many a time during Dashera at my father's maula puja came with my offering visceral support to animal sacrifices but by keeping at arms length from both the animal and the weaponry. Striking from a distance I was an expert at: beginning with an air-gun, then graduating to .22 caliber rifle I terrorized the avian population at my father's large estate at Kiran Bhawan, Dashera or no Dashera. But close combat was not my forte. Failing to decapitate the hapless goat with one stroke of the khukri meant bad karma to the house (and nobody thought of the goat here) and this burden I was unwilling to shoulder.

As Nepal is the last bastion of the oldest form of Hinduism yet unencumbered by the restraining influences of monotheistic Christianity and Islam as in India, we Nepalese sacrifice an assortment of animals to a plethora of Gods and Goddesses. We need to appease all th…

JUNG BAHADUR AND THE COURTESAN - LOVE IN THE TIME OF EMPIRE

Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana was the toast of London town. A prince from the Orient captured the popular imagination of Victorian England. A newspaper account of the period describes him as athletic, dark and handsome; bedecked in fine pearls and sparkling jewels like most Oriental despots. Jung had good reasons to be no less: he had taken state power in Nepal during the Kot Massacre of 1846, survived the Bhandarkhal plot aimed at destroying him a year later and was now, in 1850, the first prince from the South Asian Sub-continent to be invited at the court of Queen Victoria.

Both aristocracy and nobility vied with one another to give him the most opulent reception possible. On a particular mid-June evening when London warms up to a fleeting summer solstice, Jung was preparing himself for yet another party. Staying at Richmond Terrace, just a stone's throw away from Buckingham Palace, Jung had easy access to the drawing rooms of the rich and famous. He was already getting bore…

ROLE MODELS - A TRIBUTE

Muhammad Ali is credited with having recited the shortest poem in the English language. At a Harvard University commencement ceremony where he was the chief guest he delivered one of his trademark speeches although he was already suffering from Parkinson's disease. At the end of the speech somebody from the hall yelled asking him to deliver a poem. He was legendary for delivering off-the-cuff rhymes like "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." To the hush that followed Ali volunteered, "Me, Whee"! There could not have been a more succinct way to describe his own persona, from a boxing legend to a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam, from Nation of Islam member to being the greatest sporting icon of the 20th century; Ali has followed his conscience come hell or high water. Yes, indeed, whee, what a person! This poem with only two syllables allegedly beat "Adam Had'em", considered the shortest poem until then with three syllables ref…