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AN ADVENTURER NONPAREIL

There is a community out there in far western Nepal that suspends matrimonial bonds for one week during the festival of Holi, the ageless festival of colors and gaiety Lord Krishna enjoyed with his gopinis in an age before ours. Anything goes, new loves are pursued, new ties are created for a brief period until the festivities end and life comes back to its mundane self. Now don't raise your hopes too high, I did not find this community; I am not an anthropologist. Dana Brown did, or so he claims in voice recorded tapes that have now been digitalized to mp3 and available over the internet!

Dana Brown with his tiger bagged in Nepal
Dana Drown is the epitome of the great, male, white hunter. In school we read about Allan Quatermain the protagonist of "King Solomon's Mines", the quintessential explorer and Africa lover forever overcoming overwhelming odds in the dark heart of Africa. Dana Brown was the latter day Quatermain exploring the jungles of Africa and South Asia in search of the great big trophies and even bigger stories. He was a coffee baron from St. Louis, Missouri and he came to shoot the tiger with my father no less than three times in the sixties.

Nepal Shikar Private Limited was founded by my father to allow international trophy seekers to hunt big game in the Nepal Terai, the greatest hunting trophy of them all being the Royal Bengal Tiger. No, the Rhinos were prohibited to take back as trophies even then. Jungles were thick and man-eating tigers were always on the prowl to prey on helpless villagers living at the edge of the foreboding wilderness. The sixties witnessed the borderline period before the hunters became the hunted, before humans started annihilating those magnificent beasts for monetary gains rather than for self-defense.

Dana Brown with shikari Malla Babusahev
There were many rich Americans and a few European royalty who came to shoot with Nepal Shikar. I remember Ralph Scott a Texas oil man who hunted in Nawalpur in 1966 and he was at the time rumored to be the 19th richest American. Another hunter was a one-legged U.S. Air Force veteran pilot who trained to become a lawyer after he lost his leg when his aircraft was shot down in WWII. I have forgotten his name. He had morphed into one of the highest earning lawyers in the D.C. area. But among my father's big game hunting clients, Dana Brown stands out as the person who fell in love with the Nepal Terai. I remember him cramping himself in tree tops sleepless all night to record the jungle sounds. He even recorded sounds of tigers mating! He was very interested in the Tharu Community, endlessly shooting films on them, their rapidly disappearing habitat and their insular culture. One story tells us that the Tharus are people of Burmese descent who came to the Nepal Terai in the middle ages and survived the blistering heat, the ever present threat of wild animals and, most importantly, the malarial parasite having slowly built immunity against it.

My father, Dana Brown and a shikari
Dana Brown shot a tiger each time he was here, including a near record size male and another that was a proven man-eater. Dana Brown claims in stories I have read of him that he was personally invited by the king of Nepal to shoot a man-eater, a claim for fame aimed more at his own gullible community in Missouri rather than any historical fact, but who would not romance the Himalayan kingdom of the fifties and sixties? But, yes, kill a man-eater he did with my father cleverly laying the trap to the gratitude of the terrorized Tharu community. The tiger had already taken seven lives.


Dana Brown was a coffee magnate and he started a new line of coffee, the "Tiger Brand" in memory of his Nepal shoots. He has a huge collection of hunting film footage from his exploits in Africa and Nepal gathering dust in a warehouse in St. Louis. An article published in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dated 24 November 2006 states,"The silver-gray metal canisters and reels of 16" mm films inside have been carefully stacked on the shelves of a fourth-floor storage room in south St. Louis. If the film has not deteriorated - and a brief inspection recently indicated that it remained intact - it offers a potentially amazing look into the lives of the people and wildlife that inhabited some of the most remote corners of the world at that time. The film also provides a glimpse into the life of a local icon, whose Safari brand coffee line commercials and documentaries entertained generations of St. Louisans. Many of Brown's documentaries began with 'This is Safari Land, and I am Dana Brown'."

Dana Brown passed away in 1994. The savvy businessman and globe-trotting outdoorsman has left behind the Dana Brown Charitable Trust that has pumped U.S. $ 40 million into local institutions, from St. Louis Children's Hospital to Forest Park and the St. Louis Zoo. We shall now never know more about the community in Western Nepal that celebrated Holi with such wanton abandon but Dana's legacy lives on.

Comments

  1. I wonder if the Dana Brown Charitable Trust has provided assistance to the Tharu community with which he was so fascinated.

    Surely that "free-love during Holi" community must still exist somewhere in western Nepal. It would be a bonanza for anthropologists - and others, keeping in mind that 2011 is Nepal Tourism Year!

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  2. In Nepal, Dana Brown has left his mark. In my country, Malaysia, there were 3 white hunters, explorers and adventures whose name encrypted in my country's history book.

    If Dana Brown has chosen coffee as his merchandise in memory of his Nepal shoots, in Malaysia, a British explorer by the name of John Archibald Russell founded BOH tea plantations in 1929.

    Today BOH Plantations Sdn. Bhd. is the largest black tea manufacturer in Malaysia that produce 4 million kgs of tea anually, as much as 5.5 millions cups a day. Boh is one of the only companies to grow, pack and produce its own tea.
    Boh's present day CEO (Caroline Russell who is now living in Malaysia), is actually the granddaughter of Archibald Russell the adventurer!

    Every tourist who comes to Malaysia should pay a visit to Cameron Highlands, a highland beautiful small town 214km from Kuala Lumpur whereby the key attractions include butterfly farm, strawberry farms, rose gardens and vegetable gardens. It was not a Malaysian who actually discovered and founded this beautiful settlement. It was another white explorer (actually a British colonial government surveyor) by the name of William Cameron, who discovered the plateau during an expedition in 1885.

    And then there is one of the 13 states in Malaysia called "Sarawak" which used to have a British explorer (James Brooke) as the infamous "White Rajah". James Brooke and his family ruled Sarawak as the Rajah of Sarawak for 100 years from 1841, until the Japanese invaded and took control in 1941.

    Well...Archibald Russel, William Cameron and James Brookes were all the white explorers who came to my country, Malaysia and created history.

    By the way, I was speechless for 2 minutes just know reading your writing "He (Dana Brown) even recorded sounds of tigers mating!" For me, no matter how romantic the tiger is, listening to sound of tiger's mating is the last thing for me to do. I would rather patiently wait for how many hours it takes, as long as I can hear what actually Manisha Koirala whispered to her newly-wed Samrat Dahal's ear during their first night together as a legally or "halal" married husband and wife:-) Just kidding.

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  3. One of those missed opportunities, if father had continued his contact with Dana Brown, yes I am pretty sure he would have bequeathed something to Nepal, perhaps to the Tharu Community, wildlife conservation or whatever he saw fit. A friendly call was all that was required.

    please go to this site to hear the tigers mating!!!

    http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/07/jungle-nights-m.html

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  4. I have visited the above-stated website (http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/07/jungle-nights-m.html) to hear the TIGER mating. Oh my God! Its really, really unique.

    Well...I am not sure whether what I heard just now was the sound of NEPAL TIGERS mating or was it actually the sound of TIGER WOODS (who admitted multiple infidelities with over a dozen women) mating :-)

    But...one think I am very sure is Samrat Dahal did not sound like that during his first night with my favourite Nepalese actress, Manisha Koirala, because Nepalese man is generally romantic, cool and polite:-) Oh I "hate" Samrat Dahal. How come Manisha has decided to choose him!!!!!!

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  5. Went to the site and heard the tigers mating. Sounded very similar to the vuvuzelas they are blowing at the World Cup!

    Was amazed to learn tigers mate for only 3-6 days annually but every 10 minutes. Now that's what is called "catching-up"!!

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  6. In the same web address you can also hear in Dana Brown's own voice the story of Holi in western Nepal! A blast from the past, if there was ever one!

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  7. I am from south western Nepal, and I can tell you from the peculiar sounds of the drum, madal in fact, that the community that Dana mentions is that of the Tharus. But the story of marriage ties dissolved during Holi is certainly not true. Had it been true, it would have been already well known or documented by now. It's true that historically the Badi community of western Nepal were engaged in sex trade (many Badis still continue to do so). But among them also, there's no such free love during Holi or at any other time.

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  8. Dear Anon, June 12,
    Thank you for giving me and my readers your insight into the Badi community. There are very strange communities out there but, yes, Dana must have got his information lost in translation. As the saying attributed to Benjamin Disraeli goes,"I have seen more than I can remember and I remember more than I have seen!" Dana must be making his Nepal stories sound juicy to his radio audience.

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