A Most Rewarding Journey

Features Issue 200 Jul, 2018

I was penniless. At last the good Lord had granted me one of my greatest wishes—to be literally on the sidewalk (footpath ma, as we say in Nepali, meaning, homeless, jobless, and penniless). In other words, out on the street. I and my partners had just sold our industrial enterprise, begun with confident optimism five years ago, and for which I had left a very cushy job in the world’s second biggest pharma company, where I had risen through the ranks to the post of a sales manager. Wall-to-wall carpeting in the office, two teams of neck-tied smart guys, personalized letterhead, et all; yes it was a sacrifice, but what the hell, I always wanted to be an industrialist at least once in my life!

Anyway, it all went bust, the industry, I mean, which we had to sell for a pittance; and it was time for me to look for a job to keep the home fire going. And, being what I am, I took it as another god-sent opportunity to try to enter a field that I had always liked—writing. So, off I went on a round of all the English language dailies and periodicals (even if they were pretty scanty in number) carrying a thin file of all my published pieces (mostly in the dailies). I barged into editors’ rooms without so much as an appointment, trusting my luck, and did meet a few, but openings there seemed to be none.

In this way, I visited the ECS Media office, which was in Tripureswor then. They had two publications, ECS Nepal, a culture magazine, and The Nation, a mainstream weekly. For one reason or another, things didn’t work out, although I got to meet the big shots. I remember telling the boss, “Wow, you have such a nice magazine!” Then, somehow or the other, I was involved in launching a new magazine with my cousin, but it was a bi-monthly, so I had plenty of time do freelance work. And the next thing I know, I had an assignment from the editor of ECS Nepal (whom I happened to know well) to do a feature on a well-known photographer. I got a call the next day from the editor, he was astonished that I had finished the interview and sent him the piece even before he could arrange an appointment and send a photographer with me! He was impressed, surely.

That’s how my involvement with ECS began. Guess my style (and speed) was appreciated, because from then on, I always had something on hand for ECS Nepal. Soon enough, I was writing quite a few stories; many of them for the covers during 2004. They included topics ranging from personalities to antiques to spices to orchids to nature to architecture. I didn’t write much for ECS Nepal in 2005, since I got tied up with my own work (or maybe they had enough writers of their own), but the second half of 2006 saw me come back with a bang, with some pretty big pieces (copper, yoga, tai-chi, an ex-ambassador, a tennis coach). The year after, I just wrote one article in the beginning, and none after that. All in all, 2004-2007 was a period of ‘sometimes many, sometimes none’, as far as my writing and ECS Nepal was concerned.

Then, all this became a thing of the past with my leaving for the States, where I stayed for an entire year. When I came back, in 2009, it was a case of déjà vu for me; meaning I didn’t have a job, a place to live, nor any idea of what I would be doing. Not much money in the pocket, too! So, I left for the Darjeeling hills, where I spent three months doing nothing but visiting places that held fond memories and exploring places I hadn’t gone to before. I was reluctant to return to Kathmandu, what with its constant bandhs and strikes and political chaos. But, return I had to (my wallet was looking very skimpy, besides!), and with not many options at hand, I met up with the ECS underboss, this time in their new office in Kupondole.

Well, the long and the short of it all is that, he asked me to write for ECS Nepal, as well as for Living, the new kid on the block, which had certainly made its mark. And since I didn’t have a computer or anything, I started working from their office, using their stuff. Perhaps it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. I had plenty of work, which was further supplemented by contractual work on projects for its sister concern, Power Communications (PowerComm). In time, I felt pretty much at home, and soon enough, was writing and editing another magazine by the name of Healthy Life (my own creation, actually, under ECS Media), besides writing for ECS Nepal and Living.

And, so, the relationship kept on growing, and growing, and growing, with the result that today, through the usual, and sometimes unusual, ups-and-downs of any business, I am sitting pretty, writing and copyediting ECS Nepal and Friday (another feather to the company’s cap). But, more than the copyediting, which I consider a dull but essential responsibility, it is the writing part that I find more rewarding, especially when there are so many admirers around the place!

I must mention that while the second half of 2009 was a special year for my writing, with some really heavy-duty features (Gurkhas, temple architecture, another ex-ambassador, shamans, education, tae kwon do, restorers, art, places, spices—yes, again), it was also a very special year for ECS Nepal, since it culminated in the publication of its 100th issue in December. I am pleased to say that it had quite a few stories by yours truly!

2010 saw half a dozen covers and plenty of articles by me (ponds, treks, spas, history, people, fruits, festivals, artist, heritage shops, legends, temples, heritage, feasts, rice—yes, even rice!, and also, the shortest man of Nepal). It was a fulfilling year for my writing, that’s for sure. The following year was not as fruitful, although I did produce a few big ones on subjects to do with history, language, temple, a book review, and so on. Additionally, it was nice to see my piece on Nepali dances on the cover of the 10th-year issue of ECS Nepal! Not much to say for the period 2013-2015, with significant activity by yours truly only from 2016 onwards, including for a hotel special, a handicraft special, and the Thamel Revisited issue (May 2017).

Of course, there have been quite a few interesting pieces I’ve been able to write about in between—the likes of seeking spirituality in Tapoban, falling in love with a bear in Gangtok, hiking up to a famous hill with a gaine (folk singer in rural areas) in Kalimpong, reminiscing my attachment with my bicycle, the coming of television, and so on, and yes, even a piece on bhojanalyas (local dhal,bhaat, tarkari all-you-can-eat places)! This year, too, promises a bushel full of writing for me, with some intriguing pieces already, especially in the section, ‘Where Am I?’ Well, all said and done, from all of the above you’ll have gathered that there definitely hasn’t been a scarcity of topics to practice my writing skills on, and what could be more satisfying to a writer’s soul? Like I said before, it has been a most rewarding journey indeed!