The Tallest Mountain, The Shortest Man

Features Issue 109 Nov, 2010
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: ECS Media

He is 26.4in (67.08cm) tall (short?) and weighs 6.5kg (13lb). He was only 600gm at birth and according to his mother,  “It was like watching a newly hatched chick fresh from a shell.” Who would have thought that he would one day be world famous and etch his name in the pages of history?

Khagendra Thapa Magar, the shortest man in the world, is the Goodwill Amaassador for NTY 2011

Who hasn’t heard of Tom Thumb, the English folklore hero who was the size of his father’s thumb? Similarly, you must have read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in which Captain Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and becomes a prisoner of a race of people less than 6 inches (15cm) high, who are inhabitants of the neighbouring countries of Lilliput and Blefuscu. Both stories were written in the 17th and 18th centuries. Yes indeed, dwarfism is something that has fascinated mankind throughout the ages. Well, now in the 21st century, here we are, with the shortest human on earth right here in Nepal, the land of the tallest point in the world, Mount Everest.

It is not that Khagendra Thapa Magar was already not famous, it is just that the Guinness Book of World Records has a policy of validating such claims only after the person in question has reached 18 years of age, which Khagendra did on October 18, 2010, and it was therefore a cause for double celebration. On the day, a delegation from Guinness Book of World Records led by its Vice President of records, Marco Frigatti, arrived in Pokhara to award a certificate to Khagendra as the shortest man in the world. Khagendra is 26.4in (67. 08cm) and weighs 6.5kg (13lb),

On October 28, 2010, he left for London as part of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY 2011) promotional delegation. He has been designated as NTY 2011’s Goodwill Ambassador. Similarly, he is also the Goodwill Ambassador of Top Tea, a product of the Anglo Himalayan Trading Company Ltd based in UK. One can expect to see Khagendra in more such roles in the coming days, that’s for sure! Indeed, the shortest man on planet earth is all set to reach the pinnacle of fame. However, let us pause here awhile and reflect on the ‘what ifs?’

What if he had been neglected at birth? His mother Dhana Maya has been quoted as saying, “He weighed only 600gm at birth. It was like watching a newly hatched chick fresh from a shell”. There are some who say that she was advised by elders to terminate his life then and there in anticipation of the foreseen problems that must lie ahead for such a tiny creature. And what if he had been just one inch taller? Edward Nino Hernandez, 24, from Bogota, Colombia, who stands at 27in, was the world’s shortest man before him and would have remained so. What if he had remained unknown in his remote village in Baglung? He is from a very poor family in which his father Rup Bahadur eked out a living from the land. To the mostly illiterate villagers, he was just an oddity and not much else.

Khagendra in comparison to a full grown adult

Well, thank God he survived and although being short is no fun, being the shortest is something else. And, thank God that a man named Min Bahadur Rana Magar of Pokhara who was running a money transfer business, heard about this midget who was said to be full of vim and vigor and living an impoverished life in the hills of Baglung. For it is Min Bahadur who is to be credited with not only initiating but also bringing things to a happy conclusion in the life of Khagendra Thapa Magar. “When I first saw him, he was a dirty little fellow who didn’t look as if he had bathed for quite some time. He was dressed in rags and looked disheveled from top to toe. I brought him to Pokhara and put him up in my home. I gave him a bath, cleaned him up and had new clothes made or him. My wife (coincidentally also named Dhana) was very supportive otherwise you can imagine, it would have been a difficult task for me,” recollects Min Bahadur.

So, let’s now hear the story in Min Bahadur’s own words. “Five years earlier, I was running a money transfer business in Pokhara when I heard about an unusually small boy in Dullobaskot 6 of Baglung District. I went to meet him and realized that indeed, he was an exceptional case. I then vowed to myself that I was going to make it my mission to make the world take notice of Khagendra and through this, I hoped to make myself known too.” Here he pauses, it is apparent that the thought must be going through his mind that while Khagendra is now quite famous, he himself might not be so.

Min Bahadur continues, “I brought him to my home and looked after him. A month later his father Rup Bahadur also joined us. I then put Khagendra on show in my office. I kept a donation box and charged visitors Rs.10 each. After a while I found that while the expense for his upkeep was about Rs.10000 every month, our collections were only Rs.7000 for a similar period. Then I increased the entry fees to Rs.20 which helped.” From this itself one can decipher Min Bahadur’s determination to make his mission successful. However, he had an unpleasant experience during this time. He says, “I gave all the money so collected to Khagendra’s father at first. Unfortunately, he used it to repay his debts. I felt bad about this because the money should have rightly been spent on Khagendra. That is why I decided to establish the Khagendra Thapa Magar Foundation in 2007. It had 11 members in the beginning.” How difficult was it to go about his mission? Min Bahadur remembers, “After my son Anil suggested that we apply for the Guinness World Record, I went around various ministries and departments trying to gather government support but nobody was interested.” 


Top Tea and Khagendra

On October 18, 2010, the birthday of the world’s shortest man, the UK based Anglo-Himalayan Trading Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Khagendra Thapa Magar Foundation making the little man the Goodwill Ambassador for the company’s premium product, Top Tea. According to the terms of the agreement, the company contributed Rs.50000 to the foundation and agreed to provide Rs.5000 every month for the next three years. Jivan Acharya, the company’s Nepal Director says, “Our mission is to make the exquisite, delicate quality Nepali tea widely available in the UK through our Top Tea brand. Nepali tea is the best tea in the world, there is no doubt about that, but Nepal has lagged behind in three important areas: packaging, consistency and supply. We plan to correct that and through Top Tea, make Nepali tea famous throughout the UK.” The company focuses on selling high quality organic, organic conversion and green ethical, orthodox black and CTC milk and sugar tea as well as ayurvedic fusion teas grown in Nepal. Its patronage of the Khagendra Thapa  Magar Foundation is only one of the many other socially responsible works it is planning to do.

Then, six months ago, he was invited to bring Khagendra to Italy by Euro TV. They stayed for a week during which time Khagendra’s height and weight were validated. A month later, they again returned to Italy and spent a further two weeks there during which time Khagendra was given a certificate attesting to his talents. Min Bahadur says, “As far as I know, Khagendra is unique even among the shortest people in the world because of his vim and vigor. He likes to dance, sing and make merry. He is full of life.” So now, what are his future plans for Khagendra? Min Bahadur says, “Well, on October 18 this year, we received very generous sponsorship from the Anglo-Himalayan Trading Company Ltd of UK which made Khagendra the Goodwill Ambassador for its Top Tea brand.  NTY has also contributed a good amount to the foundation. So, things are certainly looking up for Khagendra. However, there are some more things I want to do.  I want to put in an application on his behalf to Guinness World Records claiming him to be also the world record holder in having the smallest hands, the smallest feet and the lowest weight.” As an afterthought, he adds, “Actually, I would have liked to claim Khagendra as having the lowest weight at birth too but I believe it will be very difficult to prove.” In case you have forgotten, Khagendra weighed just 600gm at birth!