‘How I wrote The Ambassador of the Himalaya: A Collection of True Stories’ by Anil Adhikari

Today, I am introducing you Anil Adhikari, a writer from Nepal who is passionate about communicating conservation through his stories based on facts and experience. Writing was always Anil’s dream that later became his profession and he is here to share his experience of writing the book ‘The Ambassador of the Himalaya: A collection of true stories’.

Anil on the way to Kagbeni from Lo-manthang/2011

Anil wrote his first story when he was only 13 that was made into a television film after five years and broadcast on National Television in 1991. He wrote his first novel 26 years back when he was 20 years old. His second novel was published in 2006. Both novels are based on human trafficking, and apart from other literary writings, Anil has a successful record of writing varieties of books which have been widely used in communities targeting students and women groups such as; a non-formal education book, textbooks, comics, success stories of development and conservation initiatives under several international/National organizations such as WWF, Winrock International, Red Panda Network, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Pilgrim Books India, National Trust for Nature Conservation & Humla Development Initiatives. He has also been practicing journalism for the last 26 years, writing and publishing 150 plus articles and reports in various National Newspapers and magazines; Kantipur, Nepal Weekly, Annapurna Post, Nagarik. He is currently working as a group Editor for ‘Snow Leopard’ magazine and editor for ‘Osarpasar” (Trafficking) for Alliance Against Trafficking in Women and Children in Nepal (AATWIN).

The Ambassador of the Himalaya, Author: Anil Adhikari, Illustrator: Rabindra Manadhar, Contact the author for buying hard copies of this book.

‘How I wrote The Ambassador of the Himalaya’

– Anil Adhikari

59-year-old Chenga Gurung shivered with fear after snow leopards started attacking her mountain goats one after the other. Unable to fend off the leopards by herself, she took out her mobile phone from the pocket of her Bakkhu and called her son for help.

The above paragraph is an excerpt from the book ‘The Ambassador of the Himalaya’. The book includes detailed descriptions of the encounters between livestock herders and the snow leopards in the unforgiving geography of upper Mustang (above 3000m).

Often times, husbandry of yaks, sheep, and goats are the sole source of income for the herders of upper Mustang. And I had the chance to hear and prepare stories out of the rare experiences of 15 of them. They told me about their encounters and conflicts with the very shy and elusive creature known as ‘the gift of nature’, ‘Queen of the mountains’ and ‘Ambassador of the mountains’ – the snow leopard. Now, I would like to tell you how I got this opportunity.

I was able to write the book ‘The Ambassador of the Himalaya’ after I landed a meeting with Dr. Som Ale in 2011. Dr. Ale is a renowned expert on the snow leopard. Through his academic research, he scientifically proved the return of the snow leopard to Sagarmatha National Park after nearly three decades on not being seen.

I had prepared an outline of ‘The Ambassador of the Himalaya’ with the objective of documenting the extraordinary experiences of the livestock herders, living temporarily or permanently in the high Himalaya plateaus, sharing habitat with the snow leopard.

When I met Dr. Ale in June 2011 in Kathmandu he was associated with Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), USA and working under Dr. Rodney Jackson. Dr. Jackson is the leading expert on wild snow leopards and their high-mountain habitat. Upon receiving a 1981 Rolex Award for Enterprise, he launched a pioneering radio-tracking study of five snow leopards in Mugu district of the remote Karnali province of Nepal. This was featured as the cover story of National Geographic Magazine in June 1986. Dr. Ale introduced me to Dr. Jackson at the headquarters of the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC).

Following the agreement with the National Trust for Nature Conservation for preparing the book ‘The Ambassador of the Himalaya’, I embarked on a journey to upper Mustang. Niranjan Dhungana, Office-In-Charge of NTNC’s Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), Lomanthang, and myself prepared to fly to Jomsom from Pokhara. But the particularly bad weather conditions of July 2011 caused the cancellation of many flights, including ours. So onward we went to Jomsom by road. Kaligandaki was flooding furiously due to heavy rains. But on a bus, we went, through the hilly roads, pushing the vehicle out of the occasional sticky mud. Somehow we managed to reach Jomsom (2720 m).

Following a day’s trek from Jomsom, through Kagbeni (2800 m), we reached Chhuksang (2950 m) of upper Mustang. The landscape was utterly mesmerising: red and brown hills rising from barren and seemingly dead ground, heavily dusty roads and man-made caves that had been carved into the hilly peaks for centuries. Such scenery fills any first-time visitor with unparalleled wonder.

In Chhuksang, we stayed at the hotel owned by Dan Bahadur Gurung (Urken). Urken was himself a former livestock herder and I noted down his stories that night after dinner. The second day was quite literally an uphill journey all the way up to Samar (3540 m). Niranjan’s speed was extraordinary as his holidays were drawing to a close and he was in a hurry to return to the office. But I could not match his pace due to the high elevation and always walked slowly behind him. In Samar too, we stayed at the hotel of a former herder Namgel and I noted his tales as well.

Namgel looking at his story

The third day’s journey was by jeep from Syangboche to Lo-Manthang (3700 m). From there, I visited different pastures and interacted with various herders and collected their unforgettable accounts of the snow leopard. My partner in this was Pema Lowa, who was the local Snow Leopard Conservancy staff. The accounts ranged from Dolma Gurung’s struggling to rescue her goat from the literal jaws of the snow leopard to Pema Ungdi successfully scaring away two snow leopards trying to prey on his cattle, to Tasi Tsering once seeing the leopard cubs playing in the highlands.

In the livestock corral at 4500 m in Upper Mustang/2011

Anil can be reached in the following email address: aniladhikari.contact@gmail.com

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Presented by Dr Sangita Swechcha

Dr Sangita Swechcha is a Communications Professional, Researcher and a Fiction writer. She has over 15 years of experience in international communications and media relations. She is a Guest Editor for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) and coordinating ‘Nepali Literature month’ – November 2019. She is a novelist and a writer who has written a novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo’, a joint collection of stories ‘Asahamatika Pailaharu’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem’ in Nepali.

Forthcoming in English translations in 2020 in e-book formats first: A novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem’, titled in English as ‘The Rose: An Unusual Love Story’ (looking for international publisher/s for publishing print versions of these books). Her twitter handle: @SangyShrestha. Email: sangyshrestha@hotmail.com Connect on Facebook.

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