Himalayan Style

Author Claire Burkert and Photographer Thomas Kelly are collaborating on a book that celebrates a range of Himalayan architectural styles and design. They explore sacred spaces and indigenous styles of built structures found in Tibet, India, Bhutan and Nepal. A section on contemporary style in the Himalayas includes distinctive new museums, public gardens and fine crafts. An introduction by acclaimed Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman points out the cultural and spiritual foundations of Himalayan aesthetics. The book is entitled Himalayan Style and is due to be published by Roli Books, Delhi, in 2011.

Thomas L. Kelly first came to Nepal in 1978 as a USA Peace Corps Volunteer, and has since worked as a photo-activist, documenting the struggles of marginalized people and disappearing cultural traditions all over the world.  His editorial work has appeared in publications worldwide, including, the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic.  He currently represents Hinduism Today and is based  in Nepal. His wife, Carroll Dunham is the Founding Director of Wild Earth Pvt. Ltd www.wildearthnepal.comNepal.com

Thomas Kelly has researched and photographed the books: Sacred Landscape-Pilgrimage in Tibet: In Search of the Lost Kingdom of Bon, Tibet: Reflections from the Wheel of Life; The Hidden Himalayas; Kathmandu: City on the Edge of the World, Abbeville Press, N.Y., N.Y., Fallen Angels: Sex Workers of South Asia, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Roli Books Int. New Delhi, India,) Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, Viking Penguin, N.Y., N.Y. and Cultural Traditions on Hinduism-Sadhus, Cuerpos Pintados, Santiago, Chile. www: THOMASLKELLYPHOTOS.COM

Claire Burkert is an expert on crafts preservation and design. In Nepal she founded the Janakpur Women’s Development Center, which preserves and promotes the Maithili painting tradition. For many years she worked closely with ethnic minorities in Vietnam to revive traditional textile traditions and to help adapt them for new markets. With The Poverty Alleviation Fund she has assisted artisans in Tibet to develop and promote their crafts. She has written extensively about traditional art, crafts, and dress of Asia. She is based in Kathmandu with her husband Thomas Schrom, a designer and specialist in restoring Himalayan buildings.

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Junction Café : From little things big thing grow

The reason why Junction Café is more than just a chill place to hang-out is that it represents an initiative of four young men, each leading a different life but together running this quirky little café in Manbhawan, Lalitpur. Atypical to other twenty-something college kids, Sajan, Anish, Susan and Binay have started a business, and a successful one at that.  Running Junction Café this all on their own the guys exchange the roles of the cook, waiter, cashier and delivery among themselves. With limited prospects of landing their dream job in Nepal’s difficult job market, the four friends didn’t want to wait for the world to come to them. Instead they took the bold move to jump straight out into the world.

While larger, fancier restaurants were mushrooming all over Kathmandu, Junction café started off with one shutter. Yet it soon grew into a more spacious café with a kitchen out the back, making the guys the proud owners of an established and popular eatery. This is expansion was facilitated by the gutsy decision to take out a loan from a finance company. They really did then take control of their own future.

Such motivation to do their own thing stemmed from the instability and weaknesses in the current job market. A government job, explained the waiter of the day, will not go far without corruption and a job in a private sector is unfulfilling as it is a platform for rich to get richer and poor to get poorer. With the growing competition in the market, these four decided that they had to make place for themselves on their own. Instead of shoving and struggling, we find the owners quite relaxed, moving about with the sureness and enthusiasm of young business people and efficiency of old timers.

Upon entering the café you are greeted with a warm self designed interior which pulsates with love, enthusiasm and warm vibes. The menu is simple and the owners, friendly. People frequent this place for the ambience and its food. Over all, these guys have done a great job!

Outside of café life, each of the owners have different pursuits that you wouldn’t normally think correlate with that of a restauranter. Sajan Shrestha, who handles the counter and customer service is a computer enthusiast and fixes computers as a hobby. Anish Nepali, who is responsible for the cooking, is a momo specialist and a former A-division footballer for Brigade Boys Club. On the other hand, Susan Kapali, who is actually a priest (wow!), handles the delivery. Finally, Binay Nakarmi who is there for customer’s service also works at a bank as a junior assistant. They are hopeful of expanding the café and dream of running a chain of restaurants in the future.

Theirs is a simple yet inspiring story which reminds one of the saying ‘little things are little things but having faith in little things is no little thing.’ I hope the spirit that they hold now, takes them far in life. I also hope their initiative strikes a chord among the youths here: to get off that couch, get some friends, start a restaurant, start a band, start a book club, whatever it takes to make that something little bit extra special of your life.

The Perfect Pot

We don’t really see a fourteen year old kid holding a cue stick and practicing snooker- especially not in a country like Nepal, where snooker is mostly popular among the urban kids. That too is usually only among the male members. Commonly a ‘smoking junction’ among the youths in Nepal – snooker houses are often filled with young enthusiasts, some actually playing the game while some sit and watch to learn the game that, so far, hasn’t been centralised at a national level.

But that didn’t stop one dedicated enthusiast from doing something about it. Niraj Thapa Magar, a renowned national snooker player had to go through a lot to earn the title he has today. Working at a guest house as a waiter Niraj, at the age of fourteen, began hitting balls around the snooker table for something to do. The guest house with two snooker boards were always circled by young people betting things and money and yelling at themselves for not hitting the ball right!

All this enthusiasm had a positive effect on Niraj, so much that he didn’t hesitate to practice the game even in the witching hours. As a waiter, Niraj was not allowed to enter the snooker house when there were other people. ‘I liked the game, but as a waiter I was not allowed to enter the snooker house because our manager was very strict about this.’

Yes, not always in life you get to do what you want to do. But this seldom discouraged Niraj. Taking his evident talent and passion for the game into consideration, the managers were lenient enough to let him hit some stick during the night after the closing hours. ‘I used to enter the snooker house after midnight and practice for as long as I could under the table light that barely reached the table,’ says Niraj.

Getting the things that you want in life does not come easy. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Yes, when sometimes Niraj visited the snooker house he was scolded and beaten not only by the managers but by customers too, often for the simplest of causes. However, most were a site of encouragement. ‘I was a cute young boy and I used to get healthy tips from some customers’ he adds. Keenly watching game after game, the customers soon caught on that Niraj was both good at and enthralled by the game.

The staff would always call him for a game or two and bet with him as they knew he received good money from the customers. ‘The staff in the guest house knew about my passion for the game and would call me in the hall for a game and put a bet with me,’ continues Niraj. But sadly he lost most of the time. He had to pay money for each time he lost. This however, motivated his passion for the game and fuelled his thirst to improve. He continued playing during off hours.  By this time the managers decided to change his job from a waiter to a marker at the snooker table. This is where he really learnt about his game and went to become a mature player. Niraj is forever indebted to his managers for that little change they made with his job.

With enough encouragement, Niraj participated in the Asian Games 2064. After that he played various domestic tournaments and has established his name as one the top players in the country.

With increased coordination in organizing such events, our players could do a lot better and represent themselves in various international events. But the development should always start from the grassroots level, therefore, organizing domestic competitions should be given a top priority that will encourage more players which will turn to increase in high competition and eventually bring out good quality players. Only making new snooker houses won’t help. There are many determined players like Niraj who can actually do something for the nation through this game, only with a little bit of support. Billiards, Snooker and Pool Association (BSPAN) which was formed in 1994, looked promising but is no longer in business like it used to be. Only after continuing major tournaments, people like Niraj Thapa Magar will be able to go international and make our country renowned to the rest of the world.

Otherwise snooker, too, will be just another story.


Niraj’s Snooker Tips

Playing snooker has a lot to do with psychology. If you are confident then you play better. Be positive, make your mind up what shot and play it. What ball do you look at when you strike the white? The answer is always the object ball. This is always for every player. You do not look at the white or the end of your tip, just the cue ball.

Being good at snooker is a real pleasure. After all you practice hard, you reach a good standard and the game is so enjoyable. It is vital to play on different tables. Of course it is good to play a lot on one table because it can give you confidence but you must get used to playing on all types of tables and conditions. To be a champion is not just about talent, it is about dedication and determination.

Made in Nepal : Arniko Skateboards

‘If there is any place in the
world where I would want to
live and work —it has to be Nepal’

When, in 2007, Marius Arniko Arter, came up with the idea of manufacturing skateboards in Nepal he had already tried making boards out of bamboo in Vietnam. ‘The skateboard has to be strong and flexible at the same time,’ he said, adding that he ‘dropped’ the idea of a bamboo skateboard because it didn’t qualify for the quality he envisioned his boards to be. Besides, he wanted to be home away from home. Marius, a Swiss citizen, was born in Nepal in 1984 and lived here until the age of four before permanently living in Switzerland. At that time his parents were working in hydropower projects in Nepal.

But, for Marius Nepal remained his home even until today. ‘If there is any place in the world where I would want to live and work —it has to be Nepal,’ shared Marius who is accompanied by Nils Amar Tegmo who similarly comes from what he calls a ‘mixed background’. Nils has been living in Nepal on and off since 2000, and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Human and Natural Resource Studies from Kathmandu University. What brought them together as friends was their sheer love for skating. ‘Cruising’ is how they would describe the sport they both learned as kids and loved so much that Marius went on to manufacture them with his own hands. Nils has since supported his mission hoping to make it an accessible part of a Nepali’s lifestyle.

‘I hope to work full-time for Arniko Skateboards in a few months time,’ Nils announced. Arniko Skateboards Nepal was first launched in May 2009 on the second floor in the Mandala Street complex, Thamel. ‘Even though 80 percent of the customers who buy these boards are foreigners purchasing them for themselves or friends back home, the number of Nepalis who have been showing interests and enthusiasm over the new sport is quite good,’ he said, having seen locals skateboarding on the bumpy streets of the capital.

While the busy roads of Kathmandu are not entirely skate-friendly Nils and Marius, who are also neighbors, manage to find their way around Jhamsikhel and other spots in the city to skate. ‘Nepal bandhs give ample space and an easier ride in the otherwise chaotic streets of the city.’ During these current episodes of Nepal bandas Nils and Marius had can be seen skating around Jhamsikhel, hanging out at their spot or just doing their groceries.

In addition to selling skateboard s and various board parts, Arniko Skateboards Nepal also designs its own t-shirts, hoodies, pullovers and accessories. Asked why he added clothing to the skateboard store Marius said, ‘at a small scale, skateboards alone wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, the  clothing is sold more than the boards, and I like to design them.’  Nils added, ‘skateboarding is a lifestyle and it perfectly fits with the clothing Marius designs.’ Nils has also recently begun designing prints and motifs for t-shirts and boards hoping to provide Arniko with a mix between traditional Nepali and contemporary prints and designs.  The boards then, with a well crafted fusion of designs etched into the plain wood, are uniquely Nepali.

Using this idea of a mix of contemporary and Nepali art, most designs are made in Switzerland by Marius’ friends and colleagues involved in Arniko Skateboards Switzerland. The skateboards are made from thin plies of Canadian Maple wood which he imports from Canada, informs Marius. ‘It wasn’t possible to make boards with Nepali wood and maintain the quality to be sellable throughout the world,’ Marius made it clear.

Before establishing himself as an entrepreneur, Marius was working as a carpenter in Switzerland. ‘Carpentry gave me the knack in the craft,’ he said, ‘building skateboards was just an outlet’. Today, the skateboards made in Nepal are sold all over the world via the Arniko website (arnikoskateboards.com), and are also for sale in his store in Zurich, Switzerland, which also bears the Arniko name. ‘People really are excited about the skateboards manufactured in Nepal as they are different and uniquely designed,’ Nils said showing the image of TENZING NORGAY engraved in one of the 1980’s style boards on display in the shop.

There were other unique designs such as one that was influenced by thangka paintings, and other motifs from Nepal’s traditional art which is so very unique to the world. ‘More than anything, it was the joy of skating that led me to cut and press my own skateboards,’ said Marius, ‘but that was not all. To make the boards beautiful and to at least be sellable in the hordes of skateboards that conquer the global market today, it needed to be different and unique from rest of the boards, and that is how and why we incorporated the great skill of Nepal’s wood carvers, some of the world’s best craft.’

It’s the unique feature of these hand-made skateboards that has left its many buyers awe-struck around the globe. ‘It’s the concept that matters,’ said Nils who is also excited to put his energy in making world-class products in terms of designs and quality. Apart from that he is also keen to contribute to the well-functioning of the store. He and Marius really feel that Kathmandu should have a skate park which would enable the Nepalis to come together and skate. ‘There are Nepalis who skate but there has not been any group or organization that has really united the skaters in the city,’ remarked Marius.

The craftsmen eagerly take up the challenge of chiseling designs out of the plain boards as it requires immense coordination and coordination because the wood is extremely thin. The recent buzz among the skaters was that Nepal’s first National Skating Festival was to be organized in late May but nothing substantial seems to have taken place. Nils and Marius believe that, ‘only if skaters could have a place to meet, skate, and share their lifestyles, could this dream be possible. It would be great if anything of that kind of festival was to take place in Nepal,’ Marius stated.

There is hope that a skate park and then perhaps a skate festival or competition would bring Nepalis, as well as foreigners, together to interact through skateboarding. But, in Nepal’s case, it remains to be seen whether such efforts will actually be taking place any time soon. The poor infrastructure backed up by the growing land prices, has mounted the frustrations of those who would want to create spaces of interaction and an environment for learning to ride the skateboards in Nepal. ‘Until skateboarders work together to meet this goal as a community or collective, the wait will just be longer’ Nils believes. The problem, it seems, is not only the high price of professional quality skateboards Nepalis would have to buy, but also the unavailability of the space and a platform where they could actually learn skating.

The Arniko Skateboards range from Rs. 20,000- Rs. 23,000 with the full setup and necessary hardware. ‘The reason why these skateboards are expensive is because everything except the board has to be imported,’ informed Marius. The deck (or wooden part of the board) costs around Rs. 7000. ‘The boards are still expensive because of the Canadian Maple wood, special glues required, and other necessary tools which are all imported items,’ he said arguing that it is still a good bargain compared to other skateboards produced from giant factories. The skateboards are manufactured in Hattiban in the outskirt of the capital where they have their own studio for also stitching the clothing.

The skateboards produced here are designed for cruising, the professionals said. ‘These aren’t meant for freestyle skating or tricks,’ claimed Nils, who showed the basic technique to get onto the boards. ‘In order to balance, your weight should be on the leg that is on the board,’ he said demonstrating while his other leg was on the floor to push. These cruising boards are influenced by the 70s and 80s retro-style decks and are perfect for beginners, or anybody who enjoys skating around rather than doing tricks.

Nils pointed out three tips to begin skating.

1. Stand with one foot on the board

2. Balance the body perpendicular to the ground, and

3. Push with the foot on the ground to move forward.

He said these are three easy steps to learn to skate but, there is no room for overconfidence as this might just get you flat right on your chest.

Arniko, anyone?

Skateboarding Tips

No Comply Over Block Things

No Comply’s are a fun, old school trick. Back in the day, they were very popular. Nowadays, not so much. Anyways, the no comply is where the skater brings their front foot off the board, pops the tail down, and slides their back foot up the board to level it out while in the air. It’s like an ollie with your back foot doing all the work.


Wallrides are a simple, yet complex maneuver. Simple in motion, but complex in weight shiftment, and timing. They are a very fun trick once learned, and eventually mastered. You can do them on virtually anything you want as long as the wall’s surface is rideable. You can take them to stairs, into banks, over flat gaps, over transfers, and much more! There are many ways to do wallrides. Usually done with the aid of a ramp, bank, etc. I find that being the cheap way to do them.. So I’m going to teach you guys how to do them the not-so-easy way, which is being done from flatground.

BS Pop Shove into FS 50-50 Grind

Anybody who skates enough to where they have learned a handful of flip tricks and a handful of grinds/slides is eventually going to want to try to combine the two. Obviously there are countless options when it comes to this.. But honestly, some of them are pretty hard. The backside pop shove it into 50-50 is likely the simplest trick-to-grind combination. Thus, it’s likely the one you’ll begin with when it comes to this stuff.