A short text from Subha announced that a Dhoj Tulachan has died of COVID in Kathmandu, read on my phone while staying the night in the cabin in the wood, and I assume it is Sashi. The memory of our first and last meetings flow through the night mind. It is in fact his brother, as Subha confirms later, but I had a few days grace for the memories to stream back.
2001, Sugata was 90, we were back in Kathmandu from a momentous trek down the Kali Gandaki, reliving Sugata’s 1960 venture up there, where he’d gone at the invitation of Sam Sherchan to photograph the Sha Na dances.
In Kathmandu rains have started which give a wonderful coolness. Bhuwan is in town. He brings news from Sherchan’s widow, who he met at a society wedding in Pokhara. She was so interested to meet Sugata that she has returned early to Kathmandu. I call her the next day and arrange a meeting. She is an elegant woman, early 60’s. Early in our conversation I asked her about the Chhairo Gompa, mentioning Sashi Dhoj Tulachan, a name we’d heard from Patrick and Purna in Tukuche. Mrs Sherchan leapt up, found a portable phone, spoke into it, then with no explanation, passed the phone to me. ‘Hello?’ I said hesitatingly. It was Sashi Dhoj Tulachan, who, of course, was a relation and known to Mrs Sherchan. We must all meet, he said, and we made a rendezvous for the next night at the Kathmandu Guest House.
It was our last evening in Kathmandu. Sashi, Sugata and I sat in the restaurant, as Sashi began to tell us about Chhairo. He was a Thanka artist like his father…
Sugata turned to Sashi and said: ‘When I came up to Tukuche I visited a Thanka artist. He had two houses: one he lived in and one he used only to paint in, which was little way from his family house to give him isolation and concentration. I took a photograph of him and another of him with his little son, who was just beginning to lean the art of thanka painting. In the courtyard was a dog and a hen, and I asked if the eggs from the hen provided the yolk for the tempera. ‘Yes’ said the Lama.’ Sashi’s face became more and more incredulous. He lifted his hands in the air, and finally bust in laughter.
‘I was that little son!’ he said. ‘He was my father.’
In the end Sugata’s photographs commissioned by Sham Sharchan in 1960 were not used – the Lamas did not want to publicise their ceremonies and, like the masks, the hundreds of photographs and slides lay in Sugata’s boxes these many years.
On the trek the idea dawned on both of us: perhaps Sugata’s unused photographs could be used to help raise some money to restore the crumbling Chhairo Gompa. From Sashi and Subha we learned that a committee (the Kali Gandaki Foundation Trust) was raising funds to restore the Gompa, and yes, they said definitely the 1960 photographs would be extremely useful for the restoration work.
To co-incide with the launch of Bird of Passage, I organised an exhibition in Patan museum of Sugata’s photographs. I see from my web page, there is no account of this, instead a series of photographs. But I find a diary of the evening, here
I remember seeing the faces of Nepali middle aged women, seeing themselves as children, seeing their homes and families in Sugata’s photographs. It was a success in many different ways.
From this beginning Sugata vowed to give the original photographs to Nepal to form an archive resource, that could continue to raise funds for Chhairo. Here is my sadness. This never happened.
My last meeting with Sashi was sad, because I had failed to secure this legacy. Sugata died, and his daughter did not agree to the gift. What of Chhairo now? I do not know. Looking it up – as we do now – I find this on the web, with Sugata’s photographs nicely used.
Sashi’s death and resurection of the memory of this time, bring to the fore some uncomfortable loose ends. I will try and find Mandala, make contact with Sugata and my Norway friends, Pete and Eilene in Tuva. That will be a good outcome.
4 thoughts on “Sashi Dhoj Tulachan”
oh!!! no, Shashi is alive and well. His younger brother Chakra Dhoj passed away from COVID, pls amend!
Thank you – I will edit as I heard soon after I’d written this.
The beginning text explains: A short text from Subha announced that a Dhoj Tulachan has died of COVID in Kathmandu, read on my phone while staying the night in the cabin in the wood, and I assume it is Sashi. The memory of our first and last meetings flow through the night mind. It is in fact his brother, as Subha confirms later, but I had a few days grace for the memories to stream back.
So sorry about Chakra Dhoj.
Pleased however that Sashi Dhoj is alive.
Can you tell me how I can reach him. Does he have an address?