The Himalayan Image

"The wildest dreams of Kew," wrote Rudyard Kipling in one celebrated verse, "are the facts of Katmandu." But how could he have known? Certainly, Kipling never made it up to Nepal. He spent most of his time hobnobbing with the imperial sahebs and memsahebs in Calcutta, Lahore and Shimla. Like many before him and countless after him, Kipling was fantasizing. Remote and unseen, the Valley had to be a dreamlike and utopian wilderness even though for Kathmandu's own citizens, daily life in Asan market might have been as mundane as a stroll down London's Picadilly Circus or the Mall in Shimla was for an Englishman.

Since long before Kipling, those across the seven seas have derived pleasure from the perception of a romantic East. These mountains and valleys of the Himalayan region have provided mythological relief, and served as a gigantic psychological sponge to soak up global angst. The Himalaya carries the burden of Western fantasy by merely "being there," standing tall, while a large section of humanity looks up at it with soft-focus, rose-tinted lenses and sees — Shangri-La? Where the view is limit-less, where rosy-cheeked children smile beautifully, grandmothers all live to 100, and reincarnation lets you come back for a second and more tries.

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Himal Southasian