Look Down Not Up Kama Shakya

Look Down Not Up Kama Shakya
Sahayogi Press Kathmandu 1988
NRs 130
Review   by Rajiv Regmi After reading  Kama  Shakya´s   new travelogue/nature guide/biography/diary, Look  Down Not   Up, it is difficult   to decide which way to look.
The book is about the author´s quest of the shy, elusive and near extinct Pygmy Hog, the tiny jungle swine that doesn´t grow more than a foot tall. It is obviously so small that the author had to look down and not up, hence the title.
The call of the wild lakes Shakya from the ex-jungles of Chitwan and Kosi Tappu to national parks in India, including one in Assam. We can feel the Pygmy Hog lurking in the undergrowth, as it were, and what holds the reader spellbound is the author´s adventures and flashbacks as he goes about trying to find it. Shakya´s description of the people he meets (expat ecologists, Indian sepoys on the Assam Mail, Nepali game wardens) are sharp sketches that bring the characters leaping out of the page.
One character that really leaps out is Jungli, the Tharu girl who entices workers to help the author plant teak trees near Bhairawa. Shakya´s delicious description of lungli is a cross between Rudyard Kipling and Harold Robbins, and is interesting enough to distract the reader from the hog hunt.
Shakya, the forester turned hotelier turned   naturalist,   gave   us one   of the few written chronicles of Nepal´s remote and mysterious Dolpo region in his 1978 book, The World Behind the Himalayan. A valuable publication, if for nothing else than the load of information on the geography and natural history of that arid trans Himalayan region. The book also tickled the non native, English speaking readership with the quaint tone of its narration and the author´s carefully detailed chronicle of ordinary everyday things and snippets of mundane conversation.
Many who lapped up the Dolpo book will be glad to see that Shakya still has a sharp eye for recording every detail, no matter how slight or unconnected to the book´s drift. Look Down Not Up is on a stylistically higher plane than the earlier book and the author´s penchant for subjective asides on what he sees around him is intact.
The Pygmy Hog had been declared extinct by naturalists in 1964, but Shakya found five in captivity in Gauhati Zoo and saw two others briefly at Kasim Daha. Another one was kept as a pet by a forester and Shakya was able to observe it closely and debunk the myth that Pygmy Hogs have only three pairs of teats. They have four.
But in Nepal itself, the species seems to have become extinct because of shrinking forests. Shakya thinks the barrage on the Kosi river has flooded out the main Pygmy Hog habitat at Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.
Look Down Not Up is endearing reading. You get to know almost as much about Kama Shakya as the Pygmy Hog itself. For many in Nepal, Shakya is a celebrity, a conservationist who helped chart out national parks and a tourism wunderkind   who single-handedly
developed  a whole new concept of a Nepal holiday.
It is doubtful if Pygmy Hogs will be around for much longer. Shakya´s quest for this tiny fragile creature is symbolic of the long hard fight ahead.

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Himal Southasian