If we say that Nepal has plunged into darkness, then it is our duty, our right, and indeed, our joy to save it. The fate of the country is in our hands.
In Paradise in Our Backyard, Karna Sakya—conservationist, entrepreneur and patriot— relates how he set up the now iconic Kathmandu Guest House in his family’s historic house in Thamel. The hotel ushered in a new chapter in tourism in Nepal and was instrumental in establishing Thamel as the multicultural hub for tourism that it is today. He subsequently set up other hotels and lodges and played a pioneering role in introducing eco-tourism and adventure tourism in Nepal. He introduced the concept of ‘niche’ tourism in Nepal, packaging subjects of interest for discerning travellers, and was also one of the principal architects of the hugely successful ‘Visit Nepal Year’ organized by the Nepali government in 1998 which boosted tourism and gave a huge fillip to the economy.
Sakya’s account of growing up in a large Newari joint family in Kathmandu, his higher education in the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, his work with the forest department and his distinguished career as entrepreneur and hotelier makes compelling reading. Karna Sakya made an immense contribution to the social sector as well. In 1987, after losing his wife and daughter to cancer, he overcame personal grief to build Nepal’s first cancer hospital by coming up with the innovative idea of levying a one-paisa tax on every cigarette sold in the country.
Paradise in our Backyard, translated by the author from the Nepali bestseller Soch, is a lucid, engaging and honest account of a remarkable life. In a nation that is today battling pessimism and uncertainty, it makes the inspiring point that one man can make a difference; that change can be brought about by hard work and unflagging determination.