We often get asked how we find our stories.
The answer is: a feel for the right person to follow and share a cup of tea with, a lot and a lot of leg work, and of course documenting, phone calls, emails and the less glamorous part of sitting reading through books and searching the web. Needless to say our favourite part of the job is the first one 🙂
In Kathmandu it all started with a great guide. Sarita Awale, owner of the homestay we were staying in. Sarita tirelessly took us around, introducing us to the right people, sharing her passion for her Newari culture and she even gave us used tickets and tips to sneak in the Durbar squares as often as we wished – it wasn’t exactly Alexandra David Neil entering 1923 Lhassa , but we did feel a bit of excitement when coming in right after dawn through the back paths of one of the closed cities…
Being overwhelmed by the richness of the city, its opulent past and incredible centuries-old rites, we had a new problem: how could we chose the one most inspiring story to tell.
We had heard about the Kumaris, the Nepalese Living Goddesses and we had paid a visit to the Patan resident Kumari. It didn’t prove very inspiring. But then Sarita gave us a dusty book from her bookshelf, it was called From Goddess To Mortal.
We read it in one go, being totally hooked by the author’s sincerity on her life as a child goddess back in the 1980s. What touched us most was her purpose for writing the book and how the latter came to be.
When she was the Royal Living Goddess, Rashmila befriended two foreign girls who came from abroad. She then lost contact with them until the girls’ father, a novelist, found her again while on a holiday in Kathmandu 15 years later. Rashmila was keen to get her story out to clarify a lot of misunderstanding about the life of Kumaris. On the pressing of his two daughters, Maya and Anna, Scott finally accepted to help Rashmila to write her biography.
We totally fell in love with their unusual story.
What followed was our collecting of the three women’s testimonies from Kathmandu to Singapore (where Maya lives) to Bali (where Anna lives), recording how they experienced this unforgettable moment of their childhood . Testimonials of befriending a Living Goddess on Maya and Anna’s part and testimonial of demonstrating tremendous strength of character and modernity, within the strict codes of a secular tradition on Rashmila’s side.
The autobiography of the author who was worshipped as a virgin goddess from 1984-1991, in Nepal: From Goddess to Mortal: The True-life Story of a Former Royal Kumari (Rashmila Shakya, as told by Scott Berry)