His artististic photographs are well known but not many know that Mani Lama has a parasite named after him â€” Anomalaya Lama tick.
After finishing school Lama went to work in the Melamchi ghyanng where his father had an apple orchard. One day an American couple arrived with a letter from his grandfather, who was at that time the caretaker of Boudhanath stupa. The letter said they were conducting a research about the Bhubani plague in Jumla which had killed many people.
â€œAs I had good English and was eager to practice it, I was more than willing when the couple requested me to be their interpreter/ translator,â€ recalls Lama.
So, they went to places like Gosaikunda, Jomsom, Muktinath and others in search of parasites found in wild animals. At the time Mustang was closed to foreigners, so Lama alone went after receiving necessary trainings. And the parasite he found there was declared to be a new genus tick and was thus named after him.
Lesson called life
Lama grew up in a big family and had a happy childhood. But the incident he remembers is his motherâ€™s death when he was 12. Due to some communication gap he was not informed about it. It was only on the 49th day when they were taken home did he come to know of it. He was shocked and wailed his heart out. But he shares, â€œIt taught me a big lesson in life â€” that even if someone is taken away from you, they are with you in your feelings, and it has helped me, taught me the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment.â€
He now has two beautiful daughters, who share their time between his wife and him.
â€œThough we have been separated for almost eight years, we are still friends, and also because of the girls â€” we want to see them happy,â€ says Lama matter of factly.
As a parent he describes himself as the â€œnice guy and the friendly fatherâ€.
â€œSince the girls have lived with Meredith for long, she is the one teaching them a lot of things. I feel there is a difference between Western mothers and ours. They raise their kids to be independent while we are so protective and spoil the kids making them totally dependent.â€
He has studied in a number of schools â€” St Xavierâ€™s, Padmodaya and finally Nandi Ratri after which he went to work in Melamchi.
Once the research had ended, the American couple advised him study. And remembering his dreams Lama says, â€œNepal is an agriculture-based country and I felt that if I could go to the US, with all its advanced technologies, I could come back and use the knowledge I had gained here.â€
He received a scholarship and went to study at Mersed Junior College in California from where he received his ASc. Along with agriculture he also took up photography as he needed more subjects for a degree. He then went on to study at Fresno State University and completed his BSc. He then came back to Nepal with dreams and aspirations to work for the betterment of the agricultural sector.
â€œBut things didnâ€™t work out as planned. I soon realised how the bureaucracy worked. After searching for a job for more than two years and getting nowhere, I gave up,â€ said Lama. â€œIâ€™m a progressive person and want to see changes happening, but the way things are going in our country, its really sad,â€ he added.
That was the time when he started hanging out with his photographer friends â€” Narendra Pradhan, Dhurje Lama, Shreedhar Manandhar, Rabindra Shrestha and others. Seeing the photos he had taken, his friends suggested him to sell his pictures which did quite well.
It was then he came up with the idea of Postcard project which he is most popular for. At that time postcards were usually of mountains, but he started a different trend and made postcards from a wide range of subjects â€” festivals, temples to portraits. With a loan from the government he went to Singapore and printed them.
â€œIn the beginning there were 18 varieties which sold like hot-cakes, and with it doing so well, I increased the varieties and printed millions of postcards which sold successfully,â€ beams Lama.
But things took a bad turn when in 1989 with Nepal-India border problems followed by 1990 democracy movement. With fewer tourists and less business, he was finally forced to end the postcard project.
However, during this time due to the postcard project many INGOs came to know of him and he started receiving assignments from various INGOs. â€œMost of my collections are of women and children, which I did for the INGOs. Others include landscapes, mountains, important monuments, festivals.â€
The list just seems to go on.
As he recollects, it was not just work for him: as he loves travelling, these assignments suited him just fine. â€œMy eyes are always waiting to see something pleasing, something photogenic be it in the mountains or even when Iâ€™m travelling in a crowded bus.â€
But he doesnâ€™t have any place that he feels is his favourite. â€œThere are too many beautiful places. I like to add something artistic in my photographs. I try to make even simple plain subjects artistic, give a sense of what the place is like,â€ says this photographer who quest is to find beauty in everything. â€œInstead of just taking a shot of Boudhanath stupa, I like to take it when thereâ€™s a rainbow behind it or butter lamps all over. I like to get a picture at the right time, with the right light and as natural as possible, but I always feel like my best shot is still waiting for me,â€ says Lama.