by Deepak Shimkhada

Last Sunday, September 20, I was at an event at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles to attend the presentation of the Doshi Bridgebuilder Award to my former professor, Dr. Pratapaditya Pal.  At the event were about 250 invited guests, some of whom came from outside California.  Before Dr. Pal was given the prestigious award, he was honored for his contributions to South Asian art, Nepali art in particular.  Past Doshi Bridgebuilder Award recipients include Dr. Karan Singh, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Professor Huston Smith, Thich Nhat Hanh, Zubin Mehta, and Dr. Deepak Chopra.

Dr. Pal in the 1960s,was the first individual to recognize the richness of Nepali art when neither the Nepalis nor the foreigners had thought of studying it in a systematic manner.  He dedicated his interest to Nepali art against the advice of his professors.  For his single-handedly pioneering the field, we must thank him for inspiring later generations of scholars such as Ian Alsop, Gautam Vajracharya, Dina Bangdel, and Deepak Shimkhada.

I owe my gratitude to Dr. Pal for mentoring me while I was a student of his at USC in 1972.  Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have come to Southern California in the first place.  I was a Fulbright awardee and the Fulbright Commission had secured my admission to the Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania.  However, when I came to know about Dr. Pal’s work, I insisted that I come to USC. I prevailed.

Of Dr. Pal’smore than 50 books and 200 articles published so far half of them are about Nepal.  That is a staggering number.  He turned 80 years old on September 5, which by coincidence, is also my birthday.

For Dr. Pal’s contribution to Nepal, South Asian Studies Association (SASA) presented a lifetime achievement award to him in 1992.  This was followed by a Padmashree, one of India’s highest honors, presented to him by the president of India in 1993.  In 2014, a chair in curating and museology in Asian art was established in his name at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University.  He truly is a remarkable man who has introduced the richness of Nepal’s art and culture to the world.  For this Nepalis should be thankful to him.  Sadly, no Nepali organizations or the government of Nepal have bothered to recognize his contributions.  It shows how shallow we Nepalis are.  We run after those who have made lots of money—by any means—because we measure success by dollars, not by intellect or academic excellence.

Since 1993 I have written to Nepali ambassadors to the U.S. and the governments of foreign, home, cultural and education ministries in Nepal to honor Dr. Pal with Nepal’s highest award, the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu or whatever its new name might be.  I haven’t heard from any of them.  My rationale is we, the Nepalis, should recognize any individual of whatever nationality s/he may belong for promoting Nepal.  If India can recognize an Indian, now a U.S. citizen, for his work on Nepal with the nation’s highest award, why can’t we?