The Last Lost Kingdom

Lost kingdoms, sequestered civilizations and isolated tribes interconnect fact and fiction, illusion and reality, and imagination and substance. 21st century means of communication, observation, archiving, analyses and publication should ensure the boredom of knowing it all. But hidden gems such as the former Himalayan kingdom of Lo remain untouched.

Nicole Crowder’s photo editing is a stunning exhibition of controlled talent.

A fortress in the sky, the last forbidden kingdom of Tibetan culture.

Nicole Crowder:

Sheltered by some of the highest mountains in the world — Annapurna and Dhaulagiri — and bordering China on the Tibetan plateau, hides an ancient kingdom called Mustang, or Land of Lo. The kingdom is often confused with the mythical Shangri-La. The capital of the Mustang kingdom, Lo Manthang, is home to the Loba people, and its walled city is considered by some scholars to be the best preserved medieval fortress in the world. It is a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Thanks in part to its ancestral location — and because it has been forbidden to foreigners until as recently as 1992 — Mustang has retained its ancient culture. Though its capital is located in Nepal, it is one of the last strongholds of traditional Tibetan life left in the world. It remains a restricted region that is difficult to access. Foreigners must obtain special permits and pay high rates to visit it.

Photographer David Rengel visited the region recently to document the culture and observe its long-preserved way of life. Part of the project was realized while he began filming a documentary alongside producer and director by Larry Levene called “The Last Lost Kingdom” for the production company Es.Docu.

The lower part of Mustang yields more moist land and is rich in vegetation, while the more arid land in upper Mustang makes agricultural life a bit harder.

For centuries, caravans roamed the Kali Gandaki gorge between regions of Tibet, China and India with salt, yak wool, cereals, dried meat, spices and other goods on the so-called Salt Road. A road is being built along this route that will directly connect Mustang with China. When the road is completed, it will become one of the most accessible corridors of the Himalayas, and Mustang’s inhabitants’ lives may rapidly change with the influx of foreigners. Many of the young Loba people are waiting expectantly and anxiously for the road’s completion, but many older residents are hesitant about what it will mean for their culture and identity.

Something to Share: our enduring love story, by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz

” …  enduring, gripping, enriching …”

Something to Share by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz reveals a delightfully harmonious intersection of literary genres— love saga, autobiography, travelogue, adventure, multiculturalism — within a lifetime of loving service. Multilayered perceptions challenge stereotypes of meaning and raise the reader’s self-awareness.

The love story started with a tenth grade Iowa beauty flinging an orange at Al Schlorholtz to grab his attention in the Study Hall. And grab it she did, till the ends of the earth, starting from rural Iowa to Princeton to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

A love story of epic dimensions that goes beyond romance to include the exotic peoples of faraway lands.

The Schlorholtzes were clearly multicultural well before the advent of the term as it is generally understood these days. The sub-text of this remarkable work is in the mise en abyme tradition retrieved from heraldry by André Gide for the purposes of critical analysis. It leaves no doubt that despite himself, the author’s crystalline insight into a pivotal geostrategic environment is piercingly unique.

For its penetrating understanding of South Asia, Something to Share should be compulsory reading for the blow-dried inductees into the US State Departmant’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, just as Mumtaz Shahnawaz’s The Heart Divided was avidly read by missionaries of the Schlorholtzes’ caliber. Perhaps that, but certainly the clarity of their Christian faith made it hard to believe that they were actually missionaries, as with love and without any fuss they served others.

For the discerning reader, the fact that a one-star general’s phone call was required to clear the Schlorholtzes household furniture going from Pakistan to India speaks volumes. That Pakistan had a Christian general is startling. The authors do not state the obvious, offering adventure after adventure to be retrieved by the reader in quest of the truth.

That the authors state the facts and withhold their opinion is an example for the kind of contemporary journalism that appears to excel in opinion over fact!

And that is the skill with which the intersecting molecules of this remarkable narrative sustain each other.

The missionary professor and his wife’s life story is laudably free of religious clichés or evangelical rhetoric, while carrying veins of mineable secular abundance. The Christian message is implicit in acts of selfless devotion.;;

The Schlorholtzes lived through Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorships, survived two wars that included getting bombed and watching aerial dog-fights over their landscaped campus home known for its gracious hospitality. They survived Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialism while their daughters studied at Radcliff with Benazir Bhutto whom they remember as ‘Pinky’!

Something to Share revives the forgotten tradition of the likes of Reverends James Gardner and John Williams,  Margaret Prentice, Adomain Judson, William Carey and John and Ida Scudder, who continued enriching lives by penning their unique experiences during retirement.

La difference Schlorholtz is that the professor’s legendary wit pervades the manuscript in Balzacian brush-strokes.

So do settle down with your tipple of choice in your favourite armchair and let Al & Peggy Schlorholtz work their magic on a cold winter’s day.

%d bloggers like this: