Duksangh "Duku" Dolma Sherpa

Junior

Kathmandu, Nepal

Creative Writing Major, Journalism Minor

Duku studied new road construction connecting Lo-Manthang to the rest of Nepal and wrote for the Nepali Times.

Explain your independent study project.

My project (which received financial support from Knox's Stellyes Fund) revolved around understanding the environmental, economic, and cultural impact that the new road is going to have upon the people and place, and most importantly, how the authorities are planning on balancing this delicate relationship between development and preservation/conservation. I also very much wanted to know what the people had to say about this development, thus it incorporated interviewing a lot of villagers as well. (Duku's experience with one villager, a little boy, is the subject of a video she produced for her Digital Storytelling class at Knox.)

What inspired you to pursue this project?

Mustang has always been a special place for me. I grew up listening to stories of Mustang -- stories of its king, a walled city, and colorful prayer flags fluttering beautifully atop of the whitewashed houses. I've grown up hearing myths of monsters, monasteries, and saints and simply of a place and time so different, so exotic, that it almost seemed dreamlike. Up until recently, this area was absolutely untouched by the clutches of the modern world. It was one of the best-preserved cities in the world, nestled between the Himalayas and Tibet. Extreme isolation of the region was the reason behind its extreme preservation. Now, with the road connecting the settlement to 21st century civilization, the land is changing.

What makes this road so important?

Despite being politically a part of Nepal, Lo-Manthang, situated near the Nepal/Tibet border, was very much cut off from the rest of Nepal until recently, due to harsh geography and its strong Tibetan culture. I trekked all the way up to Lo-Manthang, the capital of the old kingdom of Lo. What used to take days of trekking or horse-riding has now been reduced to a day of jeep ride to reach the walled city of Lo-Manthang, which was also known as the Forbidden Kingdom at one point.

How did your Knox experiences help you?

With the investigative methods learned from journalism classes and the craft of writing itself learned from my English classes, the process of research and creating stories about my trip has been a lot smoother.

How did you get published in the Nepali Times?

I had previously worked with Kunda Dixit, who is the publisher of Nepali Times. He was one of the people I had to interview for my project because he has a lot of knowledge about Mustang and Nepal in general. Upon learning about my project, he asked me to write an article for his paper. He told me that I was the first person he knew who was going up to Lo-Manthang during winter, when most people migrate down south to warmer areas. I've always enjoyed immersing myself in a world of stories. I love sharing stories and believe that most things have one; it is just aching to be told. The process of understanding different people, places and the essence of a never-stopping time is very fascinating.