Biographies of a few of our kamis
(Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma),
the Royal Kami
The Royal Kami
, the old master kami
who makes khukuris
for the king of Nepal and his top ranked
cohorts came to shop 2 and made me a "royal" khukuri
. He was puttering
around shop 2 for 15 days. I asked his name and Kami Sherpa said, "I don't
know. His nickname is Bura
(meaning "old man") and that's what
we call him.
I guess Bura is five-foot-two or three and weighs maybe 115 pounds
but he can swing a mean hammer and he knows how and where to hit hot steel.
He's good. He knows more and thinks better than anybody in the shop which
I suppose is why he's foreman. It may surprise some to learn that he has
three wives and children by all of them. Maybe that's why he shows up for
work everyday. But come to think of it if I had three wives I'd not be
able to show up for work -- ever.
Bura is about 45 and has 35 years experience as a kami.
in Swayambu and commutes to work via bus -- about a one hour journey each
way. Lucky for Bura, I guess, he has a very short walk to the bus. Same
from BirGorkha. Bus stop is only five or ten minute walk. He gets to work
about six AM and leaves about 6 PM. He is very steady and a no nonsense guy.
He comes to work to make khukuris,
not to smoke cigarettes and drink
tea. He is not our top producer but he makes the best khukuris
BirGorkha and perhaps in Nepal.
Bura smokes as do most of the kamis.
I bought all the shop people
a pack of Khukuri cigarettes several times each week while I was there.
Got my first taste of Bura, the Taskmaster, my first five minutes at BirGorkha.
As soon as Gelbu and I walked into the shop Bura raked Gelbu over the coals
because Gelbu had not alerted the shop to my upcoming visit. What Bura told
Gelbu was essentially this and you'll have to forgive the language but this
is the way he talks as do most kamis
-- gets the point across: You
rotten little ba*tard. Here's the man who sells our khukuris
sends us our money and you brought him here without allowing us to give
him the proper greeting he deserves. Get out of here you little a***hole
and bring Bill Sahib back tomorrow and we will have the shop and ourselves
prepared. Because you have no manners you bring disgrace on all of us.
You must remember that Gelbu is the boss, too, so you can imagine how Bura
talks to his helpers.
Here is Bura (Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma), his wife, kids and mother-in-law
at their new deera,
second floor of BirGorkha. The furnishings
are sparse but okay by Nepal standards and the free rent Bura and his
family enjoys is an unheard of perk in Nepal -- only at BirGorkha could
Bura was sort of the leader of the prayer movement when
I was in the hospital and for that I extend great thanks to him and all
the others who followed suit.
day I left I appointed the Royal
to the position of shop foreman. He is the best kami
have and is an old man who knows much. Further, he is a good man and will
be able to offer a lot of help and good advice to my son, Gelbu, who still
has a lot to learn. I instructed Gelbu to listen to him closely and follow
his good advice.
Last night when we spoke with Gelbu I found out his name. It is Lal
Bahadur Bishwakarma but everybody will still call him "Bura", including
me, and he is the nephew of Ganga Ram Bishwakarma who is in charge of making
the Ganga Ram specials.
Being the Royal Kami has honour but the work is far from steady. The
king and his top aides only need a few khukuris.
Now Bura will
have steady work and if the king wants a khukuri
made we will simply
do it in shop 2. Perhaps we have accidentally become the Royal Arun
The Royal Kami at work
(Bura making a handle for a Banspati):
After recovering in hospital from a blood clot in the brain,
Bura is back making khukuris. He may not be able to swing the hammer
but so what. In a lot of shops here in the US the hammer swinging is done
by a machine. He's using helpers to do the heavy work but he's overseeing
everything. I just got in a couple of M43s and some other stuff with his
mark and it's Bura work for sure.
The secret to success is knowing when to pull the steel from the forge
and telling the helper where to hit. Then knowing when to pull the knife
from the forge and how to pour the water. Bura did not like to use helpers
but I guess when you have no choice you do what you have to do.
I am not at all surprised. I knew Bura would not give up and would find
It's good news, really -- two pluses. Bura is producing and this is going
to make him feel good and his helpers will learn more from him than they
would working with any other kami -- but knowing what a taskmaster
Bura is, the helpers will pay the price for their education: 'Not
like that, you idiot!!!!'
--B. Martino, 21-Oct-2002
Message from Bura:
To Joi (Bill Martino -- 'son in law') and
Banji (Yangdu -- 'niece') and all the fine HI customers who sent money
If you had not done this thing I think I would be dead so your great
gift has given me more life than perhaps I deserve and for this there is
not enough thanks in the world. I remember you all in my daily puja and when
we do Bishwakarma puja we pray for all of you. This is the best I can do
to repay you. Blessings to all of you and a special thanks from me and my
family from the bottom of our hearts.
--Royal Kami Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma ('Bura'), August 2002
Gelbu, the most educated and medically knowledgeable in the family, says
he is almost certain Bura suffered a stroke -- for whatever that's worth.
Bura went for checkup a day or two back and doc says he's doing fine but
is facing meds for the rest of his life. Med clots meds, I'm sure. I think
Bura is going to be hard to kill.
Another thing I learned is that, after Bura's release from Bir Hospital,
Pala [Kami Sherpa] took him to his [Kami Sherpa's] home and cared for him
until he was sure Bura was OK. Bura lives an hour by bus from Bir Hospital
-- no phone and no transportation. Pala lives 10 minutes away from the hospital
and has tranportation available. Bura's wife is illiterate and has no idea
about health care. She didn't complain and Pala did what was right and needed
doing and my hat's off to him. (I had to chuckle when I learned that Pala
had taken Bura home to keep an eye on him when he was discharged from the
hospital. Pala lives next door to a Brahmin family and I'm sure they were
aghast at the notion of bringing an 'untouchable' into the household to
live, sleep and eat.)
All in all not such bad news.
Thanks again to all who helped from Pala, Bura, Bura's family, and me.
--B. Martino, 20-July-2002