7- 13 November 2014 #731

A multi-tasked life

At 72, Karna Sakya is busier than ever writing books and building hotels
Guna Raj Luitel
What amazes forester, entrepreneur, writer and positive thinker Karna Sakya the most? Everything around him. He points to an excavator working at his project site and ponders on its power. The machine’s articulated claw works like a human hand, but can lift weights a thousand times more.

Singapore’s founder leader Lee Kwan Yew once praised the humble air conditioner as one of the greatest inventions in human history. Lee said the coolers allowed people to work and remain productive in the tropics despite the heat and humidity. Sakya has a similar ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

At 72, Sakya’s passion for work hasn’t diminished. The tourism pioneer who established Kathmandu Guest House that helped Thamel grow from a sleepy backwater to a tourism hub, is working on a new hotel project in Hattisar. “I feel like a painter,” Sakya tells me, “a painter uses a brush and colours to produce art. Building a new structure is also a creative enterprise.” Sakya’s family is from Asan, and he grew up wearing slippers from used rubber tyres. After a degree in forestry, he helped establish national parks, and then his business mind took him to develop eco- tourism products. In the past 40 years, Sakya has been involved with Kathmandu Guest House, Hotel Ambassador, Club Himalaya and Marco Polo Business Hotel.

Today, Sakya has turned into a popular philosopher sharing the experiences of his multi-tasked life with his readers. His books, Soch (Imagination) Khoj (Investigation) and Moj (Enjoyment) have been best-sellers, exhorting readers to have a positive mental attitude, to imagine, explore and implement new ideas.

Sakya is impatient with talking heads who only tell others what should be done. He wants to see things done. Meditation or physical exercise are futile for him, he gets his relaxation and exercise from keeping body and soul engaged in his new projects.

His books are about his life experiences and offer practical tips. He started writing Soch while Nepal was engulfed in violence, it was a time of sadness and despair. Investors abandoned the country, and even Nepalis had lost faith in their nation’s future.

But for Sakya, darkness was not the only reality. He started out reminding himself about what he admired most about Nepal, and the book became an exercise in reviving the author’s own confidence in Nepalis. He admits he is not a natural writer. “I can’t write a poem about a rose if you ask me to,” he says. “I have my own philosophy and am guided by my own reality. However, I wanted to communicate to fellow Nepalis the practical and positive things I learnt in my life.” His other books are about entrepreneurship. Ma Sakchu (I Can) was inspired by the US president Barack Obama’s election. Sakya also wrote the script for a Nepali film Pal (Moment).

The Hattisar hotel involves renovating an old Rana-era palace where he has lived for the past 35 years into a heritage property called Maya Manor. In Pokhara, besides Waterfront Hotel, he is also building the Mountain Front on Sarangkot.

Sakya’s life is full of projects and pragmatism, he has no time for rigid ideologies. He is a happy man and doesn’t have any regret in his self-made life. His legacies are his hotels and his books, and he is now working on his dream home in Panipokhari, “a place where I can spend my last days”.

What strikes me the most about Karna Sakya is his determination not to sink into fashionable cynicism or hopelessness, he doesn’t just look at a silver lining; he wants others to see it too. He wants to infect other Nepalis with his never-waning optimism about the country, and hopes that he can inspire others to achieve as much as he has.

He glances back at the excavator with boyish curiosity, and remarks on the symbolism of the operator’s ability to magnify his power and do so much with such ease. Sakya seems to be quoting from one of his own books when he summarises his life’s philosophy: “The person who has never seen suffering will not seek happiness. Necessity is the mother of invention.”


Read also:

Karna’s karma, Janaki Gurung

Accidental businessman, Ashutosh Tiwari

Fourty-four and counting, Andrew Tchie


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