How far would you push your boundaries to follow the insecure passion of altruistic salvation without the dire ability of foreseeing its outcome? One man is audacious enough to fulfill his self-assigned responsibility of family reunion in one of the most remote part of Nepal- Humla – without the apprehension of the imminent complications. Conor who desperately craved for a ‘radical change’ by traveling around the globe and volunteering in a war-torn nation (initially for impressing his colleagues and family); is yet to encounter life’s greatest trial which would later transform him beyond his expectations.
‘Little Princes’ is a compiled memoir of a ‘University of Virginia’; graduate, Conor Grennan ,which entails heart-rending story of those deprived but extremely resilient children; deceitfully contrasting to the title that provides a euphoric outlook. After Conor left East/West Institute where he worked as Deputy Director for Governance program; he ventured to volunteer at ‘Little Princes Children Home’ when Maoist insurgency in the country reached its pinnacle.
At the beginning mope and reluctant, Conor constantly questions and fears his competency to cope with the children and circumstances in the country chosen for volunteering. But when Conor is revealed with the unavoidable truth about none of the children being at Little Princes being orphan; the stint volunteering becomes a part of grand-committed journey, never before attempted in the land of mystical mountains. Those children had been cruelly lacerated from their family by child-traffickers demanding hefty cash for their safety at the time of civil war; but later abandoned amidst the chaos of the Kathmandu Valley!
Conor without any information of the family members or the relatives of the children (– as they were trafficked at an age when one doesn’t call their relatives with their names); has to tackle the compulsion to rely on faint hope and fate for the accomplishment of his commitment. But back in the capital while Conor risks his life in the breathtaking cliffs and numbing chilliness of Humla, his intimates Farid, Viva and his mentor Anna are operating Next Generation Nepal (NGN) –the organization founded by Conor– assisting the benevolent cause of combating child trafficking. As the memoir develops, it unfolds the root cause of the trafficking woes i.e. ‘Political Patronizing’ as a prominent theme; which influenced many like Golkka conduct trafficking during civil war. Conor who has managed various projects on Peace and reconciliation in Balkan explicitly criticizes the recruitment ‘One child per family ‘policy in Maoist stronghold places in Nepal.
‘If a five-year-old boy went missing in the United States, it would be front-page news for days. Entire towns would hold vigils. Millions of dollars would be spent…In Kathmandu, seven children vanished into thin air and nobody even missed them.’ Not only did the passionate cruise introduced Conor to his future wife but, Liz, who shared congruent ideology of selflessness; but also appeasing little teachers(the children) who rewarded him with the ability of compromising. Conor is spell-bounded by the children who effortlessly contrived happiness from ‘Drinking Jelly’ they ate, co-operatively handling ‘children home’ chores or be it curiously piling upon one another to ensure their faces in the tiny camera screen.
All along Conor’s unpredictable journey the children had silently and secretly taught him the lessons of endurance and optimism. Conor, who eventually becomes immune to the monastery bells and habituated to swinging on metal bar of the overcrowded buses. As he mentions in the essay ‘How Taking notes and Living without indoor Plumbing would change my life’ (- published in Amazon): ‘the more time I spent in Nepal, the more normal these “strange” things became’ which is undoubtedly a tireless struggle of encompassing the love towards the children and their society.
‘Little Princes’ is a solemn story of bridging over the tragic separation of children and their families so profoundly and wittily narrated. With a fair and reader friendly brevity, Conor leaves no stone unturned by vividly illustrating even the minute details; like the flashing of ‘I Love You’ each second in the watch borrowed from a friend by Santosh (a child from Little Princes) or the obscure plucking of blanket repairers with stringed harp around the shoulder, which gives a poetic justice to his life-changing experience in Nepal.
Personally, it is a book capable of encapsulating and inspiring every reader to sort out the innate ability of absorbing evenness out of the odds. All in all the audacious adventure, riveting romance and devoted dedication yoked together makes ‘Little Princes’ a quintessential paradigm of how ‘real life can be stranger than fiction’; and guarantees your reading worthwhile till the end. I have already made a difference in the lives of trafficked children as portion of my purchase is a contribution to Next Generation Nepal (NGN) working for the same altruistic cause; so when are you getting yours!