I first met Dilmaya Gurung in 1969 when she was a teenager. I was adopted into her family, so she became my younger ‘sister’. When I returned again and again to Nepal from 1986 with my wife I lived with her and her family in the mountain village of Thak. She became my best anthropological informant and the subject of many hours of my films.
I came to admire her life and character, her mind and spirit, more than that of almost all those I have known from far more privileged backgrounds. Natural intelligence and indeed wisdom, a sense of fairness, organizing ability, intuition and sensitivity to the feelings of others, all of which Dilmaya had in great measure, have nothing to do with going to school, with travel, with worldly experience or with wealth.
I deeply respected and admired her extraordinary ability to use her body and the simplest of tools to wrest a living and to provide for and nurture her growing family of four children and her husband. I also found in the give and take of everyday life, the jokes, the zest, the curiosity, the exchange of information and the desire to share and explore the world together, a basis for a sustained and growing friendship.
Dilmaya was a very good companion, a person whom Sarah and I enjoyed spending hundreds of hours with through long days and evenings as she cooked us rice and uncomplainingly added responsibilities for an extra pair of people to the load of her other five close family members. She was never angry or exasperated with our mistakes and blunders (that we noticed), she did not use or manipulate our relationship for her or her family's purposes, though there must have been great temptations to do so.
Dilmaya acted perfectly naturally, explained things clearly to the camera, and was aware of the needs of angle, light and distance in an intuitive way. She basically treated the camera and me as she did her own children. She expanded our worlds and guided us towards a deeper understanding in our parallel lives.
Dilmaya died suddenly of a heart attack on 7th April 1995 at the age of 42, probably from over-work. We heard the same evening in the U.K. and the shock and sadness at her death was worse than even that of my own father who suddenly died young at the age of sixty. I am therefore delighted and honoured to be associated with her again through her youngest son Bikash, who has named his trekking business in her memory.