The Autobiography of Indra B. Tamang: My Curious Years with Charles Henri Ford

Indra B. Tamang Romy Ashby

A young Nepalese man’s globe-spanning relationship with an American surrealist over three decades changes the course of his life, his fortune, and his sense of family and home.

In 1973, poet, photographer, collage artist, and sculptor Charles Henri Ford, often called the father of American surrealism, convinced a young Nepalese waiter at his hotel in Kathmandu to come work as his all-purpose helper. Nineteen-year-old Indra Tamang, who spoke minimal English, was soon enjoying an education and a life he could not have imagined. He quickly graduated from cooking and running errands to attending social engagements with Charles, to accompanying the artist on his international travels, eventually becoming his collaborator, and more of a son than an employee.

Charles was a magnet for creative people, and during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Indra found himself at the center of seemingly every fantastic little universe in New York, Paris, Crete, and Kathmandu, often as a quiet observer taking photographs and making mental notes. There was Studio 54, Andy Warhol’s Factory, the teas that Charles would host at the Dakota, attended by regulars such as Tennessee Williams, Quentin Crisp, Patti Smith and Henry Geldzahler; there were special dinners at the United Nations; visits to Mary McCarthy and Leonor Fini; and chats in the elevator with neighbors like John and Yoko and Lauren Bacall. Charles gave Indra a second upbringing, one that Indra absorbed with tremendous curiosity and enthusiasm. In turn, Indra brought Charles into his family’s village in Nepal, introducing him to a world that not many Westerners were privileged to see, especially then. Indra managed to shuttle between these two vastly different worlds, marrying and having children in Nepal, though not revealing this to Charles for quite some years.


In 2010, Indra Tamang became the object of global fascination after inheriting two apartments from Charles’s sister, the actress Ruth Ford. The story in the Wall Street Journal described a Nepalese “butler” who “grew up in a mud hut” and ended up owning property in one of New York’s most famous buildings. The attention that followed inspired Indra to write this richer and more accurate account of his life. Illustrated with nearly fifty photographs and ephemera from the private collections of Charles and Indra, gathered together for the first time and including some never before shown, readers will discover that nothing about Indra’s “curious years” with Charles and his constellation of friends was ever ordinary or predictable in any way.