When I came to Nepal (nearly 50 years ago) nobody asked me why. I came with 2 sons and would later have a 3rd. I also came with a Nepali spouse so the reasons were obvious. I was by no means the first ‘bedeshi bohari’ as we came to call ourselves. There was an interesting collection of Russian and East European girls and we were later to form what I suppose would have been called a non-government organization. But NGOs were rarely heard of then Late King Birendra had not been crowned and his father, Late King Mahendra, was still very much alive.
We had quite a collection of children between us and besides taking them as a group to join in Nepali festivals we ran them through the whole gamut of our festivals –those we had grown up with. These festivals were viewed with suspicion in some families but it wasn’t too long before people pulled together and enjoyed the colourful festivals of other climes. Instrumental in bringing this about was the fact that children who attended schools in India had already experienced a wide plethora of festivals and were familiar with them. Not in a religious way, of course, and it’s amazing how much more broad-minded children are than adults in these matters. In fact I won’t discuss their perspectives in writing because I am still unsure how the adults in our readership would take it.To be ecumenical in religious terms requires a broad generous outlook and intelligence above the normal.I’m not sure how many adults there are in our readership!!.
We had such fun in those days. Some of us adjusted better than others: the slow adjusters were helped by the rest. When I look back I realize that in a way we were replacing the families we had left behind with our friends; and in return our friends supported us.!
Of course, things change, and not only for the better. When the Late King Mahendra died, we lost so much. Seemingly severe, he was more broadminded then than our politicians are today.. The next generation of the royal dynasty were more severe for the citizens in mixed marriages. King Mahendra and his Queen, Ratna, appreciated that ex-pats brought with them skills they could pass on and they were skills Nepal could use. Today I suppose with so many going abroad to study, the received wisdom might well be that ex-pats are no longer a necessary fabric of Nepal’s demography.
Of course not every ex-pat was a glowing example of what the outside world had to offer but many of them were. It is these people who opted to make a life in Nepal, no matter the difficulties.
I spent my first quarter of a century in Nepal trudging up and down mountain trails. I remember watching the ex-pat tourism groups and thinking how one day I would love to experience what being a paid up tourist is like. But now I’ve changed my mind! As the years go by the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’ has narrowed.Just look at the advertisements for trekking equipment, jungle lodges, and mountain sports! What is more, look at the prices Nepalis are willing to pay!
I’m not saying that our Himalayan environment is without hazards; but by and large / apart from those our insurance companys claim are:
‘Acts of God’/ our mitigation skills have improved to face the challenges these hazards bring. Like most seismically prone nations, however, we are not yet at the stage when we can predict and overcome earthquakes; having said which brings us to the last one /or more recent one; as it’s presumptuous on our part to refer to it as ‘the last’/.
This was the event that brought so many migrant youths back home to help their families recover. This proves to me beyond a doubt that despite their yearning to be paid better wages, build better residences or send their children to better schools they haven’t lost this dream for their native land. That is why they return and that is why so many of the ex-pats I write about stay here and want to continue doing so. Nepalis still have a family feeling that is almost lost in the rest of the world.
I, as a youth, I often wondered why other folks’ families seemed cold and dysfunctional. I ran away with the illusion that it was Yorkshire folks who made the difference. We spoke with pride in our dialect, even though many of us had parents who insisted upon us speaking ‘the Queen’s English’ and subjected us to elocution tuition to ensure we did. That fervour has disappeared now I believe, listening to the various BBC announcers/commentators: BBC English is not what it used to be. I have toyed with the idea of contacting BBC World HQ and asking them whether they would be prepared to hire an apostrophe expert to help them face the world. I doubt French TV would put up with the clangers the BBC does. The BEEB has become ascintillating advert for Lynn Truss’ book ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves.’in which she takes the definition of a panda and its diet from the English dictionary and explores the many sins of omission and comission are made in their definitions.Dr. Johnson would have beeen appalled.But does it matter anymore?
Being from a family that prides itself on its puns I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as we have a rapport with each other and understand what is being said. Yet, it would never do to set exams based on such assumptions! Mistaken assumptions could ruin this world we know and make it an uncomfortable place to be. This brings us back to the early settlers in Nepal.
Why indeed doesn’t the Department of Immigration reintroduce the ‘retirement’ visa about which there was so much chatter and excitement Years ago? So many retirees were willing to deposit their life savings in the Rastra Bank in return for a ‘retirement’ visa.Why don’t we have a series of visas as other countries do? Is our mistrust of other nationalities so strong that we have to keep them away? Strange isn’t it that many fine young Nepalis apply to go to foreign climes or enroll in the armies of ‘friendly’ nations but once we are back on our own soil our former friends and employers become ‘Persona non grata’. Why? I think it’s time the New Spotlight encouraged the Press to hold a round table discussion about this and similar attitudes that prevent us from being –although one of the poorest--still one of the happiest places in the world to be!