Growing Up in Kathmandu, Nepal

Growing up in Kathmandu, Nepal I was a rebellious child. For me any rules, any standards were there to stifle my independence. Naturally, I was not teacher’s pet and not a popular student. My parents, although very understanding, sometimes got fed up with my antics and wished they had little toned down daughter.

I lived in a joint family for the most part of my childhood. We were fourteen people living under same roof, sharing same kitchen and bathroom. Unlike the feuding joint families you see in soap operas, we were quite happy together. The occasional ramblings were there but tempers cooled down before feelings were hurt.

It was after I turned 14 we moved to our new house, a little outside the city center, to a small village with open fields, clear streams and lots of stray dogs. Our new home, a three storied building with small garden stood next to unpaved road. My father had tough time navigating the dirt roads on his motor bike.

Living with just four people was in stark contrast with living with 14. There were less people around you and the feeling lonely was something me and my brother were experiencing for the first time. We started watching lot more TV and quarreled less, when our parents went to work and we were home alone.

Six years younger to me, my brother is quite opposite to me. Very quite person, he paints, plays guitar and listens to heavy metal. While his sister was a bully in basketball court, hated the fact that she can’t draw and cannot play a single musical instrument. Sometimes I wonder if with all of his “soft” qualities my brother would make a good lawyer. I was shocked when he decided to go to law school.

When I decided to pursue writing, my father was the only one excited. A good writer himself, he had wanted to take up writing as profession. But because of family responsibilities and the fact that writers in Nepal (at least during his youth) were not paid for months, made him join the Nepalese army instead. With my decision he felt as if his dreams were coming true. He sent me an email saying “Writing require immense patience, I hope you develop that”. My mother in other had, was skeptical and still is. Her fears, I feel, is just a mother thing.

It is not that I have always wanted to be a writer. While in school, I had hopes of becoming a chemical engineer ( in 6 grade), a police officer ( in 7 grade), a marketing guru( in 10 grade) and an actress ( second half of 6 grade).For me writing was something I wanted to do for myself. I still have hundreds of poems I wrote during those days; I never tried to publish them. They were just for me.

I came to the USA to become a computer programmer. By the way, I decided to be programming guru when I was in 12th grade. Since my test scores were far from impressive, I could not manage to get into the great engineering schools. I had to be content with a small business school in Florida. From Schiller International University, Florida I did my masters in information technology management. I was an honor student so it never occurred to me that analysts were forecasting slower job market for the IT field. I set off to be hired by a company which would carry me to the dizzying height of success.

After looking for tech job for about six months, during which I had managed to finally publish an essay, I decided to reinvent myself. I decided that it is time I take serious look at my priorities and what I really want from life.

My easy brought me fan mails, some good some forgettable. I felt good that people read my writing and thought that it deserves a comment. Slowly, as the tech jobs kept eluding me, I started writing more. After I failed to complete my novel for the National Novel Writing month, I decided to pursue writing full time.

For many writers pain, unfulfilled dreams, life changing accident is what motivates them. When I look back into my past, especially my days in Kathmandu, I can see that the feeling of “not being good enough” is what has motivated me.

As an academically challenged student, I sought refuge in language. Nepali and English were my favorite subjects, I could write and teachers were happy to guide me. Math and science were my enemies, as I struggled to score a passing grade. My close friends were star performers in school and I felt as if I don’t belong to the group. I tried my best to prove myself worthy of their friendship.

At home, things weren’t much different either. My cousins and my brother were good students and I found myself competing against them to get the vote of “best Ghimire kid”. It was a losing battle.

Things changed in my favor when I went to India for my 11 and 12 grade. All of a sudden I was this great role model for my cousins and my brother. You see, all of this praise came from the fact that I was the first daughter to be allowed to live outside home on my own. Everyone was amazed at my courage and my parent’s defiance of the conservative rules.

My two years in India is something I would rather forget because of various reasons, but I am grateful my school in Thiruvalla, Kerala for the wonderful friends and the spicy fish curry. After I came back to Nepal, I joined a college in Kathmandu for Bachelor in Computer degree.

Kathmandu had changed in those two years. Fashion was something straight out of English and Hindi movies. Girls on street were copying provocative fashion from Bollywood; the parent’s didn’t seem to mind. The conservative but lively Kathmandu I had know was now in history. Which is good and bad, it is my fault that I could only see the negative side. I felt as if we had lost the culture war against the west and our neighbors. Apart from the fashion, the thing I noticed most was vanishing traditional Nepali sweet shops. They were now replaced by the Indian sweet shops, marwari style cuisine were now “in-thing” in Kathmandu.

My grievances were quickly gone when I had lunch at one of the new Indian restaurants in Kathmandu. Food was great and I felt that culture and business don’t go together. Unless you have serious marketing talent, culture based business are bound is disappear as the population gets more and more attracted to things “foreign”.

While I was enjoying my life in Kathmandu, getting all the benefits of a cosmopolitan life, Nepal was struggling with the rising wave of Maoist violence in the remote villages. The insurgency was spreading around the nation and the economy was getting hit directly. Although I was among the fortunate ones living in the cities who didn’t have to deal with the insurgency on the daily basis, the escalating violence troubled me. I was angry at the Maoists for killing innocent civilians, I was angry at the government which was essentially a paralyzed one. When got the US visa I was relieved that I am getting away but the feeling of guilt never left me. I felt like a traitor leaving my family behind, leaving my people behind.

Living in America has made me realize how much I miss Kathmandu. I remember walking on the streets, on the way home from school, fighting with friends, running away from the cars on a monsoon day. I remember the looking at the mountains from my room on a clear September day, the rice field stretched far, and the clear stream.

I am excited about the new developments in Nepal; hopefully peace will come back.

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