Showing posts with label Kathmandu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kathmandu. Show all posts

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kathmandu And Jerusalem

Kathmandu And Jerusalem

Jerusalem is where three major world religions meet: Judaism, Islam, Christianity. A lot of people don’t see it that way, but Kathmandu is its own kind of Jerusalem. Two major world religions meet in Kathmandu. Buddhism and Hinduism. Jerusalem is also easier to understand because people not getting along is as obvious as can be. In Kathmandu outwardly Hinduism and Buddhism co-exist like no two religions anywhere on the planet. But do they really? Buddhism is an egalitarian religion. All human beings are not only equal, there is no other way possible. Hinduism and its caste system are not one and the same, but by now who can tell the difference? They co-exist like meat and bone. The caste hierarchy is like a body organ to a Bramhin. Preaching egalitarian thoughts is quite literally blasphemy. What makes things more complicated is the agitating Madhesis did not become Buddhist just like Jews did not become Christian, although Buddha was born one of their own. The agitating Madhesis are caste people and the top leaders of the movement don’t get along because they are from different caste backgrounds. Otherwise the political agenda is the same, and there are not really any major personality clashes. So the Brahmins in Kathmandu say, if I don’t have to even explain this to you, since you are big on caste yourself, how hard is it for you to understand that I have decided upon a second class citizenship for you? How is that any different from the caste system both you and I agree with anyways? Not only two major world religions meet in Kathmandu, two other are right at the heels. Islam is not small in the Madhesh, and Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Nepal, giving the Brahmins nightmares, like Islam is the fastest growing religion in America, and for the same reason. The oppressed are walking out in both places.

Kathmandu is home to two major world religions who are at peace but can not really be because the two social structures are like metal and glass. And Kathmandu, or rather Nepal, is a confluence of five major world civilizations. That there is no civil war is a miracle. The religions might take some of the credit. Because it’s not literacy, it’s not the per capita income, it’s not roads, it’s not bridges.

Maybe there will be peace in Kathmandu, and the same peace template can then be taken over to Jerusalem. Via Kashmir.

For now the question circulating around in Kathmandu is, if the Madhesis don’t have problems with the caste system, why do they have problems with being second class citizens?

India and China have both avoided micro interferences in Nepal not because they fear Nepal -- it is a small country -- but because they fear Jerusalem. Every major power in modern history has thrown the kitchen sink at Jerusalem, and it has stayed intractable. Both India and China stay informed, but the level of micro management that Delhi gets accused of in Kathmandu, if there is truth to it, Delhi has the most efficient bureaucracy on the planet.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Berea College Died For Me During Five Minutes With Virgil Burnside

English: This is the Official Berea College Lo...
English: This is the Official Berea College Logo. It is used in the article on Berea college, so that users can instantly identify that they have come to the correct article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I attended a high school in Kathmandu that was not designed for people like me. We Madhesis are almost 40% of Nepal, but not even 1% of the Nepal Army, less than 5% of the Nepal Police, of the Nepal bureaucracy. Had not the British given the southern plains to Nepal in two parcels in 1816 and 1860, we would have been part of India today, and since 1947. Bhutan does not have southern plains.

Budhanilkantha School is the national school of Nepal, and the ethnic composition of its student population was and is like the ethnic composition of the Nepal Army. The Terai faces internal colonization and that fact is reflected in all state machineries of the Nepali state.

We are the Indian origin people in Nepal. I am half Indian by birth. It is a sorry state a population as big, right next to the regional power India would be in some kind of a political blind spot.

I went through hell and high water to get to college in America. And I had a very happy freshman year. I got myself elected student body president within six months of landing as an international student in the Bible Belt Deep South. A few weeks into office, Berea College died for me during five minutes with Virgil Burnside. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Family, Internet, New York City

English: Saraswoti temple at Budhanilkantha School
English: Saraswoti temple at Budhanilkantha School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 74th Street portion in Jackson Heights is the most famous Indian strip in all of North America. But then Wall Street - the world famous Wall Street - is not all that impressive either. It is but a pavement. It is not even a proper street.

I am an Indian who grew up in Nepal. I identify with the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Hindu minorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan. I identify with the blacks in America because I grew up Indian in Nepal. That sums it up nice.

The DaMaJaMa equation in Nepal’s context can be seen in the head count of Nepalis in New York City. The smallest population is that of the Dalits. Madhesis are the second smallest group. Janajatis are sizeable, but they are dwarfed by even the Bahun Chhetri women. Bahun Chhetry men swarm the city’s Nepali holdings. You can’t say you will hold your breath until there is proportionate representation. At a micro level you reach out to people based on basic decency, courtesy, good behavior, bonhomie. It is not political. But then during the course of things you also pick up hate speech against Madhesis which is not a call to arms locally - you are not going to pick political fights with Indians a shouting distance from 74th Street - but rather a suggestion the fight is not over yet in Nepal.

I have little time for politics anymore, if any. But if I had, I would purchase a few phone cards, and start dialing up the leading Madhesi politicians in Nepal, most of whom I know. But instead I send out blog posts here and now. They pick it up in their Facebook inboxes.

When Ratan Jha launched ANTA years ago, I was the only Madhesi he knew in NYC. He reached out to me offering to make me Vice President. I said I can not be part of an organization that is non political. It gets in the way of the hard core political work I am doing. But I will help launch it in the city, which I did. That is why I don’t see me seeking any officer position with the NRNA, not now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now. If I had time, I’d instead express interest in the US presidential politics, or the city’s mayoral politics. But then we all watch the sports of our choice. My sport of choice right now is Indian politics. I watch it closely. I need it.

Budhanilkantha School died for me towards the end of my Class 10 year through an administrative decision people who ran the place took. The Bahuns and the British who ran the place ganged up on me and destroyed the final three and a half years of my high school years. And I was a star student, not only academically, but also because I had given the best year to my house Kanchenjunga as House Captain that any house captain ever in that school’s history had given to any house to date. Precisely because I was a star student they came after me.

Berea College died for me early in my term as student body president there. I got myself elected to the office as a freshman, a school record, within six months of landing as an international student. An administrative decision by the Student Life Department killed that college for me that I tried so hard to get into.

Becoming Barack Obama’s first full time volunteer in NYC was me getting even. But that also asked for its own price, the steepest price I have paid in life to date.

The Nepali identify is being formed as we speak. I have never been a Nepali before. But I might become some day, if the country gets a constitution fair to the DaMaJaMa, if the state is restructured right. In that I don’t have a country right now. But I sure would like to contribute to the creation of that fair Nepali identity. If Charlie Rangel would not have messed up, and if I had been able to give total attention, Nepal would have had its constitution through the first Constituent Assembly itself.

I have my family that I love. I have the Internet. And I have New York City. The institution I most identify with right now is the company I am working to create. I worked full time for Nepal’s democracy in 2005-06. Then I worked full time for the Madhesi Movement. Now my total focus is on Nepal’s economic development. The only Nepali interactions I am truly interested in are business deals I can cut. I have a super network in Kathmandu. I can get all the hydro projects I want, no sweat. But I will get serious on that count later. Right now I am focused on software, especially on the augmented reality mobile game my team is working on. I am also about to do some fundraising for other people’s biotech startups.

The best way for a NYC Nepali to interact with me right now is to angel invest in some of my endeavors. Do it or miss the boat and regret in a few short years.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Connecting China And India By Train

China’s expanding rail network in Tibet nears Sikkim
Qinghai–Tibet Railway
Extension to bring Tibet railway line closer to India
Tibet Train Map
China plans taking Tibet rail network near Sikkim
Extend Tibet railway line to Kathmandu, Nepal tells China
India could take out Qinghai-Tibet Railway to cripple PLA

This is the Asian Century and China is taking the lead. Between them China and India are looking good. And the number one fallout of this new development has to be that hundreds of millions of new people get to get out of poverty. To that end railways connections between the two countries would go a long way. One would go through Sikkim, another would go through Nepal, through Kathmandu, the capital city, and on south to India.

Beijing has plans to become the capital city of the world by forging railway connections to all continents except Antarctica. There is talk of a train route to the continental US through Alaska. Another route to Africa. There is already one to Germany.

You can't go to America, and Africa and ignore India.

There is a huge peace dividend to such railway extensions. Every billion you spend on such railways is a billion you do not have to spend on defense, something like that. Defense expenditures are a one way street, whereas trains make you money.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi Helped Mandela

Imran Khan, December 2007Image via WikipediaIt is important to maintain perspective.

I have always believed in democracy, and I have never thought of it as some kind of a western thing.

The day 9/11 happened I compared it to the start of something along the magnitudes of the Cold War.

Gaddafi is like Castro in that he saw a lot. He saw colonialism, the Cold War, the aftermath, the War On Terror. This guy stayed in the news for half a century.

I was doing school in Kathmandu. We were amazed about this guy who seemed to drive Reagan crazy. Who i-s this guy? We read up on him.

One of the details that has to be noted is that Gaddafi helped Mandela when nobody helped Mandela. Dick Cheney was opposed to imposing sanctions on the apartheid regime and I don't think he has ever course corrected that stand.

I have often wondered what a Gaddafi like political animal functioning in a democratic set up might look like. Because the world does need people who will speak to the west on their own terms.

I am thinking Imran Khan might emerge that welcome voice, someone who is a democrat, a son of the soil, intelligent beyond belief, and someone who simply can not go corrupt.

Gaddafi was a dictator like Saddam was a dictator. I would not put Castro in the same basket. Castro was never a mass murderer. And the US could learn from some of what Cuba has done in education and health. Castro exported many a doctor to Third World countries over decades.

A new world order asks for personalities like Imran Khan who will ride the world stage on behalf of their peoples, democratically elected, and subject to peaceful recall once every few years.

Imran Khan
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bhangra, Cricket: Exotic To Me

A painting of Bollywood legendary actors Amita...Image via Wikipedia
Bhangra and cricket are very Indian. But they both remain exotic to me. I hear cricket is big in Nepal by now. But it wasn't when I was growing up. It was soccer, and volleyball in the hills. I am from the plains.

My mother's side of the family is Indian, Bihari to be particular. Because there are so many Indians out there, to claim the Indian identity is to claim humanity itself.

Getting my maternal uncles to read Nepali in their peculiar Indian accent was one of the fun things to do. Indians emphasize the syllables differently. Don't let the shared script between Nepali and Hindi fool you.

And in America, I have met a total of five Biharis so far. Meeting Indians in America is like meeting the French and the Germans and the British if you are perhaps Polish. The Tamils, Marathas, Gujaratis and Punjabis are all over the place. I have lost count of how many times some white person asked me, "Are you a Patel?" I have been left with the impression the Patels are a huge clan in America, perhaps the biggest of them all.

But the Indian identity is hugely scalable. I feel very Indian.

I was in Kathmandu in a boarding school for a decade of schooling. And I was living in Kathmandu right before I came to America. Eating dumplings is the best thing I learned in Kathmandu. (My Secret Sauce) A few weeks back I showed up at this place in Jackson Heights for some momo, Nepali word for dumplings. It is right by the train station on the way to Patel Brothers, same street. In the front you have a Bengali restaurant, in the back you have a Nepali/Tibetan corner. When I opened my mouth to order momo, the girl just burst out laughing. Later she explained she laughed because the idea of perfect Nepali coming out of a Bengali mouth was hilarious.

My first language is Maithili. Maithili and Bengali are the two languages closest to each other in the family of languages. I never actively learned Bengali but I can understand some of it. For my first few years in NYC, I lived in Little Bangladesh in Brooklyn, it is south of Prospect Park. I have walked every inch of that park.

When I would go out for grocery shopping, store owners would talk to me in Bengali. They simply assumed.

There are strong anti-India sentiments among the ruling elite of all small South Asian countries. But India is too big to do anything about it. And so who ends up bearing the brunt is Indian looking people who might be around, people like me. I feel like I had to come all the way to America to be able to claim my Indian identity.

I have never said no to the question Are You Indian while traveling through America's heartland/hinterland. For one, it's true. I was born in India, my mother is Indian, my hometown in Nepal is 10 miles from the Indian border. And it is a see through, walk through border. You simply walk over to India.

But I have not said no primarily to avoid having to explain who or what or where Nepal is. I prefer you google things up.

Once I met a Mexican who had never heard of India. "Too far? Too far?" He said. As in, is it so far away that I have never heard of it? But that is another story.

But even so you would routinely meet people who had that one Indian friend by the name of so and so. Would you by any chance know him/her? Over time I learned to give the right reaction. Say that one more time. Sorry, no, that name does not seem to ring a bell.

I am amused when Reshma Saujani gets referred to as a minority woman. There are so many of us, we are trying to control the population down there. Don't be calling us no minority.

One reason I like New York City so much is because it reminds me of both India and America at the same time. I love the city full package. Crowds, filth, everything.

Bhangra and cricket are exotic, Bollywood, though, is another story. I grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan.

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