a better way.
ah america. fabled land of opportunity, where every dream becomes a reality, where paupers become princes and life is an endless dream of advertorials and junk food.
in seattle, nepalis gather in small apartments and over jack daniels and storebought momos, reminisce about the old, but not necessarily good, days back in nepal. they complain”
“there’s no opportunity in nepal.” says one.
“there’s so much dirt and pollution.” says another.
“there’s no way i’m going back now that the maoists are in power.” says another.
“how could they get rid of the king? he was nepal’s only hope.” says one who never witnessed feb1, 2001 and its aftermath, and never witnessed the power and glory of the april uprising.
and then, the clincher:
“our greencards are on their way.”
but beneath all of their complaints, is an undercurrent of nostalgia as strong as the dark waters flowing through the trishuli. all nepalis here yearn for nepal, they pine for nepal. they want to see the mountains, the hills, the old roads, the homes they grew up in. but no one’s willing to make the effort. life is harder in nepal, they say. and no one seems to want to face that hardship. they want to walk into malls where the doors are automated, where the local market holds tomatoes almost as large as our pumpkins, and they want to buy a lottery ticket everyday, furtively scratching the paper with a nickel, a dime or a quarter, hoping to see those elusive little numbers that will make them rich overnight. a fool’s pursuit.
“who wants to go back?” they say. “once you live here, you never want to go back. here you can make something of yourself.” they say.
i think otherwise but i shrug, say nothing. nepalis are prone to anger, especially when their patriotism is called into question.
“i’ll go back.” they say. “but only when i get my greencard. so i can come back, you know?”
“i’m going to study for a month or two and then i’m going to quit and start working.” said a nepali student en route to texas at the bangkok airport. he’s 24 but he quit his bachelor’s studies in nepal to come to texas. there are 30 others in the airport, most are like him.
“you’re going to new york? i guarantee that within a month you’ll have quit your college and started working.” says another.
“but i have a scholarship, if i work, they’ll kick me out.” i protest.
“it doesnt matter. you can earn ten times your scholarship in new york.” he argues smugly.
“ever been there?” i question.
“no. but i know. you’ll never go back to nepal. neither will any of us here. at least we escaped that hellhole of a country.” he says, putting his mobile music on pause, and then, he leers at a passing white lady, “nice ass.” he says. she looks back at us, there’s a mixture of fear, loathing and disgust on her face. i wish i was somewhere else.
i dont dream big. i dont hold high expectations. all i want is to take away something useful from america. they say there’s no greater country in the world and i do agree. but its not the country itself but the people that make it great. i dont want to be in america for its mcdonalds, its jackintheboxes and its sevenelevens. i want to be here for its stevenspeilbergs, its stevejobs, and the millions of actors, musicians, artists, and creators who are adored worldwide. i want to learn how to be like them, learn from them and go back. i dont hold dreams of changing the face of nepal one day. thats not up to me. but the people i know go to harvard, stanford, cornell, brown, swarthmore, u chicago, haverford, hampshire, oxford, amherst and all these amazing colleges. even if just ten of them returned to nepal, with the amazing education they get at those places, who knows where nepal could end up.
life is easier here. i see that. there are no bandas, no fuel shortages, no garbage piles 5 feet high, instead every household has at least 2 cars, food is cheap, the streets are clean, and since i’ve been here, i’ve only seen one beggar. life is better here. but its not home. its not where your roots are. go back if you can. stay if you want to. but even if you stay, dont forget. dont forget that you once were nepali. that you once grew up in a place where the mountains never left the horizon, where village strangers would invite into their homes for a cup of tea, some food and even a place to sleep for the night, where life is hard but the people survive.
i’ve always been a cynic. but i think its time i grew up.
I’m a living sunset
Lightning in my bones
Push me to the edge
But my will is stone
Fools will be fools
And wise will be wise
But i will look this world
Straight in the eyes
What good is a man
Who won’t take a stand
What good is a cynic
With no better plan
Reality is sharp
It cuts at me like a knife
Everyone i know
Is in the fight of their life
Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dreams
And don’t be denied
I believe in a better way
– better way, ben harper
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