KATHMANDU, June 13:The stories of Dr Meena Singh Khadka sound too good to be true. She often tells stories of the great moments she spent with the world's famous and powerful.
Sixty-year-old Khadka has been the chairperson of Global Academy of Tourism & Hospitality Education (GATE) College, Mandikhatar since 2015. She also takes motivational classes there.
She has many stories to share with people who meet her, from receiving a call from Michelle Obama to growing up with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity and working as a mentor at Harvard University.. The facts, however, are different. She does not furnish any evidence or any details about her fascinating stories. Republica, after detailed investigations, unravels her stunning world of lies that have fooled people in Nepal and abroad.
"One day there was a call from the US. When I picked up the phone I learnt that Michelle Obama was at the other end. I asked her if she was really the first lady of the USA. She answered 'yes'. She invited me to attend a party in the US. The phone was then cut off," Meena shared with Republica.
Officials at GATE College, however, said that they are not aware about any phone call from Michelle Obama. No call from Michelle Obama has come to their notice, official from GATE told Republica.
According to Meena, She is also involved in NGO activities, including at Bal Saarathi Academy. According to her, she offers literacy programs targeting illiterate women. "A total of 70,000 women have already become literate as a result of my initiative and I have plans to make 100,000 women literate," she shared. She, however, does not have any substantial proof about this.
Her stories do not end there. "Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came to attend the wedding of the son of Charles [a friend] in Kathmandu a few years ago. She stayed in a hotel. She came to my residence at 1 A.M. This shows what close friends we were," Meena boasts.
Bhutto's last visit to Nepal was in 1994 and Meena was in the United States at the time if we are to believe her own words.
She claims that she went to Kolkata at the age of six and spent her school years with Mother Teresa in India. She completed a Master's Degree in Linguistics from the University of Kolkata with a gold medal at the age of 19, if she is to be believed. Nevertheless, she failed to furnish any evidence about her relations with Mother Teresa, her academic achievements and medals. Asked for proof, she said, "I cannot find them right now."
She further claims that she worked with the renowned anthropologist and researcher Dor Bahadur Bista after she returned to Kathmandu as she failed to get a job in India. "I don't know the exact date when I worked with him," she said.
Bista's relatives refute her claims. His grand-daughter Heema Bista informed that Meena never worked with him. "I watched her interview on a popular television channel where she talked about editing Bista's book 'People of Nepal', which was published in 1965. I would like to know how old she is now. We discussed her claim within our family and concluded that it was false."
There are more imaginary stories. She said that her very first salary was Rs. 46,000 when she was working for the Peace Corps 40 years ago. When she was asked about the same thing three hours later, she gave a different figure. She said she used to receive Rs 16,000 per month. However, the US embassy in Kathmandu informed that she never worked for the Peace Corps.
Interestingly, her claims show that multiple organizations such as the embassies of the US, France and Japan and the Peace Corps employed her at the same time.
She claims to be familiar with nine different languages and to be affiliated with the world's top 37 colleges and universities, and gets paid upto US $ 5,000 for a single lecture at foreign universities. This claim also falls flat. When Republica asked her for details about the affiliations, she refused to furnish any. "I went to take part in workshops at those universities and sometimes I took visiting classes," she explained. She tells stories of her affiliation to World College West and Stanford University in California. However, she could not provide any particulars. "I am a visiting professor there," she claimed but without providing any evidence. Meena said she became a mentor at Harvard University three years ago and mentored 6,000 students in their research work. Harvard informed Republica that her claims are false.
According to her, she was the one who took the initiative to open the School for Independent Studies of South Asia at the University of California, Berkeley, where courses dealing with Sherpa, Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Newar and other cultures are taught. The School for Independent Studies was established at Berkeley in 1975. She said she has double PhDs, on Contemporary Women's Movement in South Asia and on Cultural Anthropology. She claims to have achieved a gold medal in 1987 for her studies on South Asia. Upon inquiries by Republica, the University of California at Berkeley said they do not have any record of her attending the university.
She said that one Dr Smith offered her an opportunity to study at the University of California and she completed her first PhD there. She said her interviews were published in many US-based newspapers including the California Times and in university journals. But not a single one of her articles is available in any of the newspapers or websites.
She claimed that she also opened a South Asia Department at the University of Tokyo in 2009. Contrary to her claim, the South Asia Department was established there in 1941.
She has some more stories that never took place in reality. In 1995 [or 1996], the International Women's Conference was held in Beijing, where Hillary Clinton and Meena were together most of the time as they were friends. Furthermore, she was with President Barack Obama in 2014 at Harvard. The fact is Obama did not visit the university in 2014.
She claims that she left Harvard (where she had a tenured position) after the earthquake of April 2015 to work back in Nepal.
She also had an opportunity to work in Afghanistan under assignment by USAID. After the GATE CEO requested her not to go to Afghanistan as others in that post had gotten killed, she remained in Nepal.
Khem R Lakai, founder and CEO at GATE, said they were impressed with her activities, her attitude and her motivational speech. "Therefore, we chose her for the post of chairperson. We, however, did not verify her bio-data," he added. He seems to be convinced by her claims. "It's not easy to fabricate a false story repeatedly. The truth will be revealed eventually," he told Republica.