Welcome back (not)

Published On: July 20, 2018 07:53 AM NPT By: Kalu Maila

A friend of mine is back home after a decade of living in the West. Some people do change. I too lived in the West for a decade and I’m one of those unlucky ones whose accent did not change at all. I still speak English with my Nepali accent while some of my friends became New Yorkers or a Geordie from Newcastle. Good for them but don't stretch it too far.

I think I did not try too hard to fit in and become one of them, at least in the 'accent' department. I spoke like Govinda, not the God but the Bollywood actor, and did fine for years. One of my professors once told me that it doesn't matter how you speak. Just speak slowly and clearly and the world will understand you, he said. If they don't then that's their problem. But our politicians should not speak English. I think it is better to stick to Nepali and let the translators do their work instead.

I met my friend for coffee and the guy went on a rant for an hour. He was upset and angry at everything Kathmandu had to offer. He was not happy with the dust, pollution, and almost everything. Well, you can be mad at our politicians but don’t be mad at the people. We are not the reason our city, and our country as a whole as a matter of fact, is way behind the rest of the world. It's the people whom we elect and those who are in charge of our government offices who seem to lack ethics and integrity. 

I reminded my friend that he has only been away for a decade. Before he left for the West, he enjoyed his share of dust, fumes, and everything that is wrong with this country. So, there was no point in complaining as if this was his first visit to Kathmandu. Juhi Chawla can complain because she must have never been in a dust storm ever except in Dubai. 

But if you are a Nepali and you have been living here most of your life and then suddenly you win the DV lottery or decide to migrate to foreign lands and then you come back after a few years of so-called Western influence and then you bitch about everything then you are the problem. Yes, not all people who go abroad and come back act like that but those people are rare. 

There are many of us who do stay overseas for decades and then come back and we just blend right in because this is our home where we spent most of our formative years. Yes, it will take us a while to get used to the 'chaos' but eventually that's what is so great about our city and our country. Where on Earth can you find holy cows moonlighting as voluntary traffic cops in the capital of a country? Yes, right here in our land! And I like the cows because if our holy animals were not on the street then there would be many accidents due to speeding and changing lanes like crazy. At least, the animals are keeping us safe because everybody wants to break the traffic laws but nobody wants to go to hell.

My friend doesn't trust the usual Rs 20 mineral water you get in town. He needs to buy the Rs 50 one. I tell him that his stomach still has bacteria from the old days and they hunger for adulterated food and okay water once in a while. It is always good to go for detox by eating out at local stalls and spending a few days in the bathroom. I tell him that you can boil the water, filter it, and it's safe to drink like his parents did when he was a kid and continue to do so even today. But it's his choice and he has the money to pay for it. Most of us here at home can't afford to buy the Rs 50 mineral water every day. My friend is here for a month. It's not really going to cost him much.

I tell my friend that my guru once told me that it is useless to complain about things that we don't have any control over because we are not in the position to change it. You can't change our politicians, so stop complaining about them. You can't change the way our microbus drivers drive, so stop complaining about them. You can't end corruption in this country, so stop complaining about it. But you can change yourself. You can be a better driver by allowing pedestrians to cross the street when they use the zebra crossing and not try to run them over. You can be a better person by doing your best at whatever you do. If you are a bakery chef, then bake the best quality cakes ever. 

My friend asks me who my guru is. I tell him that he is no other than our local barber, who came from Bihar 30 years ago. He used to cut my father's hair. Now, he cuts mine and, in a year or two, he will cut my son's hair as well. The man from Bihar has two kids. One is a doctor in Lucknow, India, and the other one works for a multinational company in Delhi. The man from Bihar feels blessed that he came to Kathmandu to earn his living. He managed to do his best, save and send his kids to good schools back home. He doesn’t complain about the dust and pollution, and the dirty roads in the city that has been his adopted home for decades now. My friend could learn a thing or two from him and at least stop cribbing about the things he put up with for so long before going abroad. The situation might be bad but so is hypocrisy.

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