When I grow up

Published On: February 23, 2018 09:21 AM NPT By: Kalu Maila

When I was a kid I used to go around the neighborhood trying to prick other kids with either stones or sticks. I was busy playing doctor at the age of four. The whole neighborhood thought that I would actually become a doctor someday. 

When I was nine, I came third in my school's essay writing contest for kids below class six. I would have been fourth but the other kid was found copying a paragraph from a book. The kid caught cheating did really well later in life and now has a PhD, a wife who has a double PhD, and two kids who go to schools for talented kids in the United States. Whenever he comes to Nepal, he tells me that his kids will go to Harvard and Stanford someday. 

I tell him that I hope they won't copy their college essays from someone else and my PhD friend gives me a cold icy stare and promises to buy me an expensive drink at the newly opened so-called bar and lounge in the city if I don't bring up the 'cheating scandal' ever again. But I quit drinking half a year ago and I stick to coffee and I tell him that I would rather take some of his stock options he has with a company in Silicon Valley there instead of being happy with a peg of blue label. 

Here I am many decades later after my first stones and sticks adventure playing doctor. I did not turn out to be a doctor. And my crazy uncle who liked to tell everyone during any social functions I was present at that I would be a bus conductor got it wrong as well. The only reason he used to scold me and make fun of me was because I used to have long hair then and wore earrings and dressed up like one of those heavy metal band members. Yes, those were the days of Metallica, then Guns N' Roses and other metal bands.

There are some kids who dream of becoming a doctor at the age of six and, twenty years later, do become a doctor. And there are some kids like me who dream of becoming everything possible and decades later is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life while his peers have it made in terms of accumulating wealth and all those fancy stuffs. 

When we were kids, parents would tell their kids that they had to become doctors and engineers. If every kid in Nepal then did decide to follow the path chosen by their parents and had the brains and dedication then we would all be doctors and engineers today. And Nepal would be the country with mega bridges, mega buildings and every other house would have a doctor and nobody would really have to pay for any medical advice. And who knows, instead of sending millions of young lads to the Middle East, we would all be sending highly skilled professionals and making more.

But things have changed in the age of YouTube. When I was in my late teens, internet was the 'new thing' in town. Today is the age of YouTube where you can have your fifteen minutes of fame if you have the talent or any skills that can shock the world. If you can balance three hundred tennis balls on your head, then make a video and post it on YouTube, you might even get a call from Ellen and be on her show in the United States.

You don’t have to be a geek anymore to be successful both academically and financially in life. You can be a freak and still be able to mint millions of rupees or even dollars. We live in a world of globalization and social media has made it possible to reach all corners of the world without leaving your living room. My crazy uncle who used to call me a 'conductor' whenever I met him always boasted to the rest of the clan that his kids would be doctors, engineers, and even lawyers even before they were born. And God was listening and gave him and his wife three kids and instead excelling in medicine, engineering and law, they went on to become a tennis coach in France, a chef in Australia and a jewelry designer in New York. 

And all of them are successful in their own way. And my crazy uncle no longer calls me a conductor. Whenever I meet him at social functions, he embraces me tightly and shares his stories. He can't seem to get his kids to live with him. They don't even have time to come home for Dashain. And then he looks at me and tells me that I’m lucky because I’m here, with my family and even thought I make not even 10% of what my cousins seem to make in foreign lands, I seem happy. Well, that's what my Uncle sees in me, a guy who is happy, living in the dusty capital of this beautiful country, surviving each day with his loved ones. 

But I tell my uncle that he should not be angry with his kids. His kids are an example for the rest of our clan. Dream big and follow your passion. Yes, they don’t live here anymore but instead of thinking 'old school', my uncle should instead visit them on Dashain, Tihar, and Christmas. After all,  "home is where your story begins." And yes, I just copied this last line from a poster at a coffee shop in the city.

The writer is a house husband who believes in changing, if not the world, the community he lives in one person at a time. Reach him at

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