I have been tempted to write for so long but held myself back because these days you just need to be careful with your words. No matter what you say, there will always be someone who will be reactive against you. With so much hatred and foul languages used in the social media against each other, it is really scary. So just want to clarify that this isn’t political nor against any group or beliefs. It is entirely my personal blog. I just felt like sharing my own perspective as a minority in terms of ‘thinking’ in this country.
Coming from a multi cultural background, I think I have a pretty good exposure on diversity. My mother is a Newar, originally from Kathmandu. My father, a Bahun originally from Gorkha and my husband, a Magar originally from Rukum. We have Budhists, Hindus and Christians within our diverse family. With an inherited sharp nose and a brain good enough, I have been called the ‘cunning Bahun’. With an inherited slanted oriental eyes and opinioned mind I have also been called the ‘calculative Newar’. And of course being an emotional fool with a short temper, I have been told to have the temperaments that perfectly match the ‘hot blooded Magar’. With a dark complexion and those ‘Indian’ features, I have also been called a ‘Madhesi’ many times. All these names were given to me none other than my own folks who have also loved me dearly and I just laugh it off.
My parents in their days had a bit of struggle breaking the barriers with an inter-caste marriage. But for me, things were extremely smooth. One fine day we told our parents and close relatives that we have met someone special. Few years later, we told them that we feel ready to get married. Everyone welcomed our decision. There were no speculations, nor raised eyebrows. I did not hear anyone bringing up the ‘caste’ issue. We had a simple wedding with a court marriage, a short ceremony of exchanging garlands and rings, and a small combined reception where only the closest friends and families were invited. It was a simple and beautiful event with no exaggeration and no extravagance.
Following the marriage I chose not to change my surname and it has nothing to do with caste. I didn’t want to change my name or anything about myself just because I was married. And no one in the family I married to ever questioned me. We moved out from our parents’ home and it was just simply because we loved our independence. Nobody objected and it was in fact a celebration for us being capable enough to live on our own. And yet we enjoyed every bit of the new cultures we were exposed to. I enjoyed the new food and the dialect of my Magar family. And so did he enjoy mine. Every Tihar, my maternal aunt invites us for Mha puja, where the Bahun and Magar jwains enjoy the festive culture- the Newari way. And I celebrate Bhaitika next day, the Bahun way and him the Magar way.
I know family like ours is rare in this country. But I also know that we are not the only one. I have so many friends and relatives who ended up marrying into different races without much complication. I have also seen many people like us in my neighborhood. Yet I know we represent the smallest proportion of this country. Had I been born somewhere else within my own country, where the ethnic identity is so dominant, who knows, I would have been a victim of honor-killing too, like many of those that you hear in the unofficial news. Who knows if things get worse in this country, people like us would still be eligible to be honor killed for not ‘respecting’ and ‘preserving’ their own ethnicity or religion and for contaminating the thousand years old culture. Who knows….
In the midst of people voicing out for their rights on the basis of race, I just feel that there is no escape from racism. Even if we end up having the most perfect constitution, the discrimination will continue. Even if we run away from our country, there will always be someone in the foreign land who will look down on you. As a matter of fact, except few friends who will love you and Nepal unconditionally, to the world you are just someone from one of the poorest countries in the world. When you apply for international scholarships, jobs or even visa, you just mention your nationality and no one really cares which ethnicity you belong to. You just represent a country recently devastated by a mega earthquake, now torn apart in ethnic riots and heavily dependent on foreign aids. For many, they wouldn’t even know what Nepalese look like. They will only identify three kinds of people, one who looks like Chinese, one who looks like Indian and few in between.
I once argued in a program in a developed country where I felt discriminated against when it came to funding issue. When I was questioned on my intentions on using the fund, I felt so offended that I replied, “I may come from a poor country but I have always lived with dignity”. I felt immensely proud of my integrity back then like most Nepalese do. But today when I look back I feel like laughing at myself. Do I really live a dignified life? Can I really do without foreign aids? The answer is unfortunately a big NO. And they had all the rights to question me because the country I belong to has always been so dependent on others. Except few upcoming young entrepreneurs, we have not really done anything remarkable or self-sustaining for our country besides boasting about the beautiful landscape and a proud history of not being colonized.
And yet day and night we keep ourselves so busy discussing about different classes in Nepal. But the truth is, the only class that exists in Nepal or anywhere in the world, is the one of economic status. Either you belong to the class that has enough money or you don’t. The ones who are able to raise their voice actually all belong to a privileged class irrespective of any ethnicity. For the poorest ones, be it a Bahun, Janajati or Madhesi, survival is an everyday struggle and to have a proper meal a luxury.
Neither the earthquake nor the economic blockade, not even the recognition of their ethnic group would make any difference to them. Because they never had anything to loose in the first place- neither the money, nor the rights!
And yet, we believe what actually uplifts us or makes our country proud is not the economic growth but the recognition of our own group in that ‘book’!