Did you ask, how does it feel being a Nepali in India?
This post might have had just two words – ‘No different’. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky to know this.
Personally, none of this would have mattered, if not for the blockade in Nepal, and the following incident:
Traveling in Maharashtra, I came across a Nepali orphan* in a fairly remote school in the outskirts of Pune. Getting to know that I was from Nepal, the teacher called out to the boy Shyam Tamang to sing the Nepali National anthem. Shyly he came up to the front, bent his head and began singing to the classroom-full of boys and girls his age, all standing in respect on a prompt from the teacher.
He was one of us – Nepalis among Indians. Like the hundreds of thousands of us. Making India home. With Indian friends and even family.
I was reminded of the recent visit by Nepal’s Prime Minister Shri KP Sharma Oli, and of the circumstances at home. Fuel, essential commodities even basic medication in short supply, due to the blockade. The Indian media pronounced it was caused by the agitating Madheshi community, while their Nepali counterparts sidled the blame on to the Indian government.
This hate triangle was clearly confusing. It still is. Whoever caused it, the outcome was immense hardships for people in Nepal.
What was scary was the divide that it had the potential to create. Between the people of the hills and the plains, and also possible antagonism against Indian citizens, depending on who one believed caused the blockade.
Within Nepal, calling it an India-made blockade of course helped direct the anger outwards. The media reported an ‘upsurge in jingoism’. There are Nepalis who anyway perceive India as an imposing regional bully. I have heard talk against India, and generalizations of Indians.
A blockade such as the one we faced, where even the international leaders shamelessly looked away, could trigger deeper and visible anti-India sentiments.
I don’t know the situation now as yet; my last visit to Nepal was during the April 25th earthquake (the aftershocks of which continue even today). However, I hear that my countrymen/women were largely mature in their response. They were not angry against ordinary Indians, the media informed, though they were disappointed in the Indian government.
I do hope this understanding remains. There is nothing as risky as painting an entire community with the same brush, so to say. If present difficulties overpower our reason and logic, we must look in the past to preserve this understanding.
Following the 25/4 earthquake, many ordinary Indians went out of their way to help. Those who did not, at least, empathized. Just as many Nepalis did.
My boss then, Dr Ullas Karanth offered me leave (with pay) to be with my family, without me even asking. My earlier organization led by Mr Vivek Menon helped out a Nepali office assistant, and opened to me their doors, should I want to collect relief funds. Young members of an organization called Goonj, carried out emergency relief, while coordinating supplies from Bangalore.
These are just a few of my personal experiences. This is the side of India I know. Yet, this is not even a fraction of goodness that exists, or that I have experienced during my time here.
But ‘this side’ has no national boundaries really. ‘This side’ exists beyond individual identities, race, color, sex, religion, political beliefs and other ways that we have learnt to divide ourselves in. ‘This side’ is what unites the world as one. ‘This side’ is humanity.
Of course, I have had my share of negativity, here, but India is not to blame. It’s the individuals who caused me these discomfort I hold grudges against. Just like I do in Nepal, or I might in any other country.
I do hope ordinary people in Nepal realize this. #IndiablockadesNepal was a misleading hashtag that was trending. Ordinary Indians were not blockading Nepal. Like ordinary Nepalis, they were living and working with an aspiration for a good life. Like ordinary Nepalis, they were facing daily frustration and hardships. Like ordinary Nepalis, they were hurting or helping others.
So, to answer the question: how does it feel to be a Nepali in India?
I feel just like Tamang bhai, who is treated by his classmates as one among them, or by his teachers like any other student, while respecting his roots, his identity and his individualism.
I feel just like a human among humans.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I thank my friend Ajinkya Bhatkar (Founder, Life Trail) for his hospitality, and more for his untiring, selfless efforts at helping spread awareness on wildlife conservation among school children in Maharashtra. I was fortunate to accompany him during his trip to Z.P.Primary School, Ambavane, Lonavala, Pune, where Shyam Tamang studies. Will soon be writing more on his work, but for now, please visit: Life Trail on Facebook
*Used this word here and in video, as I could not think of anything else.