Nepali in USA (a pseudo thought bubble)

My work right now also involves me in meeting Nepali in USA, and then talking/learning about ideas on how to improve the holistic health approach in Nepal. This involves me talking about good examples of health projects in Nepal, and also about my own (Nidan). I talk about environment project, deforestation, occupational health and the main course of Maternal and Child Health. There are different genre of Nepali speaking population and great deal of information gets shared, both to and fro. But this post is not about what I talk, but to whom(?).

What (they) said back home

“Certainly not rumors, but more of an exaggerated facts” were my initial thoughts when I heard about the two classes of Nepali in developed countries. The educated – working group and the non-educated labor group. For a quick disclosure – Nepali migration to this part of the world only increased from late 90s. So as a whole, there are very few numbers in this all.

I was warned by friends and families alike, by not to get into Nepali groups of “Beer-n-Gungis”

Let me explain – FIRST GROUP –  These are not hard facts, but portray a general feature exploration. These are the groups of people who work all week, mostly labor works. Most the work is either in retail shops, gas stations, and beauty parlor/saloon. I do not have any facts or number, but these are the jobs that you hear back home. Kind of makes me think that most are not used to heavy lifting and machine or construction work.  These work may be legal or illegal, but most fall into the grey zone of unknown. Pretty good work ethics, and silent/sober Asian feel which includes soft spoken voice, and not so heavy English (Hindi) Accent. There is a definite Nepali English Accent, which is slightly different then our Southern neighbors, which is also, in my opinion, a bit better (I guess nationality creeps in). Its not thick as Hindi Accent, but it has its own perks of ups and down.

Then they come home, and do nothing. Then comes the weekend, and they do nothing. Their sole purpose of existence is to make a decent living and enjoy this developed nation – literally. May be a little too hard on critics, but these are the population cohort, who, more or less have nothing to gain or loose. Every evening, and most weekends are usually time spend with Beer and Cards (“marriage” anyone). One very distinct feature is the heavy use of white sleeveless shirts (the gungis) and briefs for men. They are very fond of Chicken and even greater a fan of Bacon/Pork meat.

SECOND GROUP – These are the educated bunch. They definitely live a better life. They are the ones who usually graduated in USA, and have families and make their children study like those akin to Chinese and Indian parents. Depending upon the years of stay in here,

  1. 5+ years – unmarried – still studying, is in relationship or about to get married
  2. 7+ year – usually married – has a stable job or doing his/her PHD
  3. 10+ year – usually has 2 kids (i don’t know, but most Nepali in USA, that I know of have two children), a beautiful home, and stable income
  4. 15+ years – Their kid is very good in studies, Family still intact. (The divorce percentage is still very low)

Obviously there are few exception, but this is the general idea I have, from around 20 Nepali origin families I know in USA.But now, with some first hand exposure, here is what I think, I know now. There ought to be one more group – which definitely comes before these two groups.

THIRD GROUP – the students – Yes ! finally the group where I belong to. There were around 9000 Nepali students in USA for the year 2011/12. These are mostly non-medicals students, and have come mostly for undergraduate education. We are the population that might, some day, be Nepal’s executive class of thinkers and policy makers. We represent Nepal’s future. Disclosure –  I do not know what my thought process a year from now will be, but for now, I am certain going back to Nepal, and working my way up to the executive level.

However, this student group has seen a gradual decrease in application for the last two years, as US Embassy back home tightened its Visa process in recent years, which ultimately led to this student group opting more for other developing nations like Australia and West Europe (including England).  For the record, there were around (I guess) 40+ Visa applicant when I applied for US Visa this year on that favorable day in early June, this year.

The Eyeball

One small note – Nepal is almost a fail state – and the whole economy of the country runs through remittance through Nepali migrant labor workers from Middle East and South East Asia. Those so called educated Nepali (including me, maybe) who are in developed world have very (extremely) little share in Nepal’s economy. Nepali in developed world usually do not send in remittance, and/or have very direct/indirect role in Nepal’s economy and development. This is sad. 😦

Not to sound eager and patriotic, but I hope I am able to do something about it. For the readers, I am definitely not in love with Nepal, I just think I need to do some good work for my birth place and family/friends.

Some More Facts

How many Nepali speaking citizens in USA?

A 2010 Census report on Asian Origin Americans reveals that there are around 59,490 Nepali speaking individual in USA with legal citizenship.[9] Significant communities of Nepalese Americans exist in large metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Gainesville, Florida, Portland, Oregon, and Saint Paul, Minnesota.[5]

Nepal and USA

What about legal residence?

A quick web search reveals the number to be around 110,616 through Wikipedia.  But this does not say legal residence or citizens. Lets break it down first to Diversity Visa Program. Applicants registered for the DV-2013 program were selected at random from 7,941,400 qualified entries (12,577,463 with derivatives) received during the 30-day application period. Nope, I did not enter this year, but those who did, 4,370 Nepali getting this opportunity, which included my one distant cousin,  and one very awesome friend from high school years. This number was 3,258 in 2012.

Students? anyone

In the 2011/12 academic year, 9,621 students from Nepal were studying in the United States (down 6.6% from the previous year). Nepal is the eleventh leading place of origin for students coming to the United States. 53.3% are undergraduates, and 29.3% are graduate students.[2,3]

Bhutanese (Nepali) Refugee – in USA

In 1988, the government of Bhutan conducted its first real census exercise. The basis for census citizenship classifications was the 1958 “cut off” year, the year that the local Nepali population had first received Bhutanese citizenship. Those who could not provide proof of residency prior to 1958 were adjudged to be illegal immigrants. Majority fled to India, and significant number arrived to Nepal, as well. During the last 20 years or so, number of refugees in Nepal (more than 69,000 of an original total of 108,000 refugees) have found a durable solution in third countries, thanks to the support of support of resettlement States and Government of Nepal. These resettlement program were started in 2007, and among the eight working under the UNHCR, USA has accepted the largest number of refugees. [4]

I mention the Bhutanese refugee here, as they’d lived in Nepal for almost 20 years, and most have similar Nepali culture/traditions. Legally they have a convoluted presence, however, culturally they are every bit Nepali, and speak Nepali as well.

[quick questions] –  So how many Nepali (from Nepal) got a refugee status (in USA)?

In 2011, there were some 56k admitted to USA as refugee. About approximately three percent were of Nepali origin (seeking refugee/asylum). This is give or take 500 as numbers. Well there are three variation of these refugee status – Affirmative Asylees, Defensive Asylees, and Follow-to-Join Asylees – the scope of which is beyond me, at the moment. For more information, refer to the report by Daniel C. Martin and James E. Yankay from May 2012. [4]

References – 

  1. Nepal DHS 2011 [pdf link]
  2. Open Doors® 2012 – Report on International Educational Exchange [pdf link]

  3. Open Doors Data – Fact Sheets by Country – 2012 – Nepal [pdf link]
  4. Daniel C. Martin and James E. Yankay. Refugees and Asylees: 2011 [May 2012]
  5. Nepalese American – Wikipedia [web link]

  6. Demographics of Nepal – Wikipedia [web link]
  7. Nepal Census – 2011 – [pdf link]
  8. 2013 UNHCR regional operations profile – South Asia Working environment [web link]

  9. The Asian Population : 2010 Census Briefs[web link]

  10. Nepalese Americans – Countries and Their Culture [web link]

NEXT POST – Next Wednesday 🙂

how religion keeps me sane, although I don’t believe in god.

Christmast ball - Hinduism
Christmast ball – Hinduism (Photo credit: nabeel_yoosuf)

A year ago, I embarked upon a reading spree on Richard Dawkings and Christopher Hitchens. To me, they became both inspiring and revolutionary. Their writings were somehow capable of twisting my religious outlook. My family lineage are among those that believe in Hindu Religion (being Nepali gives me some understanding of Buddhism also). Yet, for better or worse, the present me does not completely believe in the existence of God. I now view Religions as a way of life, rather than believing in the almightily power.

am I atheist?
After spending most of my childhood believing in God, celebrating their birthdays and their great accomplishments, visiting temples, watching and listening to God associated preachings, and reading the epic books of both “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana”, I can firmly say that – Religion is a progressive culmination of a way of life. I can firmly establish (for myself) that, Hinduism has NO fix list of good or bad things to do. Has no hard and fast rules, and no established order of political intervention on my way of life. My answer – I believe in Hindu way of life, but do not believe in the existence of god, but love going to temples. Let me elaborate.

1. no political intervention
Four Thousand years of refinement has made a religion that stays out of my political life. Hinduism, as I see it, does not demand political interventions. I can be a capitalist, a socialist or a communist and still be a Hindu. I do not have to follow laws made by religious figureheads, and what ever laws broken does not entail me to get beaten, burned or buried. However, may be because of its maturity, has tons of examples on good governance. Both the above epic plays has something to teach – something to suggest – but nothing to enforce. It gives me the choice of being right or wrong.

2. not one God/Goddess, but many
I can choose a persona of one particular god/goddess and follow it. Hindu mythology has one of the most elaborated sets of mighty powers. The number of gods in this mythology is said to be “tettis koti” which literally means 33,000 gods and goddess. There are tons of named demons and evil beings also, whom, time and again (as per mythology) have shown greatness and kindness. There are multiple persona (God/Goddess) for every personality type. I can literally choose my favorite powerful being, that I can most relate to. For the record – I love Lord Ganesha. The obese God with an elephants head, a broken tooth, who has a mouse as his trustworthy companion. A God that loves food, well literate, and who loves his parents very much. Kinda like superman and batman of the yesteryears. It even has Goddess of Wrath (Kaali) and somewhat Womanizer God (Krishna).

3. a situational religion that can morph as per time/place/person
Hinduism over so many years got elaborated to fit into every possible culture and society with many geographical variations. A religion that has a set of guidelines (not so rigid) for men and women of all ages. It acknowledges and identifies with third gender, which is still a hot debate in most part of the world (and Nepal too, in recent years). It has provisions for being alone or with family; among society or separated from society; for travel; for happy and sad moments, and well almost all the emotions that I can think of.

4. a culture that gives you options
The best thing about this is, it gives me options. I am not obliged to believe in god. I can be a devil/demon worshiper and still be a Hindu. Somehow will not get kicked out of the Religion, although may be demoted of my social status. For better or worse, there are good amount of Hindu priests who are somewhat negative vibe followers (the evil Tantric stuff). A small clarifications that, there are good Tantras and stuffs too, but I have little or no knowledge on either. Even the demons and devil of Hindu religion worship the Hindu Gods, gain some mystical power, and then go on war with each others and Gods themselves.

oh.. but it’s not all white either
Over the years, with the gradual development and expansion of this religion over our way of living, there have been numerous wicked twisted interpretations as well. Almost every religion seem to have it, and Hinduism is no difference. As I see it, the biggest negativity which developed over the years are – the caste system, and gender inequality. I will write more on these bad habits in due time, but here is one example, which we (me and my wife) are facing recently concerning the gender issues.

example – of gender issue with my religion

(my small personal experience)
I have a small sister, a year and half younger. All our life, in any religious events, as a Hindu unmarried girl, she was (still is) given an utmost respect. She (and all the unmarried Hindu girls) get respect, loads of pooja money, every body bows before them. Girls is treated as Goddess incarnations and it is believed that by pleasing them, one appeases the Goddess of Wealth, Health and Education (among many other stuff).

This was similar to my recently wed wife also, until we got married. As soon after we were married, somehow, the twisted religion breaks this high spirit (which got groomed for years and years) and puts her husband on top. Somehow, I am getting most of the attention these days. An girl never bows down in front of anyone (except may be her elder sister) before she marries, and after that, strangely she has to bow down in front of her husband. what strange culture is this?. Think of the ego that gets hurt.

As a boy/male of the society, I bow down to my parents, my sisters (younger or older) and any other elder, out of respect. Given the dates of festivity, like “Dashain” and “Tihar”, I literally touch my sisters feet with my forehead. And since I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and since it does not hurt or humiliate anyone, I am glad and know that I will do it for a long time to come. Obviously, her feet should be clean, and with no malodor.

Switch it to my sister’s case who will get married soon (or may be few years later) or my wife’s case who recently got married, they had always received this honor. Suddenly, after this marriage, there is a strict rule, that they must bow down and never receive this honor again. Weird. A girls parent now must respect and appease their son-in-law more, she herself has to touch his feet again and again, she has additional feet-touching-work to her husband’s parents too. It’s difficult to imagine from her(wife) perspective, and as a brother difficult also to imagine from my sister’s perspective. They are two people who were given respect, treated as Goddess avatar all their life, and suddenly post marriage become no one. There ought to be a huge mental disturbance here.

Yes, for all the written complains here, I do not want my wife to touch my feet. I am lucky, that my parents are among those few, who want respect and love not from religious gimmick, but through proper family values. I can proudly and boldly write here, that Dr Aditi has not bowed down to touch my feet after we got married, and neither has touched my parents feet. But, yes, we do love each other, and there is a deep understanding, love and respect from her side to my mother and father. what is my relation with my in-laws?. – this needs another post. A hint – it’s a happy one.

PS – happy Nepali new year – 2070 BS

youtube.com – नेपाल हाम्रो घर हो, डेरा होईन

नेपाली भनेर होइन बनेर देखाउने हो। यदि यो देश ढले, हामी पनि यसै साथ ढल्छौँ।
आउनुहोस् विवेकशील नेपाली बनौँ, नेपाली राजनितिलाई बदलौँ।
Become a BibekSheel Nepali & transform the way this country is run 🙂

— हाम्रो वेबसाईट Website: http://leadnepal.com
— फेसबुकमा: http://facebook.com/bibeksheelnepali
— एस-एम-एस: ७००१ फोन: 98511-49214 ईमेल: help@leadnepal.com
— Please share this video. shortlink सम्झनको लागि छोटो लिंक: bit.ly/leadnepalvideo

— यस भिडियोको शब्दहरु आत्मसाथ गरौँ र साथीलाई भनौँ:  नेपाल हाम्रो घर हो, डेरा होईन

कुनै घरमा डेरा गरेर बस्नु र त्यसैको मालिक हुनुमा नितांत फरक छ।
यदि त्यो घरको भित्ताहरु चर्कियो भने डेरा वाला लाई वास्ता हुँदैन, उ त सजिलै अर्को घरमा सर्न सक्छ। तर घर मालिकलाई थाहा छ कि आफ्‌नो घरको हेरचाह आफै गर्नुपर्छ, अरु कोहि आउनेवाला छैन । त्यसैले उ आफैले त्यस घरको भित्ता टाल्दछ।

४ मध्य ३ नेपालीहरु तपाईँ-हामी जस्तै युवा हौँ। समस्या यत्ति हो कि हामीले चाहिँ देशलाई डेरा ठानेका छौँ। हामीले अघिल्लो पुस्तालाई यो देश बरबाद गर्न दिएका छौँ । उनीहरुको झगडामा हामीलाई कठपुतली बनाउन दिएका छौँ। “तिमीहरुले यो देश कहाँ हाँक्न सक्छौ?”
उनीहरुका यस्ता बकुम्फुसे गफ वारम्बार पत्याएर आफैलाई उल्लु बनाउन दिएका छौँ।
उनीहरुलाई यो देश लुट्न दिएका छौँ।

अहिले हामी कोहो रक्सीको चुस्कीमा लुकेका छौँ त कोहो आफ्‍नो धर्म वा समाजको बन्धनमा।
कोहि हामी ईन्टरनेटमा सिमित छौँ त चिया गफमै। यो सोच्दैछौँ कि कुनै दिन यो नेपाल भास्सिएर बिलाँउछ अनि बल्ल नया नेपालमा हामी जान पाँउनेछौँ।

आफु घर भित्र लुक्छौँ र अरु नै कोहि हाम्रो लागि सडकमा जाअोस् भन्ने चाहन्छौँ।
अहिले हामी मतदाता कार्ड होईन, ग्रिन कार्ड खोज्छौँ। हामी आवेशमा छौँ , तर केहि गर्न भने डराँउछौँ। यो देश बचाउने ठेक्का अर्को बुद्ध वा पशुपतिनाथको होईन । न त कुनै दाताकै।
सरकार र अहिलेका राजनितिक शक्तिहरुले त प्रस्ट देखाईसकेका छन् , कि यो काम उनीहरुको पनि होईन। जिम्मेवारी भनेको आफैले निर्वाह गर्ने हो। नेपाली भनेर होइन बनेर देखाउने हो।

अब बिकल्प कुर्दै बस्ने होइन अाफै हुने हो। किनकि यो देश ढले, हामी पनि यसैसाथ ढल्छौँ । अहिले नगरे कहिले ? हामीले नगरे कसले?

disclaimer – video shared from YouTube. i did not make it, or was involved in making it, and do not own the copyright or left to the video. I am sharing it because it reverberates with my thought and desire to do something for my country. I also shared it, because I could share it, via  YouTube standard license agreement. The Nepali video was itself inspired by the African Video (linked above). Music credit: Peas In A Pod