One of the most cherished phases of my childhood is the five years that my family lived in Kathmandu, Nepal. My father was on deputation to the Indian Embassy and we moved bag and baggage to Kathmandu.
For me, this move was particularly serendipitous because I was pulled out of boarding school and got to live with my parents! It was an exciting beginning for us as a family and Nepal didn’t disappoint.
For the first time in my life, we had a garden of our own, a school that was close by that one could cycle or walk to on one’s own, giving the young me a feeling of Independence and the bountiful British Council Library, that molded my reading habits. I even learned swimming on my own at Annapurna Hotel’s bean-shaped pool, a sport I still follow.
These are but a few fragments of a time richly spent in Nepal. A decade and a half later, I was invited to a Literature Festival in Nepal and returned insisting my parents join me, it was a homecoming of sorts, we drove through our old neighborhoods of Lazimpat and Bishal Nagar, and I practiced by faltering Nepalese, surprised at how much of the language I remembered.
We stayed yet again at The Shangri-la, the hotel we checked into when we first arrived in Nepal all those years ago, now the large, expansive hotel of my childhood, through adult eyes was more demure, a little frayed along the edges but still familiar like a cherished childhood book, that one chance upon and flips through. I was glad to be back! And the busy schedule of the Lit fest did not stop me from taking to the streets in search of my childhood delight – titora!
In my life, I have lived in many countries, the US, UAE, etc but it was in Nepal that I never felt a foreigner. When I returned to Delhi to complete my last two years of school, my close friend was a Nepalese boy who had come to study, we bonded like we were from the same place, a little bit of India and a little bit of Nepal, our own special and shared identity.
So it is with an ache that I see the present circumstances between our two countries. A shared cultural and Hindu identity seems to have been shoved to the side and partisan politics driven by ideology has taken over. The open borders, I remember we drove down from Kathmandu to Delhi when we left are now being debated.
The lakhs of Nepalis who live and work in India and the Indians who have made Nepal their home are at risk of backlash. An unarmed Indian man was killed at the border by Nepalese security forces and in my home state of Uttarakhand the airwaves catch anti-India propaganda, when otherwise Hindi film songs were as popular as Nepalese ones.
The ideological leaning of the ruling political dispensation in Nepal has set aside people to people bonding and is reaching out to its ideological master, China. But this outreach’s impact will be limited.
The Nepal of my childhood still exists, if I hadn’t returned a few years ago, I would have feared it had been lost, but it remains, the people still cherish our cultural affinity and our love for each other. Politics will come and go, but the people of the two countries will triumph, a bond as deep as this will survive the ideological onslaught, and our shared values will rise again.
Advaita is an Indian author, screenwriter, and columnist. She has written the screenplay of films like the romantic drama Anjaana Anjaani (2010) and the thriller Kahaani (2012). Apart from writing for films, Kala has also written two novels: Almost Single (2007) and Almost There! (2013).
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