No wonder, you are more likely to come across this question “Where are you from?”, or mine favorite, ” Where is your lovely accent from?”, specially when your hair is not blonde or when you speak English in different accent than those of the native ones in the land, where you have flied from your own.
Relentlessly, I have been answering this question for uncountable times and of course I do love telling them “I am from Nepal”. Few of them would exclaim, “Oh wow! The country of mountains! Himalayan Country! It’s a beautiful country.” In return, I beam, “Oh yes. It is”.
And, few of those I answered have never known this country also exist. They would ask if it’s in South America? And, there I find myself explaining the geography of Nepal. “Ahm. It’s an Asian Country which is between two giant countries India and China. It is the country where world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest is situated”. Well, that’s what I read in my geography book in school. “Ah! Yes, Mount Everest. I know that. Great” would be an expected reply.
Unlike these pleasant encounters I have had about my originality and country, there are number of times when I felt embarrassed. The fresh and still haunting example which made me write this note is the one happened today morning.
After sharing the casual greetings, ‘Hi, How are you?” and “Very well, thanks and you?”, An Aussie lady straightly jumped into the question, ” Where are you from?” Like an obedient student answering the question of a teacher, I replied with my smile, “I am from Nepal.”
Little did I know, I was going to feel terribly bad when she opened mouth narrowing her face to say, “Oh Nepal? You are from Nepal? It is such a poor country. It’s sad.”
Taken aback, not knowing how to react, I managed to ask,” Ow, you know the place”? Been there?”
“No, no, not been there. I watched a documentary about Nepal in Fox tel.”
“Okay. So what was it about?”
“Don’t really remember. But, about poor people and Oh-so-poor country. Hey, try to stay here. Don’t go back. A lot of poverty there.”
I laughed at her statement with an ache in my heart and told her it is not that bad for me in my country.
Bidding her a good day, I walked away. Somewhere deep inside, it ached and pained. I could not understand why.
Is it because I was called I am from poor country? Or is it because I felt bad that my country is really poor? Or am I embarrassed that I am from that land? I struggled.
These questions kept hovering around my head and I could not figure out the answer.
Undoubtedly, the scenarios of Nepalese people who go through absolute poverty could be beyond my imagination. It could be as the exact documentary shown in Fox Tel, the one, that lady watched and got this notion about the country or it might have been even worse, who knows.
I recall reading one essay about Poverty in my English schoolbook, written by something Parker. I, vividly, still remember those lines “Poverty is not what you read in Newspaper, not what you see in Television or not what you think you understand. It is much more than you can imagine. So, never say you understand poverty until you suffer one.”
Brought up in Kathmandu in a middle-class family, I am aware about relative poverty and hardships that people go through. Thankfully, not an absolute poverty. Hence, I cannot claim if I really know what poverty means. Neither do I want to go through disheartening stuffs to know about it. Yet, I can’t walk ostrich-headed. Kathmandu alone is not Nepal itself. I am pretty much aware about the poor scenario of our whole country. I wonder what I can do about it.
Whatsoever, Yes, I cannot deny the fact that Nepal is a poor and developing country. That’s the land I belong to. Not that I fancy a jingoistic pride, it just does not feel good when someone says “OH-YOU- ARE- FROM-A-POOR-COUNTRY.”
IT HURTS. (For whatsoever reasons) ……..
Sama Maharjan, from Sydney, Australia studied Post-graduate Diploma in Tri-Chandra College and finished her masters degree in counselling from Australian Catholic university. She has Experiences working as a School Counselor at Heartland Academy, Kathmandu and Volunteer Counselor at Tranquility Mental Hospital and research Center, Nepal. Currently, working at clinical counselor for Nepalese Australian Association in Australia too. Sama is very passionate about Counselling career.