For the Love of Reading

I have a deep appreciation for American culture that nurtures a love of reading. We’ve been reading books to our daughter since she was only a few months old. She reads every day and expects us to read her bedtime stories every single night. It is very endearing to witness her love of reading.

I come from the land of myths and folklore. We grew up on stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana. Being born in a Buddhist family we also invited monks in our home for ‘Paritran’ to share stories of Buddha’s teachings. Storytelling is embedded in our culture. But most of our stories were so soaked in religion, I feel like I never really inculcated the habit of reading, solely because I wanted to stay away from the influence of any religion. Some of my very good friends however, grew up reading and they still are such voracious readers. I remember being curious, but not enough to feed my curious mind. Maybe the kinds of books I wanted to read were not available. Perhaps my options were limited. Perhaps they were too expensive. The reasons are plenty!

I think about how I would possibly tell a tale of Mahabharata to my daughter, a kid’s version would probably do the trick! I doubt it if kids versions of these mythological stories are even available in the market.

But fast forward today, Nepal’s own reading culture is growing immensely. With Nepali authors like Narayan Wagle, Manjushree Thapa, and Buddhisagar stepping into the international market, it is exposing Nepali stories to an ever-growing audience. So the trend in Nepal is very promising. Even the Nepali movies today celebrate authentic Nepali narrative. With globalization, it seems the need to tell our own story is gaining bigger momentum. And I’m all for that!

Oh, the places you'll go
Oh, the places you’ll go

Coming back to America, one of the reasons why the reading habit is an intrinsic part of its cultural fabric, is the way the system works. There are great networks in place to support this reading culture in America. One good example is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Available countrywide (even worldwide to an extent) and bolstered in the community level. They send in free children’s book every month until the child is five. Since we’ve signed up, our daughter has been getting brand new books every month. Some of her most favorite books are from Imagination Library. I hope someday in Nepal, we can have a similar mechanism in place to support young kid’s love of reading.

Check to see if your region qualifies for free books:

Also, you can buy second-hand books for so cheap in thrift stores across America. There is that system of sharing and recycling, which I don’t think is prevalent in Nepal. Our per capita income is so low that our first worry is how to put the food on the table versus what story to read.

Koili ko Katha
Koili ko Katha

But having said all of that, today’s Nepal is so much well-read than the Nepal I grew up in. Some of my daughter’s favorite books are also in Nepali (some of which I have shared on this post). There is now growing support for the illustrators, the writers in Nepal, and I hope this trend only continues to get bigger and better!

Time for a hug
Time for a hug

Here’s to our love of reading!

Pictures shared on this post:

  • Sanu and Andhiberi – written and illustrated by Bandana Tulachan. Translated by Samip Dhungel
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  • Koili ko Katha – written by Jayashree Deshpandey and illustrated by Kedilaya. Translated by Deependra Bhatta
  • Time for a Hug – written by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green. Illustrated by David Walker

Nepal Tourism – Kantipur Conclave

Kantipur Conclave and its various sponsors deserve a pat on the back for shedding light on some of the most pertinent issues of Nepal and having this public discourse with the experts on the panel. They have some great sessions on Nepal’s present and future, technology, economy and much more. I haven’t watched all of them, but looks like all sessions are quite susbtantial.

With this one particularly, felt like I had to write about it because tourism is one of the major drivers of economic growth in Nepal. Despite having so much potential, it seems that Nepal has not been able to fully tap into its resources. As I kept listening and watching, it felt like this session was very critical of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and was too fixated on the number of two million visitors.

You have to give NTB the benefit of the doubt. Yes, we all know it is all about the infrastructure. Can the Nepali infrastructure support the onslaught of two million visitors? Yes, it is all about focusing on quality, not quantity. We all know that. But are we really drawing unexpected expectations?

Since this session focused so much on the two million number, let me address the number bit. Two million is really not that big of a number. Now numbers are all very relative. Are we really thinking that Nepal will get two million visitors in one day? I hope not. Cause if that’s the case, yes, Nepal cannot handle that many visitors. There are many similar countries like Nepal or geographically way smaller countries like Croatia that hosted over 18 million visitors in the year 2018. Now, I know what you are thinking: they have a great infrastructure, they have a great government, the placement of the country in the world map is bound to attract so many tourists, their population is so well controlled…on…and on… Yes, I agree, but can we begin somewhere? And why that cannot be two million?

Really, look at all the work that’s being done. New Lumbini airport? I didn’t know that was happening anytime soon. Clearly, the government is making a big push – so at least can we collectively appreciate the government ‘s effort?

Let’s face it, to get somewhere we have to begin somewhere. Numbers alone do not tell the complete story but at least it helps us to an extent understand a situation. I am not concerned whether we would be able to hit the two million mark. I am curious what will happen post-2020 Visit Nepal. I am curious about what kind of benchmark it will set. If not anything, I think this Visit Nepal 2020 would be a great case study. I am curious how tourists will respond from all strata. I am curious where it will lead Nepal, I am curious about the innumerous possibilities.

In a country where it is so hard for even a small change to take place; the fact that government is simultaneously getting its hands on the airport development, transportation development, road expansion in the context of visit Nepal – is a positive welcome. I think it will set a great precedent for future endeavors.

For way too long, the emphasis has been the number. The conversation should have shifted towards what is the government doing to support that number of visitors. Our Everest route is probably the biggest money maker. There are a huge need and scope to streamline the Everest industry alone. I would have liked to hear more about that. How are they handling the cleanups, the insurance scams? Perhaps better equipping Lukla airport with medical teams so people didn’t have to lose lives just cause they weren’t able to be flown to Kathmandu or Pokhara on time. Giving quality service and having a proper game plan. But regardless, this was an overall interesting discourse. As a citizen of Nepal, I appreciate the effort that the government is making to elevate Nepal on the global map. Hope it all works out and good luck!

Climbing our own Mt Everest

This past weekend, I came across a really awesome podcast on Tenzing Norgay. It prompted me to write this blog post. In April of 2014, I was in Kathmandu. An avalanche had hit Mt Everest, killing 12 Sherpa guides. This time the story was different. On my Instagram feeds I was seeing foreign journalists/photographers who had made it to the Himalayan region and worked with the Sherpas – were putting their work for auction to raise funds for the families of the deceased Sherpas. But nobody really seemed to care much in Kathmandu, as is usually the case with Kathmandu. Kathmandu lives in its own bubble. Kathmandu has all the rights to live in its own bubble. What I have an issue with is, its people taking to the streets to claim that Mt Everest is in Nepal. But when Mt Everest needs attention of these very loyal fanatics, nobody seems to care. I remember, Sherpas had protested vehemently at that point, to not to go on any expeditions. As I found out more about the situation, learned that it was even more appalling. Nepali government makes shit tons of money off of Mt Everest, but the people who makes it possible to conquer the mountain, the Sherpas, don’t even get a mere 1% of the profit. So, where do all these funds go?

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay | Picture courtesy: Wikipedia

It’s not cheap to scale Mt Everest. It cost thousands of dollars to a foreigner and just because they are ‘foreigners’ doesn’t mean, thousands of dollars mean nothing to them. It’s their hard earned money too. In the peak season, considering so many of these expeditioners pay such a hefty amount to climb the mountain. A question does beg to be asked; where does all the money go. I hope Nepali government will be transparent enough to share the information and pay the fair amount to those who deserve the most.

Meanwhile, here’s the podcast on Tenzing Norgay. What a shame, it took me all these years to learn about our own Nepali, who had conquered the tallest one in the world. Perhaps the least we could do is listen to his story – not as a favor but because he lived one heck of an adventurous life. May be we could gain a thing or two from Tenzing Norgay’s mountaineering story and learn to conquer our own Mt Everest.


Listen to the Story of Tenzing Norgay, Who Stood on Top of the World @atlasobscura

P.S: A huge shout-out to Atlas Obscura for producing such a top notch podcast!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, California

The idea of protecting lands by the government for the preservation of wildlife, educational opportunities and enjoyment of general public and future generation is probably the best idea ever hatched in the history of human kind. Although the very first national park of the US was established back in the late 1800s. The National Park Service wasn’t set up until early 1900s, that serves all national parks, national monuments, public parks and national memorials of the US.

This year the National Park Service of America celebrated its 100th year. One very effective way of understaning this vast country is through its national parks. There’s definitely more to America than the most popular rhetoric that tends to revolve around its politics. But real America is rarely portrayed in media. So, I hope you ignore the bullshit that spreads the inaccurate depiction of this nation and instead focus on a myriad of treasures that this country has to offer, national parks being one of them.

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

My father paid us a visit close to Thanksgiving this year, he had never been to the west coast of USA. So, we thought it would be a good idea to show him the great state of California. I have been to all major cities of this amazing state, and thought I knew enough. Turns out that wasn’t the case, this road trip from southern to northern California opened my eyes to the California, I had never known before.

Ladies and gentlemen, below I give you a few glimpses of one of the most amazing national parks of the United States of America:

Yosemite National Park
Camping area, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

My Dear Fellow Nepalis

My Dear Fellow Nepalis,
Let me first begin by saying how much I respect you. With all the crisis going on in Nepal, I understand it is not easy to work and live in Nepal. Even if you have work, you may not be happy with your pay scale, you are probably treated badly, people perhaps pay no respect to you. I understand, it’s tough. When I say, I feel your pain, trust me I do. I have worked in Nepal for many years. Just recently too I worked from Nepal. I set up my own company, I thought the IT policy behind setting up a company was very impressive. I was pleasantly surprised by how you kept up with the technological changes. Brownie points for that!

But of course, the whole process of setting up to begin with, wasn’t easy. Dealing with bureaucrats wasn’t easy. I have taken many days off just so I could wait for the ‘right’ person to arrive to get the job done. I have wasted numerous days waiting to get a government approval. While I witnessed a bunch of people at government office, just laughing away while the lines kept growing outside the office. Still nobody had a sense to listen to the grievances of ordinary Nepalis, who just wanted to get the job done.

Seriously, you get paid for your job. It may not be enough to make a foreign trip but at least it puts food on your table. The money makes it possible to send your kids to school. It is enough to make an honest living. As a government worker, you get additional benefits as compared to those who work in private companies. At least have some respect for tax payers who work hard to make sure you get paid. Be thankful that you have a job that you can serve so many people. Imagine all the goodwill you would gain. But you still take time to do simple things. I was willing to take it all while I was in Nepal. It was hard enough back then. But now that I am 1000 miles away, working with you has been a complete nightmare.

My grievances is not just limited to Nepali government workers. Even the young generation folks I have dealt with have given me a very unpleasant experience. I guess, Nepal doesn’t prioritize on communication. Please understand communication is extremely important. I am living far away from home. I have made investments in Nepal. Any delayed information becomes extremely critical. I don’t have money to waste. Your slow and inept communication affects my investment and I am not willing to accept the loss incurred by your inefficiency.

Please understand I am a Nepali too and so are you. I am not expecting you to move mountains. I am just asking you to get the job done that I have paid for you to do. That is not too much ask. I am not even expecting a free service from you. In fact, as an investor I have paid all the required taxes, aside from giving you employment and paying the deserved amount. I would be forever grateful to you if you could just do what you have to do, so I can complete my task and move on with my life and not waste any more resources on you.

Shailiza Manandhar

Golf is not discriminatory, people are

While watching a Bollywood movie trailer, a rough looking man with a very elaborate mustache yells at the other guy: “Golf is rich people’s game!…”. I cringe. Besides the point that it was a very bad acting with what seemed like a narrow characterization of a character, mostly my cringe was veered toward the dialogue itself. Golf is rich people’s game? Who said that? There is no game in the world made for only rich people. There is no such sport in the world, meant for a specific strata of the society. The foundation of sport stands on inclusiveness.

If you come from a south Asian region, you might have had noticed- it’s not just golf that’s out of your reach; practically every other sport is out of your reach; especially if you belong to lower  or middle class background. I wanted to try out basketball once in Kathmandu; but my tall giant opponents were so aggressive, I easily made up my mind that basketball was not for me. Quite evidently, our school’s basketball court used to be dominated by tall girls and boys who probably were taking space just to show off. They never let someone like me join the team. It would have been different, had I been bad. In my case, I didn’t even get to try.

Coming back to golf – my only familiarity with golf had been the Nepal army club’s golf course next to the airport in Kathmandu. From afar it always seemed like an empty course but I knew nothing yet to make up anything on golf. Fast forward few years later, I was in America and tried golf for the first time. I loved it, instantly. Despite few hiatus here and there, I continue to golf. In the US there are all kinds of golf courses. You can find cheap courses in cheaper rate, or great courses for a more expensive rate. But the point is, everyone in America can golf. There is no discrimination in the golf course. CEO of a company could be a golfing partner of a painter, or carpenter or even a server. When they are golfing together – there are only golf rules that exist and nothing else.

In Nepal or anywhere else for that matter, if a person makes you feel that golf is only for a rich population. Please be known that s/he is afraid of you. This person is trying to make you feel like you are not worth this sport. Just so they could eliminate their competitors, they are reflecting their own insecurities, not yours.

Please do not limit your mindset by categorizing any kinds of sport based on your income. There is no sport in the world that discriminates. If you give your best shot, it will give you back. Also, in life in general – do not let anyone say who you are and who you are not, what you can play and what you cannot. They know nothing. You just follow your path.

Meanwhile, here’s a drive from one of my games:

Happy golfing!

My Top 5 TED Talks

  1. The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Watch this TED talk and discover yourself as Chimamanda Adichie exposes your biases against the world and reveals, how a single story can skew your world view. After watching this, I hope you’ll give people a chance. A chance to show you, who they really are.
  2. The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen by Hans Rosling
    As advanced data analytic tools become ubiquitous, as people start learning statistical programming languages – it will only enable more people to use data. Regardless of the protest behind ‘democratization of big data’, people will continue to work on making sense of data to seek a better understanding of the world they live in. And this is one of the many gems generated through free visualization tool developed by Hans Rosling’s own nonprofit Gapminder (software has now been bought by Google). 
  3. We should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    This is Chimamanda Adichie’s second video I am recommending. Since I’ve discovered her work – I have grown a huge admiration for this lady. In this TED talk, Adichie beautifully puts everything that I ever wanted to say about being a feminist.
  4. Educating a New Generation of African Leaders by Patrick Awuah
    The reason this is one of my favorites is because I relate to the conditions of Ghana to an extent. West African countries like Ghana and Nigeria are in far better position than Nepal. I am definitely not comparing these countries, but our struggles are very similar. Year after year our political leaders make new promises. At the end, we are led nowhere. So, where does the solution lie, is something Patick Awuah tries to answer on this TED Talk.
  5. We are the Stories We Tell Ourselves by Shekhar Kapur
    Who am I?
    A contradiction.
    Everything’s a contradiction.
    Need I add more?

Top 5 Manufacturing Industries of Nepal

I had been wanting to work on an svg animation for a very long time. Finally managed to create this simple animation. There’s a lot more to work on, until then here’s a quick preview: 

This was inspired by the awesome animation of Adam Coulombe.

You can also access my source files at this GitHub account:

My process involved:

  1. Drawing in Illustrator – grouping each object appropriately.
  2. Further edited svg file.
  3. Added CSS, JavaScript. Majority of my time was spent in Illustrator and CSS.
  4. Followed by endless debugging.

Adam has done a great job explaining the process. I recommend you to go through his post.

Note: This only works when run from the HTTP protocol for security reasons. If you are having issues getting the SVG to load, be sure you are testing from a web server or running on localhost.

Top 5 Manufacturing Industries of Nepal
Top 5 Manufacturing Industries of Nepal

Data Source: National Census of Manufacturing Establishments of Nepal 2011/2012, Central Bureau of Statistics, Government of Nepal.

यो मन् मेरो नेपाली मात्र होइन अरुपनि धेरै हो

मेरो मन् जति नेवारी हो, त्यतिनै मैथलीपनि हो

मेरो मन् जति नेपाली हो, त्यतिनै अमेरिकनपनि हो

मेरो मन् मैले भोगेको दुख हो भने कमाएको सुखपनि हो

मेरो मन् मैले भेटेको सबै मानिसहरु हो, घरमा पालेको, बाटोमा भेटेको जनावरपनि हो

मेरो मन् जति ग्लोबल हो,  त्यतिनै लोकल पनि हो

मेरो मन्, म जहां जान्छु त्यो सबै हो

म कुनै परिभाषामा सिमित हुन चाहन्न

म सबै  हुं, तैपनि म सबै हुइन

मेरो मन् नेपाली मात्र होइन अरुपनि धेरै हो….

Sanskrit Prayer from My School Days

To the universe, to the unknown that I will never know:

त्वमेव माता पिता त्वमेव
त्वमेव बन्धुश्च सखा त्वमेव
त्वमेव विद्या द्रविणम् त्वमेव
त्वमेव सर्वम् मम देव देव