Susan and I met a Belgian couple in Patan. They were on their honeymoon on the way to Bhutan, because it was the happy country. When I told this story to Raj, a Nepali friend, he said that people here were not always happy, but that they were kind.
Setting aside the fact that no single label can apply to everyone in a nation, I’d have to agree that I see endless examples of Nepali kindness.
I was waiting for a small van to pick me up to go to King’s College this morning. The driver was a bit late and called to say that he would arrive in 15 or 30 minutes.
The eventual explanation was that when he picked up another passenger before me, they saw a blind woman in the neighborhood. They offered her a ride, which delayed things a little. Small acts like that happen all the time without question.
By the way, I got to meet the woman and to watch her set out along the streets. Never again can I complain about the difficult urban walking here.
There are many such examples:
- Children in my neighborhood invite me to join their games, despite the fact that I seem to be consistently inept.
- I stopped in a bakery to buy bread and to ask whether they had a small coffee press. They didn’t. As I was walking away the clerk in the bakery came running after me. She suggested that the tea store across Lazimpat Road might have one (which turned out to be correct). I must have groaned at the continual but chaotic stream of traffic. So, she offered to walk me across the street. A bit shamed by that, I managed to brave the traffic, and made it across and back without incident.
Police and soldiers, even those assigned to maintain order for the Indian President’s visit, always seem ready to offer directions when I get lost, and even to lead me part way.
- When I stopped to watch the making of panipuri, a man spoke to me and patiently explained what was in it, how much it cost, and how to eat it.
Participants in the Progressive Education workshop automatically take on helper roles with me and each other. In other situations, I’ve had to spend time with awkward requests like “does anyone know where we could get some paper and scissors for this activity?” or “could you help out this other group or individual who is having difficulty?” Here, I see the help before I’ve even fully recognized the need.
- When early on I went for a walk to get groceries, I heard some music and stopped to look. I was invited in to join a Rotaract Club of Pashupati-KTM Tihar celebration. This included dancing with them, which I attempted in my clumsy way. I wonder whether it will be on their FB page.
- I also see Nepalis helping one another. At one time, this is to negotiate impossibly narrow streets. At another, it’s a 10 year old boy carrying his 3 year old sister.
Experiences like these are difficult to capture in words or images. They lead to a feeling, one of trust that the fellow humans around are eager to help when they can in spite of difficult material circumstances.
Something to consider this election day. Can expressions of help and kindness be restored to our body politic? Which candidates (if any) best exemplify these qualities? Remember Jimmy Carter?