Nikesh Thapaliya - 'Breaking stereotypes of Nepalis living in the United States'
Nikesh on top of the Empire State building.
Nikesh Thapaliya, 23, is an emerging social advocate living in the United States. After holding world records such as fastest recitation and writing of 50 US States with capitals, and memorizing capitals of 215 countries & territories, he moved to the US in December 2012. He is back for a five week holiday this time and had a conversation with Anna Note about life in the USA, his works, and other topics.
Arun Budhathoki caught up with Nikesh for a memorable conversation.
On life in the United States:
A lot of things, actually! I have had the privilege to work in various places, from elementary school to social organizations. Besides, I am studying pre-law. I also take care of my mother who joined me on my trip. I love traveling so much that I know someone in forty-nine states.
On things you miss the most about Nepal:
Oh, everything! Fortunately, my mother and sister live with me in Chicago, so I have a Nepalese feast every day. But my extended family and most of my friends from school and college are in Nepal. What I miss the most about Nepal is the warmness and friendliness of people. Apart from that, the weather in Nepal is one of the best in the world. In the US, there is literally no single place with what we call 'perfect weather' since either it is too hot or cold. (Laughs)
On your struggles so far in the United States:
Enough has been said about this issue in the mass media and on social media of course. However, from my unbiased perspective, the hugest struggles of the Nepalese living in the US are not knowing their rights and getting stuck with legal complications. Life in America is full of legal procedures and paperwork. Especially, now that Trump has won (the Presidency), there have been too many concerns and as many rumors too. Sometimes, people fall prey to the false advice that spread around so fast among the Nepalese community, especially in the areas of social justice and immigration.
On being a social advocate, things you'd like to do for the Nepalese community in the US:
Be it from my work or personal front, I am always trying to make the Nepalese people aware of their rights, and help as much as I can, with the legal procedures. There is this exciting facebook group called “US-Nepal Help Network” with almost thirteen thousand Nepalese members living in the US. I often use this platform to share my ideas in hopes of making lives of some of the people, easier. I live around a number of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees resettled there, who are in desperate need of legal assistance, counseling and help with the language barrier. I always try to be of some help to them.
On life and work:
Yes. There are several professions represented by the Nepalese people living in the US. One can find them engaged as not just students, wait staff, hospitality employees, but also social workers, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists and a lot of Nepalese own different kinds of businesses. I don’t agree when people generalize that all Nepalese are involved in “labor” jobs. First of all, I don’t see anything wrong with working those jobs because I believe that they teach you life skills. Secondly, it is not just the Nepalese but even the US-born Americans and other nationalities are engaged in all kinds of jobs, from labor to the so-called “most prestigious” ones. So, I want to take this opportunity to break this stereotype and urge people to respect everyone and every job.
On things Nepal can learn from the US:
There are many things that the USA can learn from Nepal instead. Both countries can learn a lot from one another. From my experience, what I wish to see in Nepal is the ability to speak against any unfair treatment at the government offices, without fear. Back in the US, whenever I get to visit the federal and state offices for work purpose or for myself, I am not scared of speaking out if any employee is doing an unfair treatment and I get the feel that I am equal. But in Nepal, when I go to the government offices, I feel intimidated in front of the employees because I might not be able to get a fair hearing if I would complain about a misconduct. Other than this and a few other things may be, Nepal is like a heaven on Earth, for real.
On living far away -- what plans the majority of the Nepalese residing in the US have in their sleeves:
It really varies from an individual to another. However, I am so proud of the Nepalese who are helping one another in their communities and from social media platforms as well. Because there is a “mini Nepal” in every major city, everyone is busy spending time with their fellow Nepalese people whenever they get an opportunity. There are many others who do not plan to stay there after studies and want to fly back to Nepal with their amazing plans. What I can vouch for is that if there is an unfortunate event for a Nepalese person, they or their family will be succored by other Nepalis.
On visiting home:
I am back after four years and feeling a little nostalgic. I am meeting my family members, relatives, and close friends. Believe it or not, I am so kind I have brought something, at least a souvenir for everyone I could think of. I am planning on to do a lot of traveling. I am also going to contribute to a few great social initiatives that some of my friends have started. I promise I will never take another four years again to get back. A lot was going on and it just couldn’t happen.