Sanjip crapping on the floor

Purna Maya using the toilet

BEst friends who hate each other

Children servants

Rohit and bhutanese citizenship

sanjip goes to pokhara

ravi wanting to blow up bhutan

field trip to swim with hostel kids

sangip with acid on his nose

a child getting hit

Nanu stealing the hair pins



Kheireni Intrigue - Aaboo Kheireni, Nepal

When people think of Nepal, the word Shangri-La often comes to mind. A stunningly beautiful place with happy people living in a bucolic paradise. But it hasn't taken long to blow away the myth. People are the same everywhere. I think of the insular lives that many Americans live and realize, with a start that they are no different than many elsewhere. Perhaps the reasons are entirely different, the effects of poverty vs. lack of intellectual curiosity but the end result is the same. Within such close-knit community, cracks are bound to surface, intrigue simmering under the facade of daily life bubbles over to ensnare the innocent bystander.

The Characters:

I stay with a very low caste family, the B.K.'s which in Nepal is nearly the bottom. There is Purna Maya, the gregarious aama, her husband Bushnu and their three children. They were a lovely family and spoke almost no English. The two oldest, Shova, Class 3 and Sandip, class 2 were in school, but Sanjip, the youngest and apple of his aama's eye was always around. Almost three and still breast-feeding, he was a handfull, ever present with a dirty shirt and no bottoms. Directly behind their small home was the Tamang's, father Budiman, his wife Tara and their two children Nanu, class 7 and Sonam, class 4. Both families shared a single water tap and a small garden. 

The Setting:

Aaboo Kheireni exists for Gorakhali Tire Factory. The only local industry, it employed most of the town, and people came from all around to look for employment. My second week there, I was the guest of honor at a special factory tour. All of my students were in one way or another connected to Gorakhali, their parents employed as guards, assembly line workers, machinists, etc. Both families, the B.K.'s and the Tamangs were employed there. Budiman, as he proudly told me, was the second best machinist in Nepal and had a certificate to prove it. I guess they had the Machinist Games once and he turned a part in the second best time. Bushnu worked as a maintenance engineer for the generators. Their wives, walking hand in hand, went to work together for their shifts working on the assembly line, joined rubber lengths into tubes. Both had settled in Aaboo Kheireni long ago, seeking a better life for their families. They had saved money and each had built their home themselves. It seemed pleasant and both families expressed long friendships and many photos to prove it.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

So I was a stranger in their midst. The B.K.'s house consisted of two rooms. They crammed their entire family into one room and gave me the other, happy for the income from the school. It started almost immediately. The Tamangs hurried over to introduce themselves and invite to come to their home to watch TV that evening. The B.K.'s were quick to insist I have dinner there that very evening. And so it went. Purna Maya sat down with me,  


But there wasn't a bathroom. I was instructed to use the Tamangs bathroom, built in a small crawl space under their home. Each time I used it, i had to enter hunched over at the waist, handling my small flashlight and trying to find the hole in the ground. But it was better than nothing. It took a few tries before I could remember beforehand to fill the jug of water to bring into the bathroom. Then one day, to my shock, I found it locked and no one around.The Tamangs decided to start locking it because


When I first arrived, I thought they had four children. There was an older girl, well no older than ten, but older than the others. She was always around and helping out the family. But when it came time for school, the other two would put on their ironed white uniforms and gather their books, while she would pick up Sangye, the youngest and only two, and with him on her back, set about cleaning the morning meal dishes. She is the hired help, the indentured servant. For some miniscule amount and room and board, she stayed with them and worked, taking care of the kids and cleaning the house. Child labor is rampant in Nepal and well accepted within the social framework. Children of poor families are often sent to work in other families, in local restaurants, on buses and tempos and a variety of other jobs. Life is hard, and education out of the question. 

The B.K.'s were able to afford a servant because of the Gorakhali Tire Factory. It was the reason for the town's existence, a large factory churning out bus, truck and automobile tires. My second week there, I was the special guest of honor on a factory tour. It provides work for most of the town, and many people come from all around to work there.

Directly in back of our house, was another, the Tamangs, and both families shared one water tap and a garden. And also strange bathrooms privaledges. When I arrived, I was shown my room with the B.K.'s, but then I was shown a small toilet located under the Tamang.s house for my use. Imagine my shock when a few days later, at a time of great need, I found it locked. I called over the Tamang's servant, a pretty child of eight, and she got the key for me. I got my first inkling of the rivalry and jealousy between the tow families. Keeping up with the Joneses is a full time job here. The acrimony was between the two women, supposed best friends. Purna Maya B.K. and Tara Tamang, women who spent a good part of the day on either's porch. Together, they were the picture of neighborly harmony and long time friendship but separate...