Tag Archives: Nepali ho?

A Night at the Himalayan Yak

I’m sorry, I have yet another “the Nepali world is so small” story (that’s what happens when everyone seems to know each other!)

After our friend’s wedding we attended last Friday, P, D, KS and I drove back north together from Pennsylvania. D lives in the same apartment complex as us in Massachusetts (hence why he appears in half of our stories– or at least the ones involving food ;)), but we had to drop KS off in New York along the way.

We took our time leaving PA, then hit traffic as we approached and entered Manhattan, so by the time we arrived at KS’s apartment it was already late afternoon. Add an hour or so of tea drinking, snacking, and “chillaxing” (hey the computer didn’t autocorrect that word—I guess “chillaxing” is legitimate now!), and it was just about time for dinner.

What to do?” when you are a ten minute drive from Jackson Heights on a Saturday night? Head to that New York-South Asian mecca in search of Nepali food. And what better place than The Himalayan Yak on Roosevelt Ave? I’ve discussed the restaurant before, so I don’t have to go in to too much detail, but the restaurant really has a nice ambiance. The brick walls, wooden handicraft art on the wall, the large number of Nepali patrons, and live Nepali music almost makes you feel like you are in a café in Thamel on the other side of the world.

The four of us headed over and put an hour’s worth of quarters into the parking meter. “I’m sure we will be here longer than an hour,” D prophesized, but we parked close to the restaurant, so I could always run out and add more.

KS and I

P, KS and D ordered a series of appetizers—bhatmas ra chiura, at least two rounds of momos, sekuwa (meat), fish. I had veggie pakora—for which D teased me, “You come all the way to a Nepali restaurant and order Indian food?” and veggie/paneer “sizzler” platter. We ate and ate and ate. I added more quarters to the parking meter, and we sat and ate some more. It helped that the Manchester United/Barcelona game was playing in the restaurant, so P’s eyes were glued to the tv while chewing on fried fish and chicken.

KS had a Nepali high school friend who had recently transferred from work in London to Stamford, Connecticut, and KS had invited her to the restaurant. While P watched the game and we waited for KS’s friend to navigate the subway, the restaurant started to fill up with people—particularly a lot of twenty and thirty-something Nepalis.

I got up to use the restroom and when I got back to the table P was sitting next to a guy I had never seen before. Apparently they went to high school together back in KTM, and hadn’t seen each other since they both graduated and left the school, and here they were randomly bumping into each other at the Himalayan Yak. The friend introduced us to his Nepali wife, and P introduced me as his “wife”—-ooooohhh—–the newness of that word is still exciting! And the two chatted while I went to put even more quarters into the parking meter.

P and his high school friend

Shortly after I returned, another Nepali guy started to walk by our table toward the restroom, did a double take, then yelled out, “Hey D! Hey man! Haven’t seen you in a long time!” Apparently at the other end of the restaurant a bunch of D’s high school friends had gathered unexpectedly, and then randomly ran into him. D was carted off from our table, and we wound up losing him for the rest of the night (he had to take a bus back to MA the following morning).

KS’s friend showed up and P, KS, her high school friend and myself wrapped up our two and a half hour long dinner. P said good bye to his friend, and we parted ways with D, who was now sitting at the head of a table of about ten people, and we left Himalayan Yak just as our quarter stash was about to run out.

We dropped KS and her friend off, picked up our dog from KS’s apartment, and P and I drove the final three hours back to MA.

You never know who you might meet on a Saturday night at the Himalayan Yak.

A Shout Out to Two People in Philly (AKA another post about how the Nepali world is very small)

(Just to try and clear up confusion… I think everyone knows P and C, U= P’s brother. T= Nepali guy in Philly, Z= American girl in Philly. I= me, it’s not another character)

About two months ago, while P was in Nepal, I received an excited call from P’s brother U who lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. He was thinking of moving and was looking for a roommate, and had placed an ad on Craigslist.

It just so happens that a Nepali guy responded to U even though they didn’t know the other was Nepali at the point of initial contact. Once the coincidence of nationality was out of the way, they thought it was interesting that they had lived not too far away from each other for the past year or so, but didn’t know the other was around. Eventually they started telling each other about themselves. The other guy (let’s call him “T”) also had an American girlfriend, so U mentioned that his brother had an American girlfriend and that “P and C” were planning to get married in July in Massachusetts. T and his partner (we’ll call her “Z”) were also planning to get married in the summer as well. They chatted about some other stuff, and parted ways, thinking that they might move in together as roommates.

T tells Z about his conversation with U, and some of the details about U’s brother and his American girlfriend sounded kind of familiar… C and P, Nepali and American weddings on July 9th and 10th in MA, etc. It just so happens that Z occasionally reads my blog and asked T to check with U to see if his brother’s girlfriend blogged, and if so was she “AmericaNepali.”

So that was already a pretty neat connection, but then it gets even more interesting…

Shortly thereafter, unfortunately, there was a family emergency and T had to unexpectedly travel back to Nepal. P was still there, and hadn’t yet heard about the conversation between me and U. One day while P was traveling in the city, someone mentioned T’s family to P (which he didn’t personally know) and asked if he would like to travel to T’s house to pay respects to the family.

P arrives and T realizes that this is U’s brother P… the P from the blog. So he says, “I know you, you are getting married to C in Massachusetts on July 9th and 10th…” and explains how he knew U from Philly, and that his American girlfriend Z reads my blog. P thought he had a great story (I’m always giving him grief about never having good stories), so he excitedly calls me from Nepal that evening and starts telling me about a guy he met in Nepal who was going to be roommates with U, etc etc etc. I said, “Oh yeah, I know…” and explained the rest. He was surprised I knew the story, and was bummed I ruined a good story that he finally had to tell.

So Memorial Day weekend (two weekends ago), P and I traveled to Philadelphia to help U move, and he thought it would be nice to organize a dinner at his house between me, P, U, T, and Z.

I’ve met a small number of fellow bloggers (Big Bad Blond Bahu, Gori Girl, Gori Wife Life), but I had never met someone who found me through a google search before. It was neat to talk to someone for the first time who already knew a lot of my backstory, and it was equally interesting to hear her backstory too. Due to the situation that originally caused T to travel to Nepal, she and T will be moving to Nepal soon (instead of moving in with U) and staying there for at least the next year. I hope, if she is interested in documenting her experiences online, that she might be willing to share some of her experiences with us as well (either in guest posts or on her on blog).

So I wanted to make a quick shout out to T and Z in Philly, and reiterate yet again, how small the world can be when you meet other Kathmandu-ites around the world :)

Everyone Really Does Know Everyone…

I know, I know, I have probably beaten this topic to death, but it never ceases to amaze me.

N’s mother is staying with us for a little while, and unfortunately while visiting us her elder brother passed away back in Nepal. There was an article about it in one of the Nepali daily newspapers, and word had filtered out. So a few people have been calling her to make sure she is okay and offer their condolences.

One such person was none other than Jyoti Pathak, the author of the Nepali cookbook I reviewed a while back.

As I walked in the door from work, and came to say hello to Aunty and N in the living room, she shuffled off to the bookcase, handed me the cookbook and said, “She just called me on the phone.”

“Really? The author?” I asked, a bit surprised. Why am I still surprised?

“Yeah, she used to teach at the university where I taught, but she came to the US in the 1970s, and I haven’t spoken to her in 30 years. She called my daughter [niece] in New York to offer condolences, found out I was here, and called me. It was so nice to talk to her!”

So again, the Nepali world is small– (or as P corrected me earlier… “Kathmandu is small…”)

Another such example from the blog– a while ago I posted a documentary on “Birth in Rural Nepal.” While one of the blog readers was watching the video with her boyfriend he looked at the screen and said, “Hey, [the film maker] is my cousin-sister! I remember she said she was working on something for aljazeera”.

Tiny tiny world.

It’s a Small World After All…

I know I have written about this before (here, here and here), but it never ceases to amaze me when I’m reminded just how “small” (close-knit, related, wide-reaching) the Nepali community in America can be.

Part of it is definitely the wider cast of the relationship pool. Last night P, D, AD and I went to see Russell Peters with what I was originally told was AD’s “cousins” but later found out was his cousin (who lives half way across the country)’s wife’s sister and her husband. They just happened to be in the city for a conference and were able to meet up.

D: “So you aren’t really related, right? There isn’t a word for that.”

AD: “We are… bhauju ko didi” [sister-in-law’s sister]

D: “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

We met for a quick bite to eat before the comedy show, and at one point I started talking about my blog with AD’s bhauju ko didi. She thought it sounded interesting and she told me about another intercultural Nepali-American couple that she knew.

So then we show up at the venue, a theater with the capacity to seat over 1,000 people, and as we settled in for the show (and granted Russell Peters draws a huge South Asian audience in general, but still) a South Asian man and American woman sat directly behind us (our tickets were numbered, there wasn’t open seating).

Not only was this South Asian man a Nepali, but he just happened to randomly be D’s cousin (second cousin?*), and not only was the man D’s cousin, but the Nepali-American couple was the same couple AD’s bhauju ko didi was talking about at dinner (remember- bhauju ko didi didn’t even live in this particular city, making the coincidence even more interesting). It would have been freaky enough bumping into them while leaving the show, but they sat directly behind us. No “Nepali ho?” needed.

Seriously, it’s a small world after all…

*Okay, I just emailed D for clarification, and D said that his grandfather and the guy’s grandfather were brothers. I don’t even know if I have relatives of that nature walking around, (kind of like P’s relation to the bride in “Frank Uncle and the Nepali wedding“) but none-the-less, they were related, and knew each other, and randomly sat behind each other. It’s still a small world.

3 Degrees of Seperation… (or less)

I’ve discussed this once before in Nepali Ho? But I think it warrants another re-telling.

Nepal is a small place, with an even smaller number of large population centers—Kathmandu, Chitwan (Narayangarh/Bharatpur), Pokhara, Biratnagar—if you meet someone in the US, particularly someone in university or a graduate of university, chances are they are from one of these four places, or very close to one (or at least attended high school in one of these places).  Thus it seems like everyone knows everyone else, that they can find a connection in three people or less.

On Sunday we had R, S and N, AS over for a waffle brunch. The joke is that R has such a huge family she is related to everyone in Kathmandu, and N just simply knows everyone period. It was the first time that N and R sat down to compare notes, and I’m sure that if they really wanted to they probably could have gone back and forth identifying random acquaintances that they both knew… all day. Since the conversation was mostly in Nepali, I wasn’t really listening, but then I heard a name that even I knew! N asked if R knew “Jiwan,” R said “oh yeah, Jiwan, of course, ___’s brother” and I was able to jump in and add, “Me too! It’s D’s brother-in-law… his cousin-sister’s husband!” How many degrees of separation is that?

When I see Nepali people meet for the first time, I feel like there is a back and forth, back and forth, like a greeting ritual, to find that connection—who do you know?—it’s almost always inevitably found.

On Saturday night R, S, P and I went out to dinner in a nearby city to meet up with some older American friends of S and P’s from when they lived in Maine. The friends were in town for a dentists conference, and since it was a rare opportunity to touch base, we went to a fancier place than usual. S choose a swanky Indian/French fusion restaurant, with a contemporary South Asian style. When we walked through the door R noted, “This place must be owned by Nepalis, look at the masks on the wall…”

We sat down, met the friends, and started what would be a long conversation-filled dinner. Our waitress wasn’t South Asian, but at one point a South Asian man brought us a round of soup. A few minutes after he left P leaned in and whispered, “I know you are going to find this funny… but, I think the guy who brought the soup… was my cousin.”

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know that wedding we went to a few months ago. I think it’s the bride’s brother.”

A little while later when I got up to use the restroom I tracked down the waitress and asked her who the Nepali waiter was, she said there were a few and gave me their names. When I got back I asked P if any of the names sounded familiar. Sure enough, it was the guy. When the food came P said, “Namaste bhai” and his distant cousin was surprised until the recognition clicked.

It’s a small small world. So small in fact that I can’t help but wonder how many people out there stumbled upon this blog and have figured out who we (C and P) really are (I’ve already discovered one… right Abhi?). Even if you don’t know who we are specifically, I’m sure if we sat down and went back and forth a few times, we would eventually find acquaintances in common!

Perhaps in 3 people or less…

Nepali Ho?

P has this great talent… it seems like he is able to find Nepali people everywhere we go. It’s like he has a homing device or something. A few years ago, you could pretty much name any college in the US and he would probably know someone, or know of someone, who was going there—maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but probably not by much.

In fact, half the time we eat at an Indian restaurant we wind up with a Nepali waiter. P uses his magic Nepali phrase, “Nepali ho?” the waiter inevitably nods in affirmation, “Nepali ho,” and then it’s like we are part of a secret society. The waiter sits and talks with P for some time, stops by the table more frequently–often to chitchat some more, and sometimes brings complimentary papadum, mango lassi or gulab jamun if the restaurant isn’t too crowded and the owners aren’t really around.

Nepali ho?-- Are you Nepali?

Nepali ho?-- Are you Nepali?

If we meet new people, chances are that P went to the same high school, or knows the siblings, family or friends of our new acquaintances. We even ran into a woman once, while shopping in a random mall in the DC area, who was sitting at one of those small specialty stalls that are usually set up in the middle of the mall passageways. At first glance P whispered, “she looks Nepali, I bet she’s Nepali, you want to bet?” then he walked over and said, “Nepali ho?” and she, of course, answered “Nepali ho.” They spoke for a few minutes, and realized that they were distant cousins of some sort. Her mother was cousins with his father’s sister’s husband, or something like that. She whipped out her cell phone, called someone up, P took out his, called up his dad, and pretty soon they were swapping cell phones and telephone numbers and talking with long lost relatives. We were 7,500 miles away from Kathmandu, how was this possible?

“How do you know all these people?” I once asked, “Nepal seems so incestuous. Everyone seems to know everyone else!”

“You have to remember,” P explained, “it’s a small country, and many of the people who go abroad are from Kathmandu.”

Kathmandu valley

Kathmandu valley

Although Kathmandu is a city, it is smaller than you think. It’s the most populous city in the nation, but there are only about 1-2 million people living in “the valley” (as it is colloquially known) depending on if you are looking at official or unofficial estimates. If someone you meet (in the States) isn’t from Kathmandu, chances are they went to school in Kathmandu, either for secondary or university, and can thus claim a connection. This isn’t the case 100% of the time, but more often then not.

In addition, Kathmandu-ites have a lot of family in the valley… and family units are well connected. Whereas in the US, one might not know their second, third or fourth cousin, it isn’t unusual for close family ties of this nature to persist in Nepal, or for extended family units to still live together or close by. This is more obvious when going back to Kathmandu for a visit–one could easily spend the better part of two weeks running around the valley having dinner, lunch or chai at any number of relatives or relatives of friends’ houses.

I kind of like this networking aspect of Nepali culture. It makes you feel like you are part of a larger whole, with people who are there to help you, even if they don’t know you so well, as long as you can find a connection… even if that connection is based solely on the fact that both of you are from Nepal. P has been contacted by Nepalis back home to ask questions about American universities, TOFEL exams, or even where and how to find apartments in the US. When we moved from New York, you guessed it, a local Nepali guy helped P track down an apartment in our new town, and then helped us move in our boxes the afternoon we arrived!

The sign at the restaurant in Salt Lake... if driving through the city and hungry, check it out...

The sign at the restaurant in Salt Lake... if driving through the city and hungry, check it out...

Likewise, P traveled in Ireland once and friend-ed Nepali people living in Dublin that he found on Facebook, so he could contact them, have a drink, and chat during his trip. Or last year, during a cross-country road trip, we had dinner in a Nepali restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah. By the end of the dinner our group was taking pictures with the Nepali owners and swapping addresses in case the owners ever came for a visit to the East Coast.

I can’t really imagine randomly meeting an American overseas, and swapping telephone numbers based solely on this fact, although once while I was in India I met an American couple who had studied in Nepal as undergraduates. We eventually went out for a plate of momos and talked about Nepal before parting ways, but that was about it. I guess I am guilty by association now, because even that interaction had a bit of a “Nepali ho?” type quality to it!

Actually, the one time I tried to be suave with “Nepali ho?” it backfired. When we were traveling to Kathmandu in June we had a layover at the Qatari airport. As I was going through security a second time, I noticed the security guard had a name tag with the last name “Bhandari.” I have a good Nepali friend with the last name Bhandari, and I had heard from a lot of people that many of the workers in the Qatar airport (and Qatar in general) are from Nepal. As Mr. Bhandari was checking my bags I casually asked, “Nepali ho?” to which he curtly answered, “No… I’m Indian.”

P thought this was hysterically funny… and for the rest of the flight he would occasionally ask me, “Nepali ho?” and then chuckle.

Sigh, you win some, you lose some.

Also- I thought it appropriate to re-post the link to the song Yo Manta Mero Nepali Ho given the title of my piece today :)