Tag Archives: People

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 :)

World War II Indian “Spy Princess”

The BBC had a feature article today which I found interesting and thought I’d share. It was a profile on Noor Inayat Khan, who served as a British spy in France against the Nazis during World War II. Eventually she was captured, (and some sources say tortured, although it is unconfirmed), and executed in Dachau at the age of 30. Her final words were “Liberte!”

So often we hear negative news stories about South Asian Muslims, and rarely are heroic or strong South Asian or Muslim females featured, so I wanted to take the opportunity to point you towards her story. Additionally—the intercultural twist—her father was an Indian Sufi, and her mother was a Caucasian American, and she was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1914.

Noor with her American mother, Ora Meena Ray Baker

According to the BBC article (Churchill’s Asian spy princess comes out of the shadows) and the Wikipedia entry on her, she was the great great grand-daughter of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore (and hence the use of the word “princess” in relation to Noor), who ironically was famous for fighting against the British.

Although Noor was “deeply influenced by the pacifist teachings of her father, she and her brother Vilayat decided to help defeat Nazi tyranny.” She was quoted as saying, “I wish some Indians would win high military distinction in this war. If one or two could do something in the Allied service which was very brave and which everybody admired it would help to make a bridge between the English people and the Indians.”

Noor in the early days

At first her Special Operations Executive trainers expressed doubt about using Noor in the field due to her “gentle and unworldly character,” however she was fluent in French and trained in wireless operation, and was ultimately selected to work as a spy in Nazi-occupied France. She was deployed in June of 1943 under the code name “Madeleine.”

A month after her deployment her spy circuit began to collapse and her commanders urged her to return to England, but she refused to abandon what had become “the principal and most dangerous post in France” because she did not want to leave her French comrades without communications.

For three months, she single-handedly ran a cell of spies across Paris, frequently changing her appearance and alias until she was eventually captured. On her arrest she fought so fiercely that the German police were afraid of her and she was thenceforth treated as an extremely dangerous prisoner (contrary to her earlier description of being too “gentle”). She attempted to escape twice during her interrogations, and according to the former head of the Gestapo in Paris, Hans Kieffer, “never gave a single piece of information to the Gestapo, but lied consistently.”

On November 25th 1943 she escaped with two fellow agents but were captured shortly thereafter during an impromptu air raid alert. She refused to sign a declaration renouncing future escape attempts so she was shipped to Germany and held in solitary confinement for ten months, classified as “highly dangerous” and was kept shackled in chains most of the time.

Noor, in the field

On September 11th 1944 Noor and three other agents were moved to Dachau Concentration Camp, and in the early hours of September 13th the four women were executed by a shot to the head. An anonymous Dutch prisoner reported in 1958 that Noor was cruelly beaten by a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert before being shot in the head. Her last words were “Liberte!”

She was posthumously awarded a French Croix de Guerre and the British George Cross (Britain’s highest award for gallantry not on the battlefield).

To learn more about her, the BBC recommends Noor’s biography “The Spy Princess” by Shrabani Basu written in 2006.