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American life, Nepali salary — does not work

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I carry a phone, have a computer, decent pair of clothes and shoes. In my room, there is a TV hanging on wall, and in kitchen, a micro oven to warm my foods and refrigerator to preserve left over. To go around, I have a bike. I sometimes drop by cafe, which serves me coffee made from coffee machine. Love to watch movies and go to near by multiplex with cozy ambiance and lights and world-class sound system. Need to take my parents sometimes to doctors and they do the check-up using the modern equipment. A typical middle-class life I live. There are millions out there in this country with same pattern and possession.

From morning till I go to sleep, everything I consume aren’t made in Nepal. They are imported from some other countries. Even the internet I am using or electricity, the system behind is based on device and technologies made somewhere else. To share my thoughts, I have this blog, the domain and server, are too based in other countries. Those phone, those computer, those clothes and shoes, those TV and refrigerator, bike and coffee machine, or the medical equipment, are not manufactured keeping Nepalese people in mind. While setting the price, they didn’t think if a person from the poorest country can afford or not. They simply set a price that people with earning of 1000 dollars per month (at least) can afford.

How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income?

Standard of living that most Nepalese thrive for is influenced by standard of living that of country from high GDP and we consume the products made for those people with average income of 2-3000 dollars per month. Irony, however, is we barely earn 500 dollars per month at best. How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income? This is the conflicting zone most of us are living in. We want perfect things like that of from country with high GDP or we will laugh. Office needs to be perfect, house needs to perfect, vehicle needs to be perfect, lifestyle needs to be perfect, like as seen in videos made from US citizens or from other developed countries. We forget to realize that perfection comes with a price, that being Nepali is hard to afford.

But then who cares. Wife does not care, children don’t care, neighbors and relatives do not, nor friends. We are constantly judged for what we posses, how we pose and how we present ourselves, and it must be like that from Youtube or Bollywood insta or else we will be laughed. We will be judged for being poor, being below the standard.

In macro level, this is the struggle that most middle-class Nepalese are facing. First, there is an obligation of buying products like refrigerator, phone, TV, etc, as a necessity, made for people with 1000 dollars income, from a 300-500 dollar salary. Second, there is a cultural psyche to look better, stand out better. Thus, we will rather thrive to meet that standard than settle with our reality. Thriving to meet that standard means finding an income source of 2000-3000 dollars per month. First we try in genuine way, and if is not working, we look for hook and crook.

Be it PM, or president, or mayor or bank CEO, designer or call center employee, everyone is walking that struggle to fit in. Outside we all may pretend to adore and admire people living with their own ability and affordability, but deep inside we don’t value people who can’t live the standard. We don’t value celebrity that we can find travelling in local bus. We don’t value government website that can’t afford high speed. We don’t value PM’s web conference with poor resolution. We don’t value relatives in government office who can’t afford to send their children to good school and college. We don’t value CEO that looks “khate pate” because can’t afford branded clothes and shoes. I can go on. We in reality have no space or respect for those who fail to live and act matching the modern standard.

All the standard comes with a price, price that is designed keeping people from high GDP. So what the people from low GDP supposed to do? Simple, find a way to earn at least 2000-3000 dollars per month to enjoy that standard or live in your cave as you truly belong.

An old man once told me, “timiharu lie chahiyeko chha bikasit desh ko subidha, kamaunu chha garib desh ko talab. Ka milcha ani?. In other words, you can’t have american life with Nepali earning. Either go to America to have that life or find the american income here in Nepal.

That’s what happening in Nepal. Everyone is looking for a way to get to that income bracket — school, college, businesses, cafes, parlors, everyone — without which you can’t afford iPhone, you can’t afford coffee from coffee machine, you can’t afford Nike shoes, you can’t afford a vacation, you can’t afford TV at home, you simply can’t afford anything made somewhere keeping in mind 2000 dollars income bracket.

There is no way out. Deal with it.

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Opinion

What do I think of Nepalese Youth in general

If you don’t fall under the type that I fear, you don’t need to prove the article wrong.

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Irony of my life is, I run youth-based media and I fear the very same demography the most. That’s because, I have watched them closely for many years, through their comments and posts on social media, their online and offline activities, have identified their interests and hobbies and life and political philosophies and trust me, they scare me. By saying that, of course, I didn’t mean to generalize the whole youth populace but the specific type.

I am afraid of them, not because they are physically violent, but because they are too wild, uncouth, and insensitive that you don’t know when you will become their memes, you don’t know when you will become their social media posts for nothing. Just say something against their set beliefs and you will become their tea talks. From a nice guy, it does not take a time for you to become the most hated and taunted person — all because you offended them by not speaking their existing thoughts and beliefs. And sometimes, because they simply have problem with whatever you do, out of jealousy or envy, and they just wait for that one mistake from you to amplify their deep-rooted hatred to bring on social media.

This whole society runs on the formula “what others think of you is what I will think of you.” Probably, this is where what-people-will-say came from.


Why are these people like this? I have wondered zillion times. I have wondered while going through posts on Facebook groups like MRR, I have wondered while going through comment sections in local news portals, I have wondered while reading Facebook posts from my “FB friends.” I have wondered while listening to gossips over coffee, I have wondered while watching Youtube videos from them.

It’s like unwritten rule that everyone of them follow — if someone says something that you cannot agree with, mock them, taunt them, insult them. They drag you to their level that you have no option but helplessly pray that no one from your circle gets to see that. You think of your siblings, your relatives, your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues and wonder what they may think of you seeing you being mocked and taunted publicly.

Sadly, the whole society runs on the formula “what others think of you is what I will think of you.” And the taunts and mocks become your new identity. Probably, this is where what-people-will-say came from. Makes sense right? Since you are going to be judged based on what others think of you or say about you, you have to be careful about what people will say.


Slowly, this fear of “what people will say” start crippling you mentally so deep that you knowingly and unknowingly fear to dare, fear to be bold and straight, fear to take a stand against popular opinion, fear to make mistakes, fear to learn from. You rather will choose to be one of the sheep and be loved and adored than be different, try different. Or, you rather choose to be quiet than be judged for speaking or being obvious and apparent to others. You must have heard some people saying “Nepal ma bachera kaam garna jannu parcha.” That’s what they meant — avoid any kind of spotlight if you want to live smoothly in this country.

Funny, most of these youth think that they are educated because they can read and write, they have gone to colleges and succeeded to crack the exams and get the certificate. No matter how toxic their attitude and mentality is, they somehow will find a way to earn their life through some job or business, or at worst, find a job abroad, and what do you need more? You have now source of income, who do you need to care anymore! You are not going to lose your job for throwing your half-baked knowledge on social media or mocking some youtubers or media personality or writing crap on Priyanka Karki’s post or passing anti-gay or racist remark on social media, like how Bronx Restaurant Fires Employee After Anti-Gay Remark to Married Couple.

And, then there are this high-class youth, whose way of bashing you is much sophisticated. They gather over coffee in an expensive cafe or some fancy internet forum and make you a topic. And like always, rest of others build the opinion on the person, based on the opinions of gossipers. Different class, same formula.

However, irrespective of my fear and concern and frustration and resentment against these youth, I love them and care for them, because problem with them is they don’t know what they are doing, and no one to tell them how they actually should be. Class, appropriateness, etiquettes, sophistication are not part of a family for whom scarcity, chaos, and stress are life. Most of these youth are born and raised by parents who never went to college, and they grew up listening to assumption-based opinions rather than facts and research-based in dinner tables and neighborhoods. They went to school and college, but barely learned and understood what’s in curriculum, the purpose and message. Throughout their life, it was all about cracking exam by answering somehow right. As there is a saying, “fruits don’t fall far from the trees.” So what we are seeing actually is the younger version of very same uncle and aunties and elders with baseless opinion on America, on India, on politics, on health, on each and every aspects of life; the very same elders whose favorite self-soothing behavior is mocking and looking down to others just to feel good about self. Only difference being they have college degrees.

Nevertheless, someone has to make the hand dirty to fix it all for generations to come rather than hiding all their life to avoid insults, mockeries, bullying for taking the stand, challenging the established norms and thoughts.

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Opinion

Sand economy: Understand now or regret later

In budget for the fiscal year 2021/22, FM has announced that the government, in a bid to reduce the trade deficit, would export rock, gravel, sand and other aggregates to neighboring countries, which has come under criticism.

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Yesterday, we had an intense and interesting discussion on Clubhouse regarding government’s decision to lift the ban on exports of mine-based stones, pebbles and sand. On surface, most people were against the decision based on the fact that such permit will destroy our nature and ecosystem, and will be counterproductive and catastrophic for the environment. Some smelled ill-intentions and corruption behind the decision.

Likewise, the decision has come under widespread criticism from conservationists and environmentalists and have become a trending topic on Twitter and Facebook.

However, it seems like general public are least bothered about the matter. Maybe, it’s due to the bias on their side partly and partly because they are not aware about the consequences that they are going to face in both short and long term.

Thus, we are writing this article, so that people get to understand why they need to be angry, be frustrated and speak up because if they don’t, they themselves and generations to come have to suffer.

In this article, we are not going to talk about the environmental impact which anyway many have already spoken about but didn’t move the public an inch. In this article, we are going to explain the economy side that shall scare hell out of them.

To begin with, first thing first,

What is sand and its significance?

Sand as common as it seems is the most-consumed natural resource after water. Just look around. All the houses, all the malls and buildings, roads and bridges and dams, sand is the integral raw material used to build them. Likewise, sand is also integral raw material in making the glass in every window, windshield, and smart phone screen. And even the silicon chips inside our phones and computers – along with virtually every other piece of electronic equipment in your home – are made from sand.

So sand, as common and easily available as it seems, is equally high-on-demand natural resource, without which the modern equipment and infrastructural works will come on halt.

Scary fact

World is running out of sands!!

With the rise in urbanization, every country and habitant are in need of sands to construct houses and buildings and infrastructures; likewise, glasses and chips.  Thus, there is a huge demand of sands and pebbles in global market that includes India and China.  

And when they say sand, they didn’t mean dessert sands. Dessert sands are useless. The sand they need is the more angular stuff found in the beds, banks, and floodplains of rivers, as well as in lakes and on the seashore.

Catch 22 situation

All these developing countries with rapid urbanization are in need of sands and pebbles in billion tons, yet they don’t want to extract too much from their own countries. First, because that will have the negative environmental impact and second, they need some stock for future.

So do what?

Maybe, find a poor country with corrupted government, from where can import sands and pebbles in exchange of money. With that, they don’t as such have to face environmental impact nor their people will bear the consequences enough to shake their institutions, yet they will have enough sand to carry out their urbanization and infrastructural projects.

Is it a coincidence that Nepal, a poor country with corrupted government where the parliament is dissolved and is in amidst the political instability, has come up with a bill to allow exports of sands and pebbles to other countries, clearly stating “to narrow trade deficit” ?

Now things started making sense to you right?? Wait, keep reading.

The bill didn’t come without a strong lobby and money from the vested interest groups. Some of the gullible are thinking “whatsoever, country will make money by selling sands and pebbles, so what’s wrong on that? Why creating the fuss??”

Here is the reason:

Worrisome No. 1

Sand is not tree, that you can chop off now, plant another to compensate, and in couple of years you will have the tree. Sand is non-renewable natural resource, which means once it is gone, it is gone.

Here is the thing that should scare everyone of us. So far consumers of sands and pebbles were only Nepalese people — poor country of poor people with very limited use of the materials.

Imagine the market is open for the whole world. HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO wipe off THE PEBBLE AND SAND FROM THIS LAND? India, China, Bangladesh, all these countries with growing-economy, if are allowed to buy sands and pebbles from Nepal, think how long will the sands and pebbles be lasting here on this land?

Twenty years from now, when we are in need of sands and pebbles for our own development and buildings, what will we do when, what we have is already sold out?? Remember, sand is the most-important natural resource in modern world and rapidly in scarce. How wise will it be to finish the natural resource that you will need in future for yourselves? What are we going to tell our future generation? Are we going to tell that “we sold all our sands to reduce trade deficits, so now you go to different countries to buy sands in price you can’t afford?” Is it??

It is not about selling water or electricity, it is about selling sands which once sold out there is no regeneration of.

Worrisome No. 2

Let’s say sand per truck right now is Rs. 5000. Price is set per supply and demand. You must be aware of that simple economy. What will happen when the market is open for the whole world and all of sudden demand is surged? Since supply is not going to surge, cost of sands are going to surged like never before. Who will sell for Rs. 5000 when there are customers from India and China to buy at Rs. 20000? Yes, that is going to be the reality we all are going to bite with this stupid bill from the government.

In summary

We are walking through the double-edge sword. If every one of us don’t wake up now, and stand against the bill, people living in this country are going to bleed left and right, both economically and environmentally, now and in future.

You may not care about environmental impact, and that’s okay because not everyone understands science, but you cannot choose to not care about economical impact that you will have to pay 10 times more for a truck of sand just because government made it possible for other countries to buy it from this market at the market price. You may not care about environmental impact but you cannot choose to not care about the fact that generations to come will be out of sands in their own lands, when they need it the most for their own buildings and development.

Handful of people are putting this country of 30 millions into the risk of exploitation and inflation all for their greed and/or short-sightedness.

Wake up now or regret later!!

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Opinion

Youth migration: Shrinking or swelling local development?

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Image: Unsplash (Only for decorative purpose)

The ministry of youth and sports in its report data released on the occasion of
International Youth Day on August 13, 2017, revealed that 1,600 Nepali youth leave the
country for foreign employment each day and this number is nowhere close to slowing
down.

Hundred years down the line, imagine the youths migrate out of their villages or small towns. They do not lead the simple “gaule jiwan” as we call it. They have stable incomes and they live with their families in a town or at least nearby a market.

Can you picture a prosperous life for them? Sure, it can be said that they live a prosperous life with stable incomes and access to the market and facilities. But let us take a moment to think about the village they were originally from. 

From my recent experience of volunteering with Raleigh Nepal, it has been alarmingly established in my mind that migration practice in Nepal is detrimental to the future of the country. I stayed in a semi-rural community of Dal Bhanjyang, Gorkha. The village was sparsely populated, mostly comprising elderly, women, and children. Most of the young people of the village, particularly men, were out of the village in bigger cities or foreign countries for employment.

A gap in the active working-age population was evident due to the rampant migration. This gap created by the lack of active working people has affected the agricultural yield of the farm-based community. Many farmers leave their cultivable land barren because they do not have enough helping hands to farm.

I would like to give you an example of my host family in the village. Khadi Maya Thapa lived with her daughter Sarita and mother in law Pampha Devi Thapa in the village. She has a son who lived in Gorkha city for education while her husband works and lives in the Middle East.

They have plenty of land in the village but they do not have enough helping hands to help in agriculture. They look after a few livestock and practice subsistence farming only in a small section of the land they have, leaving the rest of the land barren.

Another important aspect to be considered is not just the current lack of young people in the village, but the future demography of the village. There is already a huge number of youths who have migrated to a place where they have a more comfortable life. Plus there are more young people who are planning to migrate in the future. So, this rampant migration will ultimately displace families to a more comfortable location. 

Therefore, in the span of a few decades when the now old generation will pass away, the current middle-age population will be senior citizens, and the current new generation will be migrating and moving, these villages will be empty. The now middle-aged population is already working hard in the country and abroad to invest in their children. Either to send them to foreign employment or for their education. Which further perpetuates the migration of the newer generations into the cities away from villages.

Let us look at another example from the village, Narayan Thapa was a local of Dal Bhanjyang who came back from Qatar for a few months break. He looks forward to going back to Qatar because he believes he would be able to earn a good living for his wife and his children in the future. When I asked him if he wants to settle somewhere or live in Dal Bhanjyang all his life, he replied that he is working hard in a foreign land so that his children, wife, and himself can enjoy a comfortable life in a city or at least a small town.

From villages to towns, from towns to cities, and from cities to a foreign city. There is always a better place one can strive for. But at what cost are we striving for a comfortable life is the question. The bottom line could also come to causing a major shortage of agro-based families and causing problems of food security as well. 

Moreover, we need to understand that these communities without the presence of an active young population can cause a gap in the smooth function of a society. Because it is the youths who are the torchbearers of the future and the ones who bring innovations and new ideas to communities. Nowadays, the villages in our country are facing a big gap in innovation. The children are growing up without having to look up to youths and families are separated.

Even though the situation seems to be distressing, we cannot deny that people in these villages have no other choice but to try to keep pace with the world that is innovating and changing. So when they cannot do that from their villages, they opt for a bigger place. On the other hand, the ramifications of such choices may be too hard on the country. Therefore, decentralization and empowerment of youth in the local communities are a must.

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