Let me introduce to you my three new brothers: Yubraj, Dhiraj, and Bipin.
How did that happen? I’m not exactly sure.
My Australian friends have left Nepal, including Hamish who left a couple weeks back. Now that I was on my own, I made more of an effort to get to know the village and the surrounding villages on the mountain that I lived on. Since class ten, whom I lived with, were contantly studying, I found myself bored at times. So I frequently visited the neighbors homes, specifically Aatma’s older brother Yam Thapa, who lived closer to the private school I taught at. Yam has two sons: Yubraj (UK) and Dhiraj (DJ), who honestly, make for better conversation than Amish and Aakash who are a lot younger.
Yubraj, 18, but more commonly referred to as UK.
Dhiraj, 16, but I call him DJ because I couldn’t remember how to pronounce his actual name for a solid month!
Overtime, I became pretty tight with them. Even staying the night at their home on several occasions by request from them and their gracious mother. Yam liked having me over because I was a valuable asset as far as having a proficient English speaker around to help UK and DJ hone their English-speaking skills.
Over time, I’m not sure how, but the two boys started referring to me as “dai” which means “big brother” and they told me to refer to them as “vai” which means “little brother”. Even their parents and the village began to recognize our newfound brotherhood.
Back home, in America, it’s not uncommon for friends to sometimes refer to each other as a “bro” or “sister from another mister”, kinda thing. But here in Nepal, I found that when you call someone who is not biologically related a brother or sister, it holds more credence.
In Nepal, whenever I ask students how many brothers or sisters they have, their answer would always include their close friends or non-immediate relatives that they personally consider a brother or sister, in addition to their actual biological siblings. And it’s not just a thing the kids do, the adults do this as well. Some of the teachers consider some of the students as siblings too. At first this confused the heck out of me when I began to think that the whole village was somehow legitimately related to each other, but turns out that is not the case. Still, if you are considered a brother or sister to someone in the village, its taken seriously–for life. I was now UK and DJ’s brother, which I will take solemnly.
I messaged my mother and informed her she had two new sons. She didn’t question it, instead she wished to send them a gift (which is difficult because as far as I know, I don’t think mail or postal service is a thing here in this village).
Over time, I gained yet another brother by the name of Bipin. He was a former student of mine, two years ago but since then he has switched to a more prestigious school in Pokhara in order to challenge his studies. He was an academically bright student and Bal Prativa was a cake walk for him. But of course, the more prestigious school costs a heck of a lot more money, and the people in these villages aren’t exactly making it rain with cash. Bipin needed help.
Me spraying Bipin with snow spray, more than two years ago in December 2014.
Back in November (2016), while I was backpacking in Australia, Bipin sent me a message on FB messenger telling me his predicament and that if I could send him $50 to help him with his tuition. I’m always weary of people I don’t know that well asking me for money (I didn’t know Bipin too well at the time), especially over the internet, and more so from a developing country. As much as I wanted to help him, I wasn’t sure how to send the money to him. They don’t have PayPal and I doubted a Western Union-type service. I never met his parents either so I wasn’t sure if I could trust them. I told him I would have to think about it and eventually he stopped asking. So that was that.
Fast forward to now, four months later, I went to visit Bipin and his family about thirty minutes walk from Padeli. I reunited with him and met his mother who playfully only knew how to say “I am Nepali. No English”, whenever she spoke to me.
“He’s working in Malaysia.”
Bipin hasn’t seen his father for two and a half years, which means its only him and his mother working alone on their farm. The moment I arrived, Bipin’s mother made me lunch and continued working nonstop–sweeping, washing clothes, tending to the goats and buffalo, picking vegetables, and even found time to make me tea much to her insistence.
Both invited me to stay the night, which I agreed. Their home was a lot more primitive than Aatma’s and Yam’s. Bipin and his mother shared one giant room which served as their bedroom, their living area, and their storage. I didn’t mind it. Bipin was humble about it all and went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable and constantly apologized for the lack of Western luxury available. I told him not to worry. I was just fine. Still, Bipin didn’t mention anything about the money he asked of me four months ago. So I brought it up before we went to bed.
“Hey Bipin?” I asked.
“Yes, Dan?” (They always same my name in every other sentence.)
“Were you ever able to pay for your tuition? Remember when you asked me in November?”
“The principal agreed to let me pay the months tuition later in a couple months,” he began to say. “It gives us more time to come up with the money.”
I felt guilty that I couldn’t help him at the time. But now that I was here in person, I could lend a hand. I took out my wallet and handed him Rs 7000, translating to roughly $65, which was enough to pay for about five months worth of tuition fees.
“Here,” I said as I handed him the money. “Use this towards your education.”
He was speechless and appeared genuinely appreciative but didn’t quite know what to say.
“Make sure you tell your mom later,” I told him.
“I will Dan.”
The next morning, Bipin and his mother insisted that I stay with them for another night. I couldn’t help but to oblige.
He and I became brothers before I eventually left his home. He then asked if it was okay to add my actual brothers back home in Michigan, Steve and Matt, as friends on Facebook. I said sure but I had to inform them prior, so they didn’t think it was some random stranger requesting their friendship. They both gladly accepted him.
Now let me explain the whole “son” thing…
I’ve grown pretty tight with the class ten boys who lived with me at Aatma’s place. I made an effort to usually spend time with them before bed time and speak with them, casually in English. Of the five boys, Samir’s English was not up to par with the rest. In fact, his was a bit behind for his class level. I concentrated on speaking to him a bit more.
Samir, 16, the most innocent, yet most oblivious to the world compared to the rest of the class ten boys.
Samir is the most naive and juvenile of the boys. He also is around me more than his other classmates and usually wants to play with my phone, hence why I’ll find selfies on it later on, like these:
I barely remember Samir from my previous visit in Nepal two years ago, because he never said a word to me (also because I usually avoided their class). This time, I can’t keep him away from me 😂. Nowadays, I have grown fond of Samir because he’s actually a really good kid. As in he is very protective of his friends, he’s family oriented, and he just means well overall. It’s just that his English kinda sucks. I’d teach him new words and constantly correct his sentences and if he didn’t know a word, then I pushed him to try his best to explain what he meant. I also made him practice English before I gave him my phone to play with. The other boys began to notice how “fatherly” my actions were towards him and jokingly began to tell Samir to “listen to your father”. It wasn’t long before Samir began to call me “father” all the time and I eventually would jokingly call him “chhora” which means son in Nepalese (I think). It stuck with us for the rest of my time there.
Once he even asked me, “How do you kiss a girl with your tongue?”
I almost died from laughter!
I told him, “You’ll just naturally learn on your own soon enough.
Samir’s father is also working internationally, and won’t see each other for a very long time.
Overtime, others in the village began calling me ‘brother’ besides UK, DJ, and Bipin. I’m sure it may just be a thing to call one another that here or if these people are considering me family. Whichever the case, I am completely happy with both possibilities.