Category Archives: Guest posts

Interview with Mike Crawshaw, author of “To Make a Killing” and treasurer of the charity “Hands Together”

By Veronica Di Grigoli

Years ago, when I first started working in a bank in London, Mike Crawshaw was my boss. Although he was the head of a huge department of people, he was so down-to-earth that he made friends with everyone.

Mike Crawshaw in Nepal 2

Since then, he has co-founded an Australian-British charity that fosters education in Nepal, and also written a thriller called To Make a Killing.

For my guest post on NepaliAustralian, I interviewed him about the charity and his novel.

How did you first hear about the charity Hands Together?

My friend Anne Rose -The Chair of Trustees – approached me to be treasurer because she knew I had a financial background. In fact the charity was not yet established, and so I had to set it up with the Charity Commission.

http://www.handstogether.org.uk/

Children at one of the schools in Nepal

What does Hands Together do?

Alleviates poverty and helps with education in Nepal, with a particular focus on Tiplyang which is the home village of Tul bahdur Pun. He was a Gurkha soldier who won the Victoria Cross, fighting alongside the father of the actress Joanna Lumley, the uncle of Anne Rose and Elizabeth Allmand. The three families have kept ties ever since, and Joanna Lumley is patron of the charity.

How did the charity get started, and what is your involvement with it?

Just before Tul bahadur Pun died, he asked that the school in the village of Tiplyang be rebuilt. This was done with private money from the Allmand, Lumley and Rose families, and with the help of the Gurkha Welfare Services.

Mike Crawshaw with NGO team who help with the charity
The charity was then started to help run the school, and help give education and relieve poverty in surrounding areas. The original founder of Hands Together Tiplyang Project was Elizabeth Allmand who lives in Australia. She started the charity in Australia and then asked her sister, Anne Rose, to start a UK arm of the charity. For charity commission purposes the two arms have to be separate, but in fact we work as one and make all decisions together.

What are the things you like most about Nepal?

The peaceful loving nature of the rural population, their spirituality throughout every day life, and the natural beauty of the mountains.

Mike Crawshaw in Nepal with garlands

How often do you visit Nepal?

Twice in the last three years.

I know you like the outdoors and that you’ve enjoyed camping for years. What is your favourite thing to do when you visit Nepal?

Take in the views of the Himalayas from a quiet mountain spot.

You have decided to donate all the proceeds from your novel to the Hands Together charity. What is your book about? (No spoilers!)

It’s a banker-bashing murder mystery.

Michael Crawshaw with book

The book is very witty, and the main character is a real joker. How much of it is based on real people and real events?

All of it and none of it! In the acknowledgements, I have written: “This is a work of fiction.” But clearly a little part of many people has inevitably, sometimes subconsciously, been absorbed into characters and settings. You know who you are!

Although your book is a crime story, it is deeper than the average thriller. What message does your book aim to give people?

It’s partly a modern day morality tale, with the old message that money doesn’t buy you happiness.

What kind of people would enjoy reading To Make a Killing?

To Make a Killing by Michael Crawshaw

I have found so many different types have enjoyed it: pensioners, teenagers, priests, footballers, mothers, daughters. It is an easy read, with simple humour and a highly topical story line, so I think it has pretty broad appeal.

To Make a Killing is available from Amazon.com or to order direct from the publishers www.tomakeakilling.com. All proceeds from the book are donated to the charity Hands Together.

If you wish to make a direct donation to the charity, you can do so via their website.

http://www.handstogether.org.uk/

 

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Guest Post : The Ancient City

One of my reader, Nadia Islam Nitul , visited Nepal recently and captured some amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing them here.

In the year 2012, I went to visit Nepal on a youth project of RYS( Religious Youth Service) . That time, I went to visit the ancient city in Kathmandu Valley:  Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur also Bhadgaon or Khwopa, is an ancient Newar town in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. It is located in Bhaktapur District in the Bagmati Zone. It is the third largest city in Kathmandu valley and was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom until the second half of the 15th century.

Bhaktapur is listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork. It is the home of traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and craft works, magnificent windows, pottery and weaving industries, excellent temples, beautiful ponds, rich local customs, culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic and so on. Bhaktapur is still an untouched as well as preserved ancient city that is itself a world to explore for tourists.

Here are some photos from Kathmandu Valley.

Nepal (9) Nepal (10) Nepal (11) Nepal (12) Nepal (13) Nepal (14) Nepal (15) Nepal (16) Nepal (17) Nepal (18) Nepal (19) Nepal (20) Nepal (21) Nepal (22) Nepal01 (1) Nepal01 (2) Nepal01 (3) Nepal01 (4) Nepal01 (5) Nepal01 (6) Nepal01 (7) Nepal01 (8)

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

Guest Post : Forward

Thank you Nelle for sharing her life with this wonderful post. You can check her blog on nellewrites. She is truly talented and amazing writer and I am eagerly waiting for the day when her book will be published.

Also I will like to congratulate her for upcoming award for her volunteerism at Planned Parenthood. You are a good example of how commitment and hard work pay off.

My appreciation and gratitude to Nepaliaustralian for her invite to write a guest post for her fascinating blog.  She takes us on such wonderful journeys and mini-tours with each new post, through two places and more what seem so exotic.

Fiction writing flows easy from my soul.  My own blog exists as a relief valve replete with short stories.  On occasion, my writing ventures into the personal, shared glimpses at the last dozen years.  I cannot take you all on a tour of wondrous places, so the logical writing for this guest post flays open part of my life and exposes a path fraught with experiences I care not to repeat.

Sometime just short of fifty-eight years ago, a physician declared me male at birth.  Gender assumptions ruled, through childhood, adolescence, and decades of adulthood.  One big caveat occurred in 1960, year America elected John F Kennedy president.  My gender exploration as a six year old earned a declarative statement from my father.  “You’re sick.”

So I believed, through the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and three quarters of the 1990s. What ensued I’ll truncate and spare much detail.  Married, parent, businessowner, these descriptive terms of my life collided with jumbled works within beginning in the late 1990s.  Gender pressure ratcheted to an unholy level.  It worked over my ability to function, a steady slide into oblivion, to the detriment of all around me.

The worst of it fell within a thirty-month window, 2001 through 2003.  I crossed gender lines nine years ago, and in 2008, faced an expected indictment that led to a two-year sentence and twenty-one months served in a federal prison camp, from June 2009 to my release in March 2011.

The dysfunction would not define my life.  Eight years ago, I pulled myself together, driven by some inner will to overcome and rebuild.  It required fighting through severe depression.  It meant re-commitment to personal and work ethics.  Over the ensuing four and a half years as a state employee, I rebuilt integrity lost in those thirty months, manifested in my commitment to each claimant and in distinguished service to my employer.

People fall into horrid circumstance.  Sometimes we act in irrational ways or shut down when faced with unimaginable pressure.  If one stumbles as I did, don’t accept it.  Strive for better.

Don’t stay down.  Don’t accept failure.  Learn from the adversity.  Get back up and dust off.  Learn from weaknesses and overcome them.  Commit to the truth no matter if it carries adverse consequences.  Commit to make amends, to rebuild and move forward.  And after, consider precious rebuilt integrity.

I’m a student, again.  I’m a Planned Parenthood volunteer, less than two weeks from receiving an unexpected state award honouring my volunteerism.  I’m a writer, new, four years into the creative path after a lifetime of business writing.  My first novel, now in its eighth edit nears an end.  I anticipate at least two more edits before the agent process begins.

Regrets?  Many.  Guilt?  Much.  Stronger?  🙂

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

Guest Post : My Thai-Australian Relationship

I first came to South-East Asia in 2011, seeking an escape from the trappings of western life. Finding myself preoccupied with television, junk food and long hours at my dead-end job, I needed a new lease on life. Backpacking South-East Asia was always a dream of mine, so it seemed like the best exit strategy from a life of dis-contentedness.

In my first month in Asia, I met my fiancée in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. From what was a purely platonic friendship for 6 months, we eventually entered into a romantic relationship and have ended up in her hometown in Southern Thailand, on the Malay Peninsula.

We haven’t encountered too many hiccups in the first year of knowing each other, but there have been a few misunderstandings along the way.

I am a westerner. I enjoy my alone time, I appreciate my independence and my ability to choose things the way I want. This is not always compatible with Thai values, for instance, sometimes family members will drop by unexpectedly and it will turn into a whole day affair. Or I will go to visit my fiancé’s village for a ‘few hours’, which turns into all day, and then I feel cheated a bit, because I find my time precious and want control over how I spend it.

Communication too, can be a problem. My fiancée speaks English beautifully, but that doesn’t mean that she will always convey her thoughts to me clearly. Sometimes, if she wants to bring up a touchy subject, she will beat around the bush, by providing me with an example. Like, she will say “I wonder how much time couples should spend together, maybe you should read about what’s normal for couples in terms of time spent together’, when what she really means is “you are not spending enough time with me”. I think this is the conservative Thai values coming through, where she cannot always say something directly to my face, but it’s hard for me to understand what she wants me to do.

The dowry, or ‘sin sot’ as it is known in Thailand is also something foreign to me. Unlike in Nepal and the rest of South Asia, where the bride’s family gives money to the groom, in Thai culture it is the other way around. So, I have been feeling pressure to save money, in order to provide a dowry that is acceptable in the eyes of her family. Failure to present a large amount of money at the engagement party will bring shame upon the bride’s family. The concept is quite foreign to me, as there is usually no exchange of money between the bride and grooms families in your typical Australian marriage, but I do love Thai culture and I must respect its customs.

Things are not always easy for my fiancée either. Sometimes I crave western food, which does not taste great by her standards, but she does not complain about going to western restaurants when we have the opportunity.

I don’t have the capability to suppress my emotions the way the Thai’s do. When I am angry or upset, I tend to let it show, and this is something that Thai people really try to discourage, instead preferring to give off the image of a cool-mannered person. I think it makes her feel ashamed to see me carry on, but it is a part of the way we express our discontent in the west.

Even though we do have those negative aspects to our relationship, the majority of our time spent together is fun. We spend nearly 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week. We trade books with each other, we send cute photos to each other through Facebook and we make sure to spend time with each other to wind down at the end of a busy day.

At the end of the day, everyone is human and no matter what we are more alike than we are different, regardless of nationality. My dream is that our children will have the best of what both the East and West has to offer in terms of ideas, customs and culture.

This has been a guest post from Archie Ward, why not check out his blog dedicated to travelling Asia and digital marketing .

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

Guest blog : My hope for my daughters

Thank you Sid for writing this beautiful post for my blog. You can check his blog on Dad Knows . You will realise when you go through his blog why I think him more as a dad than anything else. He is a proud father of two gorgeous gals, Audrey and Anna. 

Thank you to the lovely M for inviting me to write a guest blog post.  Hers is such a beautiful and smart blog, and while I was delighted to have the chance to be a part of it I knew I’d have to create something better than my usual to be worthy of inclusion here.

So what could I write about that would be of interest to nepaliaustralian’s readers?  I haven’t traveled the world like M has, with gorgeous photos and great stories to share.  My knowledge of Nepali culture is limited, and residing in the Great Lakes region of the United States, I’m about as far from Nepal and Australia as one can get without involving NASA or ESA.  Further, I have no experience getting accustomed to living in a foreign land or trying to mesh two cultures or backgrounds together.  I started to think that I really was not a wise choice to help fill up this space, and that maybe M wasn’t as smart as I’d been giving her credit for.

However, when I asked what she’d like me to write about, M replied that (because of my blog) more than anything she thinks of me as a dad, and that it would be fine if I wanted to share something about my daughters.

Ah!  I was then tempted to write that what I want for my daughters as they grow up is no different from what parents in Australia or Nepal – or Colombia, or Ghana, or Estonia, or anywhere else – want for their children.  Can I really say that, though?  Do I really know that for sure?  Definitely not.  I can only assume, and making assumptions about people in different parts of the world can be terribly closed-minded and has all kinds of potential to be wrong.  So then, what?

Well, as bloggers I think we’re all encouraged to write about what we know, and what I know about is my daughters and what my hopes for them are.  So that’s what I’ll write about here.  What I want you readers to do is consider your children – or, if you’re not a parent, the children of the world – and what your hopes for them are.  If I’m right, M has readers from all over the world, and if a few of you respond in the comments below, we might have a fascinating glimpse into all the different hopes and priorities we humans have for our children.  More importantly, I’m hoping we’ll find out that, regardless of where we live, our wishes for our children aren’t really all that different.

First of all, since the moment they were born (and before), I’ve wanted to protect them and keep them safe.  In twelve years, that hasn’t changed one bit.  I may be overprotective at times (it’s what dads do, no?), and fully expect that as the girls become teenagers I’ll get even more protective.  There are scary and dangerous situations and people in the world, and the more independent they get, the more our children need all the wisdom we can pass on to them.  Audrey and Anna will always be my little girls, and I won’t ever stop wanting to keep them safe from harm.  That harm will change form over time – from bullies in elementary school, to strong and overexcited boys in high school, to peers and adults who would take advantage of them at work or in myriad other situations.  Eesh – just writing that makes me want all the more to hold them close.

Safety and protection are not always within our control as parents – some other things, though, are.  It’s been entirely up to my wife and me to provide a loving and happy home for our daughters – and I’m the first to admit that I’ve not always been great at this.  Loving my daughters is easy; giving them a fun, carefree, and happy home isn’t always so easy.  I get tired.  I get frustrated.  I get grumpy.  It’s maybe taken me twelve years, but I think I’m finally getting better at realizing that’s probably what they want more than anything.  Speaking of what’s in our control, no matter how rotten their day at school may be, children should be able to come home and feel safe, secure, happy, and comfortable.  Home should be a refuge for them – the place they can relax, be themselves, say what they want (well, within reason…), act goofy, and feel free to talk about their fears.  I always want them to feel like they can come back home and feel at home.  If they can return home and let their worries and fears just fade away, then my wife and I have done something right.

I also want our girls to grow to be kind, respectful, compassionate, and intelligent ladies.  I can only guess about the rest of the world, but where we live those qualities are scarce.  They’re doing quite well as far as intelligence, and do okay with kindness, but, hoo boy, we’ve a long way to go to get them to be as respectful as we think they can be.  I suppose this wish for my girls is just as much a wish for the rest of the world and anyone they come into contact with!

Another thing we’re having trouble with is instilling in those girls the value of hard work.  Oh, I’m sure they’ll get it someday, but I would really hate for them to become adults and still expect everything to just happen for them, or expect that things will always be easy.  In both cases, they won’t.  The sooner the girls learn that, the better.  (Wish me luck, please!)  I hope that they will never be daunted by the prospect of hard work, and that they’ll be willing to put in as much effort as they need to accomplish their goals.

Something else the world is terribly lacking is respect and compassion for all the other living things that share the planet with us.  I’ll be so, so proud of my daughters if they continue to be as concerned about the welfare of the planet and all its residents as they seem to be so far.  Even at their young ages, the two of them seem to have an inherent concern for all animals – certainly more so than most adults in our society.  My hope is that they never lose that.

Image courtesy universetoday.com

Finally, I’ll mention those things that are almost totally out of our control.  I have no delusions that any of this will happen anytime soon, but I still wish it for my children and for all children all over the planet:  a world with no war, suffering, hunger, disease, or inequality.  I want them to grow up in a world where humanity works together for the good of all, and where religion and culture and nationality and appearance and language and local customs are no more than points of interest that bring us all together.  Will it happen?  I have my doubts.  Can it happen?  Can that kind of world be embraced by everyone?  I think it can happen, and I also know it can start with my Anna and Audrey as much as with anyone else.

For sure I could go on for days about what I want for my children, but this will do.  It’s up to you now.  What do you wish for your children?  What hopes do you have for them, and for all children?

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

Guest blog : Okinawa & Me, A Four Year Love Affair. Well, For Me, At Any Rate

Thank you t for writing this wonderful post for my blog. You can follow him on As long as I’m singing and I am sure you will fall in love with his writing  full of witty sense of humour.

It wasn’t until I was of legal drinking age that I ever left America’s shores. Traveling to Okinawa, where of course, my having reached legal drinking age no longer mattered. Oh well, them’s the breaks I suppose.

Now, it could be said that last bit just now was almost entirely a fabrication of the facts. Especially when considering, that as a native upstate New Yorker I found myself traveling “overseas” in my youth quite often, in the form of quick “are we almost there yet?” jaunts into Canada with my folks. In my mind however, those trips never really counted as “international experiences” of any sort, seeing as – and yeah I’m just gonna say it – Canada really is sort of “America, Junior” after all. You know, the cooler, mellower, easier-going version of America. America with a sense of humor, if you will.

But even that’s not the point to all this. No, no, no. We’ve haven’t gotten there yet. The point to all this, in fact, will start right about here. When I first received my orders to go to Okinawa (what? You didn’t think I would just wake up one day and decide to jump halfway across the globe all on my own, now did you?), I was very upset.

Very. Up. Set.

Upset, partially because I had finally been able to build a life all my own while stationed in North Carolina. One filled with good friends – Tribe – tribe that I had no desire to leave, regardless of the Commandant’s seemingly thinking otherwise. I was also upset because of what I thought I knew about the place that I was being forcibly sent to, which as it turns out, was nothing much at all.

Boom – “Japaneska”

You see, while I could blame my travel-paranoid mother for this, it was more likely than not, my own ignorance that had me thinking that I was going off to spend a year sitting in a hot sticky rice patty, with little to do and even less to drink. The Okinawa that I eventually landed in – with lights, mad discos, madder scooter pilots and all sorts of crazy subculture scenes – never once came to mind when I thought of what it might be like. I was expecting to be thrown back several hundred years into the past, but found myself propelled forward into an acid jazz “slightly-alternative-universe” future instead. One where insanely cute cartoon characters sold bread sticks dipped in strawberry chocolate, and the beer vending machines to be found on almost every corner, never once thought to card you. While the first year there I did so begrudgingly, the second year was lived with abandon (a second year that only ever happened because Poppa Bush was worried about our oil supply being cut off, but that’s a wholly other story altogether). In fact, the second year went so well, I even came back for years three and four all by my lonesome, dressed in civilian garb (what? You didn’t think I’d stay in the Marine Corps forever, now did you?)

In the final analysis, the land I was so dreading going to in the first place, almost never got rid of me. I eventually did come back to the states though. First to see my brother get married, and then to follow suit myself. But only as a result of meeting at their wedding the most beautiful and truest person I have ever known to date, the sister to my brother’s bride. Again, another story for another time – one that I won’t bore you with here.

It’s been over 16 years since I returned, and Okinawa is long gone from me now. But not really. No, the occasional Japanese phrase still finds itself bouncing around in my head for no apparent reason, and I still have a couple of CD’s from The Blue Hearts as well. The memories, while slightly faded of course, are still strong – just ask anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to be stuck in a room with me after I’ve had one (two, three, four or more) cocktails too many. Best of all though, there is a small core group of us from that place and time, now scattered across the globe, who still hang out with each other. Internetally, of course. I can’t say the same for any but one of my old NC crew, but that’s none the matter, as it’s through the friends I met – only as a result of my ever going to Okinawa in the first place – that my tribe is still here for me.

I’ve never been to Nepal or Australia, but now that I know that foreign places are only so if you allow them to be, I wouldn’t mind checking them out either. Who knows, I might even discover that Australia is actually just a cooler, mellower, easier-going version of Canada. I mean any place capable of giving us “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” has got to have something going for it, right?

•••

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

First ever guest post:” Bridging the Gap: Homes are made in the heart “

Thank you Tash for being my first ever Guest Blogger! You can follow her on Life through Kaleidoscope.  It was really nice of her to do a blog post for me as I love the way she expresses herself. 

 “Firstly I’d like to thank Nepaliaustralian for having me guest post on her blog. I’ve gained a fellow blogger, a friend and lot of support through you (like from an elder sister that I never had) and I would not let this opportunity pass without letting you know how much I appreciate it. Stepping into this blogosphere has allowed me to savor many new relationships that I am very grateful of having.”

When I first started blogging I was solely thinking of gaining advice and reading more about Nepali culture because A (my partner) is of Nepalese Indian Origin. However, moving from the various phases of my probationary period on the blogging world and now being a permanent resident here, I’ve come to learn, read and write much more than I ever expected. It is no longer defined between fine lines.

Since this is my first guest post on any blog and Nepaliaustralian’s blog particularly focuses on keeping it rooted while being in a foreign land, I’ll try to keep this post around the same lines. Nepalese culture and the culture I belong to. If I define culture, to me, it’s something that dictates functionality of traditions, festivals and communication amongst people of a place, country, faith or family. I believe that culture originates from the heart and its influences are passed onto a family where it is pampered and nurtured with love. While growing up I’ve heard many other versions of this definition. The social norm would define culture as something we must abide by. It’s a rulebook. You can or cannot do this because it will or will not affect our culture. A culture defines us. We don’t define it. I find this statement highly controversial.

If we abide by the laws of a culture, then it defines us because we as people are cast together and are obliged to follow certain “norms” that may not really make much sense to us. If we willingly commit to certain norms then we can be identified by our cultures.  I can probably achieve a doctorate on societal culture by now because I’ve been through the rough patch of making a lot of people understand the similarities and differences in their stated culture and my own.

I am Sri Lankan, natively and biologically. This means I was born to Sri Lankan parents but I was raised in Dubai and matured in Oxford in the UK. I was never exposed to hardcore Sri Lankan lifestyle, my parents were lenient and we were raised in an open atmosphere which did not bind us with rules, regulations and society and we weren’t faced with situations where society’s approval was vital for us to move, talk or breathe. We were liberated from such vile gestures as compared to community upbringing back in Asia. Our fashion sense wasn’t dictated by the neighbor, the annoying aunt and our hairstyles weren’t scorned upon as modern, daring and indecent.

If black nails were in fashion, then be it. It wasn’t stated as punk, dark or emo. You could drink at family gatherings and the length of your dress was not going to affect your future husband fifty years later. Hence, we were allowed to mature gracefully and independently. But after I met A, I realized there are a lot of things that I would, usually disprove of, in the name of culture and society but would accept for love. For example, I was born out of Asia and grew up in a multi-cultural society. I feel safer in a crowd of mixed people rather feel alienated between a group of my own. I’m not used to being in a group of too many people of similar identities. A was born in India; he grew up there until he left for UK at 23. I left at 17. There was a difference. A difference I was ready to overlook because I adjusted to Nepalese culture so effortlessly. It was like I was meant to adjust to this new, alien culture.

I met a lot of Nepalese people in England and found true friendship and wonderful people. On several instances I was told, Nepalese people were sweet and I am glad that I haven’t found any bitterness yet *touchwood* But A is from India, which makes their traditions and culture slightly different. I was always told, “I am Indian but we follow Nepalese culture BUT these are similar not the same. Our language is less complicated; we have lesser rituals and customs.” But I’ve never seen the difference. To me, Nepalese is Nepalese. I adapted quickly and seamlessly. I speak Nepali, cook Nepalese food even the popular dishes like pakku (marinated meat), momo (steamed dumplings my favorite!), achar (pickle) and sel roti (deep fried rings made of wheat and semolina), famous til ko alu (potato with sesame) and enjoy Nepalese music, comedy, Tihars (festivals) and everything else. This year I’ll be celebrating Teej in a proper way which includes fasting and prayers. A can be called the average Sri Lankan guy too, maybe. He is possessive (one of the things I disproved of for the criteria of my potential partner) and can be dominant sometimes if allowed to be so, but regardless of these things we fit together perfectly well. My parents argue that I would have settled with a Sri Lankan guy too but fate is unfortunate that I have never met any, and those who I have met haven’t been acceptable.

You see, culture has nothing to do with it. I may be adamant and tell myself I cannot adjust with a Sri Lankan native because of their mentality and I firmly believe that because the culture that is inherited by them is limited to the borders of the little island. Its naivety is hard to me to encompass. On the other hand, being continuously engaged with different cultures has made me intrigued in the unknown. I never planned to be with an Indian native and I never had any friends who were Nepalese before I left to UK. India has always fascinated me since I was a child, its diversity, varsity and geographical abundance. All these things compiled together, A came as a surprise package. Wonderful!

Traditional Sri Lankan Dances

I want to bridge cultural gap. Culture is built at home. My home doesn’t have a Sri Lankan culture even though my parents want us to automatically connect to our roots magically. We are not familiar. They feel that they have raised us in a Sri Lankan home when they too have forgotten what it’s like to be truly just that. Their heart and soul belongs to the country they left over three decades ago because they are connected to it by the roots, but we fail to do so because we are nomadic children. We learnt from various cultures and have created one for ourselves. I believe we are the age of customized culture.

While growing up, my friend circle had three Bengali girls and I spent so much time with them that I attended all their functions, loved their food, attire, I even learnt to speak Bengali with them. I was frequent at their homes. I loved my friend J’s homemade Chingdi Maash (Shrimp curry) and in winter’s her mom would save me some warm peetha (rice cakes). My favourites would be Shemai, Roshogulla, Roshmalai, Chom chom, Shon papri and the famous Ilish macha (pomfret, if Im not wrong). That also reminds me J’s mom’s Biryani and Khashi mangsho (beef curry) is to die for!

I could cook these dishes at home and communicate effervescently. From Bengali I moved to Gujarati. When I first moved to Oxford I lived with Gujarati housemates. I started to sit in pujas, celebrate Diwali in Gujarati style, discovered vegetarian cuisine, learnt about Gujarat in general and “pura Gujarati thai gayou” So another language, another culture added to my archive. I loved how vibrant the culture of this place was. And their festivals even more exciting. Holi, Navaratri. I took part in several Garba dances (traditional Gujarati dance performed for 9 days before Diwali, the Indian New year) and Dandiya ras (a dance involving lots of people and with batons) wearing colorful saris and ghagra cholis (flaired skirt and blouse outfit). I learnt how to make puris (fried puffy flat bread) and I accustomed myself to eating food which had Gurdh (jaggery) in it as Gujarati food is mainly sweet and sour, even the curries! My favorite dish would be Dal Dhokli (made out of lentils and wheat flour and lots of nuts).

Garba and Dandiya Ras on Navratri (Gujarati Festival)

I started watching Telegu and Tamil movies which were referred to me by friends and apart from my British, Arabic and European friends, cuisines and cultures I met a whole new world with Nepali friends. I became a member of the Oxford Nepali community and attended Teej, Dashain and other festivals. I cooked and entertained jovially. Till date, friends of A and my own praise my “Nepali” cooking. A prefers certain dishes over his moms and some things that he didn’t eat before he started eating like simee ko achar (pickled beans)!

I have moved around and learnt so much from each of these cultures that I have only been left richer, wiser and mature about people, places and things. My personal culture that I would instill in my kids someday depends on everything I have learnt. A culture/religion/race doesn’t make you a good or bad person. Every parent, deity and societal norms state faith in good karma, do good and you will reap good; so what differentiates us? What draws the line? So why do we draw the blinds? I am built on one, how can I preach one? I know that every parent tries their maximum to have children follow their faith, beliefs and culture but we all choose at some point. I am a composite of many things. I like being diverse. I cannot bear to feel the limitations of one place, culture, religion and I cannot admit or commit to something I cannot feel or truly believe in.

I love having Sri Lankan roots and I love to address myself as a part of Sri Lankan. I like that some of its beauty has brushed on me and words cannot explain the serenity of this place. It’s a beautiful country, with god-fearing people, humble and naïve inhabitants of a wealthy and a rather large heritage and history. An island full of natural, serene beauty with admirable, kind people; I haven’t heard a visitor ever say that they were treated with hostility or ignorance. Sri Lankans are whole-hearted hosts, warm and welcoming. But my childhood and my entirety does not allow me to limit myself to just one culture. With accordance to my native culture, I would be expected to know about general things organically whereas being with A, exploring new cultures is what my heart craves for. Even if I miss out of being perfect, I will be accepted because it is understood that I am not Nepali or Gujarati or Arabic or French, nor am I Bengali or English. I can speak many languages, adapt to even more cultures and relate to humanity in general and there is no other personal bliss than this.

Traditional Sri Lankan Cuisine

When I wake up every day and I know I can be whoever I want to be and regardless of my original identity I can connect with everyone. I imagine being on a trek in Tibet and communicating with child monks or sitting in a tiny café overlooking the Alps saying “plus de fromage avec mon fondue s’il vous plait” (more cheese with my fondue please!) I don’t need a culture to lay me some rules, I want to grasp everything that I have learnt and allow it to influence my life and call it my culture. I call that quality living. There is no better way to do it other than reflecting on what you have seen and learnt.

Lord Buddha said “Buddhism is about living simply, harmlessly and lovingly” and I believe in those words of wisdom. In order to be simple and loving, you just need to be yourself.

Culture is misinterpreted. It is supposedly defining a group of rules for people, but not the people itself. For me, a group of happy people is a good culture right there where you embrace everyone without distinguishing anyone for any particular reasons. Where you can share and care, nurture and love selflessly. I will not help him because he is Sri Lankan or prefer her because she is Nepali but will aid and accept them because they are fellow human beings. The more the merrier they say, so in my opinion, culture is a gift, you can play Holi (festival of colors) with Europeans and Africans and enjoy it just as much and even more rather than within an only-Indian crowd. You not only share your values and inheritance but you also invite, embrace and educate people about the gifts of culture.

Momos and Sel Roti

It’s a gift from our ancestors to share and care, to multiply and be in abundance. I’m sure the great kings of Sri Lanka would be happy to know that today rice and curries packed in a Banana leaf and natural Rum served in clay cups are savored by all, just as much as momo’s (steamed dumplings) being loved by people over the globe. Culture is supposed to set us free, not bind us, and if you are worried about them loosing originality until they cease to exist, fear not, cultures are being enjoyed around the world. They will grow and spread and better yet, if it is not forced upon, they are cherished, remembered and loved for their permeable nature that will enlighten lives, households and generations to come.

Culture is an art. Paint your lives but don’t limit yourselves to the canvas, for what else is the earth and heavens made for.

Love,

-Tash.x

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