LaLa Tharu and his wife Sunkeshari wanted a son, they ended up with 9 daughters. This was one of the first things Lala told me once we met. When my friend and translator Krishna and I arrived at his house many of his girls were running in and out of the house.
While Lala does not hide his disappointment at not having a son, he also does not hide his pride at the way his daughters have grown up. Five daughters have already finished High School and four are married. He has two more daughters in High School and two in middle school. They are all doing well, working hard and making their parents very proud.
Putting 9 daughters through High School is no small feat for a man from a rural village in Nepal and Lala has needed help. Luckily one of his daughters was awarded a scholarship from a NGO doing education support, and Lala himself found a government job.
Government jobs are extremely sought after in Nepal, and very competitive to receive, everyone knows that so the obvious question seemed to be, how did Lala get the job? Lala clearly likes this question and quickly explains that there is a good story behind his current job. Before he tells us the story though Lala insists we accept the traditional hospitality of the Tharu culture. Visitors to a Tharu home are shown hospitality with chili chicken and the local home brewed alcohol. Krishna and I tried to protest, but Sunkeshari is too good of a host to listen to embarrassed guests.
Once are bellies have been warmed by the chili, and our faces glow slightly red from the alcohol, Lala begins to tell us about his job. He is an administrative assistant for a district level irrigation project. He has no experience with irrigation or water projects, and he is a farmer, not an educated man. He was able to secure this job through foresight and opportunism. He received the job through the endorsement of a local politician.
During the local elections Lala had decided to support this candidate. Lala led local initiatives to advocate for this local politician, and when his candidate was successful he was in line for some support. At the end of his story Lala says something that results in both he and Krishna losing themselves in several minutes of laughing. It took a minute before I received a translation of the joke, Lala had said “You have been in Nepal a long time, but if you really want to understand how this country works my story is all you need to hear.” It is about who you know and what you can do for them. I was still curious, so I started asking about politics and which party he supported assuming that his political affiliations had introduced him to the candidate who he supported so effectively. This question brings another smile to Lala’s face, “Politics?” he says, “I do not have time for politics, I have nine daughters to raise.!”
Posted By Mark Koenig
Posted Aug 26th, 2007