Nepali Times
Nepali Society
The life of Ram

Here is an NRN story with a difference. Ram Sharma was a top student in his school in a small village in Gulmi. But his father died, and his mother could no longer take care of him. So, like a lot of other underprivileged children in that poverty-stricken part of Nepal, 11-year-old Ram left for Bombay to find work.

"There were no opportunities, I had to go where fate took me," Ram recalls, tracing the extraordinary drama of his life. He worked as a child domestic for a Sindhi family. Luckily, unlike many other Nepali children, they treated him well and encouraged him to study. He earned Rs 50 a month cooking, cleaning and selling newspapers, but sent all his savings home to his mother. Nine years later, at 20, Ram took up an offer to go to the Philippines to work as a cook for an Indian businessman. That is when his luck ran out.
His new employers had promised Rs 1,000 a month, but after five nightmarish years in Manila, not only did he not get any money, he was beaten, locked up and treated like a slave. "I thought of suicide, but I thought of my mother, and decided against it," Ram says. Unable to take the torture any longer, he escaped on new year's day 1990 with just five pesos (Rs 10) in his pocket. He struggled another few years at odd jobs, and found out that to regularise his immigration papers he needs to marry a Filipina. He went to the only woman he knew well who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and asked: "I don't have any money, you are the only friend I have, will you marry me?" She was taken aback, but moved by his sincerity, she agreed. Together, Ram began a new life managing an Indian restaurant on the Philippine resort island of Boracay. Today, Ram is part owner and executive chef at a fancy Indian restaurant called Rama Mahal at the former US naval base at Subic Bay, his wife is the manager at the restaurant and his 16-year-old son helps out.

The restaurant is popular among politicians, actors and Fedex pilots from the nearby airport. Ram has even trained a Filipino cook to do subctontinental food, and for the first time in 15 years this has made it possible for him to come home to Nepal to have a tearful reunion with his mother in Gulmi.

Ram is sad to see the violence and killings in his motherland, but thinks the country will come out of it. "It is just like the story of my life," says Ram, his eyes glistening with emotion. "Just when things look hopeless and dark, a tiny light shines through."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)