Nepali Times Asian Paints
London Eye
The need to belong


A small school 40 miles from London on a cold, dark and rainy night after Christmas might seem an unlikely setting for a celebration of Nepali culture and comedy, but this year Oak Farm Community School was the venue for a typical concert which seems so appealing to the UK edition of the Nepali diaspora. Like bees to the honey pot, Nepalis from all over London and the South of England braved the winter elements and swarmed Farnborough, excited to watch the famous comedy duo act and to bring some warmth to their heart.

In the UK, cultural events like this are becoming a common occurrence and Farnborough always is a must visit place for such touring 'charity' events due to the large concentration of Nepalis in the area. The format at such events is usually always the same, a basic hall with no frills shows where families and friends 5,000 miles from home take the opportunity to meet up and share a little of the Nepali cultural warmth and replenishment in the cold English climate.

There is always some VIP or film star from Kollywood (probably now living in the UK) ready to regale us with their back catalogue for the community to laugh, dance and to be magically transported back to their families and their past lives in Nepal.

The Nepali community lacks the close knit strongholds and proximity enjoyed by other communities such as the Bengalis in the UK. It is often necessary for Nepalis, (whether students, professionals or lahures) to travel great distances in order to attend these kinds of celebrations. However, the comfort of ones' own culture and the need to belong can have a strong magnetic pull when one is in a foreign land. It can be a business opportunity for some in the community. There is some financial incentive for putting on shows, as a large audience is always assured, no distance or indeed cost (most programs now charge ?15 a ticket) seems too much for the Nepali community to bear. This is because these programs satisfy our need for a cultural fix. The UK has many positive factors (honest), but to a Nepali far from home, the UK can be a cold and unwelcoming place.

I heard a man bemoaning the lack of decorations on the stage. "Shows in the past used to use a colourful curtain with the sun shining down on the mountains and hills, a river running past a village in the foreground," he went on. For him, these nights are about recalling an idealistic image of the homeland, much in the same way British tourists dream of Shangri-La. For many like him, there is an inherent need for cultural identity and sense of belonging. That is why concerts (many mediocre) like these are there to satisfy a need. This demand has been expertly tapped by some entrepreneurial Nepali individuals, but one wonders if it could not also be tapped for a more altruistic and noble purpose.

They need not be just nostalgic meanderings, but used to promote awareness of 'disappeared' Nepalis, or those who have died needlessly in a vindictive and violent struggle for power. We could do more to support those friends and relatives who continue to live in the shadow of this war. The Nepali community should not content itself with having merely financial influence back in Nepal, it is capable of so much more. In this new year, when the need for peace in Nepal has never been greater, Nepalis in the UK must learn to face the reality of what happens far away in their home villages and towns, and we must all take responsibility for seeing that peace can return there.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)