Inspiration may come from ordinary people

We don’t always need superstars and idols to inspire us. There are countless people who just do what they think needs to be done without craving for accolades or payback. And there are yet others who are born underprivileged but refuse to drown in self-pity and never look towards others for help. These are people born with unshakable dignity, self belief and their feet firmly on the ground. These people inspire others to follow suit.

Sometime ago I wrote about an elderly gentleman from a neighborhood known as Kutubahal where he leads his fellow tole dwellers by example. He doesn’t think anything of carrying a broom or whatever to keep the neighborhood clean but he doesn’t stop there and goes on to organize medical check-ups, religious events and more. Through his constant involvement, the neighborhood is spotlessly clean and anyone caught littering is likely to get chastised immediately. His influence is infectious and people around the tole are active when it comes to social issues. It goes without saying that he inspires the people of Kutubahal.

Then there are these incredible women from South India who have been living on the banks of the Bagmati for many years. Although they are rag pickers or should we call them plastic pickers, they live a decent life. Now they have grown up children who join them on their hunt for money-making plastics that litter this city and the backyards of offices and private homes which need to be recycled. The difference I find between these rag pickers and others who do the same for a living is their dignity. After a morning spent in search of plastics and other valuable refuse, they will break for lunch. Very often I find them sitting in respectable sweet shops like Kolkata Sweets in Gyaneshwar near the City Centre. Their bill regularly exceeds Rs. 400 and they eat with gay abandon, each one ordering her favorite sweet after the meal. They are well behaved, never talk too loudly nor do they misbehave with the staff. What impresses me most however, is the way they sit there ordering their food with a lot of dignity, regardless of what they do for a living. They could just as easily have turned to begging but they chose to earn by working hard. And they seem to be doing a darned good job. They will always have my respect.     

Some young people inspire you by the way they carry themselves and how they go about doing their job and even going beyond the call of duty. I went to a small restaurant in Kamaladi where some of my staff used to while away their spare time. I discovered this very young girl who works as a cook but she takes it upon herself to come out to meet customers. Most often she takes orders, goes in to cook and then serves herself even though she could wait for someone else to deliver; all with a smile on her face. She will smile at customers and even make light conversation but never in a flirtatious manner which is why I never saw anyone trying to get too friendly with her. With a pleasant personality, she carries herself well and exudes a certain depth of character which is unusual in someone so young and working from a cramped kitchen. After one visit she remembered the kind of tea I drank and once on a particularly busy day, my cup of tea arrived very late and was delivered by the helper kid. But she later came out and said, “Today your tea was late no?” It just amazes me the way she lights up the place with her attitude and that smile on her face. She inspires me.

I’m sure some people remember the simple, poor lady who would stand at the crossroads in Samakhusi below the British Cemetery. Most of the day she would be there voluntarily controlling traffic like a traffic cop. But she was so skilled at it that she commanded great respect from even the despicable micro drivers. Nobody dared go against her instructions and traffic flowed smoothly as long as she was there. Sadly I never got to know who she was but she would be there almost every day in her sari, waving her arms vigorously. She just took it upon herself to make life easier for all drivers along that route. I no longer go there and I wonder if she’s still around, but I’ll never forget her!

I admire Maggie Doyne for the incredible work she has been doing in a remote part of Surkhet. In fact she’s changed the landscape there by establishing not only Kopila Valley Children’s Home and Kopila Valley School but a Health Clinic and Women’s Center, a vegetable garden and more, giving employment to many Nepalis from various walks of life. A whole community has grown around Kopila Valley. She was an ordinary 18-year-old girl traveling through Surkhet when she came upon little village kids breaking stones to earn money. She vowed she’d get them off the roadside and put them inside schools. She came back with her personal savings of $5000 and set up a school for the children she had encountered. The school has grown and text books have been replaced by laptops and the rest is history. Yes, she’s famous now having won the CNN Hero Award but she was just an ordinary young American girl who had an extraordinary amount of compassion. We should all stand up and applaud her. Very little has been written about her in the local press. I remember reading a piece in The Nepali Times but most of the news about Doyne is a re-printing of news from foreign media; and no word of her receiving any local awards. I wonder what one has to do to get recognition. Did Col. Jimmy Roberts receive any awards for single handedly starting the trekking industry in Nepal in the 1960s? In fact Col. Roberts pioneered commercial trekking in the world.

There are many ordinary people out there who did or are doing extraordinary work, never seeking the limelight, genuinely helping those in need and I salute them. Some people who come to mind are: the young people who slept in tents out in Sindupalchok to help earthquake victims, Juju Kaji who spends most of his time doing social work and Indira Ranamagar who started looking after children who were living in jails with their imprisoned parents.

Indira Ranamagar may never have hogged the limelight but she was the first to take care of children of criminal parents living in jails. She started a non-profit organization called Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal in 2000. From an early age, Ranamagar took a keen interest in the welfare of prisoners and their families. In the early 1990s, she was already visiting jails. Working with various social projects she became familiar with their plight and started the foundation to help them. This led to the founding of four children’s homes, two schools and various other social projects that aided helpless prisoners and their children. On 22nd October 2014 she was awarded the World’s Children’s Honorary Award by Queen Silvia of Sweden. Indira was born into a poor family in rural Nepal and unable to attend school but learned to read and write by scrawling letters in the dust with a stick. Pushpa Basnet started her own organization The Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in 2005, to provide a day care program for the children of parents incarcerated in Nepal’s jails. Ranamagar was soon forgotten and Basnet went on to become CNN Hero in 2012 and then was awarded CNN Super Hero in 2016.

There are so many people around us who inspire others by just being themselves or by helping others in need, by taking a path less traveled or by choosing to make a difference. The least we can do is show our appreciation.

Pull Quote

  1. These are people born with unshakable dignity, self belief and their feet firmly on the ground. These people inspire others to follow suit.
  2. Some young people inspire you by the way they carry themselves and how they go about doing their job and even going beyond the call of duty