SHYAM MOHAN SHRESTHA has been serving as the President of Nepal-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 1996. It works to strengthen the trading and social relations between Nepal and France. He has retired after working for Air France for 35 years as a manager having traveled to France nearly 400 times. A recipient of the prestigious Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honor, he is also an hotelier who not only built the resort Mirabel, but was the person who did the landscaping and interior design. He was also the one who developed the concept behind the resort.
His daughter, CECILE ANN SHRESTHA currently resides in New York City. Born in Nepal, she is the Managing Director of PLAN PARENTHOOD Federation of America. She talks about her father in a short interview with Living:
Your father has written a book entitled “Kathmandu-Paris-Kathmandu Bus Ra Rail Yatra”. Have you read it? What do you think about the book?
I haven't read the book yet. I will read the English version when it comes out. (The English version of the book is in the process of being published.) But I know my Dad is very passionate about the book and has loved sharing his experiences in it. I have also read rave reviews about it by some prominent people in Nepal. I think it's great that he documented his life and travels, because it's definitely a colorful narrative with many interesting stories and it's unique as well. Especially for a young Nepali man to travel overland in the early 70s and then to share his life with an American woman, who grew up in a small town in the US. What a story!
How would you describe him?
My dad is a multi-layered, complex man. His work ethic and ambition are admirable given he came from such humble beginnings. He built such a life for himself. His appreciation of aesthetics in his culinary tastes, architecture, culture, and travel are really unique and showed us an appreciation for the finer things in life from a very young age.
How has he shaped your life? Tell us about the defining moments.
My dad taught and showed me work ethic, and the importance of perseverance and resilience. He literally never gave up no matter what the obstacles and challenges were. Resilience is a talent and a skill but also something you cultivate. My ability to persevere despite adversity comes from my dad. There are so many moments where I think life knocked down both of us, but we always bounced back. This takes a lot of strength and grit.
What are the traits in him that you feel you have inherited?
I have inherited my dad's smarts. He didn't necessarily get the best education or got to go to, for example, Princeton or Harvard University, but it doesn't really matter, because I think I've inherited his street smarts and book smarts. With that foundation and hard work, one can achieve anything.
What are the traits in him that you wish you had inherited?
His fearlessness! I have some irrational fears about traveling or flying or these things that come with experience and age, but my dad seems unfazed. He just keeps on traveling and keeps on exploring, like he still wants to jet off to these kinds of scary places. It amazes me.
In the book, there were parts where his love relations and romance were included. What do you think about that?
I refrain from commenting on this question. Or if you want me to comment, I'd say, "I think that my mom Kathy is the best thing that ever happened to my Dad."
Do you have fond memories with him that you recall? Tell us about it.
Traveling together! We have taken some wonderful trips to these incredibly beautiful places like the south of France, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, and Monaco. I also loved our trip to Moscow, Russia; it was fascinating. We both like to cook and we really find it enjoyable. We both love to have an aperitif before dinner. There are many memories of our nights in Paris and more recently, New York, where we'd cook and drink together.
How does it feel to live so far away from your father?
It still feels close because of technology and he calls in once a day. So it doesn't feel so distant. Also, my father is a travel extraordinaire and he travels often so it never feels like he's too far away.
If you were to travel to a place and write a book, which place would you like to go to and why?
I can't choose. South Africa, Argentina, and New Zealand are on the top of my list. I've been fortunate enough to travel the world, but I'm really drawn by these countries currently. I think they would be culturally fascinating and also aesthetically beautiful. I'd like to take my family, and experience it with my partner and daughter some day.
Did you ever feel the pressure to come to Nepal and help him out in his business?
Yes and no. At the end of the day, my Dad has supported my choices, my independence, and my ambition. He knew that my education, experience, and global perspective would land me in a place like New York with a very fulfilling and meaningful high profile career.
Since he has achieved so much, do you feel the pressure to do something as remarkable as him?
Yes and no. I'm my father's daughter, so I definitely inherited his desire for ambition and success. I know I'll do big things and that doesn't concern me. I'm already on that path with my current career trajectory in NYC, and there's no rush to become a CEO. It is going to happen when the time is right. I feel pretty fortunate to have lived around the world, and been exposed to the education, travel, and experiences that I’ve had.
Do you feel your father is underrated or overrated in Nepal? And why?
I think, given his upbringing and what life dealt him at a young age, my Dad is an extraordinary man. He was not handed a silver platter at all and he has worked hard to achieve everything he has. That's commendable. Some have their privileges and power handed to them with no work or effort. He certainly worked hard for everything he has achieved.
What do you miss about him the most?
Memorable father-daughter moments like strolling in NYC and having a laugh about something ridiculous. He says very funny things, and sometimes he does it on purpose just to get a rise out of you.
Do you get special treatment because of him? Can you share some instances?
Only in Nepal! I definitely got special treatment in certain circumstances with certain people. I'm very aware of that, but I take it all with a grain of salt and grace, because at the end of the day, I know connections and power only take you so far. I learned to work for my own success without special treatment, and that's how I've managed to be successful in other places.
You must have visited your father at frequent intervals in Nepal. What changes have you seen in Nepal?
Well, Nepal is home. It's become much more progressive and open minded over the years. Women and other marginalized groups are much more empowered and aware of their rights, and in their demands for justice. Nepal has always intrigued people from all walks of life and I think that will never actually change. Nepal has always been a special, sacred place for me and it will always be.
What would you like to say to those who are reading his book?
Enjoy it and read with an open mind.
"My dad taught and showed me work ethic, and the importance of perseverance and resilience. He literally never gave up no matter what the obstacles and challenges were".