|Nepali architect - Arniko in Miaoying Temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
For the first time in its history, the Non Resident Nepali Association
has become a mass based organization in America. This is a major
milestone. Once the elections are over in a month, and people have the
option to become members again, it is estimated the number might hit
something like 10,000 to the current 4,000.
This makes the NRNA the largest Nepali organization in America, and
now there is no more need for another umbrella organization. There must be
a few hundred Nepali organizations across America, big and small. And
that is all good. But there was a need to have one organization that
brought everyone together from all parts of the country. That void has
Other than a large membership base, and perhaps more important, the
basic democratic process
seems to have taken root in the organization,
starting from the election process itself. When an organization has
4,000 members spread across America, you have no choice as a candidate
but to wage a decent campaign. You have to go out there and ask for
votes, or go online.
I like to joke, which is the most socio-economically backward ethnic
in NYC? Is it the Nepalis
, the Tibetans, or the Bhutanis?
is the poorest country outside of Africa, if Nepalis
are not number one from the bottom in NYC, the crowd has got to be
close to the bottom, there must be a pool of such ethnic groups.
How do you organize such people? Is it possible to buck the trend? As
in, could Nepal continue to be the poorest country outside of Africa,
but Nepalis in NYC organize themselves in such ways that the community
makes major advances as a group over a period of something like 10
I think that is possible. And turning the NRNA into a mass based
organization is key to any such attempt. It is not just about dual
. It is also about making socio-economic advances here
itself, right here in New York City
. Being better organized as a
community helps, and that is to do with applying the basic democratic
For the longest time it felt like the minuscule ANTA had more members
than the giant sounding NRNA. All that has changed. 2014 is proving to
be a watershed year for the organization.
When you move from 200 members to 4,000 members, that is a move in the
right direction. When members can register online, that is good. When
members can vote directly for those running for office, that is swell.
Online voting is a tremendous idea. A candidate creating a public
Facebook page elevates the conversation.
The issue of dual citizenship remains the top item on the agenda, as
yet the perennial unfulfilled goal. Politicians in Nepal are scared
shitless that if they were to allow the NRNs dual citizenship, some of
them might show up in Nepal to run for office, and then where are we?
I remember one Holi in the 1980s when all planets in the solar system
came to form one straight line, and that was supposed to be the end of
the world. Nothing happened. At the end of the last century, all
computers of the world were supposed to go haywire. Nothing happened.
There is nothing to fear and everything to gain from the dual
citizenship idea. In today’s globalized world Nepal has to think of
all members of its diaspora as its ambassadors. Like I like to say,
you can bring in Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) or you can keep
sending your workers out to Malaysia, Qatar, and where have you.
But then basic democracy is not enough. Recently I jotted down some
ideas as to what a new Madhesi organization in the city might look
like. Even with its recent love for basic democracy the NRNA will
remain an organization where ordinary members have nothing much to do
after they have paid their membership fee of 10 dollars and voted for
somebody. Then all activity shifts to the few dozen active ones. I am
not a big fan of that arrangement.
The basic building block of organizing Nepalis in the city has to be
the Home Meeting, perhaps once a month, about 10 member strong. The
emphasis has to be on helping more of the Nepalis who wish to come
over to the US
to come over, to help with the first phase of seeking
lodging and a job. Most of that gets taken care of informally right
now. Maybe there is room for something more organized. And then there
has to be major emphasis on people making $10 per hour or less to help
them get past that barrier. A lot of that might be to do with
education and training, much of which can be done online for cheap
these days. And there the social element can be a huge factor between
someone moving upward, or staying stuck in third gear.
I think the same basic model of organizing can also work for Nepalis
in the higher income brackets. In case you have not noticed, most of
the top earners among Nepalis meet regularly, and compare notes, and
help each other out.
The NRNA in NYC and in America should not just focus on the distant,
seemingly abstract goal of dual citizenship, important as it is, but
should primarily focus on helping its ordinary members advance
socio-economically locally. Part of that also is about being
efficient. Don’t get in the way of these Nepalis and the city itself
and all that it has to offer. When you put together disorganized
events that don’t have much focus or direction, you are basically
inviting people to show up and waste their time. They work crazy hours
for little pay. On their day off, they’d rather do laundry, or go
visit Times Square, than show up for your event.
Can you blame them?