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The Flag waves, duty calls
On the morning of August 15, 2003, I awoke to the alarming sound of gunshots. A moment of sinister silence followed; my skin tightened, and in the dark corners of my mind I could already envision what had just taken place. With tears impairing my sight and fright impeding my thoughts, I speedily stumbled and staggered my way down the stairs, out of the house, and onto the road. The scene I saw there that morning changed my life.
On the indifferent dirt road, in a pool of blood lay the body of my uncle, dead. Three young Maoist rebels had just taken the life of this army colonel outside his own house. Lying flat on the street, he had died in the same uniform that his father and grandfather before him had once worn for their country. Weak and still breathless, I stood there watching as the rest of the family, army-men, and pedestrians dragged his motionless corpse into the army jeep, hoping against hope that he would come back to life. The three bullets in his chest not only killed my uncle that morning, but they also killed the future of his children, the aspirations of his family, and his dreams of one day becoming a general like his father. The ongoing bloody rivalry between the people of Nepal and the revolutionary Maoist extremists, who have been using violence in trying to usurp democracy, had found another victim.
As I walk the rugged and cramped streets of Kathmandu, I often reminisce about a place far away, a place where I spent my childhood, New York City. The son of a Nepalese diplomat, I was raised in a world that seems very distant today. The wide streets of Manhattan, the extravagantly expensive Fifth Avenue shopping malls, the idyllic smells of Central Park in the winter, hotdogs in the summer, and the nonchalance of childhood; all just memories now of a life I used to know. It is different here in Kathmandu. Insurgency, poverty, and political unrest are a part of everyday life.
Yet, in these imperfections I find inspiration. I will never forget optimism in the eyes of a crippled boy from Markhu who trekked and limped his way to school, half a mile every morning without shoes. I will never forget the sight of famished street children in my neighborhood as they fought for scraps of food on the road. I will never forget the damp room in the cancer hospital in Chitwan, which housed the dying patients who couldn't afford their own treatment. And I will never forget the tears shed in my own family over the death of an innocent man. Throughout my childhood I saw the beautiful side of life, then the darker side, and today I've ended up with far more questions than I have answers for.
At a time of crisis when their country needs them the most, the talented and the educated are quickly leaving Nepal with no intention of coming back. Without capable and well-educated leaders, this place, already among the poorest in the world, is headed towards a great tragedy. As I gazed into the puddle of blood that humid August morning, I realized my country was also bleeding. As I leave Nepal for my education I will forever carry the horrific scars from that morning, engraved and etched in my mind. My uncle and many others like him fought for years against the Maoists on behalf of the Nepalese people; in the end, they sacrificed their lives in an attempt to restore peace and prosperity. With the education and experience, I receive I will also serve my dying nation, whether it's in politics, government service or any other way. One day I will return to the same hectic Kathmandu streets, to the same dirt roads where my uncle lost his life, and I will complete the task that he and thousands like him could not.