Dr. Bamadev Paudel
Founder, KarmaQuest International
In a chilly winter morning of March 11, 2011, motor city Detroit in the US was all set to say a goodbye to our four-member family after hosting us for more than five years and granting me a doctorate degree in hand which our entire Paudel family had ever dreamed of. We all four were so much excited to be united with near and dear ones after a long isolation in foreign soil, which came true after nearly thirty-six hours of flight, including transit hours, that was bound to the other side of the planet.
I joined my office at Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal, right on the next day as I had fully used up my granted leave during my study. The following days became gradually normal and life started setting in. One thing, however, was incomplete yet: I didn’t have chance to visit my birth place which was about four hundred kilometers away from my workplace in the capital city of Kathmandu. This came true on April 8, 2011 and we all four again headed down towards western part of the country, a region where all development indicators are well below the national average and yet in a country which has already registered its name under the category of world’s least developed countries.
The portrait of my birthplace, called Sewar Bangaun in Dang district, was brilliantly attached to my head with every topography in subtle memory. I was pretty excited to see all those back again after a long while. In contrary to my expectation, the virtual picture in the mind momentarily changed into a nightmarish reality after reaching the village when I confronted the reality on the ground. I had an expectation that the village must have achieved noticeable prosperity since the time I left it in August of 2003, but I found that the things had become even worse. This village nurtured my entire childhood and, most importantly, gave me a high school diploma and had opened up the avenue for my further study far away from home, but it was truly frustrating that the village itself couldn’t get chance to change its own profile since then. In particular, having seen the dilapidated school building, of which every nook and corner are still in my vivid memory, trembled my heart when I saw its roof leaking and window bars mostly broken. Then when traveling around the village, it was hard to find young individuals in any home because most of them had been to Middle East or South East Asia as working migrants seeking their better life in their families back home.
My acute curiosity was not much with village geography and the people I did not know much of due to a long absence but I was desperate to meet the people with whom I had spent most exciting moments back then in my childhood. I was able to find some but my particular interest was with Chamre, a nickname meaning sturdy (his true name was Bishnu Prasad Nepali but all called him Chamre), who remained very close to me during most part of my childhood life as his home was close to mine. I remember the moments when he never learned to be defeated. No one could dare to surpass him when directing a ball to the goal post in after-school soccer games, played with a ball made from discarded garments tightly tied together inside a sock. A moment when he won my fifty rupees (Nepalese currency), equivalent to about five-day full wage then, in a game called Khopi (a bunch of coins are thrown from a distance towards a hole and the opponent gives a choice to hit or touch a particular coin left outside the hole, if any, from a distance with a larger coin without touching others in order to win the bid amount) has never vanished off my head as I had received harshest punishment ever in my life that evening at home. During my visit this time, I found that he was living in unimaginable most destitute condition which led to a pressing question in my mind asking why such a brilliant boy had to be deprived of the decent life he truly deserved to live. Shortly, I was sure enough to conclude that one event during that time led to a dramatic turn in his life: his father decided to take him out from school to support his family livelihood. His father was a tailor from lower caste family and this family was living on meager earnings that his father’s profession was generating from services provided to village dwellers. His business was in constant threat from structural change that was taking place in his surroundings. People were switching from conventional designs that Chamre’s father could offer to the flourishing modern tailoring services tendered by the tailors in neighboring city center. At one point, the extending bellies of the children forced Chamre’s father in an acute problem of not being able to bring food on the table everyday and left him no options other than to drop Chamre from school as being failure to afford school fees and decided to receive Chamre’s helping hands to support his profession. Chamre’s life started heading down the hill since then.
What made Chamre’s life fall into such a miserable condition? The lack of his father’s enough and regular source of income. His father would have certainly sent him to school had he been assured of constant flow of twenty rupees a month during that time to pay his tuition fee, equivalent to nearly one and half US dollar then. I was lucky enough on that part to have been born in a lower middle income family in the village, thanks to my father’s regular source of income, which in fact helped me complete my high school very smoothly and also opened avenues for my successful careers in the future as well.
After returning from the village, a sense of responsibility kept me knocking down all the time which forced me to feel an urgent need of doing something for those who are lagging behind and who did not have the same opportunity as I did. While continuing the job with the bank, I started studying prominent books on development economics, including Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, White Man’s Burden by William Easterly, End of Poverty by Jaffery Sachs, Portfolios of the Poor by Darin Collins et al., to name a few, with highlights all over the text to pin down every dimensions of poverty these great books were trying to address. All of these readings along with my personal experience to have seen poverty from very close during my childhood led me to the conclusion that poor deserve regular source of income so that they wouldn’t have to worry about their children’s smooth development ahead, not like the situation Chamre’s father had to confront. I submitted my resignation for the job in December 2012 and started thinking about materializing an institution here in Canada with an objective of promoting the agenda of alleviating poverty through innovative approaches which finally led to the birth of KarmaQuest International.