Every year at the Sherpa school because I do a fair amount of walking ,an older boy is provided as a guide/porter. The young man I had the most time for was Gelgee Sherpa. He was my guide two years ago. His story as much as I know it, is an every day story of why modern Nepal is taking so long to be born. There can be no moves without the support of the old families and they understandably want things to move in a certain way at a certain pace.
If ever there was a head boy it was Gelgee. Taller, fairer,better looking,better at English, he was it. He first came to the school aged 14 when his mother with five children just couldn’t cope. She offered him to the school to work in the kitchens and to run errands. The school took him on. Such are the family pressures at the bottom of the pile in village nepal that it is not unknown for mothers just to walk away from their brood.
He soon impressed the school’s principal especially when he said he didn’t want paying he just wanted an education. Gelgee moved on and up quickly. He graduated from the Sherpa School and went onto the State School where he was made head boy. He still lived at the Sherpa School. He tried for the Gurkhas-each year 30,000 go for the 300 places. On our walks together he was almost mobbed by well wishers,he had that easy charm.
The school had him ear marked. They would pay for his university education and he would come back and be the school manager. But life can play awful tricks. Good looking and popular Gelgee fell in love. Worse with a Brahmin,the real snooties of the wretched caste system.. Her family came to the school and demanded they intervene and stop such sacrilegious foolishness. The school was powerlessness The birds had flown the Kathmandu. Just as love birds in 19th century England would flee to the anonymity and opportunity of London ,Gelgee and his lover had caught the bus to the big and growing capital city.
They married,she was pregnant But the baby girl was born with complications. Gelgee’s job teaching computers couldn’t run to hospital bills. He turned once more to the family he had left. They helped. But with debts and soon the funeral of the baby to pay for Gelgee was in a big fix.
He has joined the diaspora-every fourth family in Nepal has someone working abroad. Five million have left forever. Gelgee now works in Malaysia. Some say its a good job in computers others say he is labouring. In the village they shake their heads and say,if only he had waited and played the game, instead of foolishly entering into that rare and dangerous union,the love match.