Community radio: Namaste Nepal - a greeting from Nepal

(caption for the above picture: Binod Parajuli and You Kumari Gurung)

New Zealanders have an automatic connection to Nepal through the conquest of_ Mt Everest on May 29, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary and a Nepali Sherpa, Tenzing.

Many Kiwis are also aware of the Gurkha soldiers of Nepalese nationality whose motto is “Better to die than to be a coward.”

“The Ghurka were an integral part of UK military and there are even some in the Indian army,” says Binod Parajuli, who talks about many aspects of Nepalese culture, music and news on the Plains FM96 radio programme, Namaste Nepal, every Monday at 8pm, with a repeats on Thursdays.

Funded by the Nepal-New Zealand Friendship Society Canterbury, Namaste Nepal has been broadcast by Plains FM since April 2007, with Binod presenting and looking after production of the programme for the past five years.

Namaste is the customary courtesy greeting to begin with, and often to end with, when we meet people we know or strangers with whom we want to initiate a conversation. That’s why our radio show is named Namaste Nepal. It is the best way to share our greetings with people who live Christchurch,” says Binod.

Also regularly on the show is You Kumari Gurung. Among the many cultural activities covered by the two is the wide variety of festivals held in Nepal and ways to celebrate them in Christchurch.

These include the Dashain festival in October, which is devoted to worshipping Durga, the goddess of power and strength. There is also the tradition of worshipping Kumari, a young living goddess who is chosen as a manifestation of the divine female energy, or devi, in Hindu religious traditions.

Nepal also has its own Fathers Day and Mothers Day. There is a women’s festival, Teej; and New Year celebrations in April. Buddha’s birth anniversary, known as Buddha Jayanti, is celebrated in May.

Binod considers Nepalese culture is to be totally different to that of India. Although most Nepalese follow Hinduism as their religion, Buddhism and other faiths are also practised there.

“There are about 125 ethnic groups in Nepal and all have their own language, although Nepali is the common one. Our radio programme is spoken in Nepalese, with some English,” says Binod.

“There were only about 100 Nepalese in Christchurch when the programme started 10 years ago. Now, there are more than 600.

“Most of them could speak English when they first came here but there are still a lot of local things that they have to learn. Recently, we had a young Nepalese woman on the show who recalled her difficulties when she first came here as an eight-year-old – what happened at school and at the supermarket,” says Binod.

For immigrants, it can be very much a struggle to look for support, learn to drive, get a job, understand what their IRD number is. Some even have to learn to adapt to the climate.

“With settling in, how you do it is all up to you. We try to help people connect to the local society and keep them up to date with what is happening in Christchurch,” says Binod.

Namaste Nepal connects local Nepalese people and their activities to Nepalese societies all over New Zealand and abroad. Binod also appreciates the support received by Nepalese in New Zealand in connecting the two countries.

“There was a bad earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, which took about 10,000 lives. The good thing is that we got tremendous support and help from throughout New Zealand,” says Binod.

“Even in the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, we had people knocking on our door here, offering food and water, and asking if we were OK. We may be foreigners but we are still accepted here.”

Namaste Nepal is also listened to by people in South Africa, the United States, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Belgium, and wherever Nepali reside around the globe, via podcast from the Plains FM Website, www.plainsfm.org.nz

- Hans Petrovic