Reconciling the East and the West, Harsh Mahaseth, Wordism, Runner Up, Falgun

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet -Rudyard Kipling

I describe myself as being rootless as I have tried to reconcile the ways of both the East and the West since my childhood. Due to my family’s constant migrations I never felt attached to one particular area or geographical location. Due to the ever-changing circumstances I was always in trying to adapt to the new environment and reconcile with the ways that I was brought up.

I was born in Manchester, England and I spent the first year in Manchester as my father pursued his education. For the next four years subsequently, my family shifted through various cities in England while my father worked. There were numerous variables throughout these five years, however only three things remained constant: my family, the televisions shows such as Pokémon and Power Rangers and the McChicken Burger that I adored oh so much as a kid. Upon reaching the age of 5, my family decided to return to Nepal and ever since we have settled in my parents’ birth country. The McChicken Burger disappeared from my life; while other things such as Power Rangers and Pokémon eventually reached the Nepalese airwaves in a couple of years, a McDonald’s joint never opened up in Nepal.

My entry into Nepal was culturally disorientating. The country of my parents’ birth was as foreign as the country of my birth was once to them. The difference between the western culture and the Asian culture, Nepalese culture to be specific, startled me. Even the readymade delicacies prepared in England were replaced by the home-cooked wonders of my mother; however, the longing for a McChicken Burger could not be satisfied even by the delicious food my mother made. In Nepal, Daal Bhaat, rice and lentils, is the dominant staple food and even though it is filling, delicious and nutritious it did not have the same marketing glory as the pre-packaged burger and its consistent flavor.

While the idea of seeing the McChicken Burger as the epitome of western civilization now seems laughable, it was one of the only parts of my childhood that I could relate with. I remember nagging and forcing my parents to cave in to my demands and go to a McDonalds when we visited India. I remember being entranced by the simple interior of a McDonalds, and squealing in delight when I caught sight of the burger. Despite the gradual perfection of Daal Bhaat I was bored with it. Nepal and its squalor, its unpredictability; it all irked me. For a long time, I didn’t accept Nepal as a part of my identity as even the School I studied in Nepal too initially rejected due to my struggle with the Nepalese language. I realized that I had to change with the changing times and so I decided to try adapting to the Nepalese culture.

With Nepali becoming my third language, English and Hindi being the first two, it took me a while to understand the language and grasp it. With the grasp of the language my friend circle grew as well and I slowly started to appreciate Nepal. I learned to enjoy the traditions that had been molded by a myriad of generations before me, the multiple festivals and their unlimited joy and energy, diversity of my country and the fact that there were no neighborhoods populated by only one ethnicity in Kathmandu, the relaxed pace of life, and ultimately, the food. Daalbhat may not have millions of marketing dollar spent on it, and it may not have worldwide dominance; however, it did have a sense of sincerity, and sported a humble palate of flavors that fed me, nurtured me and satisfied me.

While I am reunited with the McChicken Burger at this point in time, as I am currently studying in India, I do not find that same charm to it. Although I was immensely happy to eat it once again, it was an underwhelming experience. After migrating back to Nepal, I had been exposed to other experiences that equaled, and sometimes surpassed, the McChicken Burger. Deep inside, I still adored the McChicken Burger. However, I can now live without it.

Question and Answer with Harsh

1. Tell us more about yourself and why you wrote for the Wordism competition?

Born in Manchester, raised in Kathmandu and currently studying in Hyderabad. It is due to these constant changes that I wanted to write for the Wordism Competition.

2. What are your dreams and aspiration?

I plan on returning to Nepal and working in the area of Public International Law.

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