05 November 2008

Characters > Bhoj Raj

Bhoj Raj G/aut/am is a fascinating creature that I see daily at work. He is very affectionate, highly intelligent, looks like he is about to cry just about most of the time, says thankyou one or two more times than necessary in a single conversation, is a Brahmin (very high caste status), can go by the nickname of Bhoju - although I am not prepared to get that familiar with him, lest he start trying to hold my hand in public- and is probably not quite as good at English as he thinks he is. This is fine, as my Nepali is a long way short of his English, I'm just setting the scene here.

Bhoj Raj, as has been pointed out before has appointed himself the "Rob Nepali Guru" meaning, he tries to teach me Nepali. Usually, this results in him saying things to me very quickly and pausing meaningfully while waiting for me to respond. This usually results in a 20 minute conversation where I mainly try and work out exactly which is the new word he is trying to teach me, as it is not either clear or easy to pronounce. Any attempt to get him to repeat a sentence prompts some kind of cognitive reset function resulting in him saying something completely different with no memory of having said something different 10 seconds before.

Today he told me his love story. "You and I are very alike Rob-ji," he starts, "we are both very young to be married, and both our wives are NURSES!" OK, so I lied when I got here, telling everyone that my girlfriend was actually my wife. Something I did on the advice of some Nepalis living in Australia who suggested it would "just be easier" when she comes to visit. Unfortunately, that won't be for a bloody long time, and in the meantime I have to keep together this web of lies that not only had us married before we started going out, but involves a honeymoon in Thailand (a place I have never been to) and means that I pretend to actually own a home.

Me: Are you in an arranged marriage? (FYI, options are love marriage or arranged marriage - about 50/50)
BR: NO NO! I am in a love marriage. But the story around my wedding is very strange.

The short of it is that Bhoj Raj met his wife, Urmila, while working at a hospital in Pokhara, over time they got to know each other rah, rah, rah. Where this gets interesting is around the point where Urmila's parents start to look for a good husband to set her up with. They found a nice chap. A businessman I believe that might or might not have known something about engineering.

She refused to marry him saying that she was in love with somebody else. You can almost see the scene now can't you? Demanding to know who it was, Urmila's father set out on a mission to discover more about the mysterious (and in my opinion over-friendly) ophthalmic assisstant.

You see, although you might not quite understand it, I most certainly don't, Nepal works (less and less nowadays, but it exists nevertheless) on a caste system. I haven't got a great grasp on it except to say that if you are a Brahmin, then you are pretty much ok, you have quite a lot of status, are likely to be able to afford education and won't be going begging. What I did not understand is that even among the various castes, there are ranks. Although Urmila is also a Brahmin [YAY], unfortunately poor Bhoj Raj is a lower rank than her [poo].

Her parents refused to allow her to see him and demanded that he come and see them alone. Afraid that they would be waiting with a bevvy of large brutish family members to do him an injustice, he refused to go unless he could take friends. As I understand it (and I am sure I have got part of this wrong) eventually they came to the conclusion that they could be together only if BR agreed to marry her the next day at temple, or the whole thing was off and Urmila's father would not take part in it at all.

It was 2pm in the afternoon and BR wasn't expecting this particular development. He had no money for a dowry (also required) and none of his relations knew anything about this. Apparently he went crazy that afternoon, finding special clothes, contacting relations to tell them about the wedding and borrowing some money and or gifts for a dowry. And the next day they were married. That was back in February, and unfortunately she is in Pokhara for now and he in Kathmandu.

He really is a character and always has a smile on his face (if it does look like he is also about to break out in tears).

[on the left - yes, the over-affectionate one]


Hil said...


a beautiful and random story.

red spotted eggplant.

Amy xxoo said...

Aww, that pic is too cute!

Also, Bhoj Raj sounds like a sweetheart - maybe a bit nutty, a little too touchy-feely, but he sounds like a good man to have as a friend over there...

Tamara said...

Are the Nepalese touchy-feely in general? Or is it just your friend Bhoj Raj?

po said...

Talk about a last minute wedding! Hectic.

Dash said...

the boys are very touchy feely. like extremely so, shake someone's hand and they might not give it back. Call me judgemental, but I believe its in relation to the very complicated relationship that men adn women have. even married couples are not seen physically intimate in public.

Men make up for it by being physically .... connected.... with other men.

But yes, Bhojaraj kind of takes it to the next level..

Isa said...

It's quite similar in Tonga, with the whole men and women don't do public displays of affection, as well as the "say you're married to make it easier" approach.

Well, I thought I'd tell a half-truth and say we were engaged, as a way of explaining my own relationship back home. Too bad I actually then got engaged FOR Real, and then had to act all nonchalant at work the next day, ha ha!

Though I didn't go as far as inventing real estate ownership or a honeymoon in Thailand - have you had to do any photo-shopping to create a "wedding photo" yet??

Tim said...

ooooooh kissy kissy kissy!