CHICAGO: When Bala Ghimire, a successful Nepali American entrepreneur and social worker in Chicago, recalls his past, he cannot resist his brimming vivid memories as to how he used to hassle everyday just to go to school and come back home.
Bala’s home was at a hamlet called Khana in a hilly district of Arghakhanchi in western Nepal. There were no schools around, where he could enroll as a seventh grader. The nearest school was at a three-hours walking distance. No public vehicle would ply in that area, nor a private vehicle could be owned because of financial constraints. There were actually no pitched roads at all, where the public or private vehicles would ply. The only means by which a student would reach the school was by walking on foot.
“It would take six hours for me just to go to school in the nearby Hansapur village and come back home,” recalls Bala.
Bala made this a daily habit for himself for four years to wake up early in the morning, rush for his meal and then run for the school by seven, so that he could reach the school in time. It would already be dark when he would manage to return home in the evening walking through the forests and the scary no-settlement areas.
During summer, the sun would not have set so early and he would enjoy walking in the twilight back home. However, during winter, when the days are short, the evenings would be entirely dark that would turn him jittery and give him some second thoughts to get back home. He would then stay in the nearby school hostel and return to home only occasionally.
The winter would also bring the cold breezes that would make it much difficult to walk a distance for three hours twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.
And then the rainy season would drop in with the burst of human blood sucking worms, the leeches. They would fall from the tree branches on one’s head or shoulders or stick to one’s legs from the ground and start sucking blood. Once they would stick to one’s body, they wouldn’t leave without being fully fed. Once they would have gone, the body part where they were stuck, would start itching so badly one would end up scratching non-stop and start a fresh bleeding oneself.
Braving the winter, long distance, rain and the leeches, Bala completed his four years in the school as a 10th grader pass-out. His brothers used to live in New Delhi, India and they called him to complete his School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams from there. Bala then decided to join his brothers and left for New Delhi.
Bala not only completed his SLC, but also received his Master’s Degree from New Delhi. He also became active in politics, as he would contribute to Nepal’s democratic movement from India, being a member of the Association for Nepali Expats (Prabashi Nepali Sangh). Police would baton him several times for his involvement in the movement and he was also detained for three times.
Bala then returned to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu from New Delhi and continued his engagement in politics for three years, especially being active in the electoral constituency of former prime minister Manmohan Adhikari.
In 1997, Bala decided to fulfill his American dream and landed in New York, famous as the economic capital of the world and one of the largest cities for expats from all over the world. Bala, however, couldn’t last long in New York, as he decided to move for Chicago after one month’s stay in New York.
The initial days in the United States of America were not easy for Bala. As he had no papers, he had to hide himself to engage in a work and eke out a living.
“In the beginning, I worked in a restaurant hiding myself, amid the feeling of anxiety and fear. The struggle of life was more clear to me when I worked in others’ restaurants without papers for three years,” Bala says.
He, however, wouldn’t give up.
In 2000, his application for the green card (permanent residency) was approved. For four more years, he worked in others’ restaurants, so he could save some money. In 2004, he along with his like-minded friends, set up a restaurant called Curry Hut in Chicago. For a man destined to become successful, the restaurant business really started picking up and in 2008, he opened his own Chicago Curry House in the downtown. In 2013, he came up with Nepal House 1 and in 2016, he set up one more restaurant – Nepal House 2. Bala now owns three successful restaurants in Chicago, all because of his hard work, perseverance and the dedication.
Born in 1967 in a modest family, Bala was the fifth of the seven sons of his father Rabilal and mother Sumitra. Bala lives with his wife Kamala and sons Bishal and Kushal in Chicago. Along with his restaurant business, Bala is also popular as a social worker among the Nepali expats. He used to involve in social works simultaneously with his business and in particular, he has been actively involved in various social organizations and their activities since 2005.
Since 2009 to date, Bala is a member of the Advisory Council of the Chicago City’s Mayoral Office. Likewise, since 2009 to date, he is involved in the Secretary of State’s Advisory Council. Because of his engagement in social works, Bala has also received a certificate of honor signed by the then President of the USA, Barack Obama. Besides, he has received Community Service Award of the American Advisory Council and Asian Exemplary Service Award of the Asian Chronicle America.
Bala has also developed access to local U.S. politicians and has been involved in various social and political activities for the benefit of the Nepali community.
In 2010, he was a central member in the Association for Nepalis in the Americas (ANA), which is one of the oldest organizations of Nepalis in the U.S. Bala also worked as a treasurer for Nepalese Association in South-West America. For 2016-18, he was the president of the Association of Nepalese in Mid-West America, to which he was a member since 2010.
In 2018, Bala successfully convened a joint conference of three Nepali organizations – Association for Nepalis in the Americas, Nepalese Association in South-West America and Association of Nepalese in Mid-West America, as the convenor.
Since 2016, Bala has been working as a tourism envoy of Nepal government promoting Nepal’s art, culture, food, tourism and more importantly, the image of Nepal. Besides working in Lions Club and Rotary Club, Bala also worked in the Human Relations Committee of Chicago for around five years. He further worked as the senior vice president of the Forum of Nepali Expats (Prabasi Nepali Manch) from 2014 to 2017.
Bala was a member of the Non-Resident Nepalis Association – International Coordination Committee (NRN-ICC)’s Citizenship Task Force and a co-convenor in the Association’s Humanitarian Committee. He is now working as a co-convenor for the Policy and Processing Committee of the Association.
In the U.S., Bala has helped a number of Nepalis in the past at the time of their difficulties. Similarly, he has also helped Nepal or Nepalis living there at the time of disasters or the acute necessities.
“I have not maintained any mathematics or a list of my humanitarian assistance. I did not help them just to come up with a list or to publicize what I have done or to get benefit from others,” Bala reiterates.
“I will continue helping others as long as my capacity allows me to do that. I will continue engaging myself in the humanitarian and social sectors for the welfare of the Nepali community,” he adds.
From the days of attending school by walking for six hours a day to a position of a successful businessman and an adviser of a mayor in the United States of America, Bala sets an extra-ordinary example of patience, life, survival and positivism to all the Nepali expats.
He has done his work, rest is upon others to follow suit.
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