(Thapa, who hailed originally from a middle class family of the hilly district of Sankhuasabha, has completed his more than two decades old American journey with a note of success. When he looks back at his journey, he discovers that his life was full of “Jaljala” — name of the village where he was born and which means earthquake or flood. Still, he managed to survive and flourish with an outstanding level of hard work, commitment and dedication. From Jaljala to district towns of Khadbari and Chainpur, and then from Sankhuasabha district to Kathmandu and finally from Nepal to California, USA – Bhakta Thapa’s life has, indeed, been an adventurous journey in pursuit of truth and happiness, standing out as an inspiration for many.)
By Manoj Rijal, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA:- Bhakta Thapa never thought he would one day immigrate to the USA, as he had the dream of continuing his career in Nepal as a private attorney of law. In 1998, Bhakta Thapa filled out the Diversity Visa (DV) program amid pressure from peer groups to not let the opportunity escape without gain. He turned out to be a lucky person to get selected for a DV based permanent residence offer in the US.
Since the day Thapa landed in the west coast of the US in California state in 1999, his days and nights were not as rosy as he thought they would be.
“I had to struggle a lot for a livelihood and supporting my family in my initial years,” Thapa recalls. “I had to do a number of odd jobs.”
For a couple of months, Thapa could not find a job and after countless searches, he ended up doing a job in a gas station. His elder daughter was born in Nepal in 1998 and his younger daughter was born in the US couple of years later. Thapa’s wife also started working in a beauty salon focusing on threading. In 2002, Thapa couple managed to buy a house for themselves and after 4-5 years of working continuously, the husband and wife duo managed to save some money, so that they could start their own business.
In 2005, Thapa couple managed to open their own eyebrow threading business in Cerritos of Los Angeles County in California. As the business started booming, they expanded their business in five more places. Thapa couple were one of the first Nepalese to establish the business of eyebrow threading in California.
Thapa did not stop here as he ventured into the business of restaurant, gas station and liquor store as well. His hard work was paying him as he would record success after success in his business.
“America is really a land of opportunity. A person will definitely succeed if he is determined in what he is doing. What matters the most here is only a person’s hard work, dedication and continuity,” Thapa says.
Of late, owing to the slowdown of almost all businesses due to Covid-19 pandemic, Thapa is venturing into real estate business as well.
Besides his businesses, Thapa is also involved in social work. If any Nepali is in problem, Thapa is one of the earliest ones to reach out for help.
Thapa was the chairperson of Pashupati temple construction committee until he successfully completed the task and handed over the chairmanship to a new leadership.
“Initially, not even the banks were willing to fund the construction of a temple in the name of a non-profit. Me and some of my business community friends stood as the guarantors to purchase the land and construct the temple. We invited Pundit Dinbandhu Pokhrel from Nepal and organized mahapuran (Hindu worship) to woo donors, as we managed to have more than 1100 Nepali donors for the temple. I myself donated more than US $ 73,000 for the temple,” Thapa recalls.
Besides being a lifelong patron of the Pashupati temple foundation, Thapa is an active member and supporter in dozens of Nepali social organizations in Artesia, Norwalk and Cerritos areas of central and southern California.
“Social works or the construction of a temple are only the means to protect and preserve our language and cultural identity. With these activities, we’ve got a chance to show the city council and many government bodies that we have a strong Nepali community here,” Thapa says.
Fielding a query as to whether it was the right time for Nepali-Americans to participate in the mainstream of American politics, including the election of the rural and city councils along with the state legislature, Thapa stresses that this is the golden time for Nepalis for such activities.
“I would rather say this is the golden time for Nepalis to participate in the mainstream of American politics. We can see the progress of Harry Bhandari in Maryland and Pradip Dhakal in Virginia. They have won the elections there. We can repeat the same here in California as well,” Thapa says.
On the question of launching his own political career, as he has already worked in the city council, Thapa says time will decide everything.
“Politics is all about how much you can contribute and how much time you can dedicate. In American politics, continuity is the most important factor. You have to make sure your face, views and agenda are constantly flowing to the stakeholders and mass. You have to carry your agenda all the time and present them in the City council meetings, gathering of chambers, community gathering, town-hall and whenever you get a chance,” Thapa says.
On the question of whether he is contemplating about running for the city mayor’s post, Thapa says he is not yet in a position to say he would run for the city mayor’s office.
“However, if my friends from the Nepali community provide me encouragements, I cannot say that I will not run for the city mayor’s office in future,” Thapa clarifies. “Still, capable people should come forward in various cities, councils and state assemblies, while all Nepalese should support them.”
Thapa further underlines the need for the Nepalese diaspora in the US for an integration in the mainstream of US politics.
“We are 300,000 Nepalis in the US. We have highly educated friends and friends, who have prior job experience in the US. In addition, Harry Bhandari is setting up a Nepali diaspora team. He has formed branches in various states. His mission is to bring Nepalis in the mainstream of American politics from wherever it is possible. The most important thing is to convey our message to people as to why this task is important,” Thapa says.
“Nepal will also benefit from this. Nepal’s trade and tourism will get promoted if we promote Nepali diaspora in the American politics.”
On the question of Nepalis divided in the US on Nepal’s political party lines, Thapa says more involvement should be in the local politics, instead.
“Our future is America. But we can also promote Nepal being here in the US. It’s not necessary to involve in Nepal’s politics here. Though some friends are involved for assistance or network, we should not take it otherwise. However, our major focus here should be the integration of the Nepalese community in the US,” Thapa says.
“We should not be divided here on Nepal’s political lines. We have to think how we can promote Nepal’s language, culture, heritage, and tourism from the US. As we are based in the US, we want to make our children’s future here in the US. That’s why if we can manage time, it is better to involve in the local politics here, rather than in Nepal’s politics.”
Thapa, who hailed originally from a middle class family of the hilly district of Sankhuasabha, has completed his more than two decades old American journey with a note of success. When he looks back at his journey, he discovers that his life was full of “Jaljala” — name of the village where he was born and which means earthquake or flood. Still, he managed to survive and flourish with an outstanding level of hard work, commitment and dedication. From Jaljala to district towns of Khadbari and Chainpur, and then from Sankhuasabha district to Kathmandu and finally, from Nepal to California, USA – Bhakta Thapa’s life has, indeed, been an adventurous journey in pursuit of truth and happiness, standing out as an inspiration for many.
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