â€œChange, 200 yen.â€
â€œThanks.â€ I grabbed a mint from next to the register. Good Indian food was hard to come by in Japan but this restaurant impressed. My friends werenâ€™t finished bringing the car around so I decided to make small talk.
â€œAre you from India?â€
â€œNo, Nepal.â€ The car horn sounded and I quickly thanked the cashier before stepping out the door.
That was back in early 2007, so shortly after the monarchy relinquished control of the government to a Maoist/democracy group alliance. At the time I knew next to nothing of the news from Nepal and so the cashier didnâ€™t make much of an impression, but now I canâ€™t stop wondering why this Nepalese man was serving curry in Japan. The-glass-is-half-full side of my imagination likes to think he worked days at the used car import businesses down by the dock and came here at night just for supplementary income. Maybe he met a lovely Japanese woman on holiday, got married and opened the restaurant to make full use of his talents. The more realistic explanation is that he is one of the hundreds of thousands of Nepalese displaced by the civil war. Now I wonder what his story would have been. Was he a former Maoist guerrilla that wasnâ€™t incorporated into the Army because of caste discrimination? Did he give information to the Army about Maoist activity and faced retribution once the rebel fighters came back through? A loyal Monarchist who wanted to leave Nepal now that the king was deposed? I missed my chance to ask questions and hear a story that night but now with this trip I have a chance to redeem myself by listening and learning about peopleâ€™s experiences and inspirational ways theyâ€™ve made it through the war.