For a country as small as Nepal, it's home to one of the world's most diverse and richest cultures. The country is made up of 125 different castes for people groups and 123 different local languages. It's not surprising that just by walking the streets and trails, we learn something new everyday! Each caste or people group have their own culture and that culture has its own sub-culture. That's a lot of culture for a country so small!
But despite all of the differences, something binds them together and make them all collectively "Nepali".
"Ke garne?" (KAY-GAR-NAY) literally translates to "What to do?" in English. It's a simple phrase and a rhetorical question. If you've visited Nepal, you've probably heard it many times and if you're planning for a visit, we'd suggest to jot it down your notebook before you come! It is the perfect depiction of the laid-back, no-stress culture that premeates deep even into the sub-cultures of Nepal.
Here's a few example of how you might use it:
The light's are out for 2 days straight... Ke garne?
There's a sudden strike bringing all your plans to a halt...Ke garne?
A motorist carrying basket full of live chickens got a little too close for comfort while driving, almost taking you out...Ke garne?
A simple shrug while uttering this cliché phrase might have different interpretations for different situations. It can be used when cheap trekking shoes are torn mid-hike, or a person cannot adequately express how much is at stake. The weight of it solely depends on the situation. Yet, the meaning never changes.
"It is what it is."
When you read through this, or if you've experienced this culture first hand, it may seem discouraging and frustrating. It almost seems like people expect things to go wrong, that maybe, there isn't much to hope for if things don't work out anyway. Yet, underneath the pessimistic facade of the "Ke garne?" culture, we see a new perspective.
Nepal as a country has faced many challenges. 10 years of civil unrest and war, curfews, strikes, power cuts and life changing natural disasters have tested their strength and they've survived. They have been forced to, in a sense, just go with the flow. They have grown to see, in the end, things do work out.
We've learned that Nepalis choose a "Ke garne" attitude instead of one of despair, they're essentially choosing hope. Choosing this path may not always change the outcome, but, ke garne? Some things are not up to us. Its little glimmers of hope and the resillience of the Nepali people that allows them to choose such laid-back demeanor even admid the most uncertain times.
We don't know what the future of the Himalayas hold, what trials they'll have to endure next, but we'll work for hope and have a cup of chiya(spicy, masala tea) while wait!
It may not sound like the best idea but ke garne? We love it!