This interview is a collection of a small talks with Phurinji Sherpa that I met during my time in Nepal. Phurinji turned out to be a typical Nepalese man who would often sing under his own breath. He is calm, kind, positive and often smiling.
– Were you born in the Everest region?
Yes, I was born in Amdhukharka village in the Solu-Khumbu region. It is a small village with only 50 houses, very remote from the rest of the world. I have 2 older brothers and 4 older sisters. I was the only one amongst us who went to school and i am the only one who can read and write.The school in my village was built quite late when my brothers and sisters were already grown up.
– How did you become a guide?
I started a few years ago in the same region where I was born. I learned English very quickly, so it was easy for me to relate to clients. I was strong, helpful and probably friendly, because later customers wanted to go directly with me into the mountains, not with the guide they had been with before. A breakthrough moment occurred when an American tourist recommended me to a company where I had been working as a porter. He told the boss that if he wants a thriving business he should hire me as a guide. I started as an assistant to the senior guide and worked my way to become an independent guide. People started to come to me mainly through recommendations and word of mouth. Now I have my own company.
– Why did you not stay with the company that helped you to become a guide?
Because the company promised to pay me a better wage and improve my working conditions but it never happened. They took a lot of money from tourists, and they paid me $12 per day. Now I have my own business (http://www.greatpanoramatreks.com/) when I guide people into the mountains I make $25 per day.
– How did you meet your wife?
We met at a restaurant. We dated for a few months, but I was a poor man and I did not have much. I did not want to marry her due to the fact i couldn’t take care of her and a family financially. She insisted, calling me and crying. She said she loves me. I decided to met her again, and again. A bit later our daughter Phurba was born 🙂
– was it a marriage for love?
Yes, for love, but we didn’t marry until 2014 because we were unable to afford a wedding.
– in Nepal, can you have children and live together without being married?
You can, but it is not common and usually not accepted by society. If my parents were still alive, we would probably not be together. I am Sherpa and my religion is a Buddhism, and she is Kirat, and she practices Kiratism. We belong to a different social caste and unfortunately many parents do not accept the relationships between the various castes.
– why do they not accept it?
Because caste affiliation is very important to us. It’s hard to explain it. With this affiliation are bound different traditions, beliefs and financial resources. When a woman gets married, she moves out of her parents home and moves in to her husband’s home with his family. She must respect his mother and when she is older she has to look after her. A different family caste in the family could disturb this order.
– Are arranged marriages still common nowadays?
Yes, they are common but definitely less common than before. Especially in the mountain villages, where the tourists do not visit. It also happens that girls are forced to marry and unfortunately sometimes parents get rid of their daughters .
– It sounds like in India. Tell me more about it.
Girls in many places are still treated as second-class citizens. When they get married, the family of their husband can ask for “dowry”. All valuables, jewelry and other possessions must be given away to her husband. In return the husband promises to look after his wife and provide her with a good standard of living. Before getting married the daughter is in the hands of her father, then she goes into her husband’s hands.
If the family is large and has many daughters, sometimes one of the parents decides to kill his own daughter. Parents simply can not afford to marry her off because of the tradition of “dowry”. It usually happens in families where there is a lot of poverty and lack of education. Mothers expecting to give a birth try also to find out what sex their child will be. . If it turns out to be a girl, sometimes they decide for an abortion. That is legal in Nepal. Girls also sometimes disappear in unexplained circumstances. Sometimes it turns out that they were sold in India as prostitutes.
– it sounds terrible. Your child is also a girl.
Yes, but we are proud to have a girl. Phurba will probably go to study abroad, so she will live a different life from us. We hope it will be better life.