RICHARD MORLEY: In 1984 I went to Nepal to research tribal groups: I wanted to go to the most remote part of the planet to find people not influenced by outside society. One day I walked too far, too fast, too high, and got a collapsed lung. I was taken to a village coughing up blood. An ex-policeman called Mr Khadka said he'd go and get help; I later learnt that he'd covered six days distance in three, even though he himself was not well.
After I recovered, I went to thank him, and he told me how ill he was. I thought he was going to touch me for money, which I would have given gladly. But he asked for a favour: he wanted a photo of me and he asked me if I'd take care of his son if he died. I said yes, and off I went - I didn't really pay much attention, I just thought this was a way of express-ing friendship.
Some five or six years later, myself and members of my molecular family had the opportunity of going back to Nepal, so we decided to go and visit Khadka. When we got there we were told he had died, and the son had moved to another village, Bhaktapur. We took an overnight bus there, arrived early in the morning, and went to a restaurant for tea. As we sat down, we saw a serving boy sweeping the floor, and he started staring at me in a strange way. Eventually he came up and, in half English, half Nepalese, said: "Are you the man who has come to rescue me?" I thought he was slightly round the twist or after money or something. I wasn't being very friendly first thing in the morning, I wanted a cup of tea. Eventually I said: "Look, who are you?" He said: "I am Jayaram Khadka."
He was tall, fresh-faced, taller than the other people around him. He told me his age was 17, almost 18, and that fitted. Then he told me his father had given him a photograph and told him one day the man in the photo would come and rescue him when he was in trouble. I thought: "My god, this is the boy I'm looking for."
I said: "Can I help you with some money?" And he refused point blank. That was the thing that struck me most, the sincerity with which he refused the money. He asked me to promise to come and see him again. We were on our way to Indonesia, but had a return flight through Nepal, so I said I could come back in two or three months.
In Indonesia we discussed how to help him, and decided the best way was to take him to England for six months, get him some language training, and then he could go back and get a better job. So I went back to Nepal, made my way to the restaurant, and there he was again, beaming away. I outlined the plan, but Jay didn't leap at it like I thought he would. He had been exploited, so was wary of all adults - he didn't trust me and he just couldn't decide what to do.
Eventually we went for a few days to a little tourist resort where you could see the big peaks of the Himalayas. We spent two days together walking and talking and it was very quick -he trusted me and I trusted him, and we then agreed he should come over to England.
Jay had said he was 18, but back in England we realised he was much younger. On the first or second day he had to have a bath which he'd never had before, he was terrified, so we helped him into the bath, and as we did we noticed he wasn't as physically developed as an 18-year-old. Also in England he seemed more of a child, playing with teddies and Lego bricks, so we soon realised he wasn't capable of going to college, he wasn't emotionally mature enough. So I asked the Home Office for three years to let him grow up a little.
During the fight to keep Jay here there were bad moments, very distressing times, but we never thought the family would lose him, because if he'd had to go we'd have gone, too. Obviously I feel paternal towards him. If you brought any kid up, you'd feel paternal.
My position in the family is due to democracy. I'm thought to be the person most suited to be captain. When everybody thinks I'm not, I'll be told, and I'll step down. I want to hand over to somebody who can deal with it properly.
Jay is the most likely candidate because of his personality, his style: he is in no way polluted by society. When he arrived he had no concept of dishonesty, aggression, theft, deceit, and, though I was aware that our family's wealth might make him arrogant, he has no greed. He's heir to the entire family.
JAYARAM KHADKA: I was born in a very rural mountain area when my parents were both in their forties. My father had more than one wife and rarely visited our home. On one visit he gave me a photograph and said one day this man will come and help you. I didn't think much of it and then life moved on.
After my father died in 1988 of heart illness, my school life ended and I had to earn money. I found work in a restaurant in Bhaktapur. I slept on the restaurant floor, got up at six in the morning and spent most of my time washing up, shopping and helping in the kitchen, getting pounds 4 a month. I should explain the caste system. I'm from the Chetri caste, traditionally warriors and rulers, but my father didn't live his life in a dignified way - he drank and had a lower-caste wife - so I didn't have the best of my background. Basically, I got onto the bottom of the pile. Every day in the restaurant was the same. I didn't have a watch, radio or calendar, so I told the time by looking at the sun. I was feeling pretty miserable, but that was the best I could get. I didn't really think of the picture of the man, it was just like a dream; but then eventually came the time when my new father walked in the door.
I went up to him and started asking questions and he didn't quite know what I was talking about. But eventually we started having conversations in mixed English and Nepalese. He offered to help me with money. But I received money in the restaurant, I was fed, so I didn't think money was important to me. Also, I think money had a bit of tastelessness ... you earn your money rather than be given it. I suppose that comes from being Chetri. So I said no thanks.
He went away and my normal lifestyle resumed. I think during our first meeting there was something unspoken, something had connected. When he came back we sat down after breakfast and discussed his proposal. It was so different, it was something I had to think about, going to the other side of the world. Also I felt a sense of duty, I couldn't just leave the restaurant, or my mother.
We talked for some days. My father drew a map of Europe on the breakfast table and he told me about his castle. I got hold of a Nepalese dictionary and looked up "castle" and it meant literally a fortress, a round wall or something you build quickly to defend yourself, and I thought how the hell can you live in this place?
I left the restaurant and we travelled round the sights and talked about what was to come. By this time I understood my father much better. I had a bad foot, cracked, and he applied some antiseptic cream and a human rapport began to build up. He was somebody who cared about me, wanted to help.
Landing at Gatwick was like being picked up and put on Mars - a hi- tech, completely different planet. There were things like escalators, automatic doors, strange food - ham, red wine. I tried it and was almost sick, like drinking paraffin.
When I got to the house the thing that hit me was the carpet - so soft, better than what I slept on. For six weeks I didn't communicate with the other members of the family. I couldn't understand anybody in the house. But my father had picked up how to communicate with me. He understood a lot of things without me saying them in words.
The family itself didn't really surprise me. I come from a culture where everything is shared with your mates. If you buy a sweet and your friend hasn't any, you bite off one half and give half to your friend. And Nepalese family life prepared me for a family which includes people who are not directly related to you: a man can have more than one wife and keep those wives and children together.
I made a formal, permanent commitment to the group two years ago. I understand everything about the family, what we are doing, what is involved. I know it is not straightforward like an average household, we are pioneering a new concept and it's something I'm proud to be a part of. I consider my growing up was my previous life in Nepal. And my life here is my new adult life. I'm married into the family - as far as outside relationships are concerned, if I get involved (which I am at the moment) with anybody, I make it perfectly clear what it involves having a relationship with me.
The family is very important to me. They were prepared to give up everything for me, and when people suggest that it is not a proper kind of relationship, it's most hurtful. I think if my family were just a normal household of father, mother and children, we couldn't have survived, we would have cracked up ages ago. Because we are such a diverse bunch of people, we were able to sustain the constant fight with the Home Office. So this is central to me and no one can change it. My father's worked hard on this, and he's got a brilliant mind and I admire him for that. I look at him as a sort of guru. I certainly intend to follow in his footsteps by taking on his responsibility in eight to 10 years' time. !Reuse content