My father, Lok Bahadur Dangi, was born on March 5, 1951 in an ordinary family in Pokhara, a small village in Nepal’s Dang district located 426 km west of capital Kathmandu. While I still remember my first saddle baby ride on my father’s shoulder during our move from the villages of Bankatta to Dhikpur in Dang district, I have never expected that this day would come so soon. Like many other brothers and sisters, I am observing this father’s day very painfully without a figure who started me on the path of enlightenment through education from my early age. We lost him on Friday, February 26, 2016 in Clovis Community Medical Center, Clovis, California, USA where he was undergoing treatment of the end-stage liver disease. A more shocking fact to me and my wife is that we lost two of the most respected individuals in our lives exactly eight years apart. My mother-in-law, Mrs. Manorama Rana– a champion in girls’ education in Nepal– also passed away with cancer while undergoing treatment in Wyoming, USA on this very last Friday of February in 2008, another leap year!
My father, youngest son of Dilaram and Tika Dangi, started his career as a farmer, social worker, development activist, and later was elected in Village Panchayat and subsequently in Village Development Committee in his hometown of Dhikpur, Dang. A man who spent most of his life promoting his village, agricultural development, crop production, and education among native Tharu people in the region, was well-liked by people of all background. After retiring from his active social and political service, he was a frequent visitor to me and my brother, Kiran Kumar Dangi in the US. Because of my father’s strong conviction in education and its importance for local development in his native village, I was able to transition my schooling from dusty fields of Dhikpur to the first research university in the US, the Johns Hopkins University, where I earned PhD and a second Master’s degree. Realizing the significance of education in one’s life particularly in his poor community, my father was quick to send my brother, Kiran, to USA, who then graduated from the University of Wyoming with Bachelor’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering and now works as a Senior Engineer for Brocade, a high-tech firm in Colorado, USA.
While I was finishing my junior high school from Narayanpur, Dang, there were barely any educated individuals in my home town, today this critical mass has grown so much that not only over a few dozen people from Dhikpur have received their Master’s education, but a handful of children from this region are now studying in the US. Credited to my dad for introducing the power of education in one’s success early in my life I have been involved in training and promoting human capacity building activities in my home country because of its unique needs, circumstances, unmatched natural beauty, and only living laboratory in the world that offers experiential learning in high mountain environment. Over a few dozen scholars and students from Nepal and USA have benefitted from such engagements via short-term courses, study abroad curricula, and other skill building opportunities.
I recall my father riding in the back top of the tractor trailer while ferrying goods and produces and allowing local hitchhikers to take a front seat in his tractor. He has been widely missed by many in Nepal and in the US.
“We are sorry for our great loss of Buwa [Father] Lok B. Dangi, who was such a great being who always inspired us to do the very best to serve mankind. He told me that his top priority in life was to promote daughters’ education. Today, he has been 100% successful in his tireless efforts,” said Associate Professor at the Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University (TU), Dr. Khem N. Poudyal.
“Your father was an exceptional individual that made a big impression on me and always made me feel very comfortable in his presence. …Although I did not get to spend much time with your father, he impressed me greatly. And I have also been very impressed by his sons,” said University of Wyoming Professor, Dr. Peter D. Stahl.
While my father suffered a lot during last year and half, his doctors and neighbors were astounded with his ability to fight the disease and comeback strong. University of California at San Francisco Hepatologist, Dr. Danielle Brandman put it this way, “I am amazed at your strength and the love of your family.”
My father’s Gastroenterologist, Dr. Ajit Arora described that the treatment and care that he was receiving had at least extended his life by another six months and mentioned that in his entire medical career he had never seen any family members fighting as hard as our family was for my dad. Local neighbors in Fresno, California described him as a warrior, who never gave up until his last breath. As our community friend, Er. Jai Singh Sidhu described, “Mr. Dangi was my good friend and shared some good memories with me”, the man surely had reached out many and has left positive mark behind.
Many condolence messages and eulogies received from various friends and well-wishers of my father from Nepal and the US are some of the evidence of the landscape of positive impact his soul has had both within and outside of his country. To revive the gentle kindness of this man and his love for education and local development, our family is planning to create a lasting endowment in education and agriculture in our native home district of Dang.
While this homage is based upon a reflection of his life, I hope the simplicity and purpose of this man’s soul will embolden you, especially newer generation, as much as it has already done to me from my time in the farm of Dhikpur to my everyday life in the US. I wish everyone a very different and decisive father’s day and may all of us turn our emotional attachment from the first saddle baby ride into a journey that can stir ages!
Dr Dangi is an Associate Professor at the California State University, Fresno, USA.