Sunday, 16 December 2007

Kul Chandra Gautam-Biography

Kul Chandra Gautam was born on 1949 in the small village of Amarpur in Gulmi district of western Nepal.
He was the first child of Om Prasad and Heema Gautam, a humble but respected family in Amarpur. Small and frail looking, Kul was known for being a very inquisitive little boy. His relatives and childhood friends remember him as asking endless questions on topics ranging from the origins of the earth and stars to religious faiths and miracles.
When he grew up, Amarpur village had no school, no health post, no running water, and no roads. Even to this day, the village has no electricity, no telephone service.
As a child, Kul learned his alphabets from his barely literate grandfather Kapil Mani Gautam. At the age of 7 he left home to study with a guru in a neighbouring village across the river. Besides Nepali, his native tongue, Kul also studied Sanskrit and some Hindu scriptures.
At the age of 10 he went to Benaras, the holy Indian city of learning, to continue with his studies in Sanskrit and theology. Initially his parents’ wish had been for Kul to become an educated priest or pundit. But his life took a different turn, when one of his uncles suggested that Kul should switch to modern, “English” education to prepare himself for a government job. Kul was taken to Kathmandu and enrolled in a local school there.
But Kathmandu did not suit Kul well. He got sick and became frail. So his parents decided to send him to a school in Tansen, Plapa – a 3 days walk away from his village.
Kul was a bright student, always at the top of his class. Besides his regular studies, he became a voracious reader of Nepali literature. He had read much of the published classics of Nepali literature by the time he was 16 years old. As a student he participated in poetry recitals and was a champion in inter-school antakshari contests in Tansen. He also wrote essays and poems. He was awarded a medal and recognition as a “Bal Kabi” or young poet-laureate by the then district commissioner of Palpa.
During his studies at Janata Vidyalaya high school in Tansen, Kul became good friends with several U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who were English language teachers at the school. He learned to play Scrabble with them and surprised them by often beating them – quite a feat for an ordinary Nepali 7th or 8th grader. Impressed by Kul’s English language and academic aptitudes, these Peace Corps volunteers encouraged him to consider pursuing higher education in America when he finished his high school.
Kul completed the last year of his high school from the J.P. High School in Kathmandu. He scored first division and was among the top students in the nationwide SLC exams.
Right after completing high school, Kul took the TOEFL, the SAT and college entrance exams for U.S. colleges in Kathmandu and secured excellent results. He had applied and gotten admission with full scholarship at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA. But because he had obtained the scholarship directly through his own efforts, rather than going through His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, and perhaps because he was an ordinary village boy, not related to any prominent Kathmandu families or senior government officials, he could not obtain a Nepali passport to travel abroad.
Disappointed but not discouraged, Kul persevered and obtained his passport 2 years later. Meanwhile, he had enrolled himself at Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu and obtained the I.A. diploma in first division ranking among the top students in the nation. To earn his living, he worked as a part-time translator at the USAID mission in Kathmandu. And although he was only a high school graduate he gave private tutoring lessons to college students to supplement his income.
At Dartmouth College in the US, Kul majored in International Relations. He was in the Dean’s List and graduated cum laude. He was active in the 1960s student movement against US war in Vietnam. He was one of the founders and the first President of the International Students Association at Dartmouth. As another extra-curricular activity, he was active in the student Model United Nations project. This planted in him tremendous respect for the ideals of the United Nations, and a desire to eventually work for this international organization.
His interest and activism in the anti-war movement had led him to learn more about the history and politics of Vietnam and Indo-China. Fascinated by the epic struggle of the Vietnamese against great odds, he developed a desire to one-day visit and possibly work in Indochina. With that in mind, he studied and became proficient in the French language, which served him well in his future assignments with the United Nations.
Kul completed his graduate studies at Princeton University, earning a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree in economic development. In 1973 he was recruited by UNICEF to serve in war-torn Cambodia, a fulfillment of his dream to work for the United Nations in Indo-China.
Kul progressed rapidly in his career with the United Nations, taking on challenging assignments and demonstrating good managerial and leadership skills. After serving as Programme officer for UNICEF in Indonesia, Kul became the youngest UNICEF country Representative in Laos. He was the first UNICEF Representative to Haiti during the politically turbulent times in the early 1980s.
Kul later became Chief for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNICEF headquarters in New York – an unusual honour and a challenge for an Asian who rapidly acquired proficiency in the Spanish language and on the development dynamics of a new continent.
Kul became UNICEF’s Director of Planning and Coordination in 1988. In that capacity he was given prime responsibility for master-minding the largest gathering of world leaders at the 1990 World Summit for Children at the United Nations in New York. The Declaration and Plan of Action of the Summit which Kul had a hand in crafting has become one of the best known and most effective instrument of international advocacy and action for the well-being of the world’s children today.
Kul also served as UNICEF’s Director of Programmes overseeing the policy-making and priority-setting of this billion dollars a year international organization working in over 160 countries. For brief periods he also served as UNICEF’s Special Representative for India and Regional Director for the Asia Pacific region.
Currently Kul is a Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, holding the rank of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He is the highest-ranking Nepali in the United Nations. Kul has traveled all over the world, met many leaders and has been a passionate advocate for the cause of child rights and human development.
In recognition of his accomplishments, the Himal magazine listed him as one of the 101 eminent national personalities of Nepal of the past 100 years.
Kul has a lovely family. His wife Binata, a gregarious woman of deep religious faith. Daughter Jyotsna, a filmmaker and artist. And son Biplav, a football fan.

3 comments:

Yagya Raj Pandey said...

A good piece of writing about biography of a general Nepali boy and its struggle to earn reputaion in international fields... Really, enjoyed and inspired ..!

Yagya Raj Pandey said...

A good piece of writing about biography of a general Nepali boy and its struggle to earn reputaion in international fields... Really, enjoyed and inspired ..!

Kismat Pachhai said...

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