Can a vision impairment change your destiny? Prof. Dr. Novel Kishore Rai’s life story can explain this. Born in Ilam (eastern Nepal) on May 1945, Prof. Dr. Rai got married at the age of 34 to Nirupa. It has been almost 40 years that they have been sharing a happy life together. Prof. Dr. Novel Kishore Rai has two daughters, Numa and Ninamma who were raised to become strong independent and smart women. “My daughters got good education partly because of us. They did their master degrees in India from University of Poona and both of them secured distinction in economics.” Now they both work and live in the USA.
“I come from a Gorkha family, a military family. I was looking to join the army too, however, due to my bad eyesight, I couldn’t pursue this path. Later, the fact that I became a teacher was a pure coincidence. I became the first professor of my family and the first professor in the Rai community which I am proud of.” After his master’s degree at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, the university offered him a PhD in linguistics in Pune, India. He spent three years there and remembers the days spent in Poona fondly. One of the turning points of his life was in 1986 when he went to Kiel University, Germany. There he worked at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for post-doctoral research in linguistics on Bantawa language (spoken in the Himalayan hills of eastern Nepal by Bantawa ethnic groups). He spent a part of his life in Germany with his family, “It was my first time in Europe, very exciting! It was a cultural pleasure as well.” After that, he had another work experience at the Netherlands: a post-doctoral research in linguistics in Leiden University. After several years in Germany, Prof. Dr. Rai returned to Kathmandu to continue teaching.
In 1995, he was nominated as the Royal Nepalese Ambassador to Germany and spent four and half glorious years as a representative of the Nepalese government to the Federal Republic of Germany. Through the years he received several medals like the National Talent Award in Language and awards like the Nepal Academy Award for the Study of Bantawa and Nepali Verbs. He cherished sharing that he got recognition in his community after receiving The Grand Cross of the Order of the Merit with Badge and Star from German Government- second class. He was even able to bag prestigious titles such as Prasiddha Gorakha Dakchin Baahu- second class and Trishakti Patta- second class.
Today, at almost 74 years of age, Prof. Dr. Rai feels grateful for his “bad” eyesight, “I feel it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. If my eyesight was good, I would have joined the British Army like my other family members and friends. I never thought I would be a professor and travel to so many countries.” By the end of 2019, Prof. Dr. Rai wants to complete his autobiography. He has been working on it for more than 10 years now, “After 60, 70 everyone should write their biography and tell the history of their generation,” he believes. After that, he wants to write a book about his life in Germany and a book with German proverbs that he would translate in Nepali and English. An inspiring man with his mind filled with dreams and plans for the future.