Whenever I get into a conversation with locals, with taxi drivers for instance, I always hear the same stereotypical comments about Gurkhas in Hong Kong, which I find totally unfair and misguided, and most of my remaining ride ends up in a burst of unsolicited explanations on my part.
They always say older generations of Gurkhas work as security guards while the younger generation indulges in street fights in Jordan.
It does not only anger me but also saddens me that people have such a wholesale perception of an ethnic group which is not only wrong but also unfair, and it clearly shows how ignorant some people are.
No society or people are good or bad as a whole; we don’t need rocket science to understand that and the Nepalese community in Hong Kong is no different.
Just like other communities, it also has good, bright, and successful members, albeit in small numbers. Dipendra Rai, a well known artist and a ballpoint pen specialist, is one of them who can be taken as an example for the whole community.
He is a son of an ex-Gurkha from 10th Gurkha Rifles, one of the Gurkha battalions stationed in Hong Kong. He has lived in Hong Kong with his wife and son since 2007.
His interest in painting started in early childhood. After he graduated from one of the top fine art schools in Nepal, his life has mostly been all about art.
He uses many techniques such as pencil color, water color, acrylic and oil and pastels and crayons for his art but he is widely known as a ballpoint pen specialist.
He is the winner of the Nepal national award in art in 2005.
He has achieved a lot in the past few years. He does freelance work, teaches art classes in high school, runs tuition classes for students during weekends from his own apartment, participates in art workshops in local and ethnic communities and exhibits periodically in various local arts events.
In addition, he is a regular illustrator for the department of health, did a solo exhibition during Equal Opportunity Awareness Week in Lingnan University in 2015 and was one of 10 illustrators in local photographer and filmmaker David Chow’s graphic novel series Ghost Hunters in 2012.
The following two events happened to be his most memorable events in Hong Kong.
First, while working as a security staff in the election office of former chief executive Donald Tsang, he did a portrait of the then leader and presented it to him.
Tsang was so impressed with the artwork that he autographed it, made a copy and returned the signed copy to Rai while keeping the original one for himself.
Second, on the recommendation of local artistes — and licensed by the government — he worked as a street artist in Star Ferry for a whole year in 2009-2010 and made thousands of self-portraits for appreciative tourists.
His works are displayed in Bagaicha Restaurant in Jordan. Each piece is said to have taken at least a month to complete and I was genuinely taken aback when he told me that one particular piece had in fact taken him a whole year to make.
Art is certainly not easy and patience is a must among other virtues.
Despite all the successes and accolades, he still doesn’t have the respect that he deserves. Earning a decent living out of art is another matter. Until then, he must continue moonlighting as a part-time security guard while pursuing his dream.
Had he been a local, things might have been certainly different, if not better. We wish him all the best.
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