CultureLink Tea: Nirmal Singh – From the Mountains of Nepal to Classrooms at St. Thomas Tom Couillard '75 September 20, 2013 Speaking of Nepal … The average person probably knows very little about Nepal beyond Mt. Everest, the Sherpas who climb it and the ever-elusive yetis – known in this country as Sasquatch or Bigfoot – who some believe hide in its mountain ranges. For example, did you know: That Mt. Everest towers 29,029 feet above sea level? That the planet has 14 mountains of 8,000 meters (26,246.72 feet) or more, and eight are in Nepal or shared across a border? That at 56,827 square miles, Nepal is about the size of Iowa? That Nepal has a population of approximately 26 million – the same as Texas? That Nepal is a Democratic Republic? Nirmal Singh, a part-time student in Graduate Programs in Software, knows a whole lot more about Nepal, and he will share that knowledge at the semester’s first CultureLink Tea from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, in Scooter’s, Anderson Student Center. Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest and most famous mountain, is as beautiful as it is spectacular. About 80 percent of Nepal is mountains and hills. (Nepal photos courtesy of Nirmal Singh) Singh, 33, hails from Birgunj, Nepal, a town of about 100,000 located on the country’s southern border with India. “From my hometown, if I were to walk in my sleep I would end up in India,” he said, laughing, in a recent interview. “It is very close.” Singh notes that 75 to 80 percent of Nepal is covered by mountains and hills. It is so mountainous that Kathmandu, the nation’s capital – just 60 miles and a 15-minute flight from Birgunj – is a nine-hour drive. “I’m going to talk mostly about the country, the people, and I want everybody to know the similarity between the United States and Nepal in terms of tourism and adventure. … It’s a beautiful nation and I just want to make sure that I make everybody aware in this community,” he said. An informed citizenship and hospitable people are among the similarities Singh noted about Nepal and the United States. “In Nepal, you could be walking, knock at somebody’s door, and say, ‘Hey, I’m passing by, but I’m tired. I need a night’s rest.’ They will say, ‘Sure, come along.’ They’ll fix you a bed and food. It’s very strange but that happens so much, and tourists love that,” Singh said. About 80 percent of Nepalese are Hindu, and about 9 percent are Buddhist. Singh, a Hindu, said he has always felt welcome in the United States and on the St. Thomas campus. Gokyo Lake, located in the mountains of Nepal, at nearly 16,000 feet above sea level is one of the world’s highest freshwater lakes. After studying computer science and math as an undergraduate at Fairmont State University in West Virginia, Singh made his way to St. Thomas after spotting a UST plaque on his manager’s table while working at Qwest. The plaque, which belonged to Babu Chimata ’02, read: “University of St. Thomas – Master of the Universe.” “I really liked his work. He was very good,” Singh remarked. “When I got an opportunity to come back to Minnesota, I said, ‘Hey, I want to go to St. Thomas and earn a degree there.‘” Singh works at Thomson Reuters, a multinational media and information firm based in New York City. He estimates it will take him another year and a half to complete his master’s degree; eventually, he would like to pursue a Ph.D. “I am in love with academia, so I think I’ll stay in academia, but I do want to get industrial experience first. So I am doing both right now. Once I am done with my GPS studies, I think I’ll do the paperwork to get into a Ph.D. program. That has been one of my aspirations,” he said. Singh also aspires to “open a charity for software. I want to build quality software and give it to people who need it, because that’s the best thing that I can produce from my skills, from my knowledge. I think I can make a huge difference in people’s lives back home.” Home in Nepal includes his parents, one brother, who is an engineer, and two sisters, one a teacher and the other a medical doctor. CultureLink Teas are free and open to the St. Thomas community. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is located in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal, surrounded by four major mountains, at an elevation of about 4,600 feet above sea level.