Looking at their steadfast determination, I am sure that, no matter what's going on with the dysfunctional politics of the country, change is destined to happen, and Nepal will not only be more inclusive but will thrive even more because thousands of youths with disabilities will be able to showcase their skills, resilience and strengths
We are now all familiar with Santosh Shah, the renowned chef who has become a celebrity in the UK by showcasing incredibly tasty food reflecting his own culture and also celebrating the entire country's culinary richness.
Chef Shah literally put the spotlight on Nepal's incredible diversity through a fusion of styles and flavours that finally did justice to all the lovers of local food in the country.
Now what if in a couple of years from now, you read similar news but focussed on a young aspiring chef, Nabina Gyawali, who is going to be the next "rockstar" of Nepali food industry by literally changing the status quo? Cooking at the highest levels should become an ambition for many youth, another possible pathway that can lead to personal satisfaction and to a type of "grounded" success that is driven by sheer passion.
Nabina has all the cards – she is young, she is well read and, most importantly, she has all the essential characteristics of the socalled "character leadership" founded on positive values and strengths that can change society for the better.
Indeed, Nabina's passion for food is not just about making people happy because of the food she can prepare with great passion but because she is driven by a strong desire to make Nepal more inclusive and diverse, a nation able to provide opportunities for all, including persons living with disabilities.
That's the mission of Nabina, who is also the founder and president of a new not-for-profit Supportive action towards humanity, SATH, whose mission is going "limitless", especially if you are a person living with visual impairment.
"Our main goal is to bridge the gaps between blind and sighted persons," shares Nabina, and to do so she envisions SATH as "an open and exchange platform where people with different abilities can socialise, interact, embrace and accept each other".
Why not start with food, not just as a very practical area where teens who are visually impaired must learn to master if they want to live independently but a bit like sports, a great way to connect persons living with disabilities with the broader society? "For me, being visually impaired does not mean limiting ourselves; it means exploring ourselves by doing.
For that we need to be independent inside and outside," says Nabina.
"Because of that, we started giving household activities training to the visually impaired person who never had any experience in the kitchen, especially thinking of those blind people who are living with their parents," she adds.
That's why Nabina recently organised a very well received online cooking programme that, while it was open to everybody, was particularly designed to create the confidence that a blind person could not only cook like anyone else, but even excel at it.
Structured over two full immersion days, Nabina and her team at SATH taught all the essentials, starting from how to make the kitchen blind- friendly, meaning, "finding a way on how to put all the cooking materials in order, including how to measure precisely the salt, turmeric and other essential ingredients", explains Nabina.
Besides the foundations, the training had all participants experimenting in preparing really cook-delicious food, including different types of recipes for breakfast, traditional meals as well as soups and roti.
All participants, comprising some sighted persons, were enthusiastic and fully satisfied by Nabina's "hands on" teaching methodology.
"Our message is especially for the parents who think our blind children cannot do such kinds of things because they might be afraid that they will cut their hand or burn themselves.
"I just want them to realise that it is important for their children to learn how to become independent rather than be a perennial burden and constant worry for their parents.
To do so, why not start from the kitchen?" she said with full confidence.
"Yes, we can do all types of outside activities and jobs, but if we want to eat yummy food, we also need to cook tasty," Nabina adds.
Her studies in the United States from 2014 to 2015, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, made Nabina stronger, more confident and optimistic about what an inclusive nation Nepal can also become if civil society and policy makers work together.
"There in the US, I never realised that because I am blind I needed to limit myself, so why should I limit myself in Nepal?"
"My job now at SATH is to help other friends with disabilities to think likewise," she continued.
There are many youths living with disabilities in the country, who, like Nabina, are tired of the status quo and demand change.
Looking at their steadfast determination, I am sure that, no matter what's going on with the dysfunctional politics of the country, change is destined to happen, and Nepal will not only be more inclusive but will thrive even more because thousands of youths with disabilities will be able to showcase their skills, resilience and strengths.
While Chef Santosh Shah is surely an inspiration, and why not, a possible mentor, Nabina is again looking overseas as she could become the next José Andrés, the famous Spanish-American chef, food entrepreneur and social activist who created the not-forprofit World Central Kitchen in a bid to alleviate poverty and hunger.
From this, you can guess her dream. She wants to carve her career as a good chef in the future.
"I want to open a restaurant where blind people will be the chef, cook, waiter; this restaurant will be run by the blind, but everyone will be welcome.
I have already got the name "Tick Tick Bites", and I want to be known as a blind chef."
Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Opinions expressed are personal. He can be reached at simone_engage@yahoo. com.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 24 2021, of The Himalayan Times.