I am sure Bill was a bit dismayed at my joining the class as a neophyte, but he seems to have gotten over it, and has become one of my dearest friends: another of the countless gifts Ted has bestowed upon me.
To teach me Nepali was an enormous gift, all the more so because of Ted’s stunning proficiency in it. While doing my doctoral research in the early ’80s, I once returned to my apartment in Patan to be greeted by the son of my landlord with a note. When I discovered that it was from Ted, I excitedly told him that it was from my guru, and he asked, “Is he Nepali?”
Clearly the young boy was experiencing cognitive dissonance, Ted’s appearance not being consistent with his speech, but his speech being without accent, and so fluent that only his being Nepali could account for it.
I often think of how torturous it must have been for someone so gifted as he to attempt to impart his knowledge to the likes of me. Even though his Nepali was better than that of many Nepalis, partly due to a series of fortuitous events in his own life (see Don Messerschmidts’ article in ECS from July of 2010), Ted insisted that his students also work with a native speaker from Nepal. And so it was that Kanak Mani Dixit came into my life, as he was at Columbia studying journalism at the time: another gift beyond measure.
The point of these stories, which may seem to focus overly on me, is that Ted was extraordinarily generous with his knowledge, patience, and time. He was also generous in sharing his many friendships and connections with people in Nepal.
It was through him that I also came to know Mohan Khanal, Prayag Raj Sharma, and Dor Bahadur Bista before I ever went to Nepal to do my research, all of whom came to New York through his efforts. Once in Nepal, the mention of his name inevitably brought smiles, inquiries about his welfare, and generous hospitality.