Nikesh Thapaliya is an anti-trafficking adviser, a social worker, a philanthropist, and a former world record holder living in Chicago. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, Thapaliya ‘s journey to the United States and his passion to change the world is an inspiration to those who are harassed all over the world.
His story was that of the American Dream when Thapaliya relocated to Chicago’s suburbs in 2012 from the sprawling, tumultuous Kathmandu. His wish to obliterate the memories of hellish harassment had come true. But to Thapaliya ‘s surprise, the United States was a terrifying place to contend with.
Back in Nepal, Thapaliya worked hard with a number of social and human rights organizations to raise the spirits of the exploited, and also shared his belief in the causes of anti-human trafficking. These experiences influenced him, and today, at the age of 27, he works as a social and human rights advocate and anti-trafficking project advisor in Chicago.
Thapaliya shares with “The Diplomat” that he faced bullying back in Nepal because he was underweight and short. He says that his mental health was hard hit, particularly between the ages of 15 and 17.
Thapaliya said: “That phase in my life was a dark one for me. I had low self-esteem and I was skeptical of friends every day. I feared to ask someone for help, fought with self-doubt and anxiety. I never shared about it with my family until last year.”
Moving to the United States was also a dramatic shift in his life and understanding. Thapaliya had come to realize that he should take counseling and therapy, and he did. It took him a long time to get on with it.
Spending his early twenties in the United States was a fascinating experience for Thapaliya. His vision of the United States as a cultural melting pot and a country made up of immigrants came true when he saw that people didn’t scare him for who he was.
“I never felt bullying in the United States of America. I experienced bullying in Nepal at this prestigious so-called high school and briefly after School Leaving Certificate (SLC) course. I was mocked for being skinny and was given mean names. But I was always kind to my bullies and helped them when needed. I thought that could change them,” Thapaliya told The Diplomat.
Thapaliya ‘s involvement with immigrants and bullied people has earned him the position of panelist and speaker at the International Anti-Bullying Conference to be held in Chicago in October.
“This year I am a panelist and speaker at an international anti-bullying event, will host some interactive sessions virtually here and maybe in Nepal too. I will be leading motivational sessions among victims of sex and labor trafficking, and always encourage immigrant teens who are new to this country, to strive to learn, and how to face bullies,” Thapaliya added.
In the midst of the pandemic, Thapaliya ‘s conviction that America is progressive and a multicultural country has been shattered as he sees a rise in prejudice against people of color – Blacks, Asians, Hispanics. But this did not dissuade him from spreading the message of “turning harassment into a blessing, giving priority to what matters to you, choosing to disregard the divisive forces around you.”
“These experiences make us stronger, believing in yourself and your potential, no need to validate others if you and your loved ones know who and how you are,” he says.
Thapaliya ‘s mantra has served for him over the years and has been spread by immigrants to the U.S. over the years.
“Pardon the bullies and kill them with kindness.”
He firmly believes that his personal story has inspired American youth to face abuse, even in the midst of the pandemic, as online harassment has risen dramatically.
“You are not what others think you are. Know your worth. Kill them with kindness. Realize that at some point, they will regret too,” Thapaliya added.
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