By Ram Khatry, Sydney
22 September 2016
A Nepalese man who had gone missing in Australia for eleven years prompting a massive social media campaign last March has been found not only to be alive but also doing exceptionally well. Rupchandra Devkota’s brother told southasia.com.au that he has done so well since he arrived in Australia as a 17 year old boy that he is no more an “employee” but an “employer” with his own staff.
However, before the story had this happy ending, things were not so happy in the Devkota family. They did not even know whether their son was dead or alive. A simple and selfless act of two Australians committed to helping people and spreading love brought their son back to them, and their smiles.
The Australian mum whose social media campaign helped a hopeless father get his son back says she has gotten the biggest hug from the grateful man. Lauren Kelly is back in Nepal, in less than a year since she left, and has already met the now happy father, Ramchandra Devkota. When asked how he reacted on seeing her again, given her successful campaign to find his son, Ms Kelly said, “He just smiled and gave me a great big hug and he said ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.’ ”
When the two had a chanced encounter last February, Mr Devkota was a completely broken man because his son Rupchandra had simply vanished into the urban wilderness of Australia following his arrival in Sydney in the year 2000.
He was very much in contact for the first few years. Then complete silence. For eleven years.
That is, until two doting Aussie mums landed in Nepal for the first time in their lives – one of them Ms Kelly and the other her daughter Christie Lyons. Both at once spiritual and always willing to play a part in healing humanity.
Their travel across Nepal took the mum and daughter team to the picturesque Bandipur village in Tanahun district. They were there for just half an hour. Also visiting the place, exactly on the same day and hour, was the tired-looking father of Rupchandra Devkota. He was there for just one hour. So the Australians and Mr Devkota crossed paths for mere few minutes, “We just happened to be there at the same time!”
Those few minutes would later save him from the slow poison that is the pain of losing a son.
“We started to talk and he heard my accent and he asked where I was from. I told him Australia. And he got tears in his eyes. And I asked him what was wrong? Then he told me his son came to Australia when he was 17 to study and he had not heard from him for ten or eleven years. Then my daughter and my guide came over,” Ms Kelly recounted her first meeting with Rupchandra’s father.
Once back in Australia, the mum and daughter shared a photo of Ramchandra Devkota through their Facebook account detailing his hopeless situation about the missing son. This initial social media post mentioned how Mr Devkota broke down once he knew the tourists were from Australia and how his son had gone missing in the country. It so happened that the brother of the missing man and his wife came across that post on Facebook and contacted Ms Kelly. It was then that the two set up the Help Find Rupchandra Devkota page on Facebook based on more information supplied to them by the family members, and also pictures. The very first post they made through that page was liked over five thousand times and shared nearly five hundred times – from their page alone indicating how many times over it would have been shared across Australia and beyond!
And today, Ms Kelly does not have an iota of doubt that the page was the sole reason why the Devkota family has been reunited.
Rupchandra’s brother Bishnu Devkota says his family would probably have never found his brother without the initiation of Lauren Kelly and Christie Lyons. That Ms Kelly was moved by the poignant story of the old man and that she wanted to do something about it was amazing, he reckons. He wants to reach out to all well-wishers through southasia.com.au that they are grateful to the media and users of social media but most importantly, they would for ever remain indebted to the mum and daughter duo.
When asked how she felt when Rupchandra Devkota came back in contact due to the Facebook page she had created, the Australian traveler said, “Ah! Absolutely blessed, and grateful!”. She believes the page achieved its objective one hundred percent.
It was last June when a friend of the missing man contacted the page saying he knew of Rupchandra. Success! A life-changing result for the broken-hearted dad.
“He said that he knew Rupchandra and that he was alive and well,” the mother of two who is passionate about helping the less fortunate said in a telephone conversation with southasia.com.au. She asked the man, if he was indeed a friend of Rupchandra, to pass on her details and ask him to contact her.
It seems the man claiming to be Rupchandra’s friend did just that because soon after the missing man himself came in contact through email. Then began a process of verification “just to be sure because sometimes people do the wrong thing.” So she asked him questions that no one else would have possibly known the answers to, the former marketing executive said. Once she was confident that she had her “real Rupchandra”, she told him that his family missed him terribly and that they would want him to contact them. She gave him their contact details which she thinks he might already have had on him.
When asked if she asked him as to why he went incommunicado on his family for all these years, she reckons he might have spoken to his brother about this. But the actual reason why she chose not to ask him that personal question was because she thought it was none of her business: “I really did not care. All I cared was the end result.”
“What I got from it was that he came here as a young boy. As young boys sometimes do, they go on an adventure and they stop contacting families. Then he did not know how to reconnect,” Ms Kelly said speaking from her hotel in Kathmandu, adding, “Because he left it too long!”
Lauren Kelly is probably right because his brother, Bishnu Devkota, said something similar in a telephone conversation. He said he repeatedly asked Rupchandra ever since he came in contact last June but he kept getting the same answer ever time and so he assumed he was being honest. Although vague, the reason is something like this: his brother, at some stage, developed a complex that he had failed his family, that he could not achieve what he came to Australia for and for some inexplicable reason, he thought going out of contact would be a good way to escape. “He not only dropped out of contact with the family but also with the entire Nepalese community,” Mr Devkota said.
Rupchandra apparently did not have any Nepalese friends for all these years.
Although she is now in contact with Rupchandra, she is conscious that she should not push him out of his comfort zone by asking too many questions about his whereabouts or other personal aspects of his life. She reckons he currently lives in Sydney, that’s about it, she does not know many more details about his current life such marital status, visa status and so on and so forth.
Lauren Kelly and Christie Lyons are various involved in philanthropic projects in Pokhara where they are helping to rebuild a local school. They also sponsor local school kids. Together the mum and daughter run a publishing company called White Light Publishing House.