Ram Khatry I 31 May 2020 I While India and Nepal remain at loggerheads over a stretch of hinterland on the Himalayas, a benevolent gesture by India’s Ministry of External Affairs has given hope to a young Nepalese family in Brisbane.
Arjun Timilsina was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) at the Mater Hospital Brisbane in January this year. His diagnosis had come, ironically, on the very day he welcomed his baby daughter Arika into the world.
The Timilsina family had been under tremendous pressure since the shocking diagnosis was made but fortunately, the 31-year-old had found a match in his own brother. A decision was eventually made to fly him to BLK Hospital in New Delhi for the life-saving bone marrow transplant.
However, then came the COVID-19 global lockdown causing further stress on Arjun Timilsina and his distressed family. The lockdown also unsettled well-wishers who wanted to help him access treatment, such as the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) and doting social campaigners like Prerna Pahwa from the Simply Human Inc.
The much-needed bone marrow transplant was becoming a bleak prospect amid the complete shutdown of commercial flights while any rescue from the Nepalese government was out of question.
So when the Indian government announced repatriation flights to Australia earlier this month, those wanting to help Mr Timilsina became excited with fresh hopes.
But would the Timilsinas, who are citizens of Nepal, be given passage via the Air India aircraft arranged solely for the repatriation of Indian citizens stranded down under? Well-wishers wondered.
Ever since the Government of India announced the special Air India rescue flights out of Sydney and Melbourne under Vande Bharat Mission, a number of parties began pulling strings for Mr Timilsina because they all knew he was racing against time. Thus began a silent campaign to lobby the Indian government to allow the cancer victim and two of his family members to travel on board the repatriation flight.
He had to be on that flight, campaigners knew.
Mr Timilsina, along with his brother Bishwo Timilsina and father Mukti Prasad Timilsina, finally boarded an Air India flight off Sydney on May 25 and is currently being prepared to receive bone marrow from his brother. He is currently receiving treatment at the BLK Hospital and is in spirits enough to be able to send a picture for southasia.com.au.
People close to the cancer victim and community leaders are grateful for the Indian government’s special consideration allowing the Nepalese man on board the rescue flight meant for Indian nationals only.
The gesture of the Indian government, they say, holds special meaning at the moment given the ongoing border dispute between Kathmandu and New Delhi over Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani.
Nepalese ambassador to Australia, Mahesh Raj Dahal, played a crucial role to have the young father aboard the Air India flight.
“I had a discussion with my counterpart at the High Commission of India in Canberra. We thought it would be worthwhile to approach the matter through the Nepalese mission in New Delhi,” Mr Dahal told southasia.com.au.
The Nepalese embassy in New Delhi took up Mr Timilsina’s case with the relevant department within India’s Ministry of External Affairs. “And the High Commission of India eventually informed us of the outcome,” ambassador Dahal said.
In the meantime, Ms Pahwa also continued to draw on her connections within the Indian diaspora as well as working closely with Durapada Sapkota at the Nepalese embassy.
“It is hard to tell who actually made this happen because everyone was trying to get in touch with the right people back in India,” Ms Pahwa said in a telephone conversation with southasia.com.au.
Simply Human had earlier supported NRNA Qld’s fundraising campaign for Arjun Timilsina by pushing it within its network as well as within the Indian community. The organization worked closely with another Nepalese man, Ujjwal Poudel, a cancer survivor himself.
Ms Pahwa says she is grateful to the Honorary Consul of India in Brisbane, Archana Singh, who connected her with the HCI. She also added that Preetham Krishna, Director of Seven Hills Entertainment and Dr Ashutosh Misra, CEO of Institute for Australia India Engagement, “were instrumental in reaching out to their India contacts through social media and over telephone”.
Credit goes to the Government of India for its decision to “help Nepalese national Arjun Timilsina amidst the simmering political tension between India and Nepal; keeping humanity and medical urgency as priority,” Ms Pahwa remarked. For that, she said, she was grateful to the relevant authorities within both the Indian and Nepalese governments.
Ms Pahwa said the friendship and bond between Indian and Nepalese communities based in Brisbane was truly special.
“They support each other’s cause and do their best for their community’s well-being. Undoubtedly setting an example for younger generations to follow,” she added.
Through a GoFund campaign as well as through direct deposits, NRNA Qld raised nearly $120,000 to help Arjun Timilsina’s fight against cancer.