With a background in international development and psychology, Bahar Kumar is the Director of Nepal Communitere which is an innovation hub that offers co-working space, business incubation, working lab and more. Earlier Kumar worked in environmental health in California where she was overseeing environment justice programmes and mobilising communities around breast cancer. She has also worked for an organisation in San Francisco that provides care and treatment, testing services for Asian communities who are at risk or are affected with HIV/AIDS.
Bahar Kumar moved to Nepal seven years back and her first experience with Communitere was as a co-worker. She was inspired by the work that the organisation does. Eventually, she joined the organisation in 2016. Today she is also a certified executive coach. In a tête-à-tête with Ankita Jain of B360, Kumar reveals the five major things that have impacted her work and life.
In life you have seasons and there are times which impel you to emerge and unfold. For me, currently, I am going through a mid-life awakening. I have never felt so energised and passionate about what I am doing.
When I was in my 20s, I was quite driven and motivated but I didn’t have something that really grounded me. In my 30s I was a mother and trying to figure out how to juggle everything. Also, I was playing a new role as a wife and a mother, moving to Nepal and adapting to the Newari culture.
I am not originally from Nepal. Ethnically, I am an Indian, but I was born in Iran and later moved to the US. So moving to Nepal changed my identity enormously. Now I am in my 40s and I believe this is the prime of my life. This is the time where I primarily found my purpose. The growth at this point almost feels natural. The work I do right now validates me completely. I think for different people it happens at different times of their life.
Through my experience, I have learned that even if you are at your lowest low and you have gone through deep loss, you find opportunities in scarcity. I lost both my parents about five years ago and it was after I had moved to Nepal. During that time it felt like I didn’t have any vision of what my future would hold. After I came out of that phase, it allowed me to explore places and I found Nepal Communitere. When I came here, I saw such inspirations and possibilities that I knew what I wanted to do and cultivate in Nepal. I believe when you find that there is a void, when you feel like you have lost something very close to you, a lot of rich inspiration can emerge from that experience and that’s what happened with me.
Recognising your purpose
Everyone has a unique gift in life. Some people are brilliant artists, while some are musicians and writers. It is our responsibility to utilise that gift for social good. Talking about me, I have an opinion about everything and I can articulate my thoughts very well. I channelise this gift by advocating the innovators and entrepreneurs; also making sure that we keep our talented Nepalis in the country itself. They are the vision and future of the country. These are the things which are of the utmost importance to me. I am currently working with people who had left Nepal and have come back seeking possibilities and opportunities. If we don’t engage them, we are going to lose them. Moreover, I feel like I am meant to work with young people, to help them pen their ideas and build them into projects.
Recognising my own wisdom and also the wisdom around me has helped me become a woman of opinion. Wisdom comes in so many sizes and forms. For instance, my mother-in-law is a huge source of wisdom for me. Though she is illiterate, she has such grace and she has been able to bring her family together in such an amazing way that respect comes her way without demanding it. I think it is because she is extremely wise. I am very fortunate that she has embraced me and allowed me to grow despite being a foreigner. This has been very delighting for my children and me to experience. And I have learned so much from the wisdom around her.
Community and collaboration
I would not have reached here in life without the support of people around me. The people we work with are huge assets in our life. Through the platform of Nepal Communitere, we urge people to participate and engage in this process of creating impact, change and transformation for Nepal. As an organisation, Communitere really values the social capital.
I am fortunate enough that I found people who valued and respected me in different stages of life. Whether I was trying to be a mother or a supportive daughter or the director of an organisation, whatever I did at a certain time, it was valued. Eventually, for Communitere we are finally seeing the values that we are making in this ecosystem of different players.