Meet the Student: “Grandfather Karna” part 2

Karna Mongar, Age 91, Working on his English Literacy Skills

Karna Mongar, Age 91, Working on his English Literacy Skills

Last week we introduced you to one of the amazing students we have here at the LSS Center for New Americans, Karna Mongar. Karna, originally from Bhutan, came to America from Nepal in August, 2012.

Karna, our oldest student, is always outgoing and positive. He ritually presents his teachers with a handful of Halls cough drops after daily classes. Karna talks with everyone he meets in as much English as he can muster and then resorts to Nepali, his native language, when he runs out of words in English.

Because of his always fascinating and humorous English/Nepali anecdotes, I wanted to learn a little more about Karna. So I asked my co-worker, Deo Rai, to be our translator for a brief interview. Here is what we learned!

I had always thought Karna was my oldest student and was probably in his seventies. So, I asked…

Laura: How old are you?

Karna: I will be 92 in October.

Laura: What languages do you speak?

Karna: Bengali, Hindi, Dzongkha, Nepali and Chinese (but I have forgotten the Chinese).

Laura: How did you learn these languages?

Karna: In my job. I was a police man in my village in Bhutan. Because I was very active, I was asked to become the bodyguard of a Bhutanese official, the Kumar of the Kalimpong region.

(Deo explained that Kalimpong was a part of Bhutan but in the 1950’s it was taken over by India.)

I became the village head; I mediated conflicts and had governmental duties like making sure roads were maintained. I had that role for eleven years.

Laura: At the age of 91, you are very intelligent, cheerful and healthy. What advice do you have for people who are younger than you?

Karna: Nothing. I have tried to give advice in the past and no one takes it, so I have no advice to give.

I passionately pressed the issue…

Laura: But I am asking you, so maybe I will listen to your advice! Can you please tell me?

Karna: Work hard. Don’t leave a job incomplete. Do some exercises. If you do a good job, your country will appreciate you.

(Sounds like wise advice to me!)

Laura: Karna, you are very healthy and strong for your age. How do you stay this way?

Karna: I seem younger than 91 because of my job in Bhutan. I wasn’t farming and building roads like other people. I was a police officer and a body guard. It wasn’t physically hard work.

Karna continued to describe his good health…

Also, I walk two times each day. If someone else walking on the sidewalk tries to compete with me, they can’t win!


written by Laura Smith-Hill, English Instructor

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