When gratitude runs into reality Deportation? Because a Nepalese policeman once saved his life, a British businessman has undertaken to raise that man's son as an English gentleman, but the British government is moving to deport the young man.

Sun Journal

November 29, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

COLEFORD, England -- Born in Nepal, raised in Britain, Jay Khadka is now an English gentleman.

He lives in an 18th-century neo-Gothic castle with a communal family headed by a British businessman whom Khadka's late father purportedly rescued in the Himalayas.

But if the British government has its way, the soft-spoken, 20-year-old Khadka will soon be deported. And if Khadka goes, his British "father," Richard Morley, vows to follow him into exile.

"What is going to happen?" Khadka says. "I don't know. There is one thing that you want to happen. And then there is reality."

This is a saga of rescue and relocation that has become a legal and political battle that has reached Britain's courts and most influential government officials.

Earlier this month, the High Court in London upheld Home Secretary Michael Howard's decision to deport Khadka, despite a recommendation by an appeals tribunal that he be allowed to stay on grounds of compassion. Khadka was subject to deportation because he overstayed his original six-month visitor's visa and his appeals to immigration officials had run out.

He will be allowed to remain in the country pending a further court appeal.

"In immigration terms, this is an absolutely ordinary case," says a Home Office spokeswoman. "People overstay their visas every day of the week."

And those people are deported.

"It's not right to treat Jay differently just because Mr. Morley has a lot of money," the spokeswoman adds.

Inside the imposing sandstone walls of Clearwell Castle in the misty Forest of Dean, the communal family of two women and six men ages 18 to 43 pad around in slippers and plot their next legal moves over cigarettes and coffee.

Morley's self-styled 21st-century communal family grew out of an idea suggested during a student bull session at Birmingham University. Morley says he researched the project, reading widely, visiting university libraries and observing the family patterns in far-flung villages throughout Asia.

Morley's family is now 15 years old. Every three or four years, Morley says, another person has joined. He says that only one person has ever left. The family members have a broad range of professions, including information technology, sales and marketing and hotel management.

"We believe in total equality, no discrimination between age, gender or background," he says. "We are human beings who share what we have. As long as we stick together, we're happy."

Now, he says, "we're fighting for what we believe is right," and the cost of the struggle has wrecked his computer business and turned him into an ex-millionaire.

Morley adds, "We could say, 'Hey, we give up, we leave.' But we won't."

Not after coming this far, and not after expending this much time, energy and money to fulfill "a debt of honor forged" in the Himalayas.

Morley, a lanky 43-year-old with deep-set eyes and a lantern jaw, acknowledges that the saga of the Nepalese mountain boy

turned English country gentleman sounds utterly improbable and fantastic to others in Britain. He says one British newspaper alleged that the tale was nothing more than a cover for a sex tourism story: that the businessman wanted sex and the young man wanted money. Both men vehemently deny the accusation.

"If I'm here for the money, do you think my family would go through all of this?" Khadka says. "If that's the case, you'd have to say my family are nutters."

Morley says that in 1984 he was hiking in a remote corner of the Himalayas when he collapsed with a punctured lung. Gasping for breath, desperate to be taken down from the high altitude, Morley needed help. It came in the form of a policeman named Basu Khadka, who hiked 60 miles over three days to reach a telephone to call for a rescue helicopter.

After recovering, Morley says, he tracked down Basu Khadka and offered him money as a reward. But the man didn't want the cash, he wanted a promise: that Morley would look after his son in the event he became orphaned.

"I thought it was a token, a gesture," Morley says. "I gave him a photograph of myself. And then I left."

Six years later, Morley returned to the Himalayas and tried to track down Basu Khadka. But he discovered that the policeman had died, so he searched for the son, Jaya Ram.

Morley found him working as a kitchen hand in a restaurant. "He was exploited, and he was in rags," Morley says.

The businessman eventually decided to take the boy back to Britain.

For Morley, it was a chance to repay a debt and introduce a frightened 14-year-old boy to the greatness of Britain.

For Khadka, the experience was filled with culture shock. He was afraid of cars and absolutely terrified of the noise made by a vacuum cleaner.

"Can you imagine being picked up by an alien spaceship that took you off to Mars?" he says. "That's what it was like coming from a bare mountain existence to a world that is a developed country. Technologically, historically, culturally, I was in shock."

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