Growing up, my father allowed me to watch two 30-minute blocks of television per week, but only if I’d finished memorizing my multiplication tables first. I chose RoboCop, which helped me practice my English, and a weekly news show, which, in the mid-nineties, taught me about the war that was tearing apart a place called Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I was born in Nepal, a country often described to Western readers as “wedged between India and China” or “roughly the size of Arkansas.” My father worked 20-hour days to send me to an English school, praying I would become an engineer. Meanwhile, I was being drawn elsewhere: I sold my football to buy a used copy of Great Expectations and regularly disappeared to give Western tourists cheap tours of our city’s lakeside.
I came to the U.S. as a student in 2003. I told my father I’d get a degree in engineering, but a week in, I switched to journalism and began to learn how to tell and edit a good story. Unhappy, my father mostly ignored me for the next few years.
The irony was that it was my father who had inspired me to become a journalist. A political junkie, he routinely sent me to buy Nepali tabloids after school. The nepotism and corruption of ruling party officials hit close to home — one day, my mother’s job as a public school teacher was randomly transferred to a hamlet so remote that she had to take an hour-long bus ride and then walk 40 minutes every day just to reach her work. When I was 12, a group of men entered our compound one evening and attacked my father with a knife. He escaped unhurt, but the episode stuck with him, and with me. I wanted to know if stories like my parents’ were happening to others, and why the fat cats of Nepal’s media institutions wouldn’t tell stories about people like us.
In America, I saw my chance to learn the art and ethics of storytelling from some of the best in the world. But the path was harder than I expected. I mopped aisles at Duane Reade while working unpaid media internships. While on assignment for my reporting class at Columbia University, I was pulled out of the subway by NYPD and interrogated. I watched some of my white colleagues rise — and get raises or stock options — through allies and mentors in newsrooms, while I continued to search for those who looked like me for guidance and growth.
I kept my head down and kept working, and in the process, I met people who wanted me to succeed and helped me along the way. I had editors who were willing to take me under their wing at places like the Atlantic, Washington Post and BuzzFeed News. My longtime mentors became close friends, pointing me to opportunities to learn skills needed in an industry that was rapidly changing. Sometimes, knowing where to look is half the battle. In my case, a close-knit group of South Asian journalists became my home away from home to find support and help.
Last year, when the opportunity to build Rest of World appeared, I grabbed it. I was running The Kathmandu Post back in Nepal, and I got on the next flight to New York. Here was my chance to build a newsroom that brings stories from under-covered and underestimated places and helps us see where the world is really headed. The last decade has seen a radical global shift in power centers. Silicon Valley is no longer the tech hub. Today, there’s also Shenzhen, Bangalore, Medellín, and Tel Aviv. Too often, the tech coverage I read in the United States ignores how 80% of the world’s population actually uses technology.
The last four years have effectively destroyed the central myth of American exceptionalism and opened up deeper conversations about diversity, representation, inequality, and racism. This shift also highlights a new reality for American readers interested in technology today: the products that will change how we live our lives will come from beyond our borders.
At Rest of World, we use technology as a lens to push readers out of their usual bubbles. Our stories — whether they’re about a grocery app in Turkey taking on the centuries-old practice of making local deliveries by passing wicker baskets through windows or the digital black market platform for illegal drugs in Ukraine — consistently show that regions around the world are innovating in ways we can’t imagine. And they’re not looking for permission from Silicon Valley anymore — if they ever were. The sooner we can learn the lessons from each of these stories — the good and the bad — the better prepared we’ll be for the future.
It’s our mission at Rest of World to be a home for these stories — finding, evaluating, and interrogating the blind spots from Buenos Aires to Bamako, from Jeddah to Jakarta, and all across the non-Western world.
We’ve built a network of tech reporters in countries that traditionally had none. This reporting gap is vast, and dangerous — important tech-driven changes being ignored or misrepresented, like when TikTok failed to proactively start quashing violent and incendiary messages across its platform in Myanmar. Or when, across Africa, lending app Okash accessed contacts on users’ phones and started shaming them when they fell behind on loan payments. In our quest to report these kinds of stories, we’re investing in a talent pipeline for the long term, finding and enabling local journalists who understand the context and deeply care about sharing their stories with a wide readership.
Rest of World is dedicated to telling the kind of intimate, ground-level stories that only insiders bring. We combine that with reporting, analysis, and presentation from our global team of reporters, editors, and developers — based in New York, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and beyond — to connect the dots to the world’s biggest trends.
We’re building Rest of World during a critical moment in the wider media industry. At a time when the journalism world is having a collective reckoning on race and diversity in the newsroom, the issue of what stories we tell and who gets to tell those stories is personal to me. That’s why we are committed to seeking out and empowering journalists to tell the stories of their own communities.
None of what we’re doing is easy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that building something that doesn’t exist, for an audience that’s only emerging, is really hard. Add a pandemic (and a newborn!) to the mix, and you’ll quickly move right past going gray, all the way to officially going bald.
For a boy who used to haggle with tourists for comic book money and a chance to learn fluent English, building a publication like Rest of World is a dream come true. There are millions — maybe billions — of people who, like me, feel that their stories aren’t being heard. It’s my sincere hope that you tell us your stories — and trust us to tell them. Connect with us. I can’t wait to see what we build together.