You've Got a Friend in Subash

Originally published in September 2014

My roommate of four years, Subash Poudel and I are walking to the UMass Dartmouth residential cafeteria, more commonly referred to as “res,” with friends when one of them asks him a question about a homework assignment. Subash, who is usually quick to help, is busy on the phone with his father. In between snippets of their conversation in his native language, Nepalese, English words like “airplane mode,” “settings,” and “Wi-Fi” stand out like a pianist who’s hit the wrong key. Last week Subash bought his dad what he calls “a little gift” for his birthday: An iPad Air.

“All my dad does now is go on Facebook and try to FaceTime me” he says after hanging up with his father. “I’ve created a monster.”

His dad, who lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, is just one of the many people who count on Subash’s technical expertise.

As a mechanical engineering major, Subash has helped build several projects that are as complicated as they sound. A “Cryo Compressor H2O Manifold,” a “High Voltage Shield Assembly and Foley Loft,” and analyzing a “Corrector Magnet & Muff coupling” for his internship at Axcelis Technologies are just a few in his resume of what-chama-call-its. He’s currently working with Aquapoint, a company based in New Bedford to redesign one of their products called the Bioclere for his senior design project. As an English major and an adversary of all things that combine numbers and letters, just looking at his homework makes me want to throw up.

Subash spends a lot of time working on his assignments in the library and the MNE lab every night until about 2 a.m. or later. Still, that doesn’t stop him from waking up early before class on any given day to help one of his friends study for a Fluids Mechanics or Finite elements exam. Last week Subash skipped class to attend the wake for the father of one of his closest friends.

“All my dad does now is go on Facebook and try to FaceTime me” he says after hanging up with his father. “I’ve created a monster.”

“He’s my friend, I have to go,” he told me. And it’s as simple as that; once you become friends with Subash you’re his friend for life.

“As a child I went to a boarding school so I never did have too many friends at home,” Subash says. “I grew up with my friends and when I lived in school they were the only family I had so that taught me to treat my friends as my close family members. I want them to know that I’ll be there for them no matter what. I guess you can say friendship is family.”

And Subash’s extended family is pretty big. When Subash walks through the UMass Dartmouth library somebody is bound to yell, “Hey, Subash!” and stop to talk. Or the minute we stroll into res a buddy will inevitably walk up and say, “Yo, Subie, whatup,” before giving him dap. And on the weekends, roaming the Cedar Dells, some girl might scream affectionately, “Suuuuu-biiiiiitch!” before jumping into his arms for a hug. Subash has a lot of nicknames and he has nicknames for others, too.

My favorite NBA player is LeBron James so of course he sees fit to call me “Ricky James” every now and then, if not “Ricky Fresh.” He often refers to his female friends as “Baby girl,” and the ladies love him right back – Just scroll down the Twitter account @UMDCrushes timeline for proof, it’s an anonymous admirer account for UMD and he’s been getting a lot of love on there lately. One safe-for-work tweet read, “Subeeeee you look soooo manly with that beard,” followed by a suggestive winky face. Subash just smiles and shrugs it off but he’s sort of used to being the center of attention.

Subash was born in Nepal, where he lived with his family for 15 years. They moved to the U.S. in July of 2006. Once in the States, Subash got a crash-course in American pop culture, for better or for worse. Sometimes I have felt like his perceptions of black people are solely derived from rap music videos or some bad teen movie. Then I remember that he told me he did watch teen movies to get a sense of American culture and that the town of Beverly is predominantly white, where Subash recalled being the only student of color in his class. He calls himself “brown.”

“I grew up with my friends and when I lived in school they were the only family I had so that taught me to treat my friends as my close family members. I want them to know that I’ll be there for them no matter what. I guess you can say friendship is family.”

Subash knew how to speak some English but like many foreginers, was forced to give up some of his identity in order to assimilate to American culture. His classmates nicknamed him “Mush Mush” for a while because for some reason they couldn’t wrap their heads around pronouncing “Subash.” Ssound it out, now: Sü-bāsh. He is now fluent in Nepali, English, and Hindi. Subash transferred to UMass Dartmouth in 2010 as a sophomore and officially became a US citizen a year later.

Even though Subash is a bachelor and does his fair share of partying, he is Hindu and his family has arranged for him to marry to a special young lady in Nepal who is studying to become a doctor. He plans on complimenting her medical degree with his in engineering. Subash acknowledges that knowing who you’re going to marry years before it happens may seem strange to some, but he has full faith in his family’s traditions.

“Honestly, family always comes first and my parents always have my best interest in mind. Yes, it’s weird that I already have this perfect life set up for me, but I know my parents have the best intent when it comes to my life so I trust them. I will stick by their judgment till my death bed.”

For now, he’s enjoying his senior year in college.

When Subash isn’t helping a classmate or spending hours working with Greek symbols on a yellow note pad, he’s working out at the gym (yes, he lifts, bro) or volunteering as a teaching assistant at the Alma del Mar Expeditionary Learning Charter School in New Bedford, and as an after-school tutor at the Sgt. Wm. H. Carney Memorial Academy in New Bedford. When asked if his duties at the schools go beyond what’s required of him, he’s as modest as can be.

“I’m just taking their old computers and fixing it for them,” he says, as if it’s no big deal. But helping is no big deal to Subash; it’s just what he does.