INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As a young boy in Sri Lanka, Pasan Rupasinghe spent whole afternoons in his father’s library.
He became enthralled with books about the democracy of Ancient Greece, the American Constitution and the French Revolution.
“I used to live in (my father’s) library room,” Pasan said. “I would read books and become interested in how the world runs and how civilizations started.”
Pasan looked at different constitutions; he compared other countries to his own.
After college, Pasan played on a national rugby team and then became interested again in politics.
Under a false name, Pasan began reporting on politics during the elections in Sri Lanka. He wrote about what he saw as injustice and corruption.
“I never expected the articles to gain fame,” Pasan said.
Eventually the author of the articles was discovered, and Pasan said things “got really ugly.”
Being the only child in his family, he realized the importance of his safety, and in 2002 made the decision to leave Sri Lanka.
COMING TO AMERICA
The democracy, the constitution, the government — the United States always interested Pasan. Many of his friends criticized, based on what they had heard from other people, but Pasan liked the U.S.
He remembers watching the Olympics during college.
“For some reason I was the only one cheering for the U.S.,” he remembered. “It was one of my dreams to come to the U.S. … I believe this is the best country in the world.”
Pasan spent his first five years in Los Angeles, working his way up from a cashier to a corporate manager at a dry cleaning chain.
He later helped his partner open a restaurant in Sacramento — and now in Incline Village.
Pasan and his partner, who is based in Sacramento, took over Indu’s Asian Noodles and Curries one and a half years ago. They chose to maintain the name, but change the décor and the menu.
Because Indu’s serves three distinct cuisines — Sri Lankan, Vietnamese and Chinese — Pasan hired specially trained cooks for each.
“If one guy is doing all of these cuisines, it isn’t going to work,” he said.
Ruwan Dathirage, Indu’s Sri Lankan cook, left the world-famous beaches and coral reefs of Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, for the snowy season in Incline Village.
Ruwan said he hopes to try everything Tahoe has to offer, especially skiing. He said his move to the United States has made him more self sufficient.
“I learned to do everything alone and I learned discipline,” he said.
Although the spices common in Sri Lanka are difficult to find here, Ruwan said the quality of the food is the same.
Indu’s Asian Noodles and Curries’ most popular dishes are the Pho soups and Lau — a Vietnamese hot pot similar to fondue.
“Almost everyone who tries it likes it,” said Pasan, comparing it to the style of barbecue. “They can cook the way they want. People like these kind of experiences.”
‘LIFE ISN’T ALL ABOUT ME’
Pasan said he couldn’t see himself living in another country. He enjoys Incline and the people and friends he has met.
Pasan recently joined the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science and the IV Network.
“Being a human being, you have to do something in your community,” he said. “Life isn’t all about me. It brings satisfaction to bring something good to your community, neighborhood, country — one day you’ll look back and be happy.”
Pasan still follows the politics in Southeast Asia. He is in contact with his friends through Facebook, but doesn’t write much any more.
Running a restaurant and talking with his customers makes him happy, too. Pasan said he loves the international community in Incline.
“You will meet a lot of interesting people around here and you can talk to them about the government, what it’s doing now and what it has done in the past,” he said.
He described himself as “a spoiled kid” and said moving to the United States has changed him for the better.
“Here I started respecting people more,” he said. “I became really disciplined; I learned about earning respect.”
This summer, Pasan’s friends took him to Black Rock City to experience Burning Man.
Pasan called it “the most interesting place in the world” and said now he considers himself a “burner.”
Pasan is experiencing Nevada and Lake Tahoe in a new way each season, and he hopes to improve his skiing and go snowmobiling more this winter.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It brings satisfaction to bring something good to your community, neighborhood, country — one day you’ll look back and be happy.”