I realize that home is the place to begin and go back to. I want to learn to live with you, understand the society and thrive in Nepal
At 55, my daddy has 419 friends in Facebook yet he wants to be in politics. The enthusiasm has not faded. Daddy, your budding political career came to a halt 20 years ago. You were a regular delegate of Nepali Congress Trade Union’s gatherings and I remember the trips you used to take to Pokhara and parts of Kathmandu. I did not know what it meant at that time.
You took a tough decision in 1998. You left everything you had for people who meant everything to you. For the sake of family, you started your career at the Ramada Hotel in Qatar. You started by washing dishes in a faraway land—away from your wife, kids, family and friends. What did it mean for village boy to take the plane for the first time and land in the metropolis of Qatar? What did it mean to be with folks from all around the world? Not speak English or Arabic. Yet you sustained.
You sustained hour after hour. Day after day. Year after year. Decade after decade. Twenty years have passed, daddy. Between these years you moved from country to country in the Middle East from Qatar to Oman to Saudi Arabia. Your feet have touched almost all countries in the Gulf. For the sake of family, you sacrificed your youth. How big of a sacrifice could someone ask for?
I was lucky enough to go to some of the best schools in Kathmandu. While you supported the family financially, mommy was there like a rock yet so fluid. She hustled to make ends meet. I remember getting calls from relatives and other debtors relentlessly asking for the next or full installments. How did you manage to hold on not having a husband along your side? Two kids and all the finances and social obligations? You were not lucky to be educated. I remember how you struggled to write letters to dad in those early days before phones became regular. The society questioned your character when you were warm and kind to strangers and friends.
Mommy, my sister and I were lucky to receive your support and warmth all these years. I got a chance to be in the finest institutions on the planet—Princeton in the US and Peking in China—get educated, and travel around the world. I traveled from California to Chicago to New York to Oslo to Copenhagen to Barcelona to Paris to Zurich to Istanbul to Yangon to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta to Guangzhou to Beijing. I roamed around the globe to explore and find answers. I lived away from Nepal for almost six years. I looked for answers to my identity, to my roots and how to make sense of my life. As much as there was exploration, there was also a sense of escape away from home.
At this stage in life, I have come to realize that to start looking for answers, home is the place to begin and go back to. I want to learn to live with you, understand the society and thrive in Nepal. I can talk about building a nation but if I can’t take care of you properly and understand the aspirations of people in Ratopul how will I take care of the millions of Nepalis? I want to come back and understand you and be there for you, take you to hospitals in times of need, host guests for you, disagree with you and hope you understand my vision. I hope you understand why I am returning.
As I decide to make Nepal my home—not just in paper but in heart—I remember the conversations I had in Selangor (Malaysia), Chhoprak (Gorkha), and Jackson Heights (New York). Daddy, in 2013, I was in Selangor trying to understand the stories of migrant workers like you. I saw where they lived and what they go through: Living in rooms of six people and working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Yet they kept going in the hope of their family and in the hope that someday they will be able to return to a country where they will be able to be near family.
I was in Chhoprak after the earthquake and spent a night there. I met a man who had started raising chicken for livelihood. One of his siblings was in Kathmandu, the other in Australia and the third in the UK. When I asked why he stayed back in the village, he said “Bhai, if I don’t stay here who will? I hope someday you will come back to Nepal. We need people like you bhai.”
I remember the conversation I had with a waiter in the Thakali restaurant in Jackson Heights in February, 2018. He was quite excited to see a Nepali willing to have a conversation beyond the waiter-customer exchanges. We connected instantly, and he mentioned he was there to support family. In his eyes I found longing for Nepal and in his voice, I found hope as I told him about my half-baked plans to come back to Nepal someday soon for good. In these people, I saw you, daddy. In their family, I saw you, mommy, and us.
I am returning to Nepal later this month as I want to lead by example not just by words. I do not want to make a fortune abroad and then return home with fancy slogans of making Nepal or build an image of myself as a patriot once I return home, while deep down I did not trust my own country to provide for my basic needs, when I started career. I will accept what Nepal has to offer.
Hopes and expectations
I also no longer want to blame our politicians for not making the country. I give them credit for what they have done—for the freedom we have, for ending such a deadly conflict in a relatively cordial fashion and so on. I want to return with the hope that they will realize that times are changing fast and it is youths, who they need to pass the reins slowly but surely.
Daddy, after all these moments, you have finally started taking baby steps back in politics. Yes, I do not agree with you on a lot of agendas nor support the leaders you want to be close with. Yet I support you for what you have done and for what you want to do. While I do think it will be time for you to retire in few years by the time you get past your 50s, I also hope Nepal gives an opportunity for people like you—who have dreams and aspirations for the country and yet who were not able to be here for most of their youths. You contributed to the nation in the ways you could by sending remittances. Our economy still survives on contributions of people like you.
Now I hope the nation can be there for you and use the skills and knowledge you have acquired. I hope to meet more people back in the country and know where the country is—the country you left 20 years ago. I hope my generation could do something for people like you.
Let’s use our skills to build roads more durable. Let’s take reins of the businesses and inject some innovation. Let’s allow to share the burdens so that you can retire with an ease of mind.
If politics does not work for you please do not get demotivated. You have inspired a generation and we are aware of our responsibilities. What I have learnt and will do is from your inspiration. My vision is your vision transformed. I hope to do something in Nepal no matter how big or small. Something that will potentially help inspire those who have been contemplating returning home but feel that the circumstances are not just right. I will need your support and guidance along the way. I have energy and passion but you have the wisdom of life. Let us do something for Nepal together. Let us begin at home.