Why I haven’t returned

January 20, 2019 01:00 AM Amrit Bhandari


Amrit Bhandari

Amrit Bhandari

The author is an anthropologist living in the US. Views are personal. abamritofficial@gmail.com

Almost 99 percent of Nepalis living abroad do not want to return. Here, if you work hard, you can enjoy the facilities that Nepal might not offer for the next 50 years

Migrating to the United States of America was a tough decision six years ago. I spent several months thinking of pros and cons. For many of us who grew up in horribly underdeveloped countries like Nepal, America honestly seems like a dream country. Our presumption about being a wealthy person overnight is the key driving force that motivates us to make the decision. When neutrally analyzing the condition of Nepal, one can hastily make their choice—no second thought is needed. The opportunity to enter into one of the most developed countries brings with it no time to wait for buying the plane ticket. While I was on the fence, I received many pieces of advice. Some relatives wanted me to leave the country the soonest possible. A few friends were even jealous. Others were already missing me. Well-wishers remained more neutral. They left everything to my choice, despite showing the possibilities that I can flourish in Nepal. Confusions ruled me for many weeks.

My wife wanted to leave Nepal. This does not necessarily mean that she does not like the country. Her main reason for migrating to the United States was to secure the future of our children. At last, despite all dilemmas, my wife and I decided to test our destiny in an alien country. 

Many ask me: Why are you in the US despite having dozens of appealing opportunities in Nepal? The question is one, but there are many thoughtful answers. 

I, indeed, do not like many things in the US: Ensnaring social life, or rather lack of, is a disaster, and every single turn traps you with legal compliance. Most recently I have added some more to my dislike recipe.

Tough going 

 Upon my return from Africa’s assignments, I rented a two-bedroom apartment that cost around US$ 1600 per month, not including the utility cost. Since the amount is quite a sum for me to pay monthly I hastily decided to sublet a room for my friend. However, I wanted to ensure the lease agreement allowed me to do so. Upon reading the ten-page lease agreement that strictly prohibited me to sublet the room, I realized there didn’t exist an option to increase my number of working hours so as to be able to pay the rent. My wife and I, with a toddler, needed to work hard enough to manage even the rent with already-swelled income taxes. 

The apartment we rented has a balcony. My wife wanted to squeeze every bit of benefit out of that place. One day she washed a few of our child’s clothes and put them for drying on the balcony. The other day, we received a letter with a photo that indicated zero tolerance about drying clothes on the balcony. The letter was also sent to the house owner, but to my dismay, on the other day, I received a warning email from the owner to stop drying clothes outside. 

We immediately moved other belongings from the balcony to the small room next to the laundry place, cleaned them, and promised the owner not to repeat it. 

The list of dislikes is long. We have a toddler. One of us must hawk her every second. That’s why we can’t work the length of time we want to work. If we hire a babysitter, we need to pay around 10 to 15 dollars per hour, which is the same amount we earn. Obviously, there is no surplus earning with that idea. We both need to work alternatively, sometimes making it difficult to even sit together, eat and talk. What a situation. 

The list of required monthly payments is long. This includes your health insurance, vehicle insurance, phone, and mortgage if buying anything like a car or home continues to bother you. This is not only my problem. 

Everyone in the US has to go through such a situation. There is a sizable Nepali population in this country. When I talk to them, I find similar dislikes and dissatisfactions. The situation begs a question: With such a laundry list of uncomfortable situations why don’t all of us want to leave the US for Nepal? You don’t get simple answer.

Chaos back home 

Back in Nepal, you do not have enough work. If work is available, you become too choosy. You do not want to work in a store such as Seven Eleven, Subway, Wendy’s, a gas station, restaurant, or a hotel. This is something of an issue of prestige for us. Even if we want to work, we will not be paid the way we are paid in the US. As a medium or lower income person back in Nepal, it is completely impossible to own your house or buy a car on a monthly mortgage. It might be possible for a richer person but earning 10,000 rupees per month with 50,000 in mortgages is impossible for many of us. Even if we have enough money we can’t live an easy life. 

For example, if you can own a car, there is no good road to drive on. If there is a road there might be a strike now and then. Sometimes, an Indian blockade makes it impossible even to access public transportation due to a shortage of petroleum product. You have a house but do not have enough water to shower, wash your clothes or even use the toilets. If you want to travel, the road condition is unexpectedly dangerous. Thousands of people die every year due to road accidents. 

If you have the misfortune of being hospitalized with a life and death situation in a Nepali hospital, your doctors ask you to deposit millions of rupees before they even touch you. At least in the US, you do not have to lose your life due to preventable diseases, no matter how costly your treatment is. If you cannot pay for the treatment right now you can pay it later on. Or if you cannot pay it ever, there are charities which will take care of you. 

Back in Nepal, the more you work honestly, the more your financial condition worsens. You become a mere spectator of dishonest people unconditionally earning money by looting the government’s coffers. If you can’t pay handsome fees, you are not able to send your child to a good school. Quality education is based on your spending capacity. This is why almost 99 percent of Nepalis living abroad do not want to go back to their home country. At least in the United States, if you work hard, you can enjoy facilities that Nepal might not have, even for the next 50 years. 

If you still ask me why I am in the US know my answer: Not because I don’t love my country, I love it very much. I am here for life. 

The author is an anthropologist living in the US. Views are personal 

 

abamritofficial@gmail.com


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