This song of John Denver’s has been in the news as it was one, amongst many sung by Dibesh Pokharel recently in the USA. It went:
“Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong ……”
These words brought back to my mind the many visuals that I had seen on television screen of labour migrants including Nepalis returning back to their abodes in different lands. They were being hounded, fleeced and subjected to innumerable difficulties as they trudged to their homes. Some were provided free food by the kind hearted but not everyone benefited. In the case of Nepalis, the groups in foreign shores comprised of ‘working students’ or ‘green card expats’ but the treatment accorded to the two groups was different.
A recent breaking news is that Dibesh Pokharel (stage name Arthur Gunn), born on 24th Oct. 1997 (UN Day) in Nepal, has achieved fame by becoming the first Nepali to secure the position of ‘Runners Up’ for the eighteenth season of the American Idol competition. The fact this lad, educated in Nepali surroundings till 2006 and who went to America at age eleven, has illustrated the fact that Nepalis as a race are very receptive to new ideas, cultures and are accustomed to undergo many hardships. What this lad has achieved is no small feat. One recalls that a similar incident in the Indian scenario many years back by Prashant Tamang, a young lad of Nepali origin from Darjeeling and in the Indian army / police created many ripples in Nepal when he became the Indian Idol of season three.
There has always been a tendency in the past for people to Nepali origin seeking greener pastures to migrate to other lands. This movement, following lucrative offers and better transport facilities, has increased tremendously over the last fifty years. Leaving fields uncultivated, many have travelled over the mountains and across the seven seas to enable them to earn money to improve the lives of themselves and their kin. Of course, life is hard in foreign lands and many were and are still being exploited in this modern world. This is the eternal rule everywhere to exploit the underdog!
So, immigrant to foreign shores have essentially two options. One is to cut off one’s roots and mix in the new community that one has chosen to come to permanently. This is not however easy without friends or source force and many end up living in the ghettos of distant lands. Many women of various nationalities, because of human trafficking and abuse land up leading a harrowing life as commercial sex workers till the end of their days. The reality is that whilst many who are abroad claim that they are well settled, this may not be totally correct.
It is indeed difficult for many migrants to be absorbed into a society. One has only to think of how long it has taken the original inhabitants and the other folk, brought forcefully or attracted by opportunities to America to be totally absorbed in the society over course of three hundred years. This still is not totally achieved though the USA is a ‘Nation of Immigrants’. Generally, it takes 1 to 2 generations to achieve this, but has been prolonged there because of multiple ethnic differences. The world period for would be immigrants, though citizens comes after retirement from their places of work. The friends that they have made over a decade or two depart and now left alone the expatriate new citizen of any nationality, irrespective of how well they have prospered in the new land of their choice, find themselves in utter loneliness. Of course, there may be others in similar situation and though there are organisations of similar nature like the Non-Resident Nepalese (NRN), their influence and activities differ.
Many first-generation Nepalis in foreign lands wish to come back to Nepal to spend their last days here and are prepared and able to pay for their keep here. All is well. Though many claims that they are ready to invest in the country the reality is that there are only a few which one can count on one’s fingers who are capable of doing that. Our government is helping in fact in this regard by supporting the NRN annual conference at Kathmandu every year. The chant of giving dual citizenship to those abroad is heard again and again. Many in Nepal are against this on the premise that all this talk of helping the country to develop and stand in the world is just plain gibberish for the majority. The longing to be back home in familial surroundings is reasonable because the culture or living in those foreign lands is definitely different to what the now elderly was used to as youngsters. At this hour of need we must extend a helping hand.
In the third week of May the Nepali Congress leader launched a mobile app called ‘Rescue Nepali’ for identifying those abroad who want to return home on temporary or permanent basis. The feeling here amongst many in Nepal is that this should not benefit those with the mind set of:
Tak pare Tiwari natra Gotame.
Dibesh Pokharel (Arthur Gunn) has brought Nepal in the limelight with his performance in the American Idol competition. I feel that he is probably going to settle in into the American society that he has chosen and will go far ahead to realise his dreams in a new country of his choice. At this Covid-19 juncture, many Nepalis whether migrant or expats are being ferried back to dear old Nepal –Home Sweet Home. After their arrival many are taking the country roads back to where they came from. Let’s wish them luck in the country of their birth. We must help those who genuinely want to come back to set up micro or small enterprises to produce what we require so that our imports decrease. The slogan should be ‘Produce and use Nepali’.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd