It will take us many years for us to recover from this.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Surjya Kiran Guragai
Mechinagar 3, Jhapa

Like many of the families in rural Nepal, ours also relied on agriculture for livelihood. Our father was the bread-winner until the suddenly became sick with high blood pressure and he could no longer provide. With all these happening at home, I could no longer continue with my education and dropped off. In 2008, I turned 18 and left for Qatar to look for work to support my family.

After 5 years of working in Qatar, and sending money back home, my family is now relieved off the financial struggles. My mother could now see some hope and my father was happy that I had taken over the responsibility. When I came home after 5 years, they were happy, but I knew that I could not stay home for long. Without a steady income there was no other way for us to meet the daily expenses at home to cover the cost of food, water, and father’s treatment.

However, I wanted to work where I would not be exploited but rather paid accordingly. I decided to go to Korea, however, the application process was long, I had to learn the language, appear for the tests, and only receive a visa if I passed. I enrolled in the course but unfortunately, I was not successful. In addition my sister got married and my younger brother wanted to continue with school meaning I had to take care of my parents in their absence even as I reapplied for the test.

For 4 years, I stayed at home supporting my father and mother. These four years were difficult for me, we did not have a steady income and the grains we harvested did not last long. I knew that the only way for me to support my family was if I go to another country to work. This was not out of my own wish but pushed by necessity. No one wants to leave home and be a migrant.

After 4 years of staying at home, I applied for Dubai and left home one more time in search of a better life. 

Although I had to abandon the love, comforts and the warmth of home, I took solace in the fact that I was providing for the family. As long as I worked and earned a salary, our present and our future was secure. I returned home after 2 years got married and after spending some time with my new bride I went back to continue with my contract in Dubai. I was sad to leave my wife behind but at the same time I was happy that my parents would have company and someone to look after them. After a few months, I received news that my wife was pregnant. Happy and excited to be a father, I came home to welcome my child but could not stay as much as I would wish since I had to return back.

I continued dreaming of the day when I would have enough money to start something back home. Being a father, thought of the future would scare me. But I was not only a father but the eldest son, a husband, and a brother and I could not concede to the negative thoughts. 

I returned to Nepal in early 2020 to attend my brother’s wedding. Soon afterwards, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I took a risk of coming back home and when I heard news that UAE was going on a lockdown, I made plans to return as soon as I could so as not to lose my job. Unfortunately, this was too late as the lockdown was already in place and all flights were cancelled. 

I was uncertain of what was going to happen as things started to get worse. Lockdown in Nepal started a few days later.  With the only source of income taken away by an unknown foe, we were unable to settle our debts and when creditors started to demand the money we owned them, we had to borrow elsewhere to settle the current ones putting us into a cycle of financial debt. This includes the loan we had taken from the bank to build our house. The bank did not understand this global plight of lost jobs and halted remittances. It will take us many years for us to recover from this.

We have not received any support from the government and hold no expectation. There are no provisions of employment, no provision of health and financial security, no mills and factories, and no hope, so it is up to us to build our own lives. If I were to apply for a bank loan the bank will do a background check and when they find out that I was a migrant once they do not approve the loan. They feel we have no ties with the country and are bound to leave and default. 

What makes it even worse is seeing my helpless father become emotional to my predicaments. I have sent my documents to two recruitment agencies waiting to hear from them. It has been a long wait, days turn to months and time moves excruciatingly slow. Who do we tell?