A mother's sonsProud Nepali parents for the first time visit sons working in UAE to support the family back home
This is the 25th instalment of Diaspora Diaries, a regular series in Nepali Times with stories of Nepalis living and working abroad.
I am 70 years old, and finally got to travel to the UAE where two of my sons live. It was multiple firsts: the first time I left the country, the first time I got on a plane, and more importantly, it was the first time I saw what my sons, Krishna and Ram, had been describing to me for the last decades that they have been working overseas.
We struggled to raise our children amidst poverty and hardship to ensure they got a good education, which was not easy. From dawn to dusk my husband and I looked for ways to ensure they were well fed and educated, while taking care of the livestock and farming.
I did not have enough money to run a shop so I sold tidbits like chocolates, biscuits, cigarettes and bidi on a box by the wayside. Even this makeshift shop had its fair share of local customers in the village.
When Krishna, my eldest, finished Grade 12, he decided to go abroad for employment. Not many people had left our village for overseas work in those days, unlike now when every house has someone abroad.
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We were worried about sending him away, but he was determined to go. The only consolation was that we had a family member in the UAE who had helped Krishna secure his job, and would be there in case he needed support. Even then, we all wept when he left home, not knowing what to expect.
He wrote us letters every month or so, and there was much relief when they arrived. My family members used to read out those letters to me and respond on my behalf. One message in Krishna's letters to us was not to compromise on the education of his siblings, like he had to.
Ever since he went to the UAE 21 years ago, as the eldest son he had taken up the role of being the guardian of my children. Despite being young himself, he provided financial support for the family back in Nepal and ensured that his siblings had a good education. Fortunately, my children did not squander this opportunity and have done well for themselves.
Even though Krishna sent us letters, it was only two years after he left that I first got to hear his voice. The shop with the phone was three hours away from our house, and I had to walk there to speak with him. The minute I heard his familiar voice, I choked and could not utter a single word.
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It was overwhelming and it felt like my son's voice was coming from a vacuum. The following year, he came home to visit for the first time. Since then, his trips have become more frequent.
But this time, it was my turn to visit him in the UAE. My husband and I finally got to witness where two of my sons live. My youngest son Govinda, who is now in Nepal, is also a UAE returnee who after spending a few months there, quickly realised that if he was to progress like his brothers have in the UAE, he should first complete his studies so he returned mid-contract.
I had seen the UAE through pictures and videos my sons showed me. But experiencing the place myself was completely different. The buildings are really tall, and the roads are wide. Everything is systematic.
I especially liked how they treated my husband and me with respect in public places. We were not expected to wait in lines, for example. In Nepal, elderly people do not receive the same kind of respect.
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Despite their busy schedules, my sons pampered us in the UAE for an entire month and showed us around. Even then, Krishna complains that he did not manage to take us to a couple of places he had planned because of time. I especially liked the tall aquarium and the botanical garden.
We met many other Nepalis, I have lost count how many. There were at least a dozen from our own village who made it a point to come and see us. The person who drove us around was also from Arghakhanchi.
Many of the Nepalis we met, reminded us just how lucky we were to be in the UAE. There are many Nepalis there, but not all parents have the luxury to visit their children.
The Nepalis we met showered us with love and attention. One girl, in particular, who had lost her mother a few months back cried saying we reminded her of her parents, and that she missed them terribly. As we consoled her and gave her our blessings, we too could not stop our own tears.
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There were many moments like this when we felt emotional in the UAE. After all, it is a country in which my sons spent significant periods of their lives.
One such moment was visiting Krishna's office, a travel company that he recently started in the UAE. At the office, they welcomed us with bouquets and sacred खादा scarfs. It is his perseverance that has brought him so far.
He started small as an office boy 17 years ago and worked his way up, supporting his parents and siblings on his back as he rose. I could not have been prouder. What more can a mother ask?
The month in the UAE went by quickly and I have come back bearing gifts for my grandchildren. I tell them we will visit my sons again “बाँचियो भने” (if we are still alive).
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Because we were not used to travelling, Ram had come to Nepal to escort us to the UAE, and Krishna came back with us to Kathmandu. He will spend a few weeks with us, and this will make the separation somewhat easier.
I have six children and ten grandchildren but such is life that other than during festival times, we do not get to see everyone. As they say, “छोरीहरु अर्काको घर जाने जात, छोराहरु कमाउन जाने जात” (the daughters get married and move out, the sons get jobs and move out).
Because of my sons, we now live in a पक्की house in Butwal, very different from our thatch-roof home in the village which had खरको छानो and later a tin roof.
Our home in the village is now empty. We go there once a year during festivals, when the abandoned house comes to life temporarily as we fill it with laughter, भैलो music and singing.
Krishna refuses to let me sell the village house even though it is locked up most of the year. He does not want to give up the clan home where he was born and raised. There is too much emotional attachment.
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Translated from an interview with the author. Diaspora Diaries is a regular column in Nepali Times providing a platform for Nepalis to share their experiences of living, working, studying abroad. Authentic and original entries can be sent to [email protected] with Diaspora Diaries in the subject line.