Don’t give up on Nepal, it has lots to offer

Dishwasher to hotelier, a migrant worker returns to Nepal and inspires the next generation

The first time Tanka Nath Ghimire stepped outside Nepal was on a bus to Mumbai with his uncle. He was 15, and the three-day journey across India was unfamiliar, noisy and hot.

For the next four years, Tanka toiled in the crowded city working as a dishwasher in a restaurant, with a single goal in mind: to earn money. But the pay was poor, and the work hard.

When he returned to Nepal, he knew he had to go abroad again to improve prospects for a better life for himself and his family.

The last time, he was not on a bus, but on a plane to Doha. He covered three times the distance to Mumbai in a mere five hours.

In Qatar, he worked in an electrical company, and earned enough to send back a little to his family at home. He returned after four years, determined not to migrate anymore. He decided his destiny was in his own country.

“Living and working abroad for almost 15 years taught me how to work hard, and much later it also taught me the value of that hard work in my own motherland,” says Tanka, who with his wife Laxmi now own and run the Ranimahal Resort in Awal of Palpa.

The hotel is on the way to the famous Rani Mahal, the palace on a bend on the Kali Gandaki River built by Khadga Shumshere Rana for his youngest wife, Tej Kumari Devi. Recently refurbished, the palace is known as Nepal’s Taj Mahal.

Tanka’s hotel caters to the steady stream of visitors to the palace, and with his wife by his side he serves customers, maintains the property with a sense of belonging and ownership that he did not have abroad.

Read Also: Money grows on trees here, Sahina Shrestha

The Ranimahal Resort in Awal, Palpa. Photos: AMIT MACHAMASI

But it has not always been smooth sailing. Tanka grew up in a family that had to work hard in the fields to grow enough food to feed everyone.

That is what drove Tanka to accompany his uncle to Mumbai to escape the drudgery and poverty.

“At that time all I thought was about getting a job,” he recalls. “The experience in Mumbai taught me that I had to go to a better country to earn more.”

Back in Nepal, he borrowed  Rs120,000 and flew to Saudi Arabia. His meagre salary of 350 riyal was not enough for himself, and he could not save much to send home.

Moreover, the managers of the company where he worked set a target for workers, and if they did not meet it they were fined. The Nepali workers banded together and went on strike. They were thrown in jail. After four and a half years, he decided he had enough and returned home, and got married to Laxmi.

But unable to eke out a decent living, he decided to go abroad once again. In Qatar, things were better, and he saved enough to send money home regularly and visited his family every couple of years.

Read also: Staying in Nepal to create jobs, Naresh Newar

It was during this time that Tanka started noticing the changes around the village and in himself.

There were no young people left. The terrace fields were barren, and overgrown with bushes. When someone in the village died, there would only be older people during the cremation ceremony.

Tanka Nath Ghimire and his wife Laxmi operate the Ranimahal Resort together. Photos: AMIT MACHAMASI

“If this continued, there would be no home to come back to. Our society would collapse, so I decided to come back for good,” he adds.

Once back, he was faced with a problem: he did not have enough capital to start his own business. What little he earned abroad was spent on taking care of the family, and since he was absent for so long, no one knew and trusted him enough to loan him any money.

He managed to borrow Rs20,000 and invested in a poultry farm. But he did not have any experience, and 40 of the 100 chicks he bought died. “I thought I’d have to go back abroad again,” he recalls.

But he raised the remaining chicken and sold them to hotels and butcher shops in the neighbourhood, bypassing the middlemen. Slowly, he expanded his business and added more chicken.

He started a vegetable farm, and fertilised it with chicken manure. He ferried the vegetables and chicken on a motorcycle over rough roads. He often got stuck in the mud, and needed help to push his bike.

Once, some foreigners who could not find a hotel stayed as guests in his own house, and that is when Tanka and Laxmi got the idea to get into the business.

“If they were willing to stay over at my old house, maybe we could get more people to come here if there was a better place for them to room,” he says.

So, he once again borrowed money and put what little saving he had into opening Ranimahal Fishing Resort. At that time, there were no motorable roads leading to Rani Mahal, and Tanka’s little cottage resort with a man-made fishing pond was in the middle of nowhere.

“It was a gamble. People here said that I was wasting money I had earned abroad and once I’d spent it all, I would go back abroad again,” says Tanka.

Some of his relatives were also not happy with the decision, because as a Brahmin, he was selling meat and alcohol. But with support from Laxmi, Tanka was confident he was on the right track. “I did not care, I knew they would change their mind once I was successful,” says Tanka.

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For the first several months, the flow of customer was slow. Every night, Tanka would sleep in different rooms to keep the rats away.

But slowly things started looking up, Rani Mahal started getting more attention. To set themselves apart from the rest, the Ghimire couple used a simple tactic: provide clean and hygienic stay with local organic food. In order to ensure that his neighbours benefited as well, they source everything locally.

During the initial days much of the marketing was through word of mouth, and after the lockdown ended last year, the couple took a loan to upgrade the property and rebranded it as Ranimahal Resort.

Apart from fresh fish from the pond, local chicken and organic vegetables, customers can now also feast on kalij pheasant.

Read also: Nepali entrepreneur turns trash into cash, Naresh Newar

With the road leading up to Rani Mahal currently being upgraded, the Ghimires are hopeful about the future. “When we started we were at zero. Now we have something to show, and it proves that hard work always pays,” says Laxmi.

Tanka is happy that more and more local youth have learnt from his experience and have changed their mind about migrating abroad for work. Relatives who once snubbed him for running a hotel now come and stay over.

Says Tanka, “Anyone who is thinking about migrating should listen to my story. Where I was and how far I have come. And I have many more things to achieve. My message is: don’t give up on Nepal, our motherland has lots to offer.”

Read also: The extraordinary lives of ordinary Nepalis, Shristi Karki

This is the third in the series Striking Roots, featuring stories of entrepreneurs from across the country. If you know someone whose story needs to be told, email us at [email protected].

Sahina Shrestha


Sahina Shrestha is a journalist interested in digital storytelling, product management, and audience development and engagement. She covers culture, heritage, and social justice. She has a Masters in Journalism from New York University.