Feb 8, 2019-
My eight-year-old son often asks me, “Mom why do all our relatives live in Nepal while we are the only ones living here in America?” I try to console him with the narrative many migrant families relay to their children: We moved here from Nepal when he was a toddler ‘in search of new opportunities’.
During his ‘Curious George’ phase, he would ask multiple questions about family—and, in the process, would get jumbled up in details about his maternal and paternal sides. I had drawn up a large family tree and tangibly shown him our large family, one by one. When we grew up in Nepal, we never had to ask our parents these questions because we automatically knew who constituted family. As many of us know and have experienced, living in another country permanently alters you. You will never be the same and will never see things the same way again.
I have read many articles on going back to the home country after living many years abroad and my story is nothing different, but just one more point of view. Recently, an article by Rabindra Mishra of the Bibeksheel Sajha Party and his home coming story moved me. It made me ponder: what is the purpose of living here, struggling each day, when back home our family is missing us each day? We are missing out all the seemingly minute things we can do in our own country—where our slightest contributions can have gigantic impacts. As I’ve delved in conversation on this issue with many people, I’ve realised that I’m not alone.
“Eventually, it is really something only you can decide,” someone recently told me. Half a decade has passed in the blink of an eye and my husband and I often debate going back. As the only son in the family, I’ve sensed that he always wanted to return to ensure that his parents were taken care of. But to lay my truths bare, I wasn’t certain of returning, because the pressures of being a typical daughter-in-law in a joint family were taking a toll on me. But at the same time, I always felt that it was possible to extend support to our family from the outside.
When I moved here, I had it relatively easier than most, as my sister had also moved with me. In the beginning, it felt as simple as moving from one house to the other. The real struggle emerged when we had to survive on our own. Starting over from ground zero is not easy. Cutting a long story short: we managed, we survived, and we moved on. No matter what, we never lost connection with our families and friends back in Nepal and I have sought to ensure that my kids knew where our roots are and where we come from. Some of my good friends often ask me to come back. They point to my newly-gained skills and often tell me that they may be more valuable in Nepal.
When my mother lived with us here in America, she felt sorry for my husband who worked almost 18 hours a day at one time. Seeing us brave severely cold weather to scrape layers of snow from our cars and driving to work on slippery roads almost made her cry. She firmly requested us to move back. She’d often tell me, “You might be happier living a more humble life in your home country instead of a luxurious life in a strange land with different culture, different people and that lingering feeling of being an outsider,” she said.
Obviously, we can't demand or expect from Nepal the kind of infrastructure and facilities we have access to here in America. But Nepal is still the place we were born and raised. I have always wanted to go back--be it for my parents, who are all by themselves, for my kids, who won't even know our own family members if they stay here, and for our society, which needs people who can voice change.
So, in a nutshell: I am mentally preparing myself and my kids for what life in Nepal can be like. Rather than proscribing to the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ narrative, I always like to think that the ‘grass is greener where you water it’. I hear so many friends trying to muddle through the mess of deciding whether to go back or not. If they're going to have to take their watering can with them wherever they go, then why not take it to your own country?
This isn’t to say that you should stay where you are if you’re feeling unsatisfied with your work or realise that you want to have face-to-face interactions with your family on a more frequent basis, but it’s a healthy way to reframe the decision. So, gathering up all these clues, I have decided to move back to my own country where I belong and where (I hope I will) find my true calling. All these decisions should, in my opinion, be based on a number of aspects, including how easily you can make a living, how clearly you know the present realities of Nepal, how risk-averse or risk-taking you are and whether you have dependents or not. At the end of the day, only you can do a balance sheet of your life. Ultimately, the decision is only yours.
Published: 09-02-2019 07:00