Nepali Times
Endless goodbyes


FAMILIES, INTERRUPTED Bhutani refugees in Jhapa substitute photos for family

Here in Beldangi there are tearful scenes of farewell every day as fleets of white IOM (International Organization for Migration) buses taking Bhutanis for third country resettlement leave for Bhadrapur airport.

Among those seeing off relatives and friends are those who have travelled clandestinely from Bhutan for poignant farewells before time and distance separate them from their relatives.

Antari is 35 years old, and has come all the way from southern Bhutan, crossing two international borders, to say goodbye to her parents, and seven brothers and sisters and their children. She is the only member of her family still in Bhutan. "I don't know when I will see them again, they are going so far away," Antari sobbed, clutching a faded photograph of the family taken while they were still in Bhutan. Antari's elderly parents Krishna Prasad and Dhanmaya can't hide their tears.

Hugging her parents, Antari tells them there is now no sign of their little ancestral home in Bhutan and even the tulasi plant in front of their house is gone. But Antari has brought a handful of soil from their homeland to give to her parents in a little plastic pouch before they leave. Dhanmaya takes a pinch from the pouch and puts it on her daughter's forehead like tika as a final farewell.

Like most Bhutanis here, Antari doesn't want to be named or her picture taken for fear of retribution back home in Bhutan. She says the repression of Nepali speakers continues. More than 80,000 Lhotsampa Nepali speakers were not allowed to vote in last year's elections. The signals of some Nepali FM stations reach southern Bhutan, but Antari says one has to be careful not to listen openly for fear of spies in the neighbourhood who have already labeled her 'ngolop' (anti-national) for having refugee relatives in Nepal.

Saraswati Sharma is 83, but has travelled for three days to get to Beldangi to say goodbye to her second daughter, Shibamaya, who will soon be leaving to join her elder sister in the United States. For others, like 45-year-old Bhim, there was a different kind of farewell. Hearing his father was ill, he rushed to Nepal, arriving at the Sanishchare refugee camp only to hear that his father, whom he hadn't seen for ten years, had just died. Bhim went straight to the banks of the river to light his father's funeral pyre.

(Some names have been changed.)

Euro Bhutanis - FROM ISSUE #480 (11 DEC 2009 - 17 DEC 2009)
Can't wait to leave - FROM ISSUE #409 (18 JULY 2008 - 24 JULY 2008)
No place like home
- FROM ISSUE #306 (14 JULY 2006 - 20 JULY 2006)
Home away from home
- FROM ISSUE #340 (16 MARCH 2007 - 22 MARCH 2007)
Long way from home
- FROM ISSUE #353 (15 JUNE 2007 - 21 JUNE 2007)

1. megan kerr
I work for a refugee resettlement program and have had the opportunity to meet and assist many Bhutanese families coming to our community in the US State of Vermont. Yes, it is the children who quickly become fluent in English and integrate. One little 13 year old girl named Ghrita showed great promise in music at school, and a kind pianist from the Czech Republic now settled in the USA began teaching her. Now, a year later, she is playing Bach and Beethoven and plans on studying music at university. Why were these refugees treated with such disrespect in Nepal? They are people, and at least in these welcoming countries where they have been resettled, they are able to work and send their children to school and have hope, at last. yes, being separated from family members is the hard, and the older refugees struggle to fit in. but even they take English classes, and some who had never gone to school in all of their 40, 50, or 60 years are learning to read and write (and in a language not their own!) for the first time. They remain optimistic for their children, like parents everywhere in the world. Probably the hardest part of resettlement has been finding jobs, with the economy being tough and many refugees having limited English skills. They assumed the streets would be paved in gold in the USA, and in the refugee camps, everything was given to them. That has been a great adjustment, but I am constantly impressed with their good humor and ability to withstand hardship. Now, as the snow begins to fall here in the far north, they are enjoying seeing snow for the very first time up close and excited about all the Christmas decorations and lights around them. One little boy, Jhala, recently called me at my home and asked me what Christmas was all about. I replied that, although it started as a Christian holiday, anyone can celebrate it as a time of great joy and festivities. Then he asked if they could get a Christmas tree. I reassured him they could and a day later brought them a tiny tree in a pot that I had decorated with brightly colored balls and white lights. The look in his eyes said it all!

2. Sandhya Sharma
I volunteer with the organization involved in the resettlement of Bhuntanese refugees in Philadelphia,PA,USA.The families are adatping well even after surviving years in camp.Most of them have found jobs within months and are able to support themselves.Yes, the children are their hope and only reason to come to so far flung places.

3. Sujala Pant
I am working in the US right now, and when I visited New Hampshire, there were signs of Bhutanese families who had just resettled near Manchester. It was heartwarming to hear from some of them that that they have been welcome, even though it's been tough for them to adapt. Hopefully, there are similar stories emanating from other thrid-coutries. I would however like to respond to one point that Megan Kerr made - while many refugees were undoubtedly treated with disrespect in Nepal, please remember that it's the persecution they endured in Bhutan that led them there.

4. udaya dhimal
I m udaya dhimal ,one of the bhutanese,residing at pathri camp passing miserable life for abaut seventeen years and was now at jacksonville florida,USA for abaut 15 months.It was very sorrowfull looking the meeting and the departure of people for extremly long time that we experienced before leaving the place. Generally , looking at these , it would be a heart pinching moment facing after many years,on the other way it would be the great oppertunity to go forward wothout stopping meeting the hope and desires at every special moment of life as per my experience. finally my concern is ,a third country settlement is the best way in which everybody can go forward and fullfill everything what is needed freely and independently.

5. Sargam
People need to feel they belong. And the USA is providing this. For that a heap of thanks to those so called third countries!?!

6. bardaiya
thanks 2 nepal and usa and australia

7. Chandra Thapa
I think this type of artical may be good or bad for bhutines . but I think this is rally bad for people in realition . thanks dai ramro cha

8. Sandy
By hearing everyone's commence about differentiating people, me too like to share my feelings. What i say is that we (people) are the one who differentiate human with their caste or breed but no one ever felt that before he/ she is born, he/ she don't come out with name or aims. Its all we (people) who will let him/ her to learn about good things and bad things. There is a saying when you point one finger to someone but we never realized that the rest are pointing towards us, okey let me come to the point, instead of demoralized others give them the helping hand. I am sure by doing it every human will be proud of you. Be a good human. Be a good Citizen. Let your parents be proud of you.

9. prakash kharel
it is very nice column. i like the way articles are written in nepalitimes. thats why it stands out from any other magagines and newspaper in nepal. i think nepal has done what it can for the bhutanese refugees. first of all nepal itself is a underdeveloped country with large porportion of its own population living in a condition way worse than that of bhautanese refugees. i grew up in jhapa district, the nepalese home of bhutanese refugees. my school had a large proportion of bhutanese refugee kids. i used to study and play with them. i didnt even know that they were from different country until i studied it in social studies course. they were very smart in math and science,and very disciplined.i dont think they ever felt that they were refuging in a foreign country. though nepal couldnt give them good settlement , healthcare, etc. it is because of its economic hardships. nepal gave them society, acceptance, and feeling of ethnic brotherhood.i think that is what matters more.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)