Across the seas
If a Nepali migrant worker made a list of things he missed about home, at the top would likely be the name of a spouse.
Separation places heavy strains on a marriage. Migrant workers must face the disappointments and bewilderment of their new settings alone, and may not always be able to communicate readily with their loved ones. At home, their spouses often have it harder, having to put up with in-laws and manage households singlehandledly. Separation can also breed suspicion.
Inevitably, there is heartbreak. One woman who now works at Higher Ground Bakery in Jawalakhel ('Cafe with a conscience,' #488), hasn't heard from her husband in Malaysia for five years.
"I was 14, and he was 26, when we got married. I haven't heard from him in a very long time and he doesn't send any money. It's tough because I have three very young children to take care of," she says.
Yet many couples manage separation quite well. Anushil (pictured) after an eight-year courtship. She left to work in Hong Kong just five months into their marriage, but the two visit one another at least once a year and communicate daily through Skype. While they won't see each other for Valentine's Day this time around, Shrestha has made plans.
"Last year, I sent her an album made of Nepali paper full of our pictures. This time, I'm thinking of sending something similar, maybe even a rose. I know she'll like it," he blushes.
Suvayu Dev Pant
Love transcends all boundaries, but sometimes you need a little technology to get the message across. For Gopal Dahal and Nika Moktan, cyberspace was just that medium.
Both knew of each other, and Gopal was smitten by the lovely Nita. But he had a problem. "I could not gather the courage to approach her face-to-face." But with the help of online chatting, his sentiments eventually reached her. It was in cyberspace that their romance bloomed.
After dating for eight months, online and offline, Gopal and Nita got married. Despite being from different castes, the bond that they had formed in cyberspace was strong enough to overcome potential complications. Four years hence, their love has borne fruit in the form of their two-year-old son and baby girl.
Such online romances are not very common in Nepal. Sanam Shrestha, managing director of online dating and matrimonial portal nepalmatrimonial.com, cites several reasons for this. "Online dating is not popular, probably due to the Internet's unavailability or high price," says Shrestha. "Nepali culture is also not that open to online dating yet, unlike India."
However, Shrestha predicts that the online scene could be a hit with younger generations. The increasingly frenetic lifestyles of today might also compel Nepalis to consider online dating a viable solution.
As long as the internet is up and running, Gopal and Nita's love connection will continue to be an inspiration for future cyberspace lovers.
When Anusha Bhujel left home to be with her girlfriend Suman Tamang three years ago, she had never met another lesbian couple. "I had read about them in newspapers and knew they existed. But I always wondered where."
Anusha was forced to flee from her home in Jhapa when her parents found out about her relationship with Suman. They had met at a cultural exchange program. When Anusha told her parents about her girlfriend, they tried to marry her off with a man.
Anusha and Suman got married, but struggled to set up house. Anusha was 20 years old and had just finished intermediate level education. "We were headed towards Kathmandu but I fell ill and we had to stop in Biratnagar. I didn't have my certificates with me and couldn't get a job. Suman had hers but she couldn't find a job either."
Then they found out about Blue Diamond Society, an LGBT advocacy organisation, where they made new friends and even found jobs.
Anusha's relationship with her parents is still strained. "They keep asking me what I am going to do when I am old. And who I am going to rely on for support," she says.
"But I am happy that I can live with the person I love," she affirms. For her, Valentine's Day isn't just about Anusha and Suman, but also about their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends who are free to celebrate their love. "We get together, cook a feast and wish each other happiness."
Valentine na salentine - FROM ISSUE #489 (12 FEB 2010 - 18 FEB 2010)