It is not suprising to meet Nepalis these days on land. But workers from landlocked Nepal can now be seen on luxury ocean liners and casino ships on the high seas.
There are now more than 1,000 Nepalis working in cruise ships in the South China Sea, the Malacca Straits, the Caribbean and even Alaska and Japan. On the Star Aquarius docked at Hong Kong harbour recently, there were 55 Nepalis among the crew: waiters, barmen, casino staff, security guards, housekeeping and cooks.
After serving 17 years with the Nepal Army, Pushparaj Upreti has been on the Aquarius now for seven years, in-charge of security. "It's really much better out at sea than on land," he says.
Nepali employees of Star Cruise earn anywhere between $400-1,700. Gobin Pudasaini used to earn Rs 25,000 a month in Qatar, but now takes home double that as a steward. "It's a good life, I get to sail around the region, see new places and I am able to save much more," says Gobin.
Work on the 13-storey liner with 2,600 passengers while at sea is not easy. But the crew gets two months of vacation with roundtrip tickets to Nepal paid for. And they get to see exotic destinations in Vietnam, China, Thailand and other parts of East Asia. Many of the Nepalis got to literally go "overseas" after working for a few years in hotels and in security agencies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Malaysia.
Anil Shrestha from Kathmandu is having the time of his life, he says: "There is never a dull moment."
PICS: DAMBAR KRISHNA SHRESTHA
Nepal, an emerging rainbow nation, RUBEENA MAHATO