Nepali Times
A unique uncle


"My hands were black and aching when the police raided the factory.When they asked for my identity card, I confessed I didn't have the papers. Mohan, who also worked there, was a good distance away from us. So I signaled him to quietly slip out of the hall. But instead, the fool strode straight towards us and said, "Ke bhayo?" The officers at once demanded his ID card. When he said it was at home, we were handcuffed and driven to his apartment.

Two officers went in with Mohan while one waited with me. But when they came out, I saw they had caught one more fish! Jagat, Mohan's roommate, followed them looking all disheveled and disoriented with a giant suitcase in his hand. I burst out laughing but the officer hushed me up.

Later, Jagat told me he was literally shaken out of his dream into that nightmare. Poor fellow, he was jobless. His previous employers had refused to pay him his three months' wages and he had just filed a case against them with the help of a labour organisation staff.

At the police station, they asked me if I would immediately return to Nepal. I said, yes, I had the money and would fly back right away. Luckily I had some savings set aside for this emergency. Mohan said he'd go back, too. He had colossal loans in Nepal and had only been in Japan for three months, but what else could he do?

But Jagat started sobbing out his story to the officers. "I have a case pending, sir, how can I go?" he cried and started rummaging for the documents, letting all sorts of items fly out of his suitcase. How could he let go of his hard-earned money just like that?

We remained in custody while they arranged our deportation. The three of us were kept in separate cells with people charged with similar offenses-expired visas, fake marriages, forged work permits, you name it. I shared the cell with an Iranian, an Indonesian and a Bangladeshi.

The Bengali and I could communicate in Hindi, thank god, or else I would have been bored to death. After many frantic phone calls, Jagat finally persuaded a Nepali dai to fight his case on his behalf. This dai was a visa wala, he had married a Filipina who was previously married to a Japanese.

On the sixth day, Mohan and I were carted off to the airport. They didn't remove our handcuffs until we boarded. We had an eight-hour transit in Bangkok, where we were cooped up in a room with people from all over the world. They were all being sent away from different countries.

At last we flew home, exhausted but relieved, and hoping Jagat would win his case from behind bars.

It's nice to be home, but I also need to be making money. I want to send my kids to a good school. Besides, once you're used to slogging and earning real cash, you tend to feel restless here. And believe me, it's not just about the money. My job was hard and unpleasant. I had to work heavy machines all day long. My hands ached every waking moment. I still can't bend my fingers without hurting.
But there is also something sweet about working hard and getting paid for it. In fact, I didn't know I could work like that until I left home. Now, I want to try my luck in America. I hear life isn't rosy there. But it might be better than Malaysia, or Korea, or Kuwait, or Afghanistan. Don't you think?"

I was hesitant but I said that might be true. It was heartening to see despite everything, uncle had not lost hope and his sense of humor. After all, he was the less wretched than the tens of thousands of Nepalis who work hard to send money home to their families.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)