Nepali Times
We wanna go to America


I don't even wish it on my enemies to marry Nepali men who come from America," says a Kathmandu woman who got married recently, but couldn't get a US visa to join her husband despite repeated tries. Intelligent, smart and skilled, she married a Nepali who came from the USA seeking a bride here. A few days after the wedding, the man went back to America, and the woman feels lost and is suffering separation anxiety.

The story of many women who marry Nepali men staying in the United States is the same: a few questions are asked because an eligible bachelor living in America is a temptation for many parents who want their daughters married off. Parents forego the ritual of checking the man's antecedents, and brides accept the offer blindly in the hope of making it to the land of opportunity.

I personally know 14 married Nepali men living together in the same place in America, and all of their wives are still in Nepal. Many of them wished to take their wives along, but because the American Embassy denied them a visa they have not been together since their wedding day. For some the wait has lasted ten years.

Samjhana is one of them. A few years ago, her husband had gone to America on a programme and had returned after it was over. Since he had a multiple entry visa, he went back again. Since then, she has been trying to join her husband with help from an American businessman who is trying to get the couple green cards. But after three visits to the American embassy, she still hasn't got her visa. The first time she took her husband's letter and details of his bank holdings there. She felt that the embassy people sounded positive, although they asked her to come back with her bank balance and property statements. With help from her father-in-law, Samjhana returned to the embassy armed with everything that the embassy had asked for. This time the visa officer said her husband's letter was old and that she must get a new one. She got that too, and went again. This time they were straight, and blunt: "You will not return. We won't give you a visa."

Samjhana is a post-graduate student at the Padmakanya Campus as well as coordinator of the Amnesty International chapter of the college. She doesn't want to go to America and lose herself there. She only wants to stay in America for a while, look around, understand the country and return. But the embassy denied her a visa three times after making her run around for paperwork. Feeling humiliated, she says: "It is not good to humiliate Nepalis in such a manner. I don't want to go to America now. Why go to a place where there are people like this?"
Buna Ghimire teaches at Tribhuvan University. Three years ago her husband, who has a post-graduate degree and is pursuing further studies, went to America. He has sent her the papers necessary for Buna to join him, but she doesn't even want to go to the embassy because she knows women like her have been denied a visa. Fearing humiliation, she doesn't even bother to try. She says all she wants to do is stay there for six months or so, see what it's like, and return to her Tribhbuvan University job. The daughter of a renowned Nepali professor, Buna says: "We are not pleading for mercy. I only want to join my husband and see what it's like with him."

Sushila Gyawali's husband has been in America for the last one and a half years. Here, she runs her husband's printing press. She too wants to join her husband and see what this place America is all about. Her husband has promised to send the necessary papers. Although afraid that her press work might suffer, it is the fear of being rejected that has kept her from even filling out the visa forms. Says Sushila: "We can have fun here. There is no way we are going to live there. My husband will be back in a few years. If there was a guarantee of getting a visa I might have thought about going there for a few months even if I had to leave the children here. But there is no guarantee. I do not wish to be humiliated by the embassy."

Only three women out of the 14 I know have consented to their names being published, but the story of the rest is painfully similar. Some husbands went there as students, some now have green cards and are working there, and some are in the process of getting it. Most of them can take care of their families. When their spouses are denied a visa, it is a huge embarrassment for the husbands. What will the in-laws and relatives think? What trauma must a newly-wed couple bear when they cannot live together after getting married, and how is a wife to bear the nagging suspicion of society that her husband has abandoned her.

The American Embassy may have its own criteria for granting a visa, but they seem to treat all applications with suspicion. Could it be that the wrong people are getting visas, and the right ones are not because of this tendency to treat everybody as guilty until proven innocent? There are examples of Nepalis living illegally in America who work at slaughter houses, skinning cattle and pigs, and who come here and take Nepali women back as their brides. These men boast that even if they are working in positions most Americans wouldn't think about as a job, they can come to Nepal and take educated high-class brides. When these girls go over and realise that they have been fooled, they run away with other men and some end up working as domestics. There are only a few really strong women who dare to fight back and maintain their dignity. Consider these real-life stories:

. A man who had been living in America for a long time married the very young daughter of a rich and famous businessman in Kathmandu. After a few days of enjoying life he went back, and the wife waited anxiously for years so that she could go and live with her husband. She hasn't heard a word from him since he left Nepal.
. The same man's elder brother came to Nepal posing as a doctor, married a young girl and took her to America to live with him. But when his bride discovered the truth she divorced him and is now living there doing odd jobs.
. Another of Kathmandu's rich and famous families married off their educated daughter to an uneducated man who actually worked as a security guard in America. When the bride went to America she was forced to share a room with three other men besides her husband. With her husband out working 18 hours a day, she got lonely and returned to Nepal.
. In bigger US cities there are up to 14 Nepali men living illegally and sharing one room. One Nepali woman who couldn't live with her husband in a cramped shared room ran off with a man who lived alone. There are many Nepali women who find themselves in a similar situation after reaching America and so elope with Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, or elderly Americans.
Nepalis should be warned about men who live illegally in America and come here to get married, lying about their work and their lives. Parents ought to thoroughly check the antecedents of these men before giving their daughters in marriage to them. Women must be cautious and not just blinded with the dream of going abroad. For the American Embassy visa section, a piece of advice: a few cases of visa abuse does not mean that everybody who wants to go to America will never come back. Countless well-intentioned Nepalis have now been humiliated, permanently turned off, and their lives ruined.
(Adapted from Himal Khabarpatrika.)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)