From Western Nepal to Southern India
40-year old Hira Devi, and her husband have lived and worked in India. She has been there three times in the last 15 years. She lives in her village now in Mahendranagar, and has no plans to return to India, while her one of her sons, still lives and works in India.
Travel at your own risk
One of the reasons, why Devi doesn’t want to return to India, is because she thinks the travel has become unsafe over the years.
I first went to India when I was twenty-five. Now, I’m forty. But I have been there three, four times. I went to India, with my husband. What do you say in India? One has to work! The first time, I stayed for five years in Mysore, then I stayed in Bangalore. It was good in Mysore – we went to the zoo, to temples and other nice places. There is this place where the king lived – the palace, we went to visit the palace. It was good. It was also good in Bangalore. Then, I stayed for two years, and then one year. We went to India once from Gorakhpur, and the other time, directly from Delhi.
What would I like about living in India? I didn’t like leaving my own village. I didn’t know the language. I was scared. They rob people, they use medicines on women and they have stolen earrings of numerous women. That made it difficult for everyone. I went with my husband on the bus. A woman who came with us, who was sitting behind my seat, got her earrings and nose ring robbed. They used medicine to make her unconscious. I was smart so I was spared. She was also there with her husband, but they were offered sweets and they ate it. I had heard that we should not eat anything offered by strangers. They did offer sweets to us as well. But I didn’t eat them and didn’t give them to my children. They ate it all. And the robbers took her gold earrings.
“What would I like about living in India? I didn’t like leaving my own village. I didn’t know the language. I was scared. They rob people, they use medicines on women and they have stolen earrings of numerous women.”
There were many Nepalis who worked in Bangalore. Some have gotten robbed. They go leaving their homeland to earn some money, but they get robbed on their way back. Nothing happened to us but the person with us got robbed.
There wasn’t anyone from the village when I travelled. I have gone there three times, and all the three times I went by myself. When I returned after five years, I came with my husband. Then he returned to India and I stayed back. And, I went again, later. This time, I came first. Then my husband returned.
“I have one kattha (unit of land) here. I have to build it here. I don’t have any desire to live there. It’s good here. I’ve raised a buffalo. And I just sit under the sun.”
Working as a househelp
Devi worked as a househelp in various houses and her husband worked as a security guard. In Bangalore, they worked at Murugeshpalya, near the airport.
I worked in four houses. There was an aunty in the first house where I worked. No, I worked in four, five houses. There were three members in some house, and there were four members in some. I used to cook, rotis and vegetables. My husband used to work as a watchman. What other job can you find in Bangalore? You stand at the gate carrying a stick—that’s all. My work didn’t even take an hour – it didn’t even take fifteen minutes in one house. We cooked four, five rotis. We cook roti in one stove and vegetables in the other. We cooked roti, not rice. They ate roti. They were mostly from Delhi and Barel – they liked roti, so we cooked roti.
I liked it there later on. I didn’t like in the beginning, having to leave my own village. I liked it later, but how could I stay there leaving my own livelihood here. I have one kattha (unit of land) here. I have to build it here. I don’t have any desire to live there. It’s good here. I’ve raised a buffalo. And I just sit under the sun.
Our employer was very good. To see if they can trust us, the employers there would leave gold rings and chains lying around in the kitchen. We would pick them up and put them in the proper place. That way, they’ll start trusting us. The employers were good. Outside, they are mostly like hooligans. We worked in the building, so we were mostly inside. Sometimes, we went to our friends’ places. We would go together. We were scared to travel alone. If one knows how to speak Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, he would not have any problem. But if one does not know the language, not even Hindi, he will have a hard time.
The Nepalis in Bangalore – we gathered together, we celebrated festivals. There is a thing called Abba there. We used to make Abba. We made Kajirai, Poonda [Name Unclear]. We made Baisa Kheer [Name Unclear]. I know how to make Dosa, Idli. I don’t have the utensils to cook those things here. That is why I haven’t been able to make them here.
I used to go to the market alone. I can understand Kannada. I understand the language—Kannada. I learned it quite immediately. I still haven’t forgotten it. I know Kannada completely. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I used to speak with the sethni (employer’s wife) in Kannada and Tamil. The sethni still calls sometimes. My son is still there, he works there as a watchman. He calls. He asks me to come there. What would I do there?
“It’s very hard for Nepalis. We made around five, six thousand. We spent it on food and medicines—it was just enough.”
Even though Devi liked it in India, she says life was hard. The earnings weren’t sufficient and they saved close to nothing.
How much could I save when I had my children there? I had my two children with me. One was eight and the other was two. It was very hard back then. There was a hoonerni [Not clear]. She helped me a lot. She heated the milk, cooked food, and fed the children. She was Kannadawali…not Tamilwali. Our children studied there till second grade. But then we realized we couldn’t afford to send them to school there. Then we brought them here. I couldn’t save.
The place we lived in – it was given to us by the employer. Who can afford to rent. They’ll ask for forty, fifty thousand advance and four, five thousand rent. They give us small rooms—under the stairs. The store is right there, and we sleep there. It’s very hard for Nepalis. We made around five, six thousand. We spent it on food and medicines—it was just enough. If you are alone you can save, but with a family you can’t. And then at one point, my husband had to get an operation, in Mission Hospital in Mysore. It cost 25,000 Indian rupees. We got the operation done by taking out our blood. It was very hard back then. If you are a Nepali, Gorkhali, they (the locals) are very good to you once you earn their trust.
“When I think about my time in India, I feel good about that. The place where I lived was good. It was good in Bangalore. The first time I came directly after five years.”
There were other Nepali women who worked with us – some worked in factories, some worked in berry factories, some in garment factories, briquette factories, sweet factories, and some in utensil factories. We worked like that. We worked wherever we could find work. We spoke in Nepali, and if the women understood Kannada, we also spoke in Kannada.
When I think about my time in India, I feel good about that. The place where I lived was good. It was good in Bangalore. The first time I came directly after five years. I didn’t bring anything from there, because it was too far. If it was near I could have brought things. And we would have to carry the things down at the stations and put them in again. Who would carry it? How far would the coolies take them? It wasn’t possible.
Returning to India
Talking of her return to India, she says that she doesn’t want to. She talks about her time in India and the food she missed when she lived there.
I don’t want to return to India. The instances of robbery are going up. They don’t let you go through if you don’t have proof of residence). Yes, but I also have a ration card, in India – I have left it with my son. He lives alone. It could be hard for him when he comes back. He has made his own documents – it’ll be easy for him to travel. He is eighteen. Probably, he would come for Dashain and Tihar. He tries to come every year if he has the time, if he can get a leave from work, mostly.
In India, of course you miss your family. I ate idli, dosa there. I missed roti. They mostly eat rice there—rice and kodo mudde [Not Clear]. I like roti. We eat rice just once in a day. I missed puri and sel – we had to make it ourselves. We used to get together during festivals. We made it when we want to eat. We celebrated the festivals together. The neighbors and people from the village, all come together during Dashain and Diwali. We prepared food together-sel, puri. There weren’t people from other villages, everyone was from our village.
“The neighbors and people from the village, all come together during Dashain and Diwali. We prepared food together-sel, puri.There weren’t people from other villages, everyone was from our village.”
Many still go. It has been three, four days since someone from Dhami gaon had gone. They were robbed. They were quite naïve – both husband and wife. The woman was made unconscious in the bus, when the husband had gone to get some food. When he was back, her wife was unconscious and her ear rings had been stolen. The guy brought his wife back home from there. India is not for the naïve ones. It is possible for a lone woman to travel in Nepal, but it is not in India.
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