Finding Nepal in Garhwal
Kaushila, 44, worked in India for a year in 2051, in Garhwal. After her return from Garhwal, she went to Saudi and went to India again. She went to Saudi via Bombay, and describes her stay in Bombay in much detail. Her experience of working in India, the second time around was much better, she says. She finds several similarities between the culture and people of Garhwal and Nepal. She and her husband have returned to Nepal and live in the village now, while her two sons set off to work in India.
The first time
In Garhwal, Kaushila and her husband worked for a year before returning to Nepal.
I stayed there for a year; during which, I gave birth to my second daughter. I carried stones while I had my baby inside me. I did a lot of work while I was pregnant. My baby was born while I was working—at the site. The contractor was a very bad person. I worked there for a year. I suffered a lot. When I returned home, the contractor didn’t even pay me. The contractor had the money. We both had gone there. They didn’t pay us both. Then we went to another place to work, where we worked for three months. We saved a bit of money there, with which we came back home. The children were quite young then.
After her first time in India, Kaushila went to Saudi – via Bombay.
After returning from India, I stayed home for two years and then I went to another foreign country. There also I faced a lot of hardship. I went to Saudi. I went from Bombay. I stayed in Bombay for three months, and then … went to Saudi. I went there alone, through an agent here but the agent who flew us there was from Pokhara. They gave us a lot of trouble.
“After returning from India, I stayed home for two years and then I went to another foreign country. There also I faced a lot of hardship. I went to Saudi. I went from Bombay.”
I’m not sure where I stayed in Bombay – it was in the outskirts, I think it was called Pune. The place was next to the hills. There were hills on one side, there was plain on the other, and there was the city. We just stayed on the hills. They didn’t provide us enough food, and kept us hungry most of the time. That’s how they sent us. My children were alone at home. They were small. Now they’ve grown. The daughter was born in India, the rest were young. I have two sons and a daughter. Then I went abroad, where I also suffered a lot. I had taken my husband with me to Bombay. I used to cry sometimes and so did my husband. Then I sent my husband back home, and I went to Saudi. The children were quite small.
“Women are not allowed to look at men. Men are not allowed to look at women. It’s a very difficult place.”
To get to the airport, it took around one, one and a half hours. It’s next to the sea. I stayed there for three months, but they gave us a lot of trouble. I did talk to people from Bombay. Some of them were good. Most of the people we interacted with were Muslims. It was a Muslim area. There weren’t many Hindus. They spoke to us kindly and were good to us. But it could have been because I was with my husband; who knows. They were good to us. The agents made it a bit difficult for us. Besides that, we didn’t travel much outside.
I learned Hindi –a little, not much. But I have forgotten it now. I knew it back then. I went there in 2066 – to Mumbai. We did go to look for work one day, as we weren’t given food. But we didn’t find work, so we came back. We didn’t work. Both I and my husband had gone looking for jobs, hoping we’d be able to feed ourselves by working, but we couldn’t find any work, so we came back. We went walking and we came back walking—so we did not have to pay for any ticket. But we didn’t work in Bombay. There were other women who worked in houses. They lived in rented rooms like us. Near from where we lived, there were four, five Nepali women. Yes, there were women who went to Saudi. There were five who went from here with me. There, they flew before me, and there were some who came back. We all flew separately from there.
Alone, I was scared. I felt like crying. Being alone, I wondered what would happen—will I survive or die? I was going to a foreign land. I had to go through Bombay. When they dropped me off at the airport I couldn’t tell where I was. I cannot read, I don’t recognize any letter. It was difficult. When I sat on the plane, I cried. There was a man from Delhi, going there for work. He tried to console me in Hindi, but I could not understand anything. The airplane took off, and I kept crying. When he said, “don’t cry, we have reached Saudi airport,” I cried even more. Then I didn’t know where I was. Then you can’t tell where the men are, you have to talk to women. Women are not allowed to look at men. Men are not allowed to look at women. It’s a very difficult place. My employer saw my face when I was coming back. She was an old woman. She took a picture of me at the airport. Before then, she did not know what I looked like. That’s the kind of place there.
I worked in Saudi for two years. The first place I worked at was very bad. I broke my hand. Then the office, the company, shifted me to another place which was good for me. I did not get three months’ salary—no, I did not get eight months’ salary, from the first house. I had worked for eight months there and I didn’t get paid at all. In the second house they gave me all of my salary. Besides giving me the salary… then they bought a ticket to Kathmandu for me and sent me home. Because I was good, the employer also gave me some extra cash when I was coming back. She was good. Then after coming back from there, I went back to India to earn money. I have to send my children to school, feed them; and I don’t have land.
“I went to India, again, with my husband to the same place —Garhwal. It was good the next time. We worked.”
The second time
Kaushila says her experience of working in India was better the second time around. The cultural difference between Nepalis and Garwhalis were close to none
I went to India, again, with my husband to the same place —Garhwal. It was good the next time. We worked. We carried stones and sand for construction workers. We toiled for others all day long. We worked there six months, then, we went there again and worked for another six months. Now I can’t see properly, so I stay home. I can’t work. I broke my hand. The employer in the first house I went to – she broke my hand. The whore broke my hand and threw me away. Now these days, my hands hurt, my head hurts because of a wound, and I can’t do any work. I stay home. There is going to be a wedding, so I will be here dancing.
“The Gadwali people are very good. But there are some who aren’t. The people in Garhwal and Nepal seem similar, because their environment and ours are the same.”
In Garhwal, I think it’s mostly the Nepali men who are bad—rather than the men from Garhwal. So, I didn’t like interacting with Nepali men. They don’t even care if you are old—a women like their mothers, aunts and sisters. I did socialize, but not much. I did my work, came back, cooked dinner, ate and slept. And in the morning, I cooked again, ate, went to work, worked, and came back to my own rented room. So I did not socialize much. The women were fine, but the men were not, regardless of their age—they were all the same.
There were many other Nepal women working there. They did other things. Some worked in houses, some carried stones and sand, some worked as mistries [a general term that encapsulates occupations such as, carpentry, electrical work, etc.], some carry load. There are many Nepalis there. The Gadwali people are very good. But there are some who aren’t. The people in Garhwal and Nepal seem similar, because their environment and ours are the same. But I didn’t find that in other places. It’s dangerous in the plain regions in India. They harass lone women. It’s scary to travel alone. But in Bombay, it’s different. It was very dangerous. We could not go out. If we did go out, we were scared. If you are a woman from there, they don’t bother you as much. But if you tell them you are a Nepali, they are very aggressive.
It was good in Garhwal. The work is the same, as you are doing someone else’s work. You have to stand-up when they tell you to and sit when they tell you to. They said we had to work for eight hours, but they made us work for ten. They say the work is eight hours, as per government regulations. You have to work according to the contractor. Then there are munsis (accountants). You have to provide for them first. They make you work for ten hours. And the wages—at first, they say that they’ll give us 200-250 per day, and then when we have agreed and arrive there, they give us one-fifty, hundred, fifty. There they cut our wages, aAnd when we do the calculation when it’s time to come home, we don’t have anything. This is how they cut our pay. A little is cut by the contractors, a little by the maits, and a little by the munsis.
There were some Nepalis who had been living in Garhwal for many years. There was a Nepali woman who lived beside a river, next to a hill. She had a husband who had died due to some accident while being drunk. Her children were small then. She stayed there, built a house next to the river and grew vegetables there. She settled in India. Now, she has land, she grew big tomatoes there. She sold them and provided for her children. Those children have gone to school, and are now working. Now, it’s good. There are people who have lived like that. It is that good in Garhwal; Garhwalis are that good.
“The government does not know how to feed itself, how will it provide for us?”
In the village
Kaushila and her husband have returned to India, but now her children work in India. The younger son works in Gujrat, and the older one wants to go to India, too.
It has been one and a half year, since I returned. I have been home since then. We stayed there for one year. We stayed there for six months at first. We came back and stayed home for a month. Then we went back again.
“The thing is – there are no jobs in Nepal. All of us are surviving by going to India and working there—both women and men.”
Now, I and my husband live here, in the village. My husband’s also old now. He is at home as well. The eldest daughter goes to school. The youngest son who was studying, just came back from India. He is going there again—to work. He’s fourteen-fifteen years old. He works in Gujrat. He went there alone, he came back alone, and now he is going to go back again. He has friends from this village. Even my eldest son is saying that there isn’t enough money to study, and that he wants to go and work. He is going after giving his examination. He is seventeen years old. There isn’t money to send him to college, so he says he will go. We, the parents who should have earned for him are weak. How would we be able to afford his education? A lot of money is needed to afford education. The teachers and committees said they would make it free, but later we had to spend our own money. So he says he’ll give grade eleven’s exam and go.
The government does not know how to feed itself, how will it provide for us? We can go from Haldwani … and there’s a place in the middle—I don’t notice anything after I sit on a bus. And it goes from Rishikesh and Haridwar. They did check us here in Nepal in the border. The border is right here. They check our citizenship. They ask names. If there are only women, they give you trouble. Sometimes they don’t allow you to take some of the bags. But they don’t trouble the thieves.
The thing is – there are no jobs in Nepal. All of us are surviving by going to India and working there—both women and men. We are surviving with the money from India, and rice and shelter of Nepal. There is a bit of trouble in the border. Beyond that it’s fine. But you may come across thugs on the way, and might get robbed. You have to be a little careful. That happens on trains but not in buses … happens in buses sometimes. Besides that, there isn’t much trouble. We travel comfortably.
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