Daughter of a teacher-couple in Kathmandu, Pratiksha Gelal came to Bangalore four years ago to study nursing. Confident and popular in the private clinic where she now works, Pratiskha is convinced that women can do whatever they set out to do.
I wanted to study nursing and was searching for nursing colleges where I could apply. At that time an exhibition was held in Nepal by colleges from Bangalore. There I found this college – Acharya College of Nursing in Bangalore. They had a package for B.Sc. Nursing costing NRs 4,31,000 including all the fees, hostel facilities, food, lodging. Everything. It was divided into eight parts and we had to pay each semester.
I chose to come to India because nursing college is more expensive in Nepal. In Nepal I think it is 6-7 lakh Nepali rupees, but it is just for the course. It does not include food and lodging. Continuity in education is not there in Nepal. Our batch there had to lose one year because of problems. So, I thought India would be best for me and Bangalore is friendlier to study and the climate is comparatively similar to Nepal. My father and mother are both government teachers in Kathmandu. I have two brothers. Both are younger than me. I am the elder one. One has completed B.Com and is doing his own business in optical equipment. Another one is trying to enrol for engineering and is trying to go to Germany for his electronic engineering.
My family is planning to send me to Australia – I am trying for that. I came to India only for the course. My two brothers were studying and I couldn’t afford studying in Australia. It was too expensive for me. Even only for the nursing I have to spend around 20 lakh Indian rupees – that means about 30 to 35 lakh in Nepalese rupees and it was not affordable. This Indian course was affordable, so because of that I have chosen India to do my nursing course.
I did not know anyone when I first came here. My Dad came and left me in the hostel here. I was totally new to this place. Basically, I was totally new to South Indian food. In our college a large number of Nepalese were there. So the surroundings were familiar, but food was totally new and in my first year I struggled a lot to survive in this place.
Things here were totally different from what the agent had told us in Nepal. The set up was different. The hostel was different. The food was totally different. Even the college was different. The college building itself was different! Actually Acharya has five or six branches all over Bangalore. The pictures of the college which was shown to us at the exhibition in Kathmandu is actually on Magadi Road and nice, but it was not for nursing. It was for MBA, degrees in bio-medics, bio chemistry and microbiology. The nursing building was rented here in RT Nagar, in north Bangalore. So we were shown the campus on Magadi Road and brought here on RT Nagar. Initially, we felt very bad. We were new to this place. Anyhow we had already come here and already paid up. So we made up a concept in our minds that we have to exist here. The distance between the college and the hostel was around one kilometre which we had to walk, as there was no transport facility.
The hostel was safe. The area was safe and security guards were provided. There was a warden. Even our teachers from the college used to stay on the ground floor in the hostel and we felt safe. The theory part of the course was better than what we had expected. However, the College does not have a parent hospital. So for practicals we had to move to different hospitals. So we have to go here and there. In addition to the four lakh every year we had to pay ten to fifteen thousand extra for this practical training. And it was a little difficult to tell our parents about this extra expense because the package was supposed to cover everything.
In my class there were 22 Nepalese out of a total of 44. Two were from Kerala, 20 of them were from West Bengal and 22 were from Nepal. Even the teachers can understand Nepali, ok. We can’t criticise them in Nepali also (laughs), they understand very easily. The large number of Nepalese is because of the agent. The agent goes to Nepal and offers the package. They show lesser amounts in the package but here they are charging us more money. We all come here because of the package. But compared to other colleges, now I feel that Acharya is good. It is the best, because in other girls’ hostel that we have seen – they will give the girls torture. I have been to various girls hostels in Bangalore – I am having my seniors there, so I used to go to meet them. In one room they are keeping eight students. There is no water even. No food. Now I found Acharya was good. I don’t feel that there was particularly bad treatment for the Nepalese. For everyone they used to behave the same. They used to tell us ‘you leave your country and you came here – we are here to take care of you’. They used to take care of us nicely.
Earlier Karnataka was giving nursing registration for Nepalese. Since one year they have totally stopped doing nursing registration for Nepalese. It has been made compulsory for us to go to Nepal and take registration there. Unless you register, you will not be a registered nurse. Earlier many Nepalese used to register here itself. They used to continue to do Masters degrees and also work here. I am going next month for registration – registration is opening in Nepal. I have to go to Nepal, give the exam held by Nepal Nursing Council and then come back here.
The Karnataka Nursing Council doesn’t hold any exam. They used to give certification. Now the policy has become totally different. They have removed the registration from Karnataka. And they made it compulsory from Nepal. Students from India are allowed to get registration, because you need PAN card and Aadhar card. We have studied here only. We are students from here.
We have to again get the registration to work in Nepal. Getting a job in Nepal is very difficult. There are already many nurses there, even staff nurses are there. So for B Sc it is very difficult to get a job. In Bangalore we can easily get the job. Many vacancies are here. If we are planning to go abroad, we can apply after registration from the Karnataka Council. There is no need to go to Nepal again, wait and get the registration before applying abroad.
There is campus recruitment too. Each year come to the campus and interview. Out of 22 Nepali classmates, five-six have stayed back and are working here. The rest have gone back to Nepal. One month only back we got our result. Now we are in the process of getting this Migration Transfer Certificate. All of us are here now for getting the certificates. Next month in July registration will in Nepal, we’ll be going there get registered and be back here again.
My family wants me to come back to Nepal. Here, the salary is not enough. Staying in Bangalore is too expensive. Getting room, staying in Paying Guest accommodation, spending on food-it is not possible to save anything from our salary. As I am also trying to go abroad, they want me to be back. From there only I will be applying for overseas jobs.
Less idli, more momo
I am staying in a PG now, along with a mixed lot of people from Kerala and other South Indian states. Only few of us are from Nepal. At least we can cook whatever we want. So we feel little bit better. We get together and cook chicken items. The thing is – they used to put more coconut. We used to never put coconut and all. We make it spicy. We make momos too. Here the momo taste is different – they put South Indian style spices. They used to think it is just like making idli (laughs). Both are steamed, but the outcome is so different.
When I came to Bangalore, it was the very first time that I left my home. In the beginning I found it very difficult to manage here. I didn’t even know the language. Now at least I can understand Kannada and speak a little bit, but at that time language was totally different. They can’t speak Hindi, the Kannada people. They can’t speak Hindi and English. Only Kannada. So only the sign language was left. In the shops we used sign language for getting things. Now it has become a habit. Compared to other places in India, Karnataka is a safe place for girls. Even at night, if you move around at 9 or 10 pm alone. I have work till 8.30 in the clinic. I will be moving home by 8.30 – I am staying in Hebbal, it will take almost half an hour to reach there. That way I feel safe on the road. Even in Nepal we fear for the girls – and it is scary. In that way Karnataka is good for me.
In colleges we have faced lots of problem. So we heard about this ‘Nepalese in Bangalore Association’. The Association provides help in case of problems. Those who don’t want to go back to Nepal, they will help to get a passport from the Nepalese Embassy. Even when the registration of Nepalese nurses stopped, we tried to meet this Association and complain to them. We never came to know who is the right person to speak to and lodge a complaint. In these five years I have never found out what exactly they do. Like in other countries I have heard through friends that when there is a festival the Association will get the Nepalese together and they hold some program. But here we have not heard. Even for the earthquake victims the Nepalese students gathered together, collected the amount and sent it.
In Dasain we almost always go to back to Nepal. But on Holi we used to gather all together in the college itself. South Indians do not play Holi, but we made teachers play with us. Even they are happy with us – they used to play with us. We have enjoyed lots of festivals here. For this we are happy. On festivals, we used to wear sarees, go to temple together.
There must be more than two or three thousand Nepali students. Every year some concert is there and bands like Nepathya and Mitra come from Nepal and we used to gather together. Maximum of Nepalese are here in Bangalore. Bangalore is full of Nepalese at least in this area.
The middle-class life
Before this clinic I was working in Naginahalli in a small clinic. There I have seen many Nepalese families – they have settled here in Bangalore. Because Nepal is not that developed, here they can at least live their lives – middle class lives. So many families have transferred from Nepal to Bangalore and settled here.
If I decided to settle down here, one thing I have to do is to get document like Aadhar card and PAN card and all. We have trouble even in opening a simple bank account, so getting these documents will be lots of trouble. They do not allow Nepalese students to open an Indian bank account. So we have to withdraw from the Nepalese account. While withdrawing we can get only Rs 7,500 per day. That too they will charge 250 rupees extra. And that too in ATMs– it is very difficult to find ATMs that accept our cards. Only the VISA card it will be available. This connection between Nepalese and Indian bank is not proper. There is a lack of communication because of that. An Indian identity card like PAN or Adhar card is needed to open a bank account.
Now, at least in the Nagarikta (Nepali citizenship) card on the back it is written in English. Before that in Nagarikta card it was written only in Nepali. So no one outside Nepal understands or accepts it. If you have a passport we can easily use it. But if not, then even for getting a mobile phone SIM card it is very difficult for us. As a student for SIM card I have talked to the security guard of the college. First SIM card was in the name of the security guard Uncle – he helped me to get the SIM card. Later on, making Indian friends, they help us. The agents who got us here from Nepal – they are all in it for money’s sake. Neither they pick up our calls nor do they take care of us. Their job is finished once we get the Indian side. They will not do anything. They will not bother about us.
The movement to Bangalore for nursing education has reduced because of these problems. Now Nepalese students in Bangalore – you will not find that many these years. In our batch there were 22, in the senior batch there are 65 Nepalese. But after that there are only two Nepalese. Now in the first year – no one is there from Nepal. One factor is they have stopped the registration. So, all parents are thinking that after studying four to five years also –it is of no use, they again have to come to Nepal. They have to get registered in Nepal and only then they can go back to India. So, some of them feel it is better not to send them to India.
Once I have travelled through bus – Kathmandu to Delhi – there is direct bus. Again from Delhi to Bangalore there was a direct bus. I was having some health problem, so I could not come here by flight. So, once on the Thanpur border, they check all the ID cards. A single woman who is travelling, they will make them get down. They will ask her: where you are going? Why you are going? What you are doing? Maybe it is for our own protection – own safety. That issue is there, they are checking the Nepalese girls here and there. But another thing is that they are reducing our hopes, doing all this checking, they are making us weak. They are discouraging us: why you are going out being a single woman? But single women can work just like men. There is nothing like single woman and single man. If a man can do, the same thing a woman can do. She has to be encouraged, instead of discouraged. At the border many people used to trouble them. Once they find out she is a single and she is going out for work – they will trouble her like anything. If she can’t be bold – she can’t come here and work. Why you are coming here? I was having my ID card with me, my college ID card along with my citizenship card. So I told them – I was just here for the purpose of studying. Now I am here for work. That too, I can explain that I am a nurse – I am going there for my job. Then they will leave me easily. But for others – may be for safety or whatever it is – they will trouble the single women. I didn’t find anyone being sent back to Nepal though.
In Delhi first thing I felt was: what a very horrible place! If we can’t make ourselves strong they will make us do anything they want. Even in taking an auto-rickshaw there is a problem.
Coming a first time to Bangalore too there is a problem, but of a different kind. If you want to go somewhere – you will not know the names – BMTC bus and all – they put the names only in Kannada. Nothing is in English. So every time we have to go and ask – where will this bus go?
Making your own life
Whenever we are working in hospitals – from patients as well as from many people, we have faced this problem. That being a Nepali – why are you here in India for working? When you don’t know the language, why you are here? However, I have also got lots of encouragement from patients. Even though I didn’t know Kannada I tried managing my best, ok. I have given my best. I have got lots of encouragement also. Even in this clinic many people used to come – even they ask – even if I am not here they ask for me.
Being a Nepali and problems I have faced here in Bangalore – I would never suggest to my younger sister or cousin to come to Bangalore. Better you spent two lakhs more, but be there in your own place. But one thing is that you can be independent here. You can be totally independent- you can make your life. That is the best thing about being here. If you can convince your parents and before coming you can make yourselves strong enough– you can come here. There are many things to learn in Bangalore. We can be independent in ourselves. We can learn how life is. One can learn the meaning of struggle.
Staying home we just shout for our mother: Mom we need this, Mom we need that. But here we have to learn to manage a single rupee also. So in this way Bangalore is best. We can come here, safety is there. You have to choose the best place. While choosing the college itself, take your time, Choose the college that has its own hospital. If you do so, Bangalore is good. Just take your time, come here, visit it once. It will take a little money but you will get a good one and you will get the best way to make your life.
The main solution to face problems is to have unity. Wherever you are – either with Nepalese or some friends – try to be united in ourselves. So that once you have a problem, they will be helping and if they have a problem then you will be helping. So making unity is the best thing so that we can solve our problems easily. The government can help in this problem of registration of Nepalese nurses. I feel registration should be started again because it is not that Nepalese students are giving exam and students from Bangalore are not giving exam. Students who have studied in Bangalore – they should get the opportunity to be registered and work here. Salary range will be different. Students who are registered get more salary. Nurses who are not registered get less salary. Another thing is that many students from Nepal are here to study, so the government could have some check mechanism, whether they are getting the facility they were promised. Once you are working, the employers will provide a salary account. So we don’t need help with that. In student life if by providing documents from college we can open an account that will help.
The government can do some things to make things easier. But most important is being strong. Make up your mind that you can do anything. You can go everywhere. Not only in India, but you can go everywhere, every part of the world. You can do whatever you want. You can grab success in your life. You have to make your mind and you have to be strong in yourself.
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