Sometimes I wonder if life would be simpler if we had no decisions to make. That’s partly the indecisive Libran in me speaking but I also echo the sentiments of the many young Nepalis here in the States. Those torn between the dilemma: to stay on or go back home to Nepal.
I’m almost envious of the generations before us, when dreams of the west were so beyond imagination. An opportunity to go West was not as accessible as an easy (albeit scary and nerve wracking) appointment with an immigration officer and a $1200.00 plane ticket. For most of the generations before us- family, friends, and everything familiar were accessible within a 100 km radius, for those of us abroad, Nepal is 12,755 kilometers away. Globalization and technological advancements have provided our generation with unprecedented opportunities that we have eagerly embraced. Thousands of young Nepalis have flocked overseas in the pursuit of happiness and the American dream. The lure is powerful and often rewarding in many aspects. It’s easy to be envious of the glitz and glamor as displayed on the many Instagram feeds but those photos often don’t tell the stories of the many costs, sacrifices, and dilemmas that living abroad can bring with it.
As a young migrant in the US, there are struggles, hardships, and expectations to live up to. When (and if) you finally do succeed, then the guilt and loneliness of staying so far away from those you love begins to sink in. Living and working abroad brings with freedom, opportunities, and experiences. We have access to the best educational institutions, enjoy better standards of living, are self-sufficient, can support our families financially, cross off items off our wildest travel bucket lists, and are able to fully enjoy the joys of consumerism. Yes, living abroad certainly has its many benefits. One of my friends and I especially enjoy, is the illusion of looking much younger than we are. We occasionally get asked out by high school boys, much to our surprise (quickly followed by exaggerated vanity) whilst being put swiftly back in our place as “aunties” in Nepal!
The American dream (as elusive and heavily stacked against immigrants as it may be – let’s not take the “T” word) is achievable and there are many who’ve successfully worked hard to reach the zenith. Many now have big houses, with big backyards, and the whole nine yards, yet when October rolls around, you’d be hard pressed to find a Nepali abroad who doesn’t wish they were back home reveling in the festivities of the season. When you’ve lived abroad for so long you romanticize all the best parts of Nepal. You don’t think about the pollution, the dust, and the noise, all you remember and long for is the warmth of being surrounded by family, friends, and the familiar. So instead, we make do here with the many friends who’ve become family, sitting around eating our best khasi masu imitation (good luck finding goat at the local supermarket), lighting a few electric candles around the house, and sending our taas winnings through the latest money sharing app. We try to hold on to the magical feelings and memories of these special holidays but it’s hard to maintain a connection to home when there’s work to do and day long meetings to attend to. Asking for a day off to gamble, stick some uncooked rice on your forehead, eat and drink with friends, is a hard sell!
We are stuck in a limbo of sorts. Many of us are now finally enjoying the spoils of our hard labor. The years of working under the table earning less than minimum wage, summers spent living with 20people in a 3-bedroom home to save up for the semester or keeping two full time jobs while maintaining a 12-credit course load are behind us. We can now finally take a breather and sit back and pause to reflect on how far we’ve come. That reflection however, also reveals with it, the increased gray strands of hair and wrinkles on the faces of our loved ones, the peeling walls that once had fresh coats of paint, and the many missed moments that’s we’ve only witnessed through photographs.
There is a beautiful Hindi song called ‘Kabira’ ‘from the movie ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’ that to me exemplifies this dilemma that so many of us face. The song is an ode to a traveler, a free bird, a dreamer, who is living out his dreams and yet feels stranded and empty inside. The song is an appeal from his loved ones to remind him of the small familiar pieces that embody ‘home’ for him, his broken cot, the earthen pot of cold water kept outside for him, and the familiar breeze that’s waiting for him. The song hits especially close to home for many of us who are now enjoying our hard-earned successes and lives abroad. For many of us, living abroad allows us to break away from the shackles of political and societal constraints, it gives us a chance to live out our dreams and enjoy our freedom. The world is our oyster here, and we are at the cusp of reaping the many benefits it has to offer. That is however, easier said than done because for many of us, no matter how successful, no matter where we are, be it the best place on earth; somewhere in the back of our minds, the question always remains …. Is all this going to be worth it in the end?
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