Back home, Dahal’s escape from his hostel had increased the pressure on his family. His father was forced to do labour without pay for several months by the police. His mother, who had learnt where he was, came looking for him in India one day, having told the authorities that she was going to the market.
Mother and son later joined other refugees from Bhutan who were being transported across India to be dumped in Nepal. Back in Dorakha, Dahal’s friends and neighbours were also leaving the country as the repression intensified.
The rest of his family received orders of deportation if they could not present Dahal, so they too, left home, with no idea of what the future held.
“Just like that, our middle-income family was stateless, and we plunged into poverty,” Dahal recalls.
At the refugee camp in Nepal, Dahal passed his high school exam, started teaching other refugee children at the camp school. The bamboo huts in the camp were crowded, there was no clean drinking water and garbage piles were as high as the huts themselves. The summers were sweltering and in monsoon, the rains drenched everyone. Disease stalked the refugees, and many died.
“We barely survived,” Dahal says matter-of-factly. “It was what it was.”
Dahal wanted on to pursue further studies, but he had no money. So he left the camp to go to Sunsari distirct in Nepal, where he taught for a few more years. In 1997, he saved enough money to come to Kathmandu and enrolled at the Pashupati Campus while continuing to teach. His family, still at the refugee camp, relied on the money he sent back for everyday expenses and to put his siblings through school.