Mithuwa Kumar Thakur, 36, was determined to escape poverty and unemployment in Nepal. So when all his construction worker friends would take a short nap after lunch break, he would practice driving a road roller in the sweltering desert of Saudi Arabia.
One hot afternoon, he lost control of the compactor, crushing his left leg below the knee. It had to be amputated.
When he came to at a Saudi hospital, he wept for days, not because he was an invalid but because he realised that he was the sole breadwinner for his family. Thakur comes from Dhanusa in the eastern Tarai, the district with the highest number of migrant workers.
“I was in agony, so I begged the nurse to secretly poison me to death,” he confided. “I did not want to return home without a leg.”
He says he thought of killing himself, even after coming home: “I could not look at the dejected faces of my wife and growing daughters.” But after being counselled by a psycho-social expert mobilised by the Swiss government-funded Safer Migration (SaMi) project, Thakur regained his determination to live.
He learnt carpentry, and now works at a local furniture factory. “Because I do not have a leg, I do not earn as much as other carpenters,” he says. “But this is just enough to feed my family.”