I tried not to be bothered by the inconvenience because I wanted to go back to Nepal the minute I had earned enough. Qatar was never home, and I never tried to make it a home.
I did not join diaspora groups, I did not travel around much, and I kept my circle small. A local customer who had tried to haggle about the cost of a motor part once rudely reminded me, “Your only identity, proof of existence here is your passport. If we destroy it, you are non-existent.”
That threat still rings in my ears. They tried to use their power over us to keep us in our place. My only consolation was that this was a transient sacrifice that would pay in the long run.
And it did get me to a better place. Back in the 2000s property prices in Kathmandu were cheaper. I put all my money in land, and that value has now multiplied 30 times. There is a crop of us early migrant workers who really lucked out investing in land in Kathmandu.
Others who did not prioritise savings, were unable to save due to their personal finances, or those who chose to put their money in the bank, did not benefit much. The newer ones do not have the same option as I did, since land prices in Kathmandu have soared. So, I do consider myself lucky as I have managed to break out of the poverty that I was born into, and my children will now be all right.
Aside from investing in land, I also tried to start a motorcycle workshop, a tomato farm and a furniture store. But these businesses failed for one reason or another.
My last resort has been to take a loan to buy a car, and drive people around based on referrals and contacts with car rental companies. This has been surprisingly more lucrative than anything else I have ventured.
It is different working in Nepal, since there is a greater sense of pride in my job. I like telling tourists whom I drive around about Nepal, and give them a good experience — not just so I get a good referral, but also because I want them to have a good impression about my country.
Working in Nepal, I think beyond myself. In a foreign land, my narrow focus was to just earn and leave as soon as I could. Nothing else mattered, there was no sense of attachment to the place.
Perhaps that is why, when I left Qatar after spending nine long years after being sure that I could finally make it on my own in Nepal, I did so without remorse or nostalgia.
Translated from a conversation in Nepali.
Diaspora Diaries is a regular column in Nepali Times providing a platform for Nepalis to share their experiences of living, working, studying abroad. Authentic and original entries can be sent to [email protected] with ‘Diaspora Diaries in the subject line.