Bhutan or Nepal- where do I stand?

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Rupesh DhunganaWhen I travel through my memory lane, all I can remember now is all the happiest moments of my childhood. I would hang around with friends, steal chocolates and flowers. Spending the whole day in a playground and in Deuna River with my friends added to my happiness.

 What I did in those days made my life a worth then. People may take this in other way assuming that refugee life is always a miserable one. My intention through this story is to make others look at the positiveness and strengths that can exist in the refugee life.

I grew up as a refugee boy with my entire family for seventeen years. I can accept the fact that
my parents felt very sad being away from their home country. My parents left behind their land
and properties. Some family members were also left behind. My parents struggled every minute to keep us alive. They worked in a low wages at least to feed me and my siblings. They gave up everything for us but for me what mattered the most was my friends and play grounds. When I used to be with my friends, we used to spend whole day playing Chukibu, Chungi, Saikutu and etc. in play grounds and courtyards. The hotness or coldness even at its peak would not bother us. The family members were always there to take care of me, indeed, they worried about me but I worried about nothing other than my mother because she was only the one I can sleep with. I was just one year old when I left Bhutan. Honestly, I find it difficult to love Bhutan since I never grew up on its land, never studied at its schools, and was never given an opportunity to return. Neither I could describe its beauty nor I could prove how how fertile the land is.

When I look at my parents’ eyes and listen to their stories, I can easily make out how much they
love Bhutan. Their stories and beliefs are rooted with that land. They left behind everything they knew and they possessed. They hold unto these experiences in their minds and hearts. My
parents remind me that I was born in Bhutan so the least I can do is trust some of the ways of the land. Some younger generations will say “Bhutan is my mother land” but not much more than that.

While staying in the refugee camp, I had no idea how healthy food I was eating. I had no idea how clean the water that I was drinking was. I did not know when I would get to sleep each night, or what time my school would start, and who would come to pick me up after school. I never had chance to think about these things. Had I ever tried to ponder over those things , I would have thought that my life was the worst one on this earth. Indeed, everything I ate or drink fulfilled my thrust and assisted me to live this life.

Each day at the refugee camp, I would do whatever it took to fulfill my hunger; sometimes I had no choice but to eat damaged and expired food. To fulfill my extreme thirst sometimes I would drink dirty water. Somehow, I never dwelled on these events; instead I would often laugh while in pain, smiling when to uplift those who cried.

Memories of being with my family, hundreds of friends, teachers, and community as a refugee
are all the sparking pieces of my life. I still remember the small garden in the courtyard bloomed with flowers of different colors. These experiences are more beautiful to me than the land of Bhutan. I can also understand that my parents and elders do not feel in the same way I do about Bhutan and the refugee life.

Since my childhood, I have been an energetic youth who always felt inspired from the stories
from the community. I have always been motivated to work for my community. For some years, I worked in several small groups like Youth Friendly Centre (YFC). I coordinated with major groups and organizations like Camp Management Community (CMC) and UNHCR to help improve quality of life of community members. My heart remains to seek bigger opportunities to help create endless change. Sometimes I feel the change needed is too big. I realize that blaming myself will ultimately lead me towards frustration and this will not be helpful for me or anyone.

As eager to learn from elders, I was able to understand at least the saddest stories of our parents and terrific situation of our refugee lives-struggle to live. People survived at meagre food supplies, worked at low wages, smiled at bamboo huts, feared devastating floods and uncertain outbreak of fires. Also, confrontation with host communities and spread of diseases like Malaria, Jaundice, HIV/ AIDS added to plights of refugees.

Honestly, I have a lot of love, faith, and respect for my elders who poured their sweat and blood in Bhutan. They were a part of many that made Bhutan a beautiful place.Now they are struggling in a land like Canada to make the future bright for those who are with us today and for generations to come. That is why, I am always connected with their stories, and I always feel sorry to hear their sad stories.

Today I am faced with a challenge. When someone ask me about my nationality I am stuck with the question. Bhutan or Nepal? Bhutan-because I was born there. Nepal-because I speak Nepali and my ancestors were from Nepal. This is very tricky and deep question to be asked. Perhaps, I will have no words when I hold a Canadian citizenship in my hand. But I will probably be smiling because that would be my first amazing experience of being naturalized.

Editor’s note: This story is common to all camp bred younger generation of Bhutanese society.  BNS motivates young writers like Rupesh to write more exciting and insightful stories relating history of their ancestors with the achievement they have made even after becoming refugee. This is a courtesy publication.