Gradually and steadily, a notable headway in the lives of Bhutanese in America, after resettlement, has been witnessed without much brainstorm. Obviously, during the initial phase of transition each family, educated or otherwise, is destined to undergo a bumpy ride, mild or extreme, until the road to integration and adjustment in the new surroundings is complete.
Soon after the new émigrés set foot on the new soil, food, beddings, some clothes and apartments are immediately provided by assigned resettlement agencies as an immediate relief.
Meanwhile, these organizations in each State in the USA are also busy shepherding, chaperoning and overseeing the wellbeing of the new arrivals. Thereafter, while the educated ones are hopefully trying to compete and sell themselves in the new market, the other lot- especially the old and the illiterate- at times find themselves in a new conundrum and start gazing at the sun and the American sky.
At the very outset most refugees from all over the world have to undergo a series of dilemma, isolation and setbacks in the course of pulling their way out to precisely acclimatize and familiarize themselves to the world of Uncle Sam.
As the clock ticks by, the progression of hope and confidence ensues; the looming confusions appear to evaporate slowly and a new ray of hope begins to shine. After a few months, obviously in an attempt to make each family self-sufficient, employment managers of resettlement organizations also start looking for jobs offering preference to the neediest ones at least for a minimal sustenance. Next, others follow the suit and the job-hunts booms!
In a couple of years, when the economy in each household begins to take a desired height with sustainable pace, the gripping greed and temptation of shifting the gear of existence to the next level comes handy, therein. Subsequently lives begin to prosper day by day and when the living advances in tune with the digital world this vast and seemingly unending planet appear to draw closer in the eyes of the Bhutanese diaspora.
Interestingly, when the usually rich American foods begin to nourish the long sun-tanned and worn-out cells, the skin regenerates. It begins to shine and the wrinkles smoothens. Further, when supplemented by an easily affordable fashions most of the grown-ups tend to brew and discover life differently.
It is perhaps under these spells of evolution that long under-fed, frail Sita gradually transforms into an American Sweetie. Hari Bahadur becomes Harry and Jaganath becomes Mr. Jagon. Lila Maya becomes Miss Lily while Lal Bahadur advances to Mr. Lol! The list goes on and it is evidently clear once you roll the browser in today’s networking media.
Toddlers and children, growing with towering heights and weights seemingly under the heap of commercial fertilizers, need not have to dart through mud and stones as in the camp. They are now busy at home with PlayStations, iPads and X-box.
In most private houses, high- rise buildings or apartments with Bhutanese occupants, today, the old radios and small idiot boxes that used to be a part of entertainment apparatus back in the slums have been morphed to high decibel audios and flat screen televisions.
Leaky, see-through and shabby ramshackle huts are now reduced to a figment of imaginations when the lives begin to blossom in air-conditioned blocks with American vogue and blueprints.
The female members, who once routinely braved the ordeals of those squarely messy kitchens in the camps, no longer have to suffocate with teary eyes as there are electric/gas oven and microwaves in the ventilated kitchens.
As in the camps one wouldn’t have to stand in line to fetch a ‘gagri’ (pitcher) of water and soiled clothes come out anew once they go into the self-operating laundry machines.
Most foods that usually come in packets and varieties are of imported brands. Wide choice of alcoholic drinks are available aplenty and frugally affordable. Tobacco, in all brands can easily get into the hands of children and low–income populace.
Above all, the old and rustic bicycles that used to squeak and rattle through all the congested corners appear to have magically transmuted into pricey and fancy cars in many of the Bhutanese homes in America.
Facebook, the most proliferating social network of the modern day, serves as an immediate testimony to the rising tide of euphoria among the most Bhutanese living in the Third World. The elevating smiles, impressive snapshots and videos appearing every now and then perhaps speak volume of their ‘gross diasporic happiness’.
However, beneath this heavy sunshine, there is also a spate of eerie plight which is, by and by, making a steady inroad into the Bhutanese societies in America. Although, there appears to have been a smooth sail in a few quarters, moods of a sizeable chunk of the population are beginning to swing. The plausible scenario, to a greater extent, looks to be attributed to the following obvious reasons.
One, seemingly with much financial freedom and largely easy access to alcohol, tobacco and drugs, many of the youths and underage children are beginning to show an inclination to these habits which, in the long run might jeopardize their familial harmony and health. Gambling, another marauding menace insidiously creeping into our societies, have ironically become another pastime for many.
In most of the entry-level work stations in America there is a growing tendency of discrimination, domination and harassment among the employees. Many illiterate hoipolloi Bhutanese folks have become the silent victims of these unsocial acts. Acutely bad communication, language barrier and not being able to report to the boss about any mistreatment in the work places have become the source of exasperation, defeat and frustrations among the desperate lots.
Due to hectic eight-hour (or more) job schedule mostly in lower positions, many of the folks have not been able to give required attention to their sick, disable and the old members of the family and thus, a sense of isolation and rift among the family members is beginning to surface. In many homes, taking advantage of inability and ignorance, their social security and old- age benefits have been grossly misused by the most dominating member of the family.
Many uneducated and conservative parents are still grappling to adapt and cope with the strangely new set-up. They feel like being switched from natural to artificial world. “No English” means they are subjected to usually restricted mobility and confinement.
Finally, while affordable internet in many of the Bhutanese homes is virtually becoming a godsend asset, its negative impact is equally ignored and overlooked. Many children, instead of socializing, are seen gluing themselves with iPad and other digital gadgets for hours and at times even from dawn to dusk edging them to the brink of acute dullness, monotony and eyes problems. Out of curiosity, many tend to hit the ‘wrong buttons’ which, oftentimes backfires with some ‘unfamiliar scenes’. Further, young boys and girls, precisely evading the watchful eyes of their parents, are often hooked to and addicted to adult sites which, in the long run, might jeopardize their mental and sexual health. There is always a potential risk of drawing our youngsters into cybercrimes if they are not subjected to a constant watch both at home and outside preferably by the elite members of the family.
In fact, in Bhutanese communities all across America and beyond, one or more of the above stated reasons might have contributed to the growing case of suicide rates.
Definitely, the writing on the wall is visibly distinct. The good and the bad have equally become the integral part of Bhutanese lives especially in America. However if the bad, without being timely checked, spills over and takes on the good, the entire communities might have to be ready to perennially reel in the ocean of disappointments and failure.
As such, apart from being the part of feast, merrymaking and social jamboree, the community leaders, political pundits and torchbearers should also set some time aside, come forward and timely warn the general mass on the issues stated above. Doing this might help stem and nip the looming bad in the bud. This is a need of the hour!