‘The Busy Tag’

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The final face-to-face conversation with my girl before I left Nepal was not an exceptional from the usual conversations typical of such situations. Before she left, her eyes turned to my feet and said in a low tone, “You’ll now become an American. You will damn care about me and forget.” By my settlement status, she was true. But I didn’t see any point in her “damn care” phrase. Trying to assure myself and my girl, I said, “Honey, physical distance counts nothing in this world of communication era. And let alone America, even if my physical body be in moon, my soul and my heart dwells in you, and only you “. Without uttering a word (her gesture was telling- ‘you boys know that’), in a quick move, she took something out of her bag and kept in my hands and left the transit.

After she was gone, I ascertained myself that I would not stop any lines of communication, at least to defy her “Damn care” phrase. Regretfully, yet truly I realize now, much of what she accused me of, have proven right. We barely talked once a month for about four months and now we are almost disconnected.

I was one of the last from our family to be resettled. While in camp, my uncle complained that his son had stopped making phone calls to him. Aunt frequently pinched me not to follow the suit. My sister grumbled to say that our parents forgot her. Every time, when someone accused the resettled kins for not keeping in touch with the family members, I thought about my own brothers and asked myself, “Do they work 24 hours a day?” “They used to have jobs while in Nepal, but everything was fine then”, “Do they think that people in camps just expect dollars?” and so on.

It’s just over six months that I have been here. Whenever I have time, I recall those days and seek answers to those questions I asked myself when I was there. Is western life, really a busy life? If so, what makes us so busy, and if not, why people act as if it was? Not that I can answer every bit of doubt prevailing in the minds of the people still in the camps, but I believe my analysis of facts will throw some light to clear the doubts.

The first accountable factor looks to be the time difference. Most of the jobs usually begin as early as 7:00 am for which one needs to get ready at 6 am. At this hour people in camps are probably at home, because this would correspond to 3:00 to 5:00 pm there. But this is a ready-to-move time for the westerners. The Europeans are at peak work hour and the Australians snoring at this time. So the possibility shifts to evening here. Depending on what time they started, people usually start reaching home at about 5 pm in the evening. A little rest and something to eat, quickly leads to dusk. If you have a phone card- which normally is not a practice here- you have a high chance of catching somebody in Nepal at this time. If not, you got to purchase it by either catching a bus because your market is at a bad distance, or a nearby market does not sell it. All these situations sound narrow escapes, but they are significantly accountable. One can logically argue, “What about the weekends then”? Again, on Saturday, everyone is aware of how the telephone lines remain busy in Nepal. So the probability of a relaxed and uninterrupted telephone conversation is limited to one day a week, Sunday. More than half the time, the calls do not go through and people do have private stuffs to do. All I said here are not the absolute reasons why people are less likely to make a call from US. But as mentioned earlier, these things somehow matter.

However, all people in family do not necessarily have jobs. But almost all, who at least are literate enough to scratch a phone card pin, enter area code and destination number, do jobs. After each of these steps in making a single call abroad, we got to follow what the system says (and it all says in English). So how can my sister there, expect a call from my mom (who doesn’t understand English) when we are out at work? And even if a literate member doesn’t have a job and remains home, people in camps should excuse her/him, because a $2 card could be as heavy as a $20 card for those people.

The resettled folks carry a “busy tag” in the minds of the people in the camps. Well! Let’s look at the reality here. Most people are truly busy. Those who have passed grade 12 and are still pursuing higher studies, for instance, have to attend college as well as do jobs. A girl going to a community college have three things to accomplish by any means, almost everyday- attend classes, go for the job, and finish the school assignment. So, it’s true that she remains busy. Well, I did the same thing while in Nepal. I went to my college regularly, had a job, and used to have quite a lot of assignments. But I worked one hour a day and that was sufficient for me. And even if I lose my job, I had a handful of brothers to pay for my studies, and I never contributed to household expenses. Here, that doesn’t work. A working member in a family has to contribute to all expenses- rent, utilities, buying books, and often medical expenses. The difference is, one would have felt heavy and burdened doing these many things in Nepal, but feels proud doing these things here. Such is the change.

Nonetheless, there are significant percentage of people who say they are busy, a lot more than they actually are. Azra is my neighbor. She came here from Bosnia. “I never did any jobs in my country”, she says. But now she is doing a full time job. She tells she can only call her parents once every two months because she doesn’t have time. She doesn’t seem to have much leisure, but it’s because she never learnt to manage time. There are seven supermarkets on her way back from job. But she never enters one before coming home. She says she needs to change her work uniforms before going to market. There are quite a lot of Azras from our community too, who are “bound to be” busy.

There is, yet, another group of people who left their schools and colleges a year before they were even called by the IOM for the first interview. They seem to have over rated their capabilities and somehow had a wrong notion that America will give them everything. When they saw a different reality, they are shocked. Having nothing productive to do for most of the time, you can find them chatting on the “Facebook”, still saying “they don’t have time”. What would somebody be doing on face book, remaining so busy that she/he doesn’t have time to reply a “hello”. Having said that, my intention is not to hurt anyone and if there goes any coincidence, accept my apologies. I have also seen people who do not want to communicate with friends and relatives because they have a job that they think, is of low level. This is a matter of perception and perseverance. Here, no work is of low or high level. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you have a job. I have met a retired Chemistry professor who now works as a brick mansion. When asked why he has to do that, he simply replies “an idle mind is devil’s workshop”.

Besides all these, there are numerous positive changes that have taken place in our society and we must appreciate these. Lifestyle, behavior and psychology of resettled people in general, have surprisingly improved. The first one to mention is the religious and cultural tolerance. Mr. Upadhyaya, who always pastes some sandalwood on his forehead, frequently goes to church and talks about the exchange of culture and tradition. People of different faith, gathering on a same holy building, and having fun together is appreciative in itself. A warm “hello” or ‘Namaste’ in a pleasant voice by a fellow Bhutanese in Wal-Mart supercenter, is yet another habit of greeting being inculcated, I should say. I do not remember since my school days, on any given day, anyone asking me how I was feeling that day. Neither did I ask anyone. Every child greeting the other so lovingly, every young man talking to a young lady with a manner, every aggressive youngster knowing the consequence of breaking the rule etc are some conducts to be cherished.

Individually, people have become more productive. They are learning to be self reliant and many are already successful. This goes beyond earning dollars. We did jobs in those days too, we did earn, we did learn. But even when the earning of one member was insufficient for a family of 5/6 members, the others remained passive. Holistic approach was missing. Now it is different. When every household member has a job, they bring experience, education, discipline and stories together in the evening at the dining table. This brings confidence, strength and unity among them.

All in all, our society has achieved quite a lot, as I see. It is true that there are various limitations and complexities in societal transformation and its adoptions. Adoption of undesirable habits, especially by youths, for instance, can have a disruptive consequence in the future. This fear has always bothered our seniors, and to some extent, it appears to be logical to think that way. But every problem has a solution. If educated and matured people take initiatives to make the new generation aware of the consequences of cultural erosion and understand the importance of our culture and tradition, our tomorrow is prospectively bright. There are now, different Bhutanese community organizations in almost all resettled areas. These community based organizations have responsibility of providing social, moral and cultural assets to the new generation. In fact the feeling of togetherness is build up only if the community activities continue to uphold the social norms and values. The ‘busy tag’ bearers feel better to celebrate and observe the common festivals, participate in group activities to self empowerment as well as community development. The younger generation would expect and appreciate programs that provide instinct to them to continue the culture, rituals and tradition. If this turns into reality, no one would have a reason to regret a resettled life in the western world.

(Based in Virginia, USA, the writer can be reached at: [email protected])

11 COMMENTS

  1. Tez man,
    The perception varies and depends upon your station point, from where you’re viewing the object. If you look from higher station, you’ll cover more but you’ll lose details, and if you view from near point, you’ll lose the larger coverage. This is how the things will move.
    The frequency of communication doesn’t carry weight in conveying the affection but longer gap and valuable messages generates more curiosity and this is how I value the medium.
    And for progressive people there are always spaces and ways, nothing will prevent from meeting the target.
    Good effort.

  2. A bitter reality expressed with simplicity. A unique peice of its own kind. While it is our resposibility to communicate with the family members left behind, most of us must understand the basic truth that we have a new life to be set here. To start anything afresh, is a challenge so managing time and satisfying evrybody is a lesson to be learned. Kudos! brother, you came up with a good peice to begin exploring your thoughts. Blow up your ability and bombard your thoughts to positively impact your surrounding.
    Richmond VA

  3. I really accept the bitter reality and your way of expression. No need to bombasting your thoughts. We have a large population in the States going to ESL.

    I need your writing from the second paragraph to be continued in the same flow. Your first and the second paragraph really pinched me.So,for the matter,i need its continuation.

    Henrico VA

  4. Its absulately WOW!!! i go throug all and i feel true. The same thing happning to me too. Actually, m nah tha much bussy i just pass my time by playing card, drinking beer bt u know i used to say ohhh m so bussy can u understand my time?? hell no! m absulately wrong. Thanks for gud suggestion which i really apreciate.