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Accounts of ‘fates worse than death’

Kathmandu, July 31, 2016: On an average, around 2,000 youths leave Nepal daily for foreign employment. Around 360,000 people are currently working in 128 countries across the globe. This contributes to a total of Rs 543 billion in remittance, which amounts to one third of the Nepali economy. While we have these bitter-sweet figures in front of us, journalist Janak Raj Sapkota, with his book Kahar, translating roughly to plight in English, explores another, and often overlooked, aspect of foreign employment.

Sapkota, a journalist with Kantipur daily, in his book, has tried to explore the emotional cost that the migrant workers and their families have to bear. The book was launched on Saturday at the Trade Tower, in Thapathali, in the Capital.

The book has nine reportages that the author has prepared after travelling to far-flung districts across the country.

The book, according to writer/journalist Kishore Nepal, one of the keynote speakers at the release ceremony, underscores the paramount contribution these migrant workers make to the country’s economy through remittance, but actually deals with the ethos of people and the pains they have to suffer when they lose their loved ones on foreign soil. “This is a tale of people; tales of woe,” he noted.

Sudheer Sharma, editor-in-chief of Kantipur daily, another keynote speaker, said, “The book explores one of the burning issues of contemporary Nepali society.

“The book unveils the flipside of the coin. It tries to explore the plethora of despair, the anguish and the pain that the family members of migrant workers endure,” he said, calling on the need to do more studies on the issues.

According to sociologist Chaitanya Mishra, the book while is a compilation of “fates worse than death”, it simultaneously tries to delve deep into the lives of the sufferers. “The book is in a way a picture of contemporary realities facing the Nepali society,” he said.

The launch event started off with a short documentary that narrates the stories of the subjects the book covers.

The documentary opens with a still of the Tribhuwan International Airport, then quickly shifts to images of incoming employees and then to coffins that arrive from alien land, setting a somber tone around which the book has been built. One of the subjects, Buddhisara Pariyar of Bhagar, Tanahun, says howher daughter left Nepal without informing anyone in the family.After three months, her daughter calls up tosay that she is behind the bars, and she will return after some time and not to worry. She never does; the family is only informed about their daughter’s death.

Explaining what prompted him to write the book, author Sapkota said: “I was always wondering what kind of a society we are building when we have to see coffins arriving on planes almost on a daily basis. It’s only a humble attempt on my part to chronicle the stories of those who are suffering— day in and day out.”

The book is published by WeRead.

By Timothy Aryal