By Usha Wagle Gautam
Khaga Bahadur Khatri, (also known as Yassem Mama Cyclist) destined to become a world cyclist, is from Nepal. He however abandoned his idea of gaining fame through cycling and settled in Qatar. His travel was economically constrained after he toured 15 countries. He chose Qatar as his place of work. Community recently caught up with Khatri and talked about his cycling tour and his work in Qatar.
Why did you choose Qatar as a foreign employment destination after being forced to abandon world cycling tour?
Qatar offers diversified opportunities to workers. All the people are working here happily, contributing to their families, societies and countries. Qatar is a peaceful country and respects people of all the nationalities living here. Prior to coming to Qatar, I was in Kuwait in 1996. However, I settled here to work because of many good reasons including peace.
Can you tell us about your upbringing in Nepal?
Since my childhood, I was keenly interested in a number of hobbies—photography, music, travelling and sports. I learnt martial arts. Even while I was a child, I was driven to peace and tranquillity. I had respect for all religions and their messages of peace and harmony. Later, I took cycling with an aim to spread the same message of peace and harmony across the world.
How did you come up with an idea of becoming a world cyclist?
I was selected in the Nepali Army, but quit the army during the training. Instead I went trekking around Annapurna circuit in west of Nepal—across the Himalayas. I was thrilled by the beauty my country offered. These two ideas conflated—serendipity of kaleidoscopic mountains and peace—with idea of tourism promotion in the country. After I was talking about my plan, I was introduced to Nepal’s first world cyclist—Laxmi Prasad Sapkota who at that time had already travelled as far as 27 countries. With this, I got some financial support from Nepali government in an exchange to promote tourism in the country through the cycle tour. I started the touring in 2000.
Can you tell us about your experience of world tour?
I began my tour from Gaidakot, my birthplace, and travelled to Jhapa, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. While travelling, I came to know that each country has its own culture and customs. I had a real interaction with people from each country.
How many countries you travelled and why you left in the middle of the tour?
I travelled 17 countries including Qatar, Burma, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to mention few more. I stopped cycling after of high profile massacre in 2001.
You have been to many other countries, why did you choose Qatar for work?
Qatar is a peaceful place and the country respects and provides expatriates with unmatched professional space. There is no discrimination at work places. I left my job in Japan to come here. I compare Qatari environment to those of Europe and Americas.
Do you have any future plan to resume your cycling tour?
It’s a matter of great pleasure that Qatar will be hosting FIFA World Cup 2022. I have planned to do cycling tour marking this event by taking joint flags of Nepal and Qatar. This will say a lot about Nepal-Qatar bilateral relations.
What is your impression of Qatar over a period of time?
Qatar has changed a lot since I came here 20 years ago for the first time. There is too much happening these days because of upsurge in media and social networks in recent years. I converted myself to Islam during Qatar visit. This, I think, is the remarkable achievement for me. I enjoy the month of Ramadan here. I am a driver by profession. With my income, I have brought my family here. I have been able to fund quality education for my kids.
Are you happy with your Qatari job?
I was selected by Qatar Police and Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation. I work in the latter department. I am the first Nepali to work in the corporation. I work eight hours a day and enjoy two days as weekly off. I enjoy my free time for social work. I have been involved with Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) — a global network of Nepali people. I am also former vice president and adviser of Nepali Muslim Association (NMA). I am happy to both—my job and my stay here.
Can you share your future plan?
My future plan is to promote tourism in Nepal. Nepal should build infrastructure friendly to Arab tourists. If we could attract tourists from the Arab world, we would benefit a lot. I am sure the people from Qatar will visit Nepal.
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