Kapil* is 13 years old and lives in Kathmandu. “I did not like to go to school because I didn’t complete my homework as I found it too difficult. My teachers scolded and punished me by pulling my ears for not doing my homework. Eventually, I dropped out of school and shortly afterwards my mother abandoned me when I was 11.”
“My name is Kapil*. Until I was ten years old, I lived in Kuleshwor, Kathmandu with my father, mother, and brother. I used to go to school with my brother, but occasionally I would hide in bushes instead of going to school. Then, when school ended at 4 o’clock, I returned home with friends from the bushes. I did not like to go to school because I didn’t complete my homework as I found it too difficult. My teachers scolded and punished me by pulling my ears for not doing my homework. Eventually, I dropped out of school and shortly afterwards my mother abandoned me when I was 11. My father took me and my brother to my aunt’s (Thulo mummy) house and she cared for and loved both of us. She supported me, encouraging me to take showers, and she even washed my clothes and bought me new clothes. However, I did not go to school. Instead, I went outside of the house where I met some boys who later became my friends. They were all street children. I spent my whole days with these street friends and returned home in the night. Sometimes, they came to my aunt’s home and called me to go out with them. We went to Swoyambhu, forests, swimming and also roaming around bus parks. These friends have bad habits like smoking, consuming dendrite, hashish, and doing chhada chhada (anti-social activities), stealing, and vandalism. So, aunty scolds me for roaming around with them. But I enjoyed myself and continuously went out to play with them. My daddy also used to scold and hit me for making friends with these boys. Everything used to be closed at night time when returning home so I used to climb the wall near my house and sleep in an abandoned house. My friends used to call for me early in the morning and I would go out again and smoke cigarettes with them and at night time, I returned to the house.
When my friend’s father left his house, I used to go to his house to smoke cigarettes, and have lunch. Before that, we used to collect Kawadi (broken irons and other recyclables that can be sold) on the banks of rivers and sell it. Then, I sold those recyclable goods to Kawadi shau. After getting money from the sale, we used to buy cigarettes. When my daddy came to search for me, I hid with my friends in the street.
My father and aunt knew my work, and yelled at me to stop. They also beat me for doing this work and for my friendship with street children. After this, my dad sent me with my brother to a workshop to wash vehicles like cars and motorbikes. My brother was working in that workshop and he was trying to change jobs. The workshop’s owners said to me, if my brother left this job, he will put me in my brother’s position. That made me feel happy. When I work there, I feel happy because there is no need to do work for the whole day and I also got time to rest. After this conversation with the owner, I worked 4-5 days in this workshop. While working, my friends frequently came and called for me to go with them. My father scolded my friends and threatened them to not meet with me again. After that incident, I left the workshop and went back to the street. I met my friends and started to stay with them and collect Kawadi. They used to cut house wire using blades and I used to burn the wire and sell it to Kawadi and earn some money which I used to buy noodles. At night time, we went to sleep under the bridge.
My friends also ran away from their house. Their father was in prison. They have three brothers. Their elder brother accused his father of stealing, and he was sent to police custody. Their elder brother went to Pokhara while my friends stayed at home. I also stayed there for 1-2 days. His brother returned from Pokhara and stole a lot of old currencies and ran away. When his father returned from police custody, he accused my friends of stealing the money, and scolded and beat them. So, they both ran away from the house.
My friends used to smoke cigarettes. I asked them “how do they taste,” they said it is sweet and asked me “Will you smoke?” I said no. They insisted I taste it, so I did and started coughing continuously. From that day I started smoking.
These friends pressurised me to smoke and take dendrites. They explained that they felt sweet while taking dendrite. First, I refused but due to their extreme pressure, I started smoking and consuming dendrite. While taking dendrite I felt something vibrate in my mind, had vertigo, and my leg went numb. Overall, I felt outstanding pleasure while consuming dendrite. I also started using vulgar words while talking with them. Gradually, these peers influenced me to develop bad habits.
My friends also engaged in theft. One day, we went to the party office to steal fruit. To do this, we jumped the wall of the party office, climbed a tree, and stole 2 sacks full of avocado. Then, we went to the fruit shop and sold the avocado early in the morning at 100-200 per Kgs. After selling that we got 1-2 thousand. We used to stay inside a place (like a hole but inside there was space) under a small temple. One day we slept there and early in the morning, the police came and set a fire. Kishan’s* hair was caught by the fire and we climbed the wall and ran away. At night, we were planning to go back there to sleep. Police caught us and handed us over to our house.
While staying at Balkhu, I also met daily wages labor men (Bhariya) and I started to stay with them. Bhariya were also engaged in theft – they stole by breaking into the shop. Then, Dalle dai (an acquaintance) taught me how to break the seal of a shutter by using a rod. After learning this skill, we made a plan to break into the paan (betel) shop. At night, we went to that shop to break its seal. We brought a blanket and pretended to sleep outside the shop until movement in the street quietened down. At midnight, when people had gone home, we started to break the seal of the shop. That shop had three seals so it was difficult for us to break it. While trying to break into that shop, a policeman arrived and they chased us on their bike. The policeman arrested me and my brother’s friend Anuj*. The policeman interrogated us then locked me inside the police station.
They kept us in custody for one day. The custody suite was full of bugs so we spent the whole night killing those bugs. In the morning, the policeman told us to clean the algae and bushes in the police office. At lunchtime, my aunt came to the police station and she took me back to her home. That day was Quati khane day (a special festival of having mixed sprouts). Anuj* also went home with his mother.
One day, I was walking with my friend’s brother, his brother was staying there and he gave us money to buy cigarettes. But we bought and ate biscuits instead of cigarettes. We didn’t know whose money it was and we forgot while walking. When we met my friend’s brother again, he asked us for a cigarette, and I replied, “which cigarette, you have not given us money”. His brother (my friend) told him that I bought and ate biscuits using the money. He blamed me. I also blamed him. He behaved as a hostile (Jhamtinu) to me and we fought. His brother slapped both of us. At that time, I felt like he was not my friend. I returned to my aunt’s home but my friends didn’t come to call me again and I didn’t visit them.
I stayed at my aunt’s house all day watching TV which was making me feel bored. My sisters slept there but I couldn’t as the roof was made of tin and it was hot inside. I didn’t want to stay at home. After a few days, I left home again and slept in the streets but the police arrived and picked us up. This time they sent us to the children’s shelter. At first, I was afraid because I thought the police would eventually take me to the police station. So, due to fear, I didn’t eat dinner and even tea. In that shelter it was good, they provided lots of toys along with a carom board to play with. People kept me there saying “you will go home tomorrow” and tomorrow they said “you will go home the day after tomorrow”. However, I also heard that some male staff were sending me to a hotel to work.
Many children used to run away from the shelter and some with an alcohol addiction used to run away from the toilet. Cigarettes were allowed, though. A 14 year old boy used to check people’s pockets and collect cigarettes which he used to put inside his own pocket instead of throwing away. That boy gave me a cigarette and he also smoked inside the toilet. The guard (Paaley) also frequently gave us cigarettes.
One day the guard and sansthako dai (elder boy from the organization) went out and drank alcohol, and danced. After that, they got beaten up. The guard was fired from the shelter. Another boy was still getting drunk, crying continuously, and refused to have dinner.
Twankeharu (drunkard) used to ask us to provide them with chewing tobacco. We told them that we can only provide it if they give 20-30 rupees to the guard and that the Twankeharu must not tell anyone. One day someone unknowingly gave me Rs 1000 to buy chewing tobacco (Khaini). My friend and I exchanged it and took half each. We went to buy tobacco (Khaini) but instead of buying it, we stole it from other’s pockets who were enjoying a fire. Then, we gave the tobacco (Khaini) to that person but he realised that he gave us Rs 1000 instead of Rs100 and asked us to return his remaining money. After staying 6-7 days in that shelter, I ran away outside by climbing its toilet. That 14 year old boy asked me if I needed help to run away from there. He also showed me how. I used one bucket as a tool to reach the window of the toilet as I was not tall enough to reach directly, and climbed through.
I met my friend who I had fought with before and started hanging out in the street. One night my uncle Kumar* caught me and took me home. Kumar* used to love me. Sometimes he gave us money. When I was 9 years old, I used to go to him to get food and vegetables. He has known me since my early childhood. After my dad’s request, he took care of my elder brother and me. At that time my dad didn’t drink alcohol. My dad used to give money and milk to Kumar*.
My Thulo mummy (aunt) shouted at me saying “Gaye pachhi aaunai naparney ,haraye pachhi harako harai ho” (Do not come if you’ve left once or get lost forever). But later she tried convincing me not to run away from home again. She said, “I have put meat and rice for you, go and eat.”
My sister also scolded me. I remained silent. I stayed home that day. Then, the next day Kumar* uncle makes a call to the care house 2. After that, care house 2 officers came to my home and took me to the care house 2. Now, I am happily staying here.
I wake up early in the morning, brush my teeth, join meditation class, and after having tea I go to play football. After that, I go to the TV room, and watch TV before eating lunch. I then take class till 2 and go for tiffin. After having dinner at night, I go to the TV room and after that, I go to sleep.
Now, I like to read. I plan to grow up at care house 2 and I want to take cookery training soon. Sometimes, I also meet with my father which gives me immense pleasure.”
*All names have been changed