Ravi* is 14 and lives in Kathmandu. “After my father died, no one was there to pay my fees and other necessities. No one was there to earn or even to give food to us. That’s why I didn’t go to school. My mother has asked me to go to school but I was worried about how we would eat and live if I didn’t get a job.”
“My house is in the South-Eastern district of Nepal and my mother, two brothers, elder sister and wife all live there together. I am 14 years old. In a few months, I will turn 15. I got married 1 year ago. I told my mother I wanted to marry so she arranged it, and I got married. My wife is 14 years old now. I am ashamed to say why I got married so soon. I can’t say because of you (showing facilitator as she is female).
My wife is pregnant, but I don’t know if the baby is a boy or a girl yet. When I left, I assured my mother that I will earn and manage the family. Older sons have the responsibility of the home if a father is unavailable to take care of a family.
My father passed away when I was young (3 years old). I was born in India. My father was from India, but my mother is from Nepal. All our land in India was taken away by my father’s friend and we moved from there. My father used to drive a rickshaw. He passed away after drinking alcohol. One day when he was drunk, he fell asleep on a railway track and a running train crushed his body. We only found his head, not his body. What’s the benefit of just taking the head to the hospital? (Laughing and asking the question to the facilitator)
I remember the day when my father passed away, we only ate rice with soup made from a single potato and water. Later, my mother asked others about bus fares and expenses to come to Kathmandu. She took a loan of 5000 Indian rupees [US $60], and we came to Kathmandu. We got off at the major transport hub of Kathmandu. Mother took a room in a lodge and then looked for a job. She took us to the temple to check if people were getting money by begging and saw beggars earning money. We (all 5 family members) also started begging and people coming to temple started giving us money as well. We collected money from there for our survival. After 1-2 months, I came to know about the places of Kathmandu as Durbar Marg, Thamel, Ratnapark etc. Then I collected the 500 rupees through begging and went to Hanumandhoka. There was a flag selling shop at Hanumadhoka, so I started buying flags from the shop in bulk and selling them on the street. I quickly made the 500 rupees back by selling flags. After that, I bought kerosene and a stove and made arrangements for food and accommodation.
When I first came to Kathmandu, I didn’t know about the places. I could not even speak Nepali. Someone asked me where I lived and I replied in Bhojpuri (Local language of eastern Nepal). He did not understand me and left thinking that I was talking rubbish and I was a mad boy, but now I have gradually learned Nepali. It has been 2 years since my mother and other family members went back to the village. Now I live with an uncle from India, and we split the rent 50-50. He works as a carpenter.
When I was young, I didn’t like to study. I used to play, I used to hang out with my friends, and I used to fight. But when I grew up, I got more sense. It would have been better now if I had studied when I was a child. I have never been to school. After my father died, no one was there to pay my fees and other necessities. No one was there to earn or even to give food to us. That’s why I didn’t go to school. My mother has asked me to go to school but I was worried about how we would eat and live if I didn’t get a job. My mother thought for a month, but she agreed with me in the end. She suggested that I should find a job and improve my skills. I started to work as per my mother’s advice.
No matter what happens now, I have to work. Work is better if you work well, everybody praises and supports you. If you do not work properly, your boss will chase you away and that is why I don’t do any bad things at work.
After saving some money, we purchased land in a village (South-Eastern district) and now we are building a two-room house there. I am sending money home from here. If I don’t earn money, how will they live there? I don’t know. So I have to come here to work. My mother is old, so I didn’t let my mother come here. It is not good to let old people work and she cannot even walk. Will you work if you get old (asking facilitator)? A son has to help his mother. I don’t like her going out, and that’s why I sent my mother back to the village. I am also taking care of my 2 brothers. They are studying. My brothers are growing up; one is 13 years old and the other one is 11 years old. They surround me and hang with me when I go back home asking for gifts and chocolates, I love them. I also have an elder sister at home and I am now planning to send her off by getting her married (15 years old). When I go back home, I will discuss the details about her marriage with my mother.
I am the oldest son in the house, and I have a plan to make my brother’s life better than mine. I will support them to study and will keep them safe. I am thinking to make them a great person as a police officer, DSP, DIG. If they study and earn, they will understand how I have supported them. I tell everyone that this is a good way, this is a bad way. If you walk on a good path, the pain will not increase, and if you pass that phase of pain and struggle, you will move further and get happier. After suffering first, happiness comes later. The bad way is to steal from others, lie to others, leave others behind, abuse them, kick them and fight with them. There are probably a lot of people in my village who have taken the wrong path. Happiness comes from doing good.
The best part about my village is that we have land for farming, and we can grow paddy, wheat, maize, and vegetables. Later those things can be sold at the market. After saving that money, you can buy clothes or slippers. In the village, I feel unhappy if someone scolds me. Sometimes, people fight without a reason, drink and beat their family. I don’t see any happiness and pleasure in the city either. Here, those who have money enjoy it, and those who don’t have money are kicked out. It is not possible to enjoy a city without money.
I met one Dai* (Elder brother), who taught me motorcycle repairing. He met me one day when I was eating at Bagbazar. He told me that I was still a child and asked how long I will survive by selling these flags. Then I asked him to support me to learn a new skill so I can earn money. He agreed and took me with him to his motorcycle workshop. He taught me how to maintain a motorcycle. I worked there for a month. I used to go to the workshop at 9 o’clock and leave at 6 o’clock. My duties were to do small work such as opening nuts, tightening them, opening tyres, changing the chain, and managing the fuels. He used to ask me to be more attentive and learn more. He used to ask others to teach me properly.
After a few days, I was given the responsibility to maintain 2 motorbikes all by myself and I repaired them. That day, Dai* thanked me with new clothes, shoes and bags and also paid me 8,000 rupees. That day he gave me an option to continue working there or to work somewhere else if I wanted to. I have money, so now I want to return to my village, and I am planning to open a small workshop there. If that does not work, I will go to Bombay (Mumbai, India) for a job.
Before working in a motorcycle workshop, I was a street vendor on the road. I used to sell cigarettes and other small items like flags. But I didn’t let anyone smoke in front of me. There is no benefit in dying at an early age. We have to respect our parents like God. Not only parents, but we also have to respect all people who support us. On the street, I have never been harassed by anyone. I have also not paid the police the usual commission in order to sell my items. I used to sell near Bagbazar, Sundhara and once near Bir Hospital areas.
On the street, I started work around 10-11 o’clock and wrapped it by 5-6 o’clock. I go there with items I have, sell them and return. If there was no business, I would return early. I used to earn 400-500 rupees per day and I used to save also because if we don’t save, it will create trouble again for the future.
If I earn 1000 rupees per day, this would be 30000 per month. It would be helpful to save 100 rupees per day, I could use this money for future expenses or emergencies. Although I have saved money working in Kathmandu, I am thinking of returning home now. There is a farm in my village and also a pair of bulls. These days bulls are not very helpful in farming, so we need a tractor to cultivate the farm. After some time, I am planning to go to Bombay (Mumbai, India). I am thinking of working in a vehicle maintenance company, as there are opportunities for good jobs with high salaries. I will give all the money saved to my mother as she has faced lots of trouble while taking care of us.
As a child, I wanted to become a film actor, but I couldn’t. Maybe now, as I am going to Bombay, I can look for that possibility as well. Those who struggle and continuously work despite any hurdles can become great men one day. What I mean is that people suffer but one day we can get happiness because everyone gets benefits in life.
Lockdown had created problems, though it was not so difficult for me because I had savings. I spent 50,000 rupees during lockdown and now I have 60,000 left. I used to save 400…500 daily. I did not go to work yesterday due to rain as the flags got wet. They get damaged if it rains. (After leaving motorcycle workshop during lockdown he is again working as a street vendor but thinking of using his maintenance skills by opening a workshop at his place). Since I have saved money, I didn’t have to worry during the lockdown.
I only have one friend and he is from the street. He begs in the street. He is disabled and has no legs. He uses skates to move. You must have seen him (asking facilitator and documenter) near King’s palace. He lives in Thamel. I don’t know how old he is. He is from my village. We have been friends since childhood. We were born almost at the same time. I was born on Friday, and he was born on Sunday. I don’t spend much time with him. I just chit chat with him sometimes, and joke with him. I don’t have many friends. If there is a dispute, quarrels, I have to support my friends and I don’t like that as I don’t want to get involved in such activities. That’s why I don’t make many friends.
I am going home because my mother keeps on complaining about my wife over the phone and she asked me to return home as early as possible. Mother complains that my wife is not doing household chores and also she does not massage my mother’s feet. She doesn’t cook food or clean the house and also does not look after the buffalo. Being an older son, I have the responsibilities of our home and I have to take care of the family and other things at home.
I’m not a child. I’m 15 years old (raised his age to prove he is not a child). I am planning to go to India for work and I have to go alone now. I will not take my family. (Laughing) I know everything about the routes to go to India so it should not be much of a problem.
I will find a job after I come back from the village, will you help me to find a job? Sister (referring to facilitator), I need some money. I have Rs. 60,000. I don’t need much, just 10,000 more, will you support me? My mother is asking me to be home as early as possible, she is shouting at me so I have to go back to the village soon.
I am going home within a week. I have to go home in a week. What day is it today…(Saturday)? Is it raining…? Is it going to rain?”
*All names have been changed