Sarita* is 21 years old and lives in Kathmandu. “In my village, they think that girls who work in dohoris are of bad character. But that is not the case. Some people are bad but there are good people as well.”
“My name is Sarita*. I am from the Western district of Nepal. I am 21 years old.
I don’t remember everything about my childhood but as far as I remember, I know it was good. During my childhood, I used to study, sing, make noise and be cheerful all the time. In the village we used to wake up, have breakfast and go to school and return in the evening. In our spare time, we used to eat our lunch, play and make a lot of noise. I come from a joint family. I lived with my grandfather and uncle. Now my uncle lives separately. I have one brother. My parents have a hotel that we have owned for a long time. I have a good family. We do not have many problems. There is no discrimination between daughter and son. The hotel gives our family an income.
After taking the School Leaving Certificate examination, I came to Kathmandu to join a computer training class. I thought that I would be able to connect with more people and learn from them. I stayed with my sister. I returned home after three months of training, and I joined Plus Two level (higher secondary school). We had to go out of our district for on-the-job training (the Plus Two course required field visits to be undertaken). We never took these practical classes and so our marks were deducted, and I was not able to complete the course. So, I came back to Kathmandu and re-joined class 11 there (the first year of the Plus Two course). My parents trusted me and agreed to send me to Kathmandu to study further.
Children can develop bad habits even if their parents keep them inside the four walls of their home. My cousin sister, aunt and uncle live in Kathmandu. My cousin sister came to Kathmandu in search of a job after completing her studies and I stayed with her, but there were other relatives living nearby. My brother, who lives near to my house, also had an office in Kathmandu. I got a job immediately after coming to Kathmandu. Initially I worked as a receptionist in a media house and later I got a job as an accountant at the same place. My working hours were 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It was a good job, and my salary was 10,000 rupees. I worked at the media house for six to seven months. After a while, I started working at a dohori in the evenings, 7PM to 11.45PM. There was a lot more work at the dohori, so I left my job at the media house.
My family members are also singers, but they have not opted to do this as a profession. That is the reason why I was always interested in singing. The son of my father’s friend and his wife also advised me to sing in a dohori. They told me that I have a good voice. They are also good singers and we work in the same place.
I consulted with my family before I joined the dohori. In my village, they think that girls who work in dohoris are of bad character. But that is not the case. Some people are bad but there are good people as well. We can earn more than 30,000 rupees in the dohori but the rate is not consistent. If we get good tips, we can earn even more. The salary starts from eight to nine thousand. Around 20 people are on one stage, and in this case, we divide tips on a monthly basis and receive 25,000 per person.
I wanted to work in the office but could not manage the time. I have to study as well.
I was 18 or 19 years old while working in the dohori. I didn’t have a bad experience. My brother arranged the job for me. My monthly salary was also negotiated by my brother. Everything was good. My friends have also never had bad experiences. I felt it was difficult on some days, because of my own weakness… I mean to say, because I could not sing properly. I was never mistreated by the owner.
In the previous dohori, I worked for four to five months. I could not sing well so I left and went home. That was my mistake. After some time, I joined another dohori and worked there for one and a half years. And then the lockdown started. I used to earn 25 to 30 thousand in the second dohori. Now I am jobless.
I’ve worked in two dohoris and I was treated well by the owners. I do not think that people join dohoris with bad intentions. Guests do have bad intentions and they want to meet us outside the dohori and call us. But I have not faced anything bad so far. Even if they had called us, I would never have accepted their proposal. We singers are safe. We maintain discipline and never get too busy on the phone. We follow discipline and make sure that we follow our duties. I heard many negative things about other dohoris. I heard that they do not pay the salary on time, but nothing has happened to us. When I was working in the dohori I stayed with a friend who was working in another one. We told our landlord about our job, but they did not treat us badly.
We sit on the stage in the dohori. Nobody can harm us, but it is not easy for the waiters. The new faces have to pass through difficult situations. New girls, who have just come from the village, get trapped. Waitresses have to sit and eat with the guests and there is a high chance of being abused.
Now I am studying for the first year of my Bachelors. I have online classes now. I am thinking of joining the dohori in the evenings once the lockdown is lifted. I am also planning to go to the office in the daytime. I learnt to sing in the dohori due to my singing passion. I have learnt to dance as well. I fulfilled my interests. I have no regrets.
I have a lot of friends. I never feel lonely. My daily work routine is going really well. I wake up and read for a while. I go to college in the day. My friends cook food. I go to college after eating my meal. Sometimes I go out for a meal.
I want to be a good singer in the future but I don’t want to spend my entire life in a dohori. I want to launch my album and perform at events. But we have to invest a lot for an album. I have been receiving offers for a group album, but still, it is difficult to invest. Now I am taking beautician training with an NGO. I came into contact with them during my spare time in lockdown. It is always good to learn something; that is the reason why I came here. I don’t have any plans to run a beauty parlour in the future.”
*All names have been changed