Thursday, 25 April, 2024

The Life We Live

Bini Dahal

If you are around the Kathmandu Durbar Square, you will find elderly women and little children asking you to buy mineral water bottles costing Rs. 20 each. We usually have the tendency of avoiding these people because for us they are a complete “nuisance”. And sometimes, when we are in a good mood, we voluntarily pay for the water bottle and feel great. But at other times, our assumption is so deep and strong that we never try to understand what this underprivileged lot may be going through.
I realised all of this while on a recent trip to the Kathmandu Durbar Square. I, along with my friends, was planning to interview the people in order to prepare a presentation. Our aim mainly was to interview people belonging to different age-groups and collect their views on whether youths, the so-called pillars of our nation, should travel abroad for studies and employment or not.
While looking for people to talk to, we approached an elderly woman who was trying to sell mineral water to the passers-by. After we brought two water bottles from her, she agreed to sit with us to talk and just within a short time period of 10 minutes, our eyes turned moist.
She told us that she had been working as a street vendor for seven years and that she is burdened with the responsibility of taking care of her two sons—one is suffering from a mental problem and the other has undergone his back operation. Her daily earning is not even enough to pay the rent of the room where she lives in. She has been given repeated warnings whenever the deadline for paying the rent is missed. As I heard her story, I felt that problems in life are endless and the stereotypical thinking that children who after growing up have to take care of their parents is not always true.
The same day, I got to meet another street vendor. But this time, what really surprised me was his age. The vendor was 10-year-old. The 4th grade student was practically a child. Like the old woman, the boy sold mineral water bottles in the same area. What is ironic is that the area has a community school where kids of his age were busy playing and studying. But he has a bigger responsibility to carry out. When asked about his dream, the boy said that he wanted to become a scientist and fly a rocket. Listening to such big aspirations of a little boy does give a different feeling.
We are privileged in every way possible. Sadly, getting enjoyment and freedom has been the two things most of us have experienced in our lives. We cannot even imagine being in the place of that young kid or that elderly woman. Our life has mostly been smooth unlike theirs. On one hand, they are forced to ask people to buy what they sell because if they don’t do it, they will have to remain hungry. On the other hand, we have money and the ability to buy anything from anywhere. It is quite impossible for us to stay hungry; rather we throw away food when we are full.
As I remember the day I spent there, not even once have I not stopped thinking about how life is so unfair. But all we can do is not to complain about it!