Crushing Hardship by Krishnamaya Upadhayay

Photo: Krishnamaya Upadhayay

For the last 11 years, Tek Bahadur Rokaya, 62, worked as a cook at a hotel in Jumla, far west Nepal. Originally from Nepalganj in the south, he was making ends meet to support his family. Three months ago, when Nepal went into lockdown to contain the COVID-19 virus, the hotel decided to close and Tek Bahadur was let go. He lost his only means to feed his family. “I could not go home empty-handed, my family depends on me,” says Tek Bahadur. He did find a job – crushing rock by the banks of the Tila river.⁣

Since then, Tek Bahadur and his 60-year-old wife Chitrakala have been waking up before sunrise to make their way to Tila River. The couple collects rocks and crushes them with a hammer. The rocks pile up, they sit on the pile and crush some more. The couple is exhausted. Chitrakala has a sore in her hand that has been bothering her. She takes a sip from a bottle of water next to her and continues to crush. “We are too old for this kind of work, but our hardship is such that we can’t afford to stop,” says Chitrakala, “We worry about the disease, but if we stay indoors we will die of hunger.” When asked if they have tried to access the government’s relief package, the Rokaya couple did not know about it, or how to go about applying for it.⁣

After a day of hard work, when the couple makes their way home, they are met by their family. The daughter has a hot meal ready for them and they eat together. Since the lockdown, the family has been together. “Even in the darkest of days, I am grateful to go home to the family I love,” says Chitrakala.⁣

Photo/Text: Krishnamaya Upadhayay @purnimashahi572020 
Text Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness⁣

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