The rickshaw driver by Robic Upadhyaya

THE RICKSHAW DRIVER: Gopal Bishwakarma, 65, used to make a decent living from driving his rickshaw around the narrow streets and alleys of Kathmandu. Foreigners and Nepalis would take a tour around the city. He tried doing other things for a while—he sold vegetables and even worked as a porter but they were not for him.

In his 37 years, Bishwakarma has experienced many upheavals–Nepal bandhs, curfews, unrest due to Nepal’s war, but never before has he faced as difficult days as he has due to the pandemic. “I haven’t had a single passenger in the last five days,” he says, “To add insult to injury, police officials harass and beat us with their batons for violating lockdown rules.”


Originally from Dhangadhi, Bishwakarma lives in a rented room near Lagan, Kathmandu with his wife and four children. They haven’t paid their rent since the lockdown began and have been relying on his meagre income. As we talk his mobile phone rings and he answers. His eyes light up because he learns about an organization distributing relief near Thamel for rickshaw drivers. “We are not beggars; we just want to continue our work.” While the government distributed 5kg rice, lentils, oil, and other essentials in the early days of the lockdown, that was five months ago and there has been no more relief. Bishwakarma adds, “It would have been long gone even if we ate a spoon of rice every meal.”

Photos and Text: Robic Upadhyay @aerawbic

Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

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