Troubles weigh a tonne by Robic Upadhayay

Photo: Robic Upadhayay

TROUBLES WEIGH A TONNE: In Satungal, Hira Brick Factory is quiet and deserted. On non-lockdown days the area is busy, and the kiln’s big chimney throws out black smoke as far as the eye can see. Around the factory are small one-roomed brick huts where workers live. These paper-like houses are narrow, dim and without proper ventilation. Jamuna Rokka, 26, lives in one of these huts with her daughter Angel who is 28 months old.

Rokka used to work at the brick factory but is unemployed and without much support. Monsoon is an off-season for brick factories, so she had hoped to work as much as she could before the rain arrived. However, the pandemic and lockdowns meant that she was left without work. Now she has no savings or other means of income. Her boss at the factory has given her an advance in her salary, which she is using to support herself and her baby. Rokka’s husband, Sagar, lost his job as a waiter in Saudi Arabia when the pandemic started. Sagar cannot return home because he can’t repay the loans he took to leave for the Gulf.

Rokka puts a brave face, and she smiles as he talks but admits she is struggling. “I can’t go back to the village because of travel restrictions,” says Rokka, “And even if I made it back, the loan sharks will come to ask for their money back.” Rokka hopes that the lockdown will be lifted so she can resume work after Dasain. “The stay at home orders are a vacation for people who can afford it, but for the poor like us, it is worse than a prison sentence.”

Photos and Text: Robic Upadhyay @aerawbic

Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

#nepalphotoproject #nepalnow #storiesofpandemic #storiesofnepal #fear #coronavirus #covid19