(More pics here )
“Yeah I voted this time, hoping the government would do something for us”, Ram Bahadur Achami revealed his optimism while he skillfully worked on a worn out shoe. “It’s been 15 years. I have been sitting here on this same spot, sewing and polishing shoes. I hope the government would give me a better job now”.
Apparently, Ram Bahadur did not know the meaning of Constitution and Constituent Assembly.
48 year old Ram Bahadur has maintained his “shop” at the corner of a “very high profile” street all these years. The street leads to the office of United Nations, UNMIN, ADB, National Human Rights Commission and the official residence of the Ministers (Mantri Quarter), along with over a dozen more government offices.
But rarely does Ram Bahadur get to serve the ministers, officials and diplomats. His usual customers are the commoners who pass by the crumbled side walk on his side of the road.
His “shop” opens from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening. Incredibly, all these years, he has not had to pay any taxes to the Lalitpur Municipality yet and no policeman has bothered him either. Every morning he would come from Na: Chowk, a village little farther than Bhaisepati (southern Lalitpur), with his stuffs and arrange them on “his” corner over a piece of tarpaulin.
“I usually make Rs200-300 when the business is good,” said Ram Bahadur. However, the business is not good everyday and if it rains or there are strike/shutdowns, he ends up making nothing. With the rainy season approaching soon, Ram Bahadur was already worried.
Ram Bahadur’s wife passed away a month ago. Even though it has become harder, he has been able to send his two daughters and a son to a government school. He wants his children to have higher education. “I do not want my children to be a Saarki like me and live a life of untouchable.”
He said he has never met Pumpha Bhusal (Maoists leader who was elected as a CA member from Lalitpur constituency 3) in person, but only seen in papers. But he is hopeful that the government would give him a better job and provide higher education for his children.
Note: Shoemakers (SAARKI in Nepali) are one of the so called “untouchable” castes in Nepali/Hindu society – marginalized and discriminated for generations. According to the Nepali(Hindu) caste system, there are four levels of castes (Bahun, Chettri, Vaishya and Sudra) and these fall on the bottom “Sudra jaat”.