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Meet Kanchhi Karki, (Formerly, Kanchhi Gurung). Originally from Baskharka, Sindhupalchowk and currently residing in Telecom- Kirtipur, she owns a small mobile shop, commonly referred in Nepali as ‘Nangle Pasal’, in Tribhuvan University (T.U) premises. She has been living as a widow for 15 yrs now and currently lives alone in her rented room in Kirtipur. She got married at the age of 26 after which she left her hometown and came to Kathmandu to live a ‘HAPPY’ life in the city.

“Those times were so different”, she recalls with a smile. As they began to weave their dream of happy life, her husband got a job in Himal Cement Factory in Chovar which was, back then, a reputed company.

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After few years, she gave birth to a baby boy and their life was going to a direction they had always hoped for.

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Days passed by and her husband had already been serving Himal Cement Factory for 17 yrs. Everything was going great, until her husband began getting ill due to excessive alcohol intake and probably due to the nature of job he was doing. She did everything she could in treatment of her husband but unfortunately, he didn’t make it. “If only my husband was alive and well, we would’ve been living a lavish life, with our own house and better business than this.” she pondered. Every single penny from their saving was spent hoping for better health of her husband but was all in vain. IMG_6635cBy that time, her son had already began working in the same factory where his father did but the factory got shut down after some time due to conflict with the public of the area regarding environmental and health issues. Later, her son got married and went on to live separately with his wife, leaving Kanchhi alone with nowhere to turn.

Now-a-days, Kanchhi’s mornings start with sunrise and her regular cup of tea with light breakfast. She carries her ‘SHOP’ in her back and reaches her corner of T.U early around 8 in the morning where she stays for the whole day and returns to her room around 7 pm in the evening, after which she cooks herself dinner and eats alone and goes to sleep. IMG_6636ccThis has been her daily routine for 15 yrs now, whether it is a regular day, public holidays or the infamous Nepal Bandhs. While we normal working class people complain about our 8 hr jobs, she works for almost 12 hrs a day and that too, without any complaints. She says, “I only need god, nothing else. All these materialistic things are of no use in the end. This shop is enough to feed me a one- time meal every day and I do not have to get bored sitting at home.”

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During her stay in T.U every day, she gets to meet a lot of people, from beggars to professors. A lot of people come to her shop, especially for cigarette breaks, and among the smoke filled mist, you can find her chatting with people, listening to people talk and giving words of wisdom to whoever she meets.

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As I was talking with her and clicking pictures, she asked, “What will you do with this old woman’s pictures?” I told her that I am writing a short story of hers in the occasion of Women’s Day (‘Naari Diwas’ in Nepali) and asked her if she knew what Naari Diwas is. She thought for a while and replied with a smile, “Everyday is the same for me. Be it Naari Diwas or Dashain (the greatest festival celebrated in Nepal by Hindus) or any other day. I don’t even care about the politics and these politicians,” she laughed. I wondered why she related Women’s Day with politics but soon realized that she is an uneducated senior citizen, like many others here in Nepal. She didn’t even have an idea on which year she was born. She knows about the Old age allowance our government provides to senior citizens but also knows the fact that the hardship she has to go through to get her monthly allowance of Rs. 500 is not worth the effort. She is a satisfied old lady with whatever she has, or say; with whatever fate has written for her. IMG_6647

It’s the great Women’s day today and a lot of SUCCESSFUL Women are celebrated in different parts of the world. Different events and programs have been set throughout the world to mark the Women’s Day. But there’s no one who’ll say to Kanchhi that she is a strong woman who has been surviving on her own hardship while most of other lonely old woman her age and her condition would have ended up in either some old age home or maybe in the streets. Today is also a just another day for her, where she’ll wake up early in the morning; pack her stuffs in a small bamboo-carrier and head out for just another day at T.U where she’ll sell cigarettes, toffees and biscuits to the ones who might as well be attending some extravagant event on the occasion of Women’s Day.

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Kanchhi’s corner

Calling it a Day

Calling it a Day

Reaping Hope. – 2013

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