Life has never been easy for madhesi Nepalis in Kathmandu, whether they are vegetable vendors, barbers, masons or a bicycle repairman like Srikrishna Mandal. What set them apart is their willingness to work long hours in menial, low-paying jobs just to take care of their families. But all they get in return is abuse from arrogant urbanites who treat them as if they are not Nepalis. In addition, they face constant harassment from corrupt policemen and neighbours.
Srikrishna left his home village near Janakpur eight years ago because he couldn’t feed his family from his small plot of land. They came to Kathmandu: father, mother, a small daughter and son, to start a new life. Srikrishna had hoped he could get a good job so he could educate his two children. But it wasn’t easy to find one, so one day he picked a shady patch of sidewalk and started mending bicycles. All day, rain or shine, winter or summer, he repaired flat tyres. All he had was a toolbox and two square metres of pavement. Often, he would be harrassed by the municipality’s staff or police. A local mechanic shop tried to bribe him to relocate his business somewhere else. But Srikrishna fought back and stood his ground defending the patch of asphalt on which his livelihood depended. All his daily earnings went to support his family and there were no savings. He tried to cut the costs of living in Kathmandu by sharing a house in Koteswor with 15 other tarai people.
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