Dansingh BK, a native of Kalikot, works as a porter in Nainital, a tourist town in the state of Uttarakhand of India. It has been 18 years since the 47-year-old started working as a porter in Nainital.
“I have been running my household expenses by working as a porter, if I don’t do this, everything at home will come to a standstill,” said BK. He recently returned from Kalikot after attending to his sick son. “Since I had to spend on my son’s treatment, I will not be going home for Dashain.”
BK says if he would get a job back home we would not have wanted to come here for work. “However, even if I found a job, I would not get a proper salary”, he said. BK earns up to Rs 30,000 per month.
Like BK, hundreds of Nepali laborers are seen carrying heavy loads in Nainital. Lately, the number of Nepalis who run shops on the street is increasing. However, the number of laborers is the same even during Dashain, the biggest festival of Nepali Hindus.
“Who would not like to celebrate Dashain at home with their family?” 18-year-old Ramesh Rawat of Ghodaghodi Municipality-2 in Kailali said, “But if you go home for Dashain, how will I and my family survive for the rest of the year.” He says that the income he makes in Nainital runs the household expenses.
Rawat came to Nainital to work after attending his class 12 Grade exams. Rawat’s father also works here. “Due to the situation at home, I came here with my father, it has become our destiny to carry loads for a living”, said Rawat.
Rawat and his father have decided stayed back during Dashain in the hope of making more money.
Around 500 Nepali are reportedly working in Nainital, Khurpa Lake, Bhim Lake and other areas in the vicinity. And most of them are working as porters with women working as domestic helpers.
“Nepalis are honest and hence are working here since a long time”, said a hotelier in Nainital.
Meanwhile, Navaraj Bista of Bajhang has sent all the expenses required for his family to celebrate the upcoming festival of Dashain. It has been almost fifteen years since Bista started working as a porter in Nainital. “Festival is not very important as long as I can feed the family,” he said,”as long as I have the strength, I will work here, then ultimately I will have to return home”, said Bista.
Similarly, 56-year-old Sher Bahadur BK from Khanitriveni in Kalikot said that he is working hard to educate his son in Kathmandu. “I have taken out a loan to educate my son, hence I am not in a position to go home for Dashain,” he said.
Mainly citizens of Sudur Paschim and Karnali provinces come to India for employment and Nainital is one of the major destinations for their employment. There are generations from grandfather to grandson working as porters here. And festivals are more than a luxury for the people who have no other source of income back home to support their family.