Kathmandu, August 3 (NIA): Not too long ago, 44 year old Tilbahadur Karki was among scores of beggars swarming the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu waiting for the devout to spare a few coins for him. His income was good but he did not spend it on himself. He set up an institution to look after destitute kids, writes Santa Gaha Magar in Himal Khabarpatrika.
Tibahadur was born in Sarlang of Panchthar. Since he was lame, he was ridiculed by his peers and relations, which drove his mother to tears. Young Tilbahadur could not bear to see his mother crying and decided to run away from home. He was only nine when he slipped out. With no money to pay the bus fare, he hitched a ride on the roof of a bus hurtling towards Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.
In Kathmandu, Tilbahadur did what thousands of young Nepalese migrants from the villages do – work as menials in homes and restaurants. He washed dishes at a hotel in Baneswor for a paltry sum. One day, a customer suggested that he go to the childcare centre Khagendra Nawajeevan Kendra in Jorpati. But the gatekeeper at the Kendra slammed the door on him. In desperation Tilbahadur went to Boudha and started begging. Over time, he moved to Pashupati, where the devout were certain to give alms.
The patis and sattals there gave him a roof over his head but the older boys always stole the money he earned. To get round this problem, he would wrap his collections in plastic bags and hide them under a tree in Bankali.
In 2007, with the help of the police, he dug up the place and recovered a whopping Rs 551,000. Instead of grabbing the cash or asking for a cut, the police helped him exchange the damaged notes for new ones at a bank.
In fact , Tilbahadur fainted when he heard that he had stowed away more than 500,000 Nepalese rupees. At the hospital where he was being treated for trauma, he would recall everything he had been through, including his failed suicide attempt to break free from suffering.
“It was on the hospital bed that I decided to use the money to help children who, like me, have suffered in life,” Tilbahadur told Himal Khabarpatrika.
Once out of hospital, he established a centre focusing on helping children in need. Initially, the centre housed three children, all of whom were war victims. Over the years the number grew. But in five years, the initial fund ran out, and Tilbahadur had to go from door to door in the alleyways of Kathmandu asking for help.
People did contribute. And today, there are forty children living in the centre, many of whose parents are in prison or are disabled, while others are victims of war and the earthquake, or are orphans. The centre takes care of their housing, meals, education, and medical bills.
Funding all the expenses without a steady income and a donor is not easy, Tilbahadur admits.
The cost of school uniforms, books, stationery and school bags comes to Rs 200,000 per year. Tilbahadur’s troubles multiply when the children fall sick for he himself is an invalid and is now suffering from arthritis.
The centre recently moved to Gokarneswor where a house for the children is being built on a rented plot of land. Tilbahadur has employed three persons to look after the kids, on a nominal pay.
“Looking after the children is difficult. But the smiles of the children at the end of the day pushes everyone to work harder,” he said.