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Published: September 17th 2015
This is how it looked when they began.
On the day I arrived in Dhulikhel, a small university town 36 kms. to the southeast of Kathmandu, a truck was dumping a load of rocks in front of the staircase that leads to my lodgings at Kathmandu University Law School.The pile was so big it nearly blocked the staircase that leads up to the complex.
Over the next two weeks I watched the pile slowly diminish. At first an old man sat on top of it with a small sledge hammer, breaking the big stones into more manageable pieces. And then for a time he wasn't there and nothing seemed to be happening. I wondered if they were just using the space as a dumping ground.
Then last week a crew of three young men arrived to carry the stones up the stairs in cone-shaped baskets called dokos
, with namlo
straps looped over their foreheads for extra leverage. Each day as I waited for my ride to the main campus, I would sit and watch them hauling stones up the stairs, three scrawny guys, their skin dark brown from the sun, their bodies gaunt from poor nutrition. Too poor to buy proper shoes, they wore flip-flops on their
Loading the baskets
A fully loaded basket weighs around 150 lbs.
stained and calloused feet. They seemed much too frail for this kind of work; not big and muscular, but taut and sinewy.
When they bent forward from the waist to make it easier for the loader to place the stones in their baskets, it almost seemed as if they were bowing in a gesture of submission. A full doko
, the guy who runs the chai
shop told me this morning, weighs about 75 kilos (150 lbs).
On and on they plodded, like faithful donkeys, up the 27 steps to the first level, the16 steps to the second, the 18 steps to the third, all the way to the place next to the new classroom building where the stones were being fitted into a handsome looking retaining wall. I was told they are paid 500 Rupees ($5.00 U.S.) for a six hour day. It occurs to me that when Nepal finally recovers from the Quake of 2015, it will have been on the backs of basket boys such as these, the unsung heroes of the new Nepal.
Yesterday afternoon I got back to the Law School campus and saw that the rock pile was finally
This was the first of a series of three staircases the basket boys needed to climb to get to their destination.
gone, cleared and flat and clean. And the basket boys? For them, most likely another job someplace else, doing the work of animals and happy for their meager pay.
Tot: 3.317s; Tpl: 0.043s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0556s; 3; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb