Metro micros and their life


They are our Spidermen. They have the power to cling to their microbuses when travellers seem to be pouring out of doors and windows too. Caring a hoot for their safety, these conductors on micros go about their work with a practised skill — asking for fares, checking student identity cards, scolding some, shouting out their routes to potential passengers waiting on roadsides, doling out change, asking passengers in the already overpacked micro to move a little and make a little room for this didi, while also checking out his image in the rearview mirror.

They irk us at times, make us laugh sometimes, but then you cannot help but admire their street savvy attitude. However, it is not out of choice that many of them choose this way of life. It is usually a compulsion, and the majority of times it is because of poverty and lack of education.

Their tales

All of them have a story to tell, and 18-year-old Ganesh Kumar Khatiwada became a khalasi (conductor) on the Swayambhu route a year ago when his job in a press was not paying him enough. He is from Dhanusha where he lived with his family of seven. When his father could not afford to pay his education, with three younger sisters going to school, he decided to move from his village and earn for his education. Ganesh is doing his BA (private) from a college in Narayanghat.

Raju Daulial is another conductor who has been working for the last one year on one of the Kirtipur route micros. He left his home in Mahendranagar almost five years ago and went to India in search of a job. Educated only till Class V, Raju did some odd jobs in India for three years and came back to Nepal. Living in a joint family of 25 members, he left home to earn his own living.

Away from home

Both earn Rs 1,000 as fixed salary per month with additional tips per day totalling around Rs 3-4000 a month.

Ganesh stays at Macchapokhari in a room and eats his meals in a hotel. “When I get sick, I miss home as there is no one to take care of me. Most of my earning goes on daily needs and studies, I cannot save for any emergency,” he says.

However, whenever he goes home (five to six times a year), he gifts for his sisters.

Raju, on the other hand, went home after a long hiatus during the election. With no saving, he has not been able to help his family financially, but says, “At least I am not an extra burden on my father. Someday maybe I will be able to earn enough to send some cash home.”

Raju stays in a rented room at Panga Dobato with his uncle.

‘Education is necessary’

Hailing from poor uneducated families, both think it’s important for one to be educated to have a better lifestyle. Raju, who left studies at a very early age, feels that it’s late for him to rejoin school and regrets his decision to leave studies.

“My father is literate enough to read letters but he never gave priority to studies. In villages it’s like that — if you leave your education, no one bothers as they don’t know its importance. Today I feel if my father was aware of its importance, he wouldn’t have let me leave school,” he shares.

Ganesh realising the importance, has been working hard to earn enough for his college fee. Taking time out from his 15-hour-job, he makes sure he does not neglect his studies. “No matter what I am doing today to earn my bread, someday after my graduation, I want to work in an office earning decent salary,” he insists.

They are also learning driving from their vehicle drivers so that they have a backup profession if their plans fail.

Dreaming on

Growing up they never thought that they would be conductors.

Ganesh on his weekly-off, cleans his room and washes clothes. “We can’t afford to have good entertainment. The only source of entertainment for me is my radio and I love listening to music,” says Ganesh, who wishes to be a singer if he had one wish to make.

Raju does not get any day off and entertainment does not exist in his life. With no big dreams, he still regrets leaving home at an early age and not being able to enjoy childhood to the fullest.

However, both of them say the same thing when asked about their view on other boys on the street involved in drugs, begging and stealing: “We are earning our living and using our life for something worthwhile, and we are proud of it.”

They are proud that they have chosen to lead life on own terms against all odds. Despite the difficulties, the smile on their faces say they are doing something — all on their own, and with dignity.