Common man finding ways to cope with crisis

A Thecho resident Sanchamaiya Gole climbed down from the roof of a bus at Lagankhel. Wasn’t she scared? “It was scary, but I couldn’t find any vehicle. Besides I had to take food for our daughter-in-law admitted in the hospital, so ...

The price of essentials has have gone up and even shopkeepers blackmail us by telling us to buy other items to get a cylinder of gas. As I have to pay more for the materials, I have started charging a little higher too


For the past week the one thing on one’s mind at the end of the day has been: “Today I managed to get a lift (find a space for a foot in the spilling-with-people micro bus and hang on to dear life, /caught a Safa tempo that had space in its aisle for one more standing passenger/ got a place on the roof of a bus) ... will I be so lucky tomorrow?”

The fuel crisis has turned our life upside down. Life as we knew it has suddenly morphed into “How do

we manage?”

Yet, managing we are, in our own ways — be it by squeezing ourselves into the impossibly titled-with-people vehicles or just starting for work/school earlier than before and walking the distance, or getting from or

giving lifts to neighbours or even complete strangers.

This second crisis in the space of less than six months has brought out the best in the Capital’s denizens. The social media has posts with people, who have bikes, offering rides the next day with their routes in detail. One post: “Till I have petrol in my bike, I will offer rides to those who are waiting for public vehicles on the roads.”

Pramila Rana, 31, from Gwarko was at the Tilganga Eye Hospital for a check-up and she made it to the hospital on time thanks to a stranger who gave her a lift on his motorbike.

“It was not that troublesome for me to make it to Tilganga from Gwarko today as I got a lift from a stranger. I was waiting for the bus that goes to Ring Road when this man came and asked me if I wanted a lift. He was coming up to the airport, and I accepted his offer though I felt a little awkward,” she said adding, “I felt happy as I did not have to struggle amongst the crowd inside the bus.”

But not everyone is comfortable asking people on the roads if they need a ride. Enny Adhikari, 25, who was heading to Thapathali from Dhumbarahi (via Putalisadak) said, “I managed a litre of petrol from my friend, so I could ride today. I waited, looked around and offered rides to those who needed it like the elderly. But it is also awkward to ask people who are walking if they need a ride.”

She also offered rides in ‘Carpool Kathmandu’ (Facebook Group) but “I didn’t get any response”.However, it is not possible for every person to get a lift as the number of vehicles on the roads has more than halved. So, the option left for the common Kathmanduite is to wait for super-crowded public vehicles and pray that you manage to get a foothold and hold on.

Buddhi Krishna Lamsal, a 48-year-old shopkeeper from Banepa, was at Tilganga Eye Hospital for his father’s cataract surgery. “There are no direct buses to Tilganga from Banepa, so we changed buses at Koteshwor. I sat on the roof of the bus and someone offered the elderly seat to my 83-year-old father till Koteshwor. But after that it was an ordeal for us — we waited almost 45 minutes in Koteshwor chowk to catch a bus with empty seat so that my father could travel comfortably. Now, I am worried about returning home — I want to hire a taxi if I find some other passenger travelling the same route so we can share the fare. It won’t cost us much individually and my father can travel comfortably.”

The scene at Lagankhel stop was of commuters, vendors waiting for customers, students rushing back home.

Asma Shrestha from Imadol and Anju Sahi from Bhaktapur, both 18, were on their way home from college. But there is “hardly any space in the vehicles. We don’t reach either home or college on time nowadays. So college hours have been shifted back”.

Another student Riyash Tamang from Luboo had been waiting here for a vehicle to go home for an hour and he didn’t know when his wait would end. “Many students’ homes are far away and not reaching home on time becomes a problem. Besides it is so hot nowadays. We don’t even reach college on time.

One vehicle comes, all students climb into that, there is no space to even stand, so we wait. I’ve been waiting for one hour now, don’t know how long it will take.”

So, far he hasn’t had to sit on the roof of the bus and considers himself lucky.

Waiting for a vehicle home at Koteshwor was another student Shreya Basnet, a resident of Pepsicola. She used to wake up at 5:30 am to make it to school by 6:00 am. But after the fuel crisis, she is getting up at 4:30 am. “I used to get vehicles near my house, but these days I must walk 15 minutes to catch a bus,” she said, but even here there is a Catch 22 situation as she added, “If I am early, there won’t be any vehicles; and if I am a little late, the bus is overcrowded.”

Afraid to hang on to the doorframe and travel in the vehicles, she said, “I walk half the distance and board vehicles half-way, and I am usually late for my classes.”

And if this was bad enough she said it gets worse in evenings and is the reason why “I have stopped taking my extra classes in the evening and walk all the way home.”

Rana, however, has found a solution for her return journey. “Four of us chose to walk rather than wait for public vehicles. We have decided to do the same till fuel is available.”

A Thecho resident Sanchamaiya Gole climbed down from the roof of a bus at Lagankhel. Wasn’t she scared? “It was scary, but I couldn’t find any vehicle. Besides I had to take food for our daughter-in-law admitted in the hospital, so ...”

She had already waited for two hours and when there was no alternative she climbed on to the roof though she “paid the regular fare (Rs 15 per person)”.

Gole, who guessed her age to be 40-plus, was not even sure where she was headed but her 49-year-old sister-in-law Mailimaiya Moktan was with her, who said, “We are like buffaloes, we won’t be able to take step forward without a chaperon.” And they laughed.

Commuting has become difficult for office goers too. “As I work in one of the NGOs in Anamnagar, I need to wait at least one-two hours to get a ride. If you luckily get one, then it isn’t easy. You are sandwiched inside. If you come out from the vehicle to give a way for someone to get down, then there is no chance to get back on the vehicle again.

I have wasted most of my time waiting for vehicles,” said Sunita Maharjan, a resident of Kalanki. Her children walk to school now as they too do not get vehicles to ride to school.

Another mother Sabita Malla Shahi has “not sent my children to school, which is in Thasikhel, since yesterday (October 1). They are studying at home. My brother–in-law dropped them day-before but his vehicle also ran out of fuel.”

However, for any problem, people always manage to find a solution. Sangita Lama from Maitidevi shared, “My sister and brother-in-law are having difficulties.

They live in Bhainsepati and my sister has to come to New Road for work, my brother-in-law to Thamel. My sister is now staying at Nardevi, our maternal home. But my brother-in-law is using local vehicles — he has to reach Thamel at 7:00 am and as the vehicles are packed, he has even come to office on the roof of the public bus.”

Commuting is not the only problem people are facing today. Sirjana Parajuli, a 35-year-old who has been selling vegetables at the Lagankhel bus stop for 12 years had a different woe. “There is no cooking gas, and I am really

tensed. I don’t know how to feed my children.”

Her search for LPG cylinder has come to zilch. “Some say you get to buy one cylinder for Rs 5,000 and some say it’s not possible. I don’t know what is going on. Was thinking of buying bhus ko chulho (sawdust oven), but it is expensive. What you could buy for Rs 500 now costs Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500.”

How is she feeding others and herself now? “We have been cooking rice in the rice cooker and eating that with tomato chutney.”

Jeevan Darji, the owner of Newari Khaja Ghar at Koteshwor, said his business has been hit by the crisis. “The price of essentials has have gone up and even shopkeepers blackmail us by telling us to buy other items to get a cylinder of gas. As I have to pay more for the materials, I have started charging a little higher too.”

But he has downed the shutters on his Khaja Ghar now “as there is no supply of gas and I can’t afford it. I have taken a loan to run it and as we haven’t been able to the run it properly, my loan is rising too.”

Rajendra Rajak, 51, who is the owner of 21-year-old shop Maila Dai Ra Durga Bhauju Ko Special Hansh Ko Chhoila, Dhobighat said, “We are now using our last LPG for one stove and stocked kerosene for two other stoves to cook at the restaurant. I had stocked about 50 litres of kerosene. I make sure that I have a stock because I have gone through such crisis previously.

We have been using the kerosene stock for the last four days, we have about 15 litres left. We don’t know how long it will last. I also had few cylinders of LPG but we have used them already. There aren’t any in the shops to buy.”

It is not just the eatery owners facing such a problem. “I own a readymade clothing store and as there is no petrol, I cannot use my scooter to bring my goods. I have kept it covered in the chowk,” said Dipak Rauniar, Kamaladi who pointed out it is also “not possible for me to stay in line for six/seven hours leaving my store”.

People will always find ways to cope with problems. “I have never cooked on a gas stove as I am afraid of it. My daughter-in-law cooks on it. We are six members and we are using our gas and kerosene very carefully. And if the shortage of fuel does not end, then we will have to cook in chulho,” said Durga Devi Shahi, 69, from Dokha Tole.

Laxmi Shahi of the same locality who lives with 10 other family members has already started using firewood to cook. “We are using the wood of our house that was destroyed in the earthquake.”

Sabitri Shahi, another resident of the same locality said, “I have always used kerosene to cook and last time I bought two big coke bottles of kerosene for Rs 500. When we run out, then I have to cook with wood. So, now I am cooking only one time a day. I warm the same for dinner. I have also cut down my habit of drinking tea.”

People are also changing what they eat not only how they cook.

“I have been cooking only one variety of side dish because of the shortage of fuel,” said Saraswati Budhathoki, a security guard in Koteshwor, who has also “stopped visiting relatives because of the overcrowded buses”.

“My mother Apsara has started cooking pulses in the rice cooker and as there is load shedding, we wait till 10:00 pm to cook,” said Basnet.

“I am trying to conserve the cooking gas by using the rice cooker instead of pressure cooker even to boil eggs,”

said Adhikari.

As for Darji “we have stopped cooking pulses as it needs more gas and we keep the food items that are cooked in the morning to eat in the evening”.

For Prabesh Marasini, a student, eating has become difficult as he said, “The canteen in the college does not serve us as they do not have gas and other food items. I return home on an empty stomach walking all the way. I used to bring food items such as rice and potatoes from my home in Gulmi but I haven’t been able to do so these days because there are no vehicles.”

While for Budhathoki she has another problem. “My mother-in-law needs to come to Kathmandu from Ramechhap for her eye check-up but cannot as there are no local vehicles. Only jeeps are plying and they are reserved.”

The fuel crisis has affected electrician Gauri Shankar Shah’s work too. “There are no items available in the market. I have to go to my customer’s home to provide the service. As there is no petrol, I have been walking and it is not possible to reach all places. This has decreased my business. If I don’t go to work, I won’t be able to pay my rent, children’s school fees and other expenses.”

With only one gas cylinder remaining at his home for his family of eight, Shah said, “We have stopped cooking during the day.”

Finding the positives

“I find the fuel shortage is a positive thing as the roads are less noisy and people have started to walk the short distances. Earlier people rode their bikes even for short distances which I feel is waste of petrol. I ride my bicycle and I find it comfortable to ride in the current scenario,” opined Kiran Shakya

of Jaisi Dewal.

“The pollution has decreased and it is easier to cross the roads too,” said Darji.But as student Riyash Tamang said, “Whatever the problem, it should be solved as soon as possible as it is the public who is suffering.”