Himalayan News Service

Pokhara, February 3

Gandharba women, who used to fish for a living, have turned to sweeping the streets. Shreekala Gandharba, 39, left fishing and became a sweeper with the Pokhara municipality. "I get Rs 3000 from the municipality," she said.

Traditionally, Gandharba women use a weed (Mauwa) for catching fish. The weed, howevere, has a bad impact as it converts into poison and permeates the system of the fish. The effect of the weed residues in the lakes and ponds has also resulted in dwindling population of local fish. Naturally, the Gandharba women were finding it increasingly difficult to stick to fishing as a profession. "Since the last decade, the fish population has been decreasing alarmingly," Shreekala said.

Gandharba women used to go from Batulechaur to Matapani and Chhorpatan to sell fish but times have changed. Now, some are working as sweepers for the municipality. Others are running small fruit businesses. Shreekala said some Gandharbas still move around in the villages and play the traditional instrument, Sarangi, for their bread and butter.

Several Gandharba women said they used to go fishing when they were young girls. "I too went fishing with my father. Fish were so plentiful, we could catch them using a cap. These days, most parents send their children to school. We never got a chance to attend school," said 50 year old Sukmaya Gandharba.

Sixty-two year old Bibha Gayak said, "Now, we have many facilities. Sweeping is better than fishing. There is a guarantee of income. There are, however, backbone problems due to sweeping seven to eight hours daily."

Shreekala said, "Occasionally, we have to argue with people who throw garbage indiscriminately." She added that wastes from hospitals and nursing homes often trouble them. Sometimes, they get wounded by the scalpels, incision blades and syringes. syringes stab their body. But they feel all that is made up for the secure jobs in the waste management sector. "No more fishing in troubled waters for us," they chorussed.