On June 11, the government relaxed the ongoing lockdown despite Nepal continuing to register new coronavirus cases.
The decision was made to alleviate humanitarian and economic crisis. The lockdown is being eased in different phases. With the easing, a few private businesses including shops have fully reopened and movement of goods, workers and public are permitted.
But people from different walks of life opine that just the easing will not end the hard times or wariness or confinement soon, and that they are bracing themselves to tackle the situation.
Munna Khan, 33, a resident of New Baneshwore, reopened his motorcycle workshop immediately after the relaxation of the restrictions with hopes to bounce back from all the economic stress that he has been going through in the last few months.
But he saw his hope failing when he didn’t see any customers. “I might get customers in the coming days but that’s not going to end the problem for me. I need them now. I need them to relieve me from the interest of the debts and to run a five-member family,” he lamented.
Pointing to his problems as bigger than COVID-19, he said, “I don’t even care for COVID-19 now.
Why should I care when I might die of other problems if I continue to hide because of coronavirus?” he questioned.
Khan claimed he and his family have been taking safety measures against the virus. And to address his economic difficulty he is “providing pick-up and delivery options for customers who want their vehicles serviced at my workshop.
Meanwhile I have has also reduced the servicing cost”.
And he has some words of advice for individuals going through similar problems like him: “The only way to get over the stress and problems is to get back to normal life.
Fearing COVID-19 is going to ruin everything.”
Ram Bahadur Situala, 37, a resident of Chabahil was spotted at a local eatery in Gaushala, making a phone call to a contractor to ask for work.
When The Himalayan Times asked him regarding the consequences of lockdown that he has been facing, he said, “I am coping with this worst situation just with the help of this alcohol.”
Sipping local alcohol at the eatery, he added, “For people like me, we don’t have friends and family who would lend us support to tackle the situation. I don’t even want to go back home — I have to see the faces of my two children and wife all over again. And I don’t have answers to when will I bring money to run the house or to buy the text books for the new session.”
Informal workers like Sitaula do not possess a work contract and are usually daily wagers. And for him “everything was going right until this pandemic happened.
Now I am making a call to all the contractors on my contact list with a hope that I will get work to earn my living”.
“Normal life is a distant dream,” shared 28-year-old entrepreneur Ashim Dawadi.
In his last interview with THT on the effects of lockdown, he had shared that all his business plans had been ruined and was fearing even to invest.
When THT approached him this time he said, “I am experiencing anxiety about life.”
Dawadi’s family are reluctant to support him to run a business and most of all Dawadi sees his dream fading away everyday.
“I returned home from Australia with a hope to do something I have an interest in, but now I see nothing except a blurry image of my dream.”
He added, “The government approach to handle the crisis is lame nor is there an environment to sustain.”
To cope with the situation, Dawadi has postponed everything and is planning to go abroad again when situation becomes favourable.
To deal with anxiety he is meditating and spending time with his family.
Equally devastating is the situation of Sarita Kafle, 39, who was laid off by her company amid the crisis.
The Chakrapath resident, who has a family to look after, was asked to quit her job in the company where she had been working for the last eight years as “the company was in huge loss and job cuts were only the solution”.
She added, “I still have not received my due salary.
I was traumatised. I had nowhere to go.”
She has managed to sustain her living after a friend of hers gave her an idea to sell masks and sanitisers.
She delivers mask and sanitisers across the Valley.
And regarding COV- ID-19, she said, “I have got over the fear. But still I take all precautions necessary.”
Suggesting ways to cope the situation, she said, “Let’s not wait for government or any other body to support us. We have nobody and we are nobody.
Let’s help ourselves and that is the least we can do to survive.”
The situation of brothers duo Suman Ghimire, 29, and Sujan Ghimire, 30, is no different — they had taken a loan from a finance company to start a full fledged stationery store but “the lockdown happened and all our dreams collapsed”.
As per them, the duo has not even earned a single penny from the shop but now rent, debt and interest are “killing us”.
“I don’t know why people don’t understand the situation and help us out instead of nagging us to pay the money,” they complained.
However, the easing of lockdown has bought a ray of hope in their life. “We are back with our business and we hope to pay back. But everything (loan interest and rent) is so high that we are planning to sell our ancestral land to clear them.”
And to keep their business afloat, the duo has been planning sell the stationery items “online and start delivery too”.
Though they are trying to get back on their feet, they revealed the crisis has not only hampered their business but also caused mental pressure.
“We are youth who envisioned to do something in our nation. But that is not happening. It is depressing for us. It is our supportive family who has taken care of us mentally and emotionally during this difficult phase.”
Like all others interviewed, this duo too feels that COVID-19 isn’t the main concern now.
“We will take all necessary measures to be safe but we will not be tense and fearful of it and leave everything behind.”
A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 23, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.