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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Children of Karunamaya

Kids will be kids, right? Not really. They grow up. But hopefully they do not leave behind their love for books as they grow older. These two teenage girls came to Janabahaa one fine afternoon, only to find the increasingly popular library at the Janabahaa Society office closed for the day. No problem – as long as there are books available, they are willing to read.

Children playing are a major tourist attraction.

This is a healthy looking child, by any standard. Her mother, one of the designated full-time sweepers at Janabahaa, has recently enrolled her at a privately run pre-school.

Child carrying child.

Janabahaa is one of the few open spaces in downtown Kathmandu where children can play, relax, bask in the winter sun or enjoy many cultural and religious activities that take place throughout the year.

Smriti (left) and Devika (middle) live with their parents, grandmother and younger brother in a rented flat (or is it a rented room?) inside Janabahaa. Their mother, who is the newer of their father's two wives, sells flowers in the courtyard every morning, and washes clothes and dishes for neighborhood families all day to earn a livelihood for the family, despite her ailing back. Their father boozes away from midday to midnight at a watering hole in Kilagal, after a brief stint at the flower stall in the morning. Both these girls go to a free government school in Itumbaha, but their younger brother gets to go to a private '"boarding" school. The color of the girls' hair shows the extent of their malnutrition, but they are as happy and spirited as any child should be. Looking at the way things are going for this family, it is quite unlikely that it will take a turn for the better any time soon. Meanwhile, Karunamya looks on...

Names have been changed for obvious reasons. All photos by Alok Tuladhar.