Spared by Nepal earthquake, youth stuck in Darjeeling unrest
Violence continued to rock the Darjeeling hills on Monday with Gorkhaland supporters setting two trucks ablaze, leaving one of the drivers severely injured.india Updated: Jun 20, 2017 07:25 IST
Santosh Rai, 23, was fortunate to escape death in the 2015 earthquake that devastated Nepal. The disaster spared him but destroyed the hotel where he worked for 25,000 Nepalese currency a month.
He left for Darjeeling, the closest tourist spot, and found a job as an attendant at an eatery, for a meagre Rs 3,000. But the dream of finding a foothold in the hills vanished when he went out on to the street, speaking to his mother in Nepal over the phone on June 8. Policemen chasing GJM supporters caned him without provocation. Scared of a repeat in such incidents, Rai now waits to catch the first bus to Nepal after the bandh by GJM is called off.
Anxious to know how her son was, his mother had telephoned Rai. Ironically, that conversation marked the end of his decision to stay in Darjeeling.
“Around 11am, as I was talking over the phone, a police personnel suddenly hit me hard with a baton. I was on the street narrating the situation here to my mother,” said Rai. The market is popularly known as the meat market, where the hotel he works in is located. “I felt a sharp pain and I started running even while holding the phone to my ear. I told my mother about the incident and she asked me to return home,” said Rai.
The eatery where Rai worked has also downed its shutters, thanks to the indefinite bandh enforced by GJM.
For Rai’s family, his return to Nepal is a difficult choice. His father is a carpenter back at Ilam. He has seven siblings. The family is so poor that they used to depend on Rai’s income. “I will have to go back to Kathmandu looking for a job,” said Rai, who started doing odd jobs to make ends meet since the age of 12.
For now, Rai seems to be stuck in Darjeeling. “I don’t know when I will get a vehicle to reach Pashupati Gate, a drive of about 90 minutes. I also need to send whatever little money I managed to save. My mother is ill and I have to support my father for her treatment,” he said, bending to lift two buckets and trudge back uphill to his eatery five minutes away.