|One of Our New Boy’s Story in Nepal|
When Hari was one, his father died. The family was already extremely poor, but after the demise of the sole breadwinner, the situation was desperate, thus when Hari was a toddler, his mother remarried. Hari’s new sep- father took an instant and rather violent dislike of Hari. He beat him savagely, and treated him as if he was not a member of the family, refusing to let him sit anywhere near him, or eat with the family. According to Hari, he felt that his mother loved him, but had little choice other than to tolerate her new husband’s behaviour. Without him, they’d have been destitute.
When Hari was four or five, his treatment at the hands of his stepfather became unbearable, and he ran away from home, desperate to escape the violence. He was a tiny boy, but he remembers his first night on the street vividly, saying, “I was so small, and I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid of ghosts at that time. I was scared of the people walking by. I was afraid of them hitting me.” He tore a fabric advertisement down from a building wrapped himself in it, and fell asleep on the pavement.
Hari spent the next five years on the street, barely surviving. For food, he’d rifle through dustbins, “eating the dirty things.” Once, he remembers eating a used white paper napkin when he was very small, thinking it was chicken. The rotten remains would leave him with a permanent stomach ache, and sometimes he and the other boys would become sick, though medical help was impossible to obtain. There is a public tap in Jawalakhel, from which the boys would drink dirty, polluted water, though on some days the water ran out, or none was pumped through, as so often happens in Kathmandu, so they went thirsty. At other times, they’d creep past shops, and rifle through the crates of empty soda bottles outside. In each, there might be a millimetre of fanta or coca cola left by its owner.
In the beginning Hari was the only street boy in Jawalakhel (north of central Kathmandu), but later others arrived, bringing friendship, bad habits and unwanted attention. Many of the street boys steal to survive- Hari can’t really explain why, but he never stole whilst living on the street. Most of the others did, but he didn’t- he simply begged and rifled through garbage, or collected rubbish in giant bags to earn a few rupees. Sometimes though, he says he was so hungry, that it felt as if there were two little voices, one screaming, ‘thieve, thieve’ and the other, ‘no, don’t thieve’.
Drugs are rife here, and almost all the street children sniff glue incessantly. Underneath their nose becomes red and raw, sometimes due to the fumes, but other times Hari tells me it is as a result of ripping off dried glue which was congealed there while they’re high. He said that when you spent your whole life worrying lonely and hungry, glue allowed you to escape in to another world for a while.
Hari has been in jail six times by the age of nine. Sometimes whilst sleeping at night, police would set upon the street boys for no reason, beating them severely then taking them to jail. In Nepal, no one provides you with food or water in prison- you have to rely upon friends and relatives bringing you supplies. Each time Hari was sent there (for two to three weeks each time) he was forced to work in the gardens and in the laundry. No one gave him any food or water, aside from the scraps he could beg from other inmates. Two memories in terms of ending up in prison particularly resonate in his memory. Once, a tourist in Jawalakhel took pity on him and bought him a new t-shirt, as the one he was wearing was but a dirty rag, he said:
“I was so happy. It was such a nice t-shirt. I was smiling so much. But then afterwards a policeman came to me and grabbed me and beat my back with a stick. He said ‘I was a thief.’ He said, ‘you stole this shirt.’ I said, - ‘no- a tourist bought it for me.’ But he beat me again and took me to jail.”
Another time, Hari wandered past a party. A man outside accused him of stealing his motorbike helmet. Hari vehemently denied it, but the man beat him with a rock and called the police. Hari ran but the police caught him anyway.
As a little boy on the street, Hari told me that he thought no one in the whole world loved him. More than that, he thought everyone actively hated him. Sometimes random passersby would kick him, or shout abuse. Once, an elderly man deliberately rode his bicycle into Hari and hit him. When Hari cried out and asked the man why he had done so, the man replied, “because you’re a naughty boy, and I don’t like you.” No one cared no one gave him food unless he begged. He said at that time, he knew there was no God.
Once, Hari was begging on the pavement, a couple of years after leaving home (aged around 6 or 7) and his real mother walked past him. He called out to her”
“I said, ‘Mother mother, it’s Hari. Please give me five rupees’, but she ignored me. I asked her again, “Mother, please give me five rupees’. But she just turned and shouted, ‘who are you calling mother?!’, and she walked away.”
Whilst begging on the pavement, he would watch “small, small babies going to school”, and ask, “why not me?” When Hari finally did go to school, after he moved to the new boys’ hostel, the humiliation didn’t end. He was 11 years old, and studying in UKG with tiny children. They would laugh at him, calling him Grandfather. He’d shout back at them, but it hurt him hugely. He said he prayed and prayed for knowledge, and gradually he skipped several classes. Hari is now in class 8, and loving it...
One day, as Hari sat smoking a cigarette on the pavement ‘didi’ (sister) a church staff) approached him and told him to stop smoking as it would harm him. ‘Come with me, and I’ll give you food’, she said. Thinking it was a trick, nine year old Hari shouted ‘Go away! I don’t like food!’ but eventually Mary gained his trust and together they walked to the church buildings nearby. Slowly, Hari started to come every day for food, as did a group of other boys from the street. The staff there never put pressure on them, instead talking with the boys about their dreams for the future and the idea of making choices- a notion which doesn’t occur to street boys, as they live by impulse. They think and then immediately act- they never plan ahead.
One day Hari approached Noel Isaacs and asked if he could stay permanently. Without pausing to think about where they’d get the funds from, Noel said, ‘Sure’. Seven years on, Hari is a beaming handsome, polite, generous guy, immensely musically talented, and doing well at school.
I asked Hari about his Mother, and how he feels about his family now. He said that for years, he hated them all. When he first moved in to the hostel, he used to pray continuously for God to keep his step-father away from him. Slowly, Hari says, God softened his heart and said ‘Go visit them and bring them to me’. Now Hari visits them once a month. They may have beaten and abandoned him but he has forgiven them, and will never give up trying to bring them to faith.
He told me that he’d heard of Jesus before he arrived at the church, but he thought it was a westerner’s religion, not for Nepalese. Besides, as far as he was concerned, no God existed at all when he was on the street. Noel gave him a bible, and he read slowly, one word at a time, like a baby, and slowly he fell in love with Jesus. He said he went from thinking that he was utterly alone, to realizing that Jesus adored him. When Hari was fourteen, a few years after moving in, he went to Noel and asked to be baptised. Now he dreams of becoming a missionary, helping other street boys, with his unique insight into their plight.
This boy literally shines, when you meet him
Hari Magar Rana
PO Box 23401