How a 30-second video riveted the nation in a deep economic anxiety (with video)

Published On: September 10, 2020 02:00 PM NPT By: Smriti Dhungana  | @aesmriti

KATHMANDU, Sept 10: A video of Subhadra (Sarswati) Mainali blasting Nepal Police went viral on social media on Sunday. In the 30-second video, Mainali angrily complains that a female police inspector took away her weighing equipment (Taraju and Dhaak).

“Who would want to come out on the street to sell vegetables if we had everything at home?” She is in pain, and in tears, says, “We are also scared of being sick with the virus. Who doesn’t want to sit at home and relax during this time. I am working everyday by taking Nims and ibuprofen.”

One of the firsts to upload the video on Friday on Tik Tok was @sumin960. The video has been viewed more than 66,000 times just on his account.  It has been shared all across social media platforms, reaching millions. Sumin’s caption reads: “One can see police brutality not just on her voice, but also in her eyes.” Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai also tweeted the video with a moving caption: “Without thinking of the alternatives for the millions working in the informal sector and self-employed people, does the state’s responsibility end with lockdown and curfew? Either they should get cash or material relief from the local levels or they should be allowed to do their job safely. Her tears will haunt.” 

Virologist Dr Luna Bhatta tweeted with a comment: “If we have a state then it should understand the pains of working people? Who will help them? Does the parliament’s constituency development fund only go to construct roads? Her tears will haunt.” The video has been watched over 119,000 times on Twitter. 

Countless Nepalis within Nepal and abroad have pledged to support Subhadra after watching the powerful video. Actor and producer Shweta Khadka shared the video on her Facebook page with a message: “We must learn to live in every situation. Then you know how hard it is to live a life.” 

Mainali was on her way to Gopi Krishna Movie Hall with her cart on April 9. She has kidney and uterus problems, and it hurts her when she pushes the cart. On April 9, as she was readying to sell vegetables, a police van stopped in front of her and a female police officer kicked her cart.  The cart broke and the vegetables were all scattered on the floor.  “It was unbearable when the police took away my Dhaak and Taraju,” she recalls the incident. “I had just returned from the hospital after a medical treatment of the uterus. I was bleeding, and was angry. If the police think taking away our livelihood is bravery then they are wrong!” 

Subodh Pokhrel runs Annapurna Online, a Youtube channel. He was around Gopi Krishna Movie Hall during the time of the incident. She heard Mainali’s cry and instantly uploaded her video on Youtube. “I uploaded the video after she told me about the incident,” said Pokhrel. 

Mainali, 39, is from Kavre, Namobuddha-6. She has been selling vegetables around Gopi Krishna area for the last seven years. Her family lives in a small apartment near the area, and they pay seven thousand rupees a month. The family relies on her income for food, rent and the medical expenses. 

Her husband Shambhu Mainali sells vegetables in a mobile van. His neural system is weak and he has steel on his leg. He has to regularly take medicine to lessen the pain. Their daughter is mentally challenged. 

Since the lockdown was first imposed on March 24, the family stayed in their apartment for a few days. They were scared by the virus. 

Subhadra has medical issues in her uterus, breast, kidney and vein. She regularly takes Nims and ibuprofen to suppress her pain.  

“If I can work on a regular basis, it's not hard to feed my family. People are scared of the virus. We are also scared, but we have no other option. We are more scared of dying of starvation than the pandemic,” said Subhadra. 

Shambhu has ancestral land in Kavre. He broke two of his ribs in an accident in Kattike Deurali, Kavre in 1996. They lost everything during his three-month treatment at Maharajgunj Teaching Hospital. He returned home. But then he came back to Kathmandu and started driving a bus. He also worked as a driver for former minister Ramkrishna Tamkrakar. “We initially sold roasted corn around the Pashupati area. I now wake up at 3AM and bring vegetables from Kalimati to retailers in Gopi Krishna area. And then I sell vegetables from a rented plot.” 

They still have to pay a monthly installment of the van. Subhadra wakes up early and brings vegetables from Mulpani. 

Almost 3.5 million Nepalis have lost their jobs, both at home and abroad, since the pandemic began in March. Economic activities have come to a grinding halt for more than five months now. According to Nepal Rastra Bank, 22% Nepalis have lost their jobs. According to a National Planning Commission study, around 2.1 million Nepalis have lost their jobs in the last six months. 

The story first appeared in Nagarik daily on September 10, 2020. 


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