Students collecting Yarsa in highlands of Bajhang. Jagat Khadka/Republica
BAJHANG, May 1: These days, Kalpana Bohora, a ninth grader at Kanda Secondary School in Bajhang, is found worrying about how much herbs she will collect in a particular day. She says she never cared so much about her school lessons as much she does about Yarsa, a Himalayan herb with purported aphrodisiac properties.
This is because more the number of Yarsa she picks in a day, the more love she gets from her family members. Last year, her family was proud of her as she collected Yarsa worth Rs 553,000 on her own. She remembers her father saying, 'my daughter is not Kalpana, she is Laxmi (the goddess of wealth)'.
This year, her family has more expectations from her. It has been two weeks since they have started flocking to Chala forest along with a large number of villagers to pick Yarsa. Since the beginning of the current academic year, only a few students have enrolled themselves in school while most are busy in the highlands.
Babita Bohora, who recently passed her fourth grade exam from Dhuli Secondary School, informed Republica that it has been two years since she started coming to the highlands for picking Yarsa. She says she will join school from the second week of July. Two of her teachers are staying in a nearby tent along with their children. It is an advantage for the teachers as they will not just earn money by selling Yarsa but will also receive the salary from school despite being absent.
These children do not ask for pocket money from their parents but instead share them their earning in spite of their tender age.
Janak Bohora and his younger brother Tilak are no exception. Despite their young age, they make around Rs 700,000 by collecting Yarsa. Their grandfather Dhansinge Bohora of Saipal Rural Municipality-1 says he sends his grandsons to pick Yarsa as their parents have to look after him.
"There is no one else at home to earn money besides the youngsters,” he said.
Janak is a seventh grader while Tilak studies in fifth grade in Bajhang Marigold School, Chainpur. Both of them earn their school expenses on their own.
Yarsa picking is a major source of income for the people here.
Earlier, the local unit had held a meeting with the principals of two secondary and four primary schools to prevent the students as well as teachers from going to the hills for picking Yarsa. Rajendra Dhami, chairperson of Saipal, expressed his disappointment toward the school authorities for not implementing the decision.
"This is the most remote local unit in the whole district," said Chairperson Dhami, adding, "Despite our effort to uplift the standard of education here, we could not stop children from going to highlands by neglecting their studies as they earn their living from that money."
Not just in Saipal, but schools in Surma, Chabispathibhera, Durgathali, Talkot, Masta, Bugal and Jaya Prithvi Municipality have remained shut with the onset of Yarsa picking season.