5 August

Computer Boy

Let me tell you a story, a true story. It is a story that takes place every day in the streets of Kathmandu. It’s about a boy who wishes to become an engineer, and own a car, a house and a good life.

It all started one day when my dear friend, Sandeep Khanal, was all busy calculating his daily closure transaction for his sales from Yash Endeavours. At this stressful moment he thought a nice cup of tea would ease his mind and so he ordered a cup of tea from a local shop there at Wotu Chowk, New Road. After about fifteen minutes or so, a woman, Mrs. Gyani Maya Tamang, came to his office with tea-try in her hand. My friend Sandeep was busy entering transaction to a database in his Mac Book and so he ordered her to leave the tea on his desk. She did as ordered and stared with amazement at this device that my friend was all busy into. She knew it was a computer. She had heard about it before, maybe through someone close. So with quite a hesitation, she spoke. She asked – “Is this what I think it is? It is a computer right? How much does this cost? My son always argues with me to buy one.” My friend simply could not answer to that question.

Sandeep was very moved by the fact that he decided to meet this kid, a son of a lady who owns a small tea shop in New Road. Sandeep told the story to us, the team members of Techno Cottage Nepal, and we were equally eager. Therefore, on July 15 of 2012, we gathered up at his office and decided to take an informal interview of this boy.

The following is the summary of this short, 1 hour interview:

The boy’s name is Shubha Raj Tamang and he currently studies at Shree Mahankal Secondary School (SMSS) at Mahabauddha, Kathmandu. He is in grade 8 is a brilliant student. He comes second most of the time in his exams. He told us that he currently lives with his mother and his father at a nearby house. He was now 15 years old and his aim in the future is to be an Engineer. His mother works at a local tea shop nearby and that’s the only source of income for their family. Their permanent home is in Anikot VDC, Kavre. When we asked about his father he hesitated and unwillingly confirmed that he too works at the tea shop. But, we found out that his father was a drunkard who boasts about being a leader of thelgada (local wheelbarrow) drivers. His name is Mr. Buddha Sharan Tamang. We heard stories about him – how he tears books and assignments of his son when he is drunk, why they were forced to shift house so many times and how he came first in his class when his father was not with him (when his father was in his village, Kavre).

Shree Mahankal Secondary School, where the boy studies, has about 20 computers and that the subject is taught to students from class 4 onwards. In grade 8, there are currently 14 students with 7 girls and 7 boys. Shubha has been studying in this school since nursery and has been to Kathmandu from 5 years of age.

His story moved us in a way. Therefore, we decided to help this kid. However, before this, we wanted to see his potential. Therefore, my friend Sandeep asked the boy to write an essay (in Nepali) about computers. The title was – ‘How do you feel when you don’t have a computer at home? What might be the benefits of owning a computer? And, what will you do after you own a computer?’ We also asked him to bring his progress report. We wanted to see how good he actually was. Accordingly, he got a day to finish all this.

In 18 July we got his reply and his answer was simple.

We also got his progress report.

It was clear that this boy has some potential and we thought that we should help him. Immediately, Sandeep agreed to donate Nrs 15,000 to buy a new computer for this boy. But, before that, we wanted to visit this boy’s house and see where we can actually setup a desktop in his room.

In 18 July Sandeep and I went to see his house. We were really touched by the scene.  When we reached there we saw her small shop which looked more like a messed kitchen. We were surprised to see how she managed to keep alive her profession. It was on the ground floor of an old house. There was a ladder behind the shop which was the passage to their room on top. We had to squeeze ourselves in, in order to reach their living room. And at that very moment, tears filled our eyes. The room was merely 2×2 meters in area. There was a bed, a cupboard and a TV set, that’s it. There was no more room for anything else. We could not imagine a desktop in that room. For a moment we thought we were so lucky. We have plenty of rooms to enjoy ourselves at home and here it was, a room where 3 people live, all squeezed in! For the first time, we were out of options.

Sometimes I think maybe there are lots of students like Shubha who are good but are struggling each day to become either an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. And, why should I care? But then something always motivates me. That something is a feeling that a count to million always starts with a number 1. That’s what we are doing, helping 1 kid who will help 100 others.

From that day onwards, we are still discussing on what we should do – what options could we have? We even thought of giving the boy a laptop. But, with such a small amount of money, that was not possible.

So, maybe you could help us by giving some suggestions. We want to help this kid and we are into it total. Through this message we are asking you to help us help him. We have already collected NRs 15,000. We need around NRs 20,000 more if we are to give him a laptop. But we can think of other alternatives too. What do you think?

– Anup Khanal

[Shubha Raj Tamang has already given the permission to publish his report and his essay here]