Mussoorie: Our daajoo’s from Nepal (elder-brothers) – who down the years have carried heavy loads, luggage, ration and construction materials up and down the narrow lanes of the hill-station and are now an inseparable part of the place’s history.
Our forty deras or dormitories have been home to thousands of them, as generations of labourers from Nepal have poured into these hills to chip in by working as helpers in shop and stores; security guard or labour at construction sites.
For the past one-week lines of worry have creased the foreheads of the Nepali labour up here. Huddled together, in patches of sunshine, they have been engrossed in serious conversation. News has filtered in from their mountain home that the new Indian currency is not being recognized in Nepal. Understandably, it has left them anxious, concerned and perplexed.
To 64 year-old Man Bahadur, Mussoorie has been his second home – a home away from home. With a spring in his step, he had arrived here as a fourteen year old, following in the footsteps of his father. Every year they would return to their village home in Nepal at Dushera loaded with gifts and cash. Today, Man Bahadur is spending his valuable time running from pillar to post exchanging his money for old Indian currency of hundred or better still a fifty rupee note.
A dejected Man Bahadur tells me: “I have to go home in time for my grandson’s birth! I worked extra months to earn some more and now my family tells me, this money is worth nothing!”
Near the Clock tower, I walk into Panna Bahadur, huddled together with his peer group. He has the same thought:“Ever since the Nepal earthquake, we haven’t been able to rebuild our lives. This change in money has hit us the worst, we don’t know what to do with the money we have, where do we go?”
Shop-owners big and small, hoteliers in town are willing to help. Rahul Mittal, an ever helpful shopkeeper in Landour says: “I insist that shoppers pay me in old Indian currency notes so that I can pass it on to the Nepali men who come asking for the same.”
A small gesture, which I am sure, will go a long way in helping our elder brothers from Nepal. Down the ages they have made life in the hills easier for all of the hill station’s residents.