Friendship, as seen on the highway: A tale of two kids
For the news coverage of the Maoists combatants who opted for voluntary retirement and leaving the cantonments with their paychecks, I headed to Shaktikhor in Chitwan from Simara with my friend Deepak Shrestha on February 3.
I was wondering how the combatants, who have come from armed struggles, will face this issue. What will be their reactions?
While I was absorbed in the thoughts about a decade of armed conflict and Maoists guerillas, I was distracted by a wheelchair at Manahari, Ramantar, at three in the afternoon.
I captured the moment of affectionate friendship of Santosh Bal, 12, who was disabled at a young age, and his classmate Roshan Syangtan who was pushing the wheelchair, and both studying in class 2 at the Badi Pidit Primary School.
Santosh was humming some music on his own while Roshan pushed him uphill in his wheelchair. I clicked many pictures of them. I was taken aback by the friendship of these kids. They would be fighting for games at this age.
I went to talk to them and found out that they both were from the same village. Roshan was responsible for taking Santosh to the school and bring him back home. Santosh would’ve been forced to stop his studies and even remain immobile if it hadn’t been for Roshan.
I walked away after taking the pictures. My mind was no more thinking about the combatants. The friendship between those kids took over my thoughts. Two different pictures filled my mind. One picture was of the fight between two brothers from the same country; while the other, filled with affection. A friendship where one pushes the wheelchair while the other sitting on it and solely relying on the friend behind him. Friendship, however, is all about helping one another in times of joy and despair.
The Maoists combatants who have walked out of the cantonment with their paycheck are trying to fit themselves in the society. They have just started to mend their bonds with their friends and families whom they had left and even despised them as enemies during the time of armed struggle. And likewise, the friendship between Santosh and Roshan has also sought encouragement.
I was very excited to assemble the pictures I had taken. In the issue of February 3 of Nagarik daily, the photographs of those two kids had been published on the cover page. I carried the paper to the cantonment where the Maoists combatants who opted for voluntary retirement were waiting to receive their paychecks. Those who had already received their checks told me that they would adjust in the society. I took their pictures and came back.
The next day, Nagarik published the pictures of those combatants receiving their paychecks. I was inspecting which was best picture among them.
I took the newspaper of the day before and left Chitwan early morning for Birgunj. When I reached the place where I took the photographs of those kids, I could not wait to meet those kids again. I finally located Santosh’s place but he was not alone in the house. His friend who always walks behind his wheelchair was also present there. Not only on the roads, but they seem to be together during leisure as well. Santosh’s mother told me that they even study together.
Their teacher had already showed them the photos in the paper before I had arrived. There were a group of people in the house who had come to see just the photo. And amidst all this, a gentleman from the capital also arrived in his car. He had brought a smaller wheelchair of Santosh’s size and many other gifts for him.
Impressed by Santosh’s and Roshan’s friendship, he called them together and presented them with new clothes, stationeries, sports utilities and had a group photo too.
“I’ve come here from Kathmandu because I was inspired by their friendship and affection,” said the gentleman.
I had clicked the picture of those kids two days ago on a serious note and to have clicked them again in a happy moment was a joy for me as well. I had traveled to take photographs of Maoist combatants but I returned with a satisfying experience of witnessing intimacy, friendship and affection.