Name: Jitèndra Das AKA Jitè
Occupation: Street dweller, skateboarder
When you skate around Kathmandu, you will eventually feel a little tug on your pants or the bottom of your shirt as a scruffy little boy tries to get your attention. This kid rolls around on a skateboard through the bus parks and tourist areas of Kathmandu as he begs for money that he uses to support his family of six. As the oldest child in his family, he has taken up the responsibility to supplement his family’s income to make ends meet.
Jitè, like thousands of kids that come from the slums, survives on the money that he collects daily by spending up to 8 hours rolling around the dusty streets of downtown Kathmandu. He might actually be the first avid street skater in Nepal, though by circumstances more than choice. Jitè was born with underdeveloped legs and used to walk around on his hands till someone gave him a skateboard in 2012. He hasn’t gotten off the deck since, because it has increased his mobility and in his words is the most fun thing that he gets to do.
Jitè starts his day at 8 in the morning, and hits up the bus park and the tourist area in downtown Kathmandu. Dodging cars, buses and cops, he rolls around on his board collecting from tourists while hitting ledges and popping tricks on the sidewalk. He tells the story of how his family came from a little village in the south of Nepal, near the Indian border, where the villagers shunned him and his mom because of his disability. Superstitious and uneducated, the villagers saw his deformity as an ill omen for the whole community and wanted to get rid of him by burying him alive. Unable to reason with their community and fearful of their own well being, Jitè’s mom had no recourse but to flee towards Kathmandu.
Since leaving the village, his parents made their way to Kathmandu where they started begging to survive. His dad passed away when his sister was born leaving the responsibility of the family on Jitè’s young shoulders. As sad as his story might seem, when you meet him he is the most hype kid on the streets. He has a pride and self respect that shuns pity and shame. He doesn’t care much for the tourists and locals who stop him on the road and try to tell him to go to school or get a social work organization to help him. In his own words, he is good at getting money from begging, and he feels like he doesn’t want to leave his family behind and have a life that’s different from them.
There are many facets of a person; the way life molds and pushes individuals is vast and varied. What was a debilitating disability at birth has transformed into his main source of income today. Jitè is exemplary as an individual who has made not only the best out of his situation but has found ways to thrive in it. Strolling the streets and begging for money is in no way of life for a 13 years old kid— Jitè’s life and the situation that he finds himself in are indicative of the vast inequalities that exist in Nepali society. The tragedy is that so much money and effort goes into improving the conditions of people like Jitè, but without understanding the reality of their situation and individual motivations, and in the end, they all fall short in making any real change. In the midst of all this, Jitè continues to work the streets and even finds time to learn new tricks on the skateboard and, most amazing of all, always has a positive attitude and a smile on his face.