19 years old Shahid Kasagar started working in brick factories at the age of 13. His rough hands and cracked heels are the witness of smoke and dust he grew up playing with. Animal Nepal got to know Shahid during our work at UK brick factory of Lalitpur in 2016. We also know him as one of the youngest equine owner in our project area. This October we got an opportunity to meet him at Barabanki Equine fair, one of the largest fair that takes place every year at Barabanki town in Eastern Utter Pradesh, India. There we also met with other equine owners and traders who came all the way from Nepalgunj either to buy or sell their equines.
Shahid attended the fair with his mother and younger sister. There he purchased 13 healthy mules who were supposed to travel 3 days long journey back to Nepalgunj with him. He will also be working as equine handler in the brick factory along with other 10 handlers whom he hired for the brick season 2017. Last year he worked at UK brick factory Lalitpur but due to bad attitude of the factory owner and shortage of drinking water, he plans to work at Tata brick factory of Dhading this year. After the earthquake, majority of brick factories of Kathmandu has moved to Dhading and Kavre which falls under the major working area of Animal Nepal under our project year 2017.
Shahid loves his donkeys and mules like his own family member. Death of his animal makes him cry. Most of the equine suffer from colic or anurea in the brick factory. As a quick fix of colic he even learned to inject medicines in animals from some veterinarian of his town. Later, Animal Nepal team helped him understand that injections can be fatal if provided in the absence of any medical practitioner. Now he doesn’t go for a shortcut and instead calls our team if he is in need of any medical support. Last year, Animal Nepal saved one of his donkey from a severe wound caused by a deep cut from a metal.
Shahid’s mother and younger sister seemed very happy to attend the fair. When we asked the name of his mother, he hesitantly replied, “We don’t pronounce the name of women in our family”. Shahid’s mother was generous enough to tell her name but didn’t want us to write it down or publish it anywhere. But his sister Haseena, was much different than her mother. She was much more confident and always carried a smile on her face completely living up to her name.
Shahid has been attending the fair since 10 years. Before him, his father used to handle the business and now he has taken all the responsibility upon his young shoulders. He has 3 younger brother and 2 sister. Haseena is the youngest of all. She wore her best dress in the fair and was seen combing her hair most of the time. However, Haseena won’t be allowed to attend the fair after she reaches 10 years of age as then she will be considered a “grown up” girl.
Shahid now is a sole earner in his family. Unlike other men from his community, he is willing to send her sister and brother to school. He would like to see them educated and working in higher level jobs. When asked if he would like to switch his profession in future, he smilingly replies, “I can’t do any other work than this. I never got chance to go to school and have always been helping my father in his business. So, only thing I know is to look after my animals. But I will not allow my brothers to work like me. There is no respect in this business. I want them to earn respect in society which we were always deprived of.”
Shahid left the fair with his family and 13 mules on early morning of October 16. He is one of those few owners who is willing to change for better and who is curious to learn. For him respect in the job matters more than the money. He is proud to continue his family profession but he doesn’t want to do it like his father and grandfather. In his time, animals will be much loved, cared and looked after.
Animal Nepal has been working for improving lives of equine owners like Shahid and his animals since 2008 with kind support from The Donkey Sanctuary UK. With the aim of empowering stakeholders and ending abuse, Animal Nepal will be working more effectively in major areas of Nepal including Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Dhading, Kavre, Gorkha and Nepalgunj under our project year 2017. We look forward to seeing Shahid and his 13 handsome mules very soon at Tata Brick factory in upcoming brick season.