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My name is Santosh, or Gurung Bhaai. I am nineteen. Right now, I work here at Indreni– I look after the schoolboys, get them ready for school and walk them there. During the day, I help at the Children’s Activation Program, the hockey programs, and sometimes in the street kitchen. I do a bit of everything.

I am from Ghandruk, on the trekking routes. When I lived in Ghandruk, my paternal grandmother and grandfather took care of me. This was because after I was born, my father ran away to India and married another woman. Then when I was two months old, my mother left too, and she also remarried. They tell me that my father took three successive wives, and my mother three husbands. I lived with my grandparents for ten years. After that time, my grandfather died. It was hard on my grandmother, and we were forced to move away. We went to Bhandardik, a small village on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. We stayed in rented houses. My grandmother was always fighting with the neighbours and the landlords, and because of this we were always shifting from place to place. I had the opportunity to study, which I am grateful for, but because I was always changing schools it was hard to learn or make friends. Eventually, everyone in that town was enemies with my grandmother, so we moved to a place on the way to Sarangkot. We were there for two or three months, and then my grandmother heard that my mother was nearby, in Yamdi. So she took me to Yamdi, to the house of my mother and stepfather. I stayed one day with my mother, and I didn’t like it. She was a stranger; I’d never known her, and she didn’t care about me. My grandmother told my mother that she was too old to look after me, but my mother refused to do it either. She didn’t want a child to care for. So my grandmother took me back to Ghandruk, and she left me with her younger brother, my great-uncle. I lived with him for two years. In the daytime, I was allowed to go to school, but as soon as I got home I had to do work for the house: cutting grass, chopping wood, taking care of the buffaloes. I worked late into the night, and I wasn’t allowed to play with friends. My great-uncle drank rakshi and played cards all day. He beat me almost every night. Then my father heard that I was living in Ghandruk, and he came all the way from India to bring me to his home. But my great-uncle didn’t want me to go, and he told me that in India everyone was bad. All the neighbours told me the same: that it was a country full of evil, and that my stepmother would abuse me. I wanted to go with my father, but I was afraid. So when he left, I stayed in Ghandruk. After my father’s visit, however, I wanted to run away like he had done. It was bad, where I lived: always beatings, shouting, and not enough food. Three times, I tried to run away to Pokhara, but each time my great-uncle came after me and took me back. But the fourth time, I was on the road and getting near to Pokhara. I knew my great-uncle was going to follow me. And then there, on the road, there was a group of Maoists. And they took me into the jungle. I lived in the jungle for three or four months. The Maoists said I was too small to join the men– I was eleven or twelve at the time– so I helped the women’s team. They designed Maoist songs, chants, and dances. They were very kind to me, and they thought I should go to school. So they sent me to Baglung, and I lived there in the Maoist camp. I didn’t like the Maoists, but I liked their weapons. In the jungle, the older men taught me how to fight; I learned how to kill someone, and how to use khukuris and guns. I wanted always to have my own weapons; my dream was to return to Ghandruk and cut up my great-uncle, to repay him the wrongs he did me. At that time, I went to school. I liked learning, but the other children knew I lived with Maoists, and they thought I was dangerous. As a result, I had no friends.
I was afraid in the camp. There were always men I knew going to fight, and sometimes they didn’t come back. The Maoists were half-starved; they were missing hands and feet; they had so many wounds. I saw the police that they caught and tortured. And always, I was afraid of being caught, because at that time the army had an instant-death policy for Maoist supporters. After half a year, I was too afraid to stay, so I ran away to Pokhara. I was twelve or thirteen then. I met a boy in Bagar, and we became friends. I never knew his name– he had some facial deformities and couldn’t speak properly– but we stayed together. We begged and slept on people’s verandas at night, and he taught me how to smoke and sniff glue. One day he vanished, and I didn’t see him again–until last Saturday, actually. I saw him near the cinema, but he didn’t recognize me. Back then when he disappeared, I felt lonely. So I went to Mahendralpul and started begging there. In Mahendrapul I met some other boys, and I taught them how to smoke and sniff glue. I was strongly addicted to glue. When we didn’t have money to buy it, we would steal petrol from motorbike gas tanks and inhale the fumes from plastic Coke bottles. When I got older, I couldn’t beg anymore. I started collecting rubbish during the day to sell, and I joined a gang. At night we stole money, phones, gas cylinders– whatever we could– from people’s houses. We were all street kids, and the police were always beating us. At that time I met a woman, Santi Miss, who worked in a contact centre. At the contact centre, they provided treatment, games, and a few snacks for street children. She helped me out. I also met Popu the garbage collector. He used to be a street boy too, but someone sent him to a rehab centre and he rose up to run a scrap yard. We would bring him our rubbish and he’d give us some money. He also let the other boys and I sleep in the yard sometimes, but there was little room so we had to rotate shifts. One day I heard that there was a place that provided food for street kids. My friend Kaale brought me to Indreni street kitchen. At the kitchen, there wasn’t just food; there were songs, stories, and I heard about Jesus there. It was so different, so full of peace. I felt secure, and my heart was calm. But when lunch finished and I had to leave to collect rubbish, it was so hard.

How quickly the time passed!

With our money from garbage collecting, we always bought glue; our only thought was to have Dendrite for that night. We never bought food, and so our only meal each day was at the street kitchen. The days and nights were long, waiting for that meal. We slept outside, and the police often beat us. I always dreamed of being a gang leader, a big don, because then I would
beat and hurt the police back. I went regularly to the kitchen for a long time. I liked listening to the Jesus stories, and I
liked singing. One day Bua [Chanman] told us a Bible story. It was the parable of the Prodigal Son, and as I listened, it clicked in my heart. I felt so strange; I began to cry, began to weep, and I tried to stop but couldn’t. The story touched something inside me. That day I began to feel and think differently. I knew that I wanted to do something other than stealing. I wanted to change
my life. Each day when I heard the stories, I would go back to the streets and sleep. I would lie inside my bora and think about how alone I was. I would think, I have no father or mother or anyone on my side. No one loves me, so who is this Jesus, who loves me? Why do the street kitchen people love me? Every night, I would ask myself, who is this Jesus who loves me? That love word was so important to me. I forgot about my dream to be a big don, because all I wanted then was to see the man Jesus.
I asked so many questions at the kitchen. I wanted to feel near to Jesus, get close to him, know everything about him. I didn’t know how, but I wanted to. Mummy [Aksha] told me, “You have to pray. One day Jesus will provide for you, because He is the Provider.” And then the shelter opened. I stopped collecting rubbish and learned how to fix bicycles. Indreni found me a job in a bicycle shop, and at night I slept in the shelter. I stopped sniffing glue; I was strong with myself and quickly– just one day– I had finished with it. Smoking was extremely difficult, however. At first I decreased the cigarettes; then I chewed tobacco; then I
moved to chocolates, and gradually the addiction went away. After that, I stopped work in the bicycle shop and took a job at the Himalayan Life Plastics company. I worked there for six months. Then one day, a man came to me. He told me
that he would provide me with a cycle shop and we could do business together. He said we would earn lots of money. I wanted to do that. The staff at Indreni told me it was a bad idea; they said he was a drug gangster and had a bad reputation. It made me uncertain, but after a long time, I consented to go with him, and I left Indreni. We started a business here in Pokhara, and it went well for a while. Sometimes I visited Indreni, and they said they were always praying for me. Then one day, after about two months, the man vanished. His wife came to our shop with the police, and she wanted to know where her husband had gone. I didn’t know, and they took me to jail. It was so hard; I didn’t know where the guy was, or what to tell the police, or who would help me. The wife made life really difficult for me. Then one day, Santi Miss from the contact centre came to the jail and bailed me out. I was finished with the shop, and I returned to Indreni. That day I made a decision. I decided I would grow up in Christ and get close to him. I decided I would help the other street kids at the shelter, and I would listen to the counsel of the
staff here.

I started learning more about Jesus, and took a baptism class. After that, I desperately wanted to attend some discipleship training. So Indreni sent me for five months of training in Butwal. That was when I really discovered who Jesus was. He is the one who loves me! That training was really, really great. I went to find Jesus, and I came back successful. I grew so close
to him there.

After Butwal, I returned to Pokhara and started working at Indreni. I visited my mother’s house in Yamdi and stayed there awhile. My goal was to share the gospel with my family, but I found that my stepfather was already a Christian. I was so happy. My mother, however, was not a Christian. It weighed on me. I also found it difficult to be there because I longed to be loved. My stepfather never called me son, and my mother, all her life, has been virtually mute due to a speaking impediment.They never showed affection to me in that house. Two months ago, my stepfather died. My mother is alone now. She lives in the Prithivichowk slum now, and she’s getting very old. She wanted me to come stay with her, but I didn’t go. All my life, she has done nothing for me: she abandoned me as a baby, never contacted me, never loved me. I hardly know her, and I cannot feel her to be my mother. I visit her, help with expenses, bring money and food and clothes, but I cannot stay there. Indreni is my home now, and I love it too much to leave it. Here, Mummy and Bua [Chanman & Aksha] call me son, and having a family makes such a difference. I love this place.

My greatest concern right now is my citizenship. I have no birth certificate, no papersdocumenting that I’m Nepali. I oncecontacted my father’s sister to see if I could find my birthcertificate, but she refused to see me.

[What do you want to be when you’re older?]
I want to be a strong Christian and a strong man; I want to build God’s kingdom in the streets. That’s the place I want to serve Jesus. I’d like to take more training, learn to write in Nepali and to speak some English, get better at hockey, guitar– everything. I have little education, but a lot of determination. I want to learn.

[What do you love so much about Indreni?]
I love everything, but most of all, I love the caring hearts in this place. We street kids never thought we’d ever have a life like this, but we found Jesus and everything changed.

[What is most important in your life?]
God.

[If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?]
From time to time, I still get angry quickly. I want to change that tendency toward short-temperedness.

[Are you comfortable with other people reading your story?]
Okay… but only because my life is a testament to the glory and greatness of God, who has done all this, and I want them to learn something from it. We can always learn somethingfrom a story.

[What would you like to say to the people who read this?]
In life, the most important thing is love. Every child has to receive affection. Fathers, mothers, never leave your children. Don’t divorce. It hurts your children for their entire lives. Parents are so important in life. I never had that kind of love, but you can give it: look after your children, and be good parents.

bhaai: means, “younger brother” in Nepali. There are two Santosh Gurungs here at Indreni; we call this one Gurung Bhaai, or Santosh B.
bora: a big plastic sack used by street kids to sleep inside, to carry rubbish on their backs, and toserve as raingear.
Sarangkot: a small village overlooking Pokhara.