Village,quite familiar right? But a kidney village,no! seems strange? What could that be,why give it such a name?
On a sunny afternoon,Kenam Tamang lay on his bamboo bed,with the roof of his thached hut offering little or no protection to his pale and rough skin.The footprints of poverty are visibly written over everything that surrounds him,from his very battered appearance to his wooden chair which recently turned three-legged,even his little animal jack is not left out in his master’s misery,lying helplessly on the floor he looked much like a big rabbit than a dog, no wonder at the sound of the knock on the door,poor jack couldn’t as much raise an eyebrow talkless of barking at the stranger,he must have thought that was one of the countless number of persons his master was owing.Let the sleeping dog lie.
Kathman kept knocking and knocking,at first decently as if it was a man of high value he was about to see,however at the fifth attempt,Sapkota couldn’t help it,a little punch was all needed,the door itself had no life in it again,dry woods infested by termites,simply placed there as a formality rather than a protection.Kathman Sapkota punched the door with his fist,low and behold,it fell like Goliath did when David struck him.
Kenam came out with his pot-bellied stomach, so visible due to his under-sized cloth,”who is that idiot this sunny afternoon”? Kenam shouted,’Dont you have respect for an elderly man,why bulge into my living room’? Sapkota said not a single word.He looked around the room as if to see somewhere he could place his buttocks, unfortunately if there was any thing he could sit on,it was the floor.Kathman began slowly but firmly,”I am your son-in-law, however it’s a shame I had to marry your daughter,the way you live your life makes me sad,I can’t just cope with the insults you have brought on myself and your daughter in this village,it’s high time you changed for the better”.
It was a first blow to the hardened man’s heart,directed at raising his emotions and making him feel the need for a help.However years of misery and suffering has made Kenam’s heart as strong as a rock,his thinking as shallow as the surface of an eroded soil.He flared up in response and raised his voice,as usual a sign of a poor man’s attitude,a poor man knows he probably wouldn’t be recognized or heard if he didn’t make a noise.’Who on Earth did you think you are,Samoria is not my only daughter, neither are you my only son-in-law,you aren’t also the richest man in Hokshe,to what do you now owe this sudden confidence,young man?’
Kathman Sakpota gave a second punch,he knew Kenam than Kenam knew himself,he was merely showing action,he was just like a toothless dog who can’t do as much as hurt a fly but as the strongest bark in the neighborhood.Kathman knew Tamang was a fearful man.He was a कायर,(coward in Nepal language).He threw the punchline before Kenam could finish talking,”I don’t mean to hurt you by my words,I am only here to offer you help,today might be the last day you will live in poverty,but it’s up to you”.’Maybe I should quickly add,the King’s entourage would soon be here,you know what that means,I know firmly you don’t have a single penny to pay the King’s debt.Do you?.So make your choice we are running out of time!’.
The words were perfect,the trick was superb,a mixture of sympathy at first but ending in a subtle threat,with a sprinkle of an enticing offer.He knew the man than the man knew himself.Again the sole objective as what with the previous words was to raise emotions.Emotions they say control a man,man is emotion.It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.Kenam had no response.Sakpota won.
The ruse was a simple one, sweetened by the lure of work and a steady income – something he had been bereft of for too long. The two would leave their village of Hokshe in the Himalayan foothills east of Kathmandu, cut a line south and cross the border into India. Several days later, they would arrive in the southern coastal city of Chennai, ending a migratory passage that hundreds of thousands of Nepalese laborers had plied before them.
He hung around in Chennai for a month before being introduced to a group of Indian men — friends of his son-in-law who would arrange the work, he was told. “But one night, I heard them talking about kidney, but could not understand the whole conversation properly, which was in Hindi. And the next day, I was escorted to the hospital, where I was told that they are taking out my kidney.” Kenam, 48 at the time, turned to his son-in-law. “He said I will get a good amount for the kidney and the would not be any health complications. He even said that it would grow back.”
Hokshe is a cluster of mud-brick homes, flanked by fields of corn, sitting high up in the hills that circle Kathmandu. The arterial roads heading west from the village serve as tributaries that feed the capital with an ever fluid labor force made up of young and old, men and women, who see little point in staying at home to farm small patches of land for less than $2 a day. But the village carries a dark secret: of the 75 households in one ward alone, almost all have at least one member who has sold a kidney. Some, like Kenam, are duped into doing so; others are only too willing. From the days of the early ’90s, when the first villager was approached by brokers with the attractive offer of more than a year’s wages in return for an organ, the trade has taken on almost fad-like proportions.
“Hokshe is an example of how people can [be exploited],” says Dr. Rishi Raj Kafle, executive director of the National Kidney Center in Kathmandu. “These villagers see people who haven’t died and think, Why not?”
It’s quite saddening that some in this village sells their kidney for as low as $727, despite the long-lasting health implications.For decades, kidney traffickers have targeted Hokse so frequently that it’s become known as Kidney Village. Not fully recovered from the scars of April 2015 earthquake which left 8000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless,one cannot but imagine whether Hokshe,Nepal was the past site of Sodom in the Bible,to merit such catastrophic events threatening their existence.
It’s been 43 years now since Kenam Tamang sold his kidney,he was also reportedly the first person in Hokshe village to do so.Years might have passed,we possibly assume his fortunes might have changed for the good, however the fact remains that Hokshe remains the number one go-area for kidney traffickers around the world.
It’s high time the appropriate bodies look into the issue and provide a lasting solution to the issue of organ trafficking, giving their citizens a second hope that would not involve parting with their second kidney.
It’s high time kidney village become a thing of the past rather than a plague of the present, the story line stops here,the kids growing up in the village deserves better than that.Our hearts goes out to everyone in the kidney village.
Writer: AYODELE OLUWATAYO.M
University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State, Nigeria