Nepalgunj is one of the hottest places in Nepal. During the summer months temperatures of 40-43 (108-113 Fahrenheit) degrees are not uncommon. In this type of heat the temperatures over a fire pit must be incredible. Luckily for me I have never had to experience the added heat of a fire, but for Rajjab Ali it is a daily experience.
Rajjab Ali is a blacksmith. He has a firepit, two benches and three posts holding up a tarp. His firepit sits several feet removed from the pavement of Nepalgunj’s largest road. All day while the buses and trucks from the border with India motor by, he is by his firepit making tools.
One the day my friend Amol and I met Rajjab, it was just a shade under 40 degrees Celsius. Everyone in the city moved slowly through the heat, trying to duck under every piece of shade available. Rajjab Ali did not seem to be affected at all by the heat and he hammered away. Rajjab works with tools he made himself and skills he learned from his uncle. On good days he works for eight hours, but on many days there is only enough work for an hour or two.
Rajjab, like most blacksmiths, only work on commission. Meaning they cannot afford to buy the raw materials themselves to work goods to sell. Rajjab must wait for customers to bring him metal and work. That is why he chose to set up his firepit in such a conspicuous place. The exhaust from the vehicles and the heat from the sun that his tarp can never full turn away, these things are just irritations for Rajjab Ali, it is not having work that is the problem Rajjab worries about the most.
Posted By Mark Koenig
Posted Aug 28th, 2007