You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

Rising from the Rubble: A day in the life of a smithy

UNDP Nepal Earthquake Recovery Response

Story by UNDP Nepal August 11th, 2015

Every day, Sher Bahadur Gajaraj of Thulosirubari, Sindhupalchowk, rises before the sun. He washes his face, gets dressed and heads out in the misty morning to walk to town where he works as a blacksmith.

20x30 photo story21072015_0045.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0046.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0047.JPG

Gajaraj became a skilled iron worker at the age of 16. He is the sole breadwinner of his eight-member family and this traditional profession of blacksmith is the only means of his family’s survival. He has only a little land for farming; the produce from the small patch of terrace lasts hardly for three months. On an average day, he earns up to Rs.200, but on some good days, he can earn as much as Rs.1000. He says it’s more profitable to make new pots than to fix the old ones.

20x30 photo story21072015_0053.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0054.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0055.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0056.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0048.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0049.JPG

Each and every day, Gajaraj’s six-year-old grandson walks the 20 minutes from home to the workshop to deliver a warm lunch. The pair each together and his grandson spends the rest of the day playing and pretending to be an ironsmith himself.


During a tea break with his friends, Gajaraj breaks into song. A prolific and popular singer, he is often called to weddings where he makes up songs on the spot and serenades the new couple. He tells stories through songs. On the day of the photo shoot, Gajaraj breaks into a song about what happened the day the earthquake struck.

20x30 photo story21072015_0051.JPG

On 25 April, Gajaraj’s life turned upside down. His house collapsed and his workshop was also buried under the rubble. He saved his life by running out of the house, but he could not save everyone. His eldest daughter-in-law died after she was buried under their collapsed house. With his house and workshop destroyed, he didn’t know how he could get back to normal.


Three months later, however, Gajaraj has new hopes as his workshop has been rebuilt with the support from the United Nations Development Programme and MEDEP. He has resumed his normal life as he is again able to generate income as a blacksmith.

20x30 photo story21072015_0048.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0049.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0052.JPG
20x30 photo story21072015_0054.JPG

When the workday is done, Gajaraj and his grandson walk home where dinner awaits. His family gathers in the temporary house he built after the quake using metal sheets and tarps. The one-room serves as the lounge, dining room and bedroom. As they eat, the family talks about what happened that day. They talk about the workshop, the farm, and the village. They rarely discuss anything outside their own community.

20x30 photo story21072015_0059.JPG

The disaster severely affected beneficiaries of UNDP’s Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP), a long-term project funded by the Australian Government. In June 2015, Australia donated a further US$5.4 million to UNDP to revitalize these lost and damaged livelihoods. UNDP will build on its 15 years of MEDEP experience and success to help thousands of micro-entrepreneurs get back to business.

Footnote: Photos: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi/UNDP Nepal
Sindhupalchok, Central Region, Nepal