The lost men of Nepal
Bahadur -- The Accidental Brave is a documentary about the thousands of voiceless migrants from the Himalayan state, who are forced to leave their families in search of employment across the border, and instead return home stricken with the HIV/ AIDS virus
'Don't lose yourself, don't bring back AIDS, just bring back money.' The silent plea of the Nepalese woman to her husband leaving for Mumbai in search of a livelihood is echoed in the lyrics of the song in the documentary Bahadur - The Accidental Brave.
Directed by Aditya Seth, the film documents the plight of several Nepali migrants who come to the city of dreams, but instead end up disillusioned. "I went to Mumbai to earn money, I earned HIV instead," says Ramesh Sunar, an HIV positive man, in the film.
Aditya Seth on location with crew members during the shoot in Nepal
The statement, Seth says, holds true not just for Sunar, but for countless Nepali migrants who come to Mumbai in order to be able to support their families back home. "The lives they lead here are pathetic," says Seth, adding, "As there is no development back home, there are forced to come here, where they are treated very badly."
Documentary filmmaker Aditya Seth. Pics/ Ashish Rane
The film, which took three years to complete, has been shot in Mumbai, Delhi, Kathmandu and Accham in Nepal, where one man from almost every family is in Mumbai. "In Achham, migration to India is practically a given," says Seth, adding that several families have experienced migration over three generations. "Their grandfathers and fathers came to Mumbai."
Lost in the crowd
After migrating to the city, these men typically take up jobs as watchmen, cooks or waiters, and are denied access to ration cards or voters ids. In spite of that, migration rates are high given that job opportunities in Nepal are few, if at all.
"There is no development, no real accountability. The government changes every year. As there is no continuity of governance, there is no understanding of what needs to be done," explains Seth.
As India and Nepal share an open border, the rate of migration to India is very high. Once here, they men experience a freedom they don't have back home. "The need to experience sex comes first, the struggle to find a job is secondary," says Tanka Shah in the film.
Seth explains that this is because of their economic standing. "They come from a conservative, poverty-stricken area. They come here and get floored. Drinking is part of their culture. They drink, visit brothels and since there is a lack of awareness, several contract the HIV virus," he says.
The inspiration for the film came from the radio programme Desh Pardesh, which advocated the rights of migrants, providing them with a voice and also helping them communicate with families back home.
The programme, which ran from 2005 to 2008, was produced by Seth for Family Health International, Nepal and Equal Access and worked towards the empowerment of the Nepalese community in areas, including sexual health.
The programme gave Seth the opportunity to interact with several migrants, and it was a result of those interactions that led to the idea of Bahadur - The Accidental Brave.
High prevalence of HIV
"I wanted to highlight the helplessness of these people," says Seth, adding, "I wanted people to know how prevalent HIV is among them. In Achham, it has practically become a micro-epidemic."
The solution, Seth believes, comes down to better governance and the creation of jobs. "Build your own country. Do not be dependent on remittance. Create more opportunities."
When it comes to his role and that of documentaries, the 45-year-old filmmaker sees it as part of a larger picture. "No film can bring about a change. It's food for thought. I only hope policy makers watch it and bring about a change."
28,00,000 The approximate number of Nepalese migrants in India, as of 2010, according to the Foreign Employment and Promotion Board, Nepal.
On: Tomorrow, 5.30 pm
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 66223737/ 66223737