Liew Yu Wei
While the earthquake last year spelt disaster for many Nepalis, 16-year-old Amir Bomjon got a chance to make something of his life.
Born handicapped to an impoverished family in Palung, he watched his mother work herself to the bone to support the family. Because of his physical state, he grew up feeling like a burden. When the earthquake struck, relief workers from UNICEF and the Karuna Foundation reached Palung to help survivors from underserved communities, and one of them saw Amir making a call on his mobile using his lips.
They recognised his enthusiasm for learning and decided to bring him to Kathmandu and enroll him in English and Mathematics classes at the Special Education and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (SERC) school in Baluwatar.
Teaching himself to use mobile phones is just one example of Amir’s indomitable spirit. Sketching, painting, and singing are among his many passions.
When working on art pieces, he maneuvering pens and paintbrushes by deftly holding them in his mouth.
“In my loneliness, I started drawing,” said Amir, “I had no friends so instead I interacted with my surroundings by drawing what I saw.”
Celebrated Nepali artist Kiran Manandhar has been mentoring Bomjon, teaching him different brush strokes and the use of canvas and acrylics. "I am teaching him because it is important for him to be independant in this day and age. He is an inspiration to all artists," said Manandhar.
Amir’s creativity also manifests itself in his love for singing and songwriting. Frustrated by his physical limitations, he penned verses about the anguish he felt. Recently, with the help of two mentors, he gave voice to those feelings in a song dedicated to his main caregiver, his mother.
Amir was in the bathroom when the earthquake struck on 25 April last year. His mother ran back into the house while it was still shaking, and carried him outside to safety. The house was badly damaged. The song compares her to a goddess, saying he could never live without her.
Now, Nepal’s most famous composers and lyricists like Durgalal Shrestha and Nhyoo Bajracharya are mentoring him. When Bajracharya heard Amir sing, he described his talent as “perfect”, even for someone who had no formal music training.
Amir had listened to Nyhoo Bajracharya’s songs on the radio at home in Palung, and is now thrilled to be working someone who composed the songs he loved listening to. UNICEF plans to sell some of Amir’s paintings, as well as a CD of his songs, at an auction in May. The proceeds will go towards helping other disabled children and paying for Amir’s living expenses in Kathmandu.
“Amir is not a pitiable character,” said Deepak Raj Sapkota of Karuna Foundation. “Disabilities range in severity and type, whether physical or intellectual, but Amir’s thirst for learning is something we can all learn from.”
Don’t forget those who were wounded, Smriti Basnet