A set of strikingly similar photographs is on the walls of his office at Dhunga Adda near Kalanki. Although the locations in the photographs are different, the theme is the same – a man posing in front of a wrecked vehicle. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but 63-year-old Hari Baje, our man in the picture, will tell you that there’s more than what the popular axiom holds.
Meet Hari Prasad Adhikari, Kathmandu’s self-made tow specialist, who has saved many lives. He even salvaged a chopper’s wreckage from as high as the Everest Base Camp. That was seven years ago. Yes, this man who is always waiting for his next call to rescue at any given hour could very well be eligible for the Guinness World Records for towing at such an altitude.
It all started in 1986 when Adhikari volunteered to manually tow vehicles with the help of nylon ropes and chains. Back then, the country didn’t have any heavy-duty machinery that could be used to tow vehicles that had had accidents in severe road accidents. With dearth of equipments, the only option back then was to dismantle such vehicles, turning the automobile useless.
By attending to vehicles that skidded off cliffs or hopelessly damaged by plummeting from the road, Adhikari did not only save many lives but also helped transport the vehicles from the accident zones. And today, thanks to the modern gears he has acquired over two decades with meticulous savings and loans, his services extend across all over Nepal.
Adhikari’s self-made towage industry now boasts 14 cranes, 10 vehicles and a chain pulley, among other equipments, to be used in his line of work. Recently, he even put together a machine that pulls a vehicle with the help of another vehicle by using a mechanical device called winch.
“I bought a few secondhand Chinese and Indian cranes which cost around eight million Rupees each. The expensive price means that it’s not possible to afford all the latest machineries,” says Adhikari. “Being a mountainous country, the number of accidents is increasing everyday in Nepal. We are also in need of the latest technology to provide satisfactory services to the public, and the state should offer better support.”
Originally a farmer in Nuwakot, Adhikari first arrived in Kathmandu in 1974 because agriculture alone wasn’t sustaining his family. Life was rough for the new migrant who started out as a mechanic.
“There was a time when it was hard to get even a decent meal. But it was a phase of life,” recalls Adhikari who now lives in his own house in Tin Thana in Naikap with his wife, seven daughters and two sons.
Even his stint as a mechanic in the capital didn’t serve him right. Before long, Adhikari migrated to Patna in India for better opportunities. The little skills he had picked up came handy. He survived even when life was tougher, carrying heavy loads and towing vehicles from accident sites.
“I learnt the tricks of the trade the right way. By doing it! It was my passion for the work that has made me a professional in my field.”
In Patna, Hari Adhikari’s personality and his diligence and strength won him accolades, and the title of “Bahadur” was a motivational boost to seek perfection as he honed the skills of his art of towing vehicles. And twelve years later, Adhikari decided to return to the capital. Living in his rented quarters in Soaltee Mode, a new chapter then began. And it was then when he started to volunteer with his friends.
“I knew that there wasn’t much services provided by the government to tackle the issue of vehicles in accidents. So, with whatever skills I had, I wanted to help people who needed aid in crucial times.”
Having started with the traditional method of towing vehicles using nylon ropes and chains, Adhikari has come a long way. His service has now expanded and runs with the name “HamroYantrashala” with its branches in Pokhara, Biratnagar and Narayanghat. His office employs 45 fulltime staff and hires experts when he is short of manpower.
On average, his team handles a minimum of two to three cases or as many as 10 cases in a day. “We charge minimum fees. It may range from Rs 3000 and above, depending on the case.”
For someone who has never been to school, Adhikari has great staffs and business skills. Leadership, it seems, is his innate quality. Like a swarm of bees that works diligently to collect nectar from flowers, the exuberant vibes of Adhikari’s crew is amicable as they work together. They even take their meals together and a bottom-top management approach seems to be in place to settle any issue among them.
In his decades of experience, Adhikari has seen various distressing cases when people have failed to survive the accidents. But it is the instances when he and his crew have saved lives that serve him as a motivation.
One such incident etched in his mind is when a driver’s assistant had got stuck under the vehicle for hours in Naubise, and Adhikari had to rush to the accident site from Hetauda.
“Had I been late even for a second, he wouldn’t have survived. That was something miraculous and I still can’t forget that incident.”
The traffic police deal with the legal aspects of accidents. But it is his crew that has the responsibility of towing the vehicles, and if required, also rush the victims to hospitals. The traffic police are equipped with small cranes, good enough to tow small cars and bikes only, and Adhikari is sought when bigger vehicles are involved in the mishaps.
There have been instances when his crew even faced life-threatening experiences when they had to work in perilous sites to rescue vehicles. He explains that in such severe cases, there is a need for precision and strength. A slight lapse or mistake can take lives.
Call it an irony of life, a person who works to save others himself became a victim of an accident. Two years back, Adhikari was hit by a vehicle in Kalanki, and since then he has been unable to work with the same vigor he had before. But the incident hasn’t affected his ardor for work.
Hari Baje or Hari Dai, as dear ones call him, is passionate about his work. Having struggled and pushed his limits, and not forgetting how manual the labor was in his early days, it is a wonder how Adhikari has maintained himself. It seems his maturity and experiences have only made him stronger, and these days, he is even passing on his know-how not only to his crew but also to the traffic police and the military.