Do they really fall sick if I touched them? : Anjana Bishankhe

“Don’t come close. If you all touch me – I will fall sick”, said an old granny every time we were playing outside. How will anyone fall sick if I touch? – I always wondered. After a deep contemplation, I started to question myself: Do they really fall sick if I touched them? To find the answers to my questions, I began touching everyone, randomly. Shocked! Like how the old granny had mentioned, no one fell sick. I realized, this was all a big lie.

This stereotyped conservative belief regarding how some people cannot touch other people are deep rooted in our society. I was facing the discrimination that was the reflection of these conservative thoughts; a woman who is Dalit. My father is a shoemaker. If nothing, I definitely wore some shiny leather shoes. On the other hand, my friends wore plastic shoes and I still remember how they used to tease me, making me feel abandoned. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I threw away my leather shoes and wore a pair a plastic shoes. Even then, I was never really loved by my friends. So, I thought I should focus more on my studies. I was a hard working student. But, just to prove how this society works, an example: Although, it was with my dedication and hard work, I came first in my class. People never stopped questioning – “How did she become first?” I knew these questions became apparent only because of the fact that I was a Dalit girl. If there was a Brahmin girl in my place, I knew for sure she would have never faced such questions.

these questions became apparent
only because of the fact that I was a Dalit girl.

I was raised by my aunts and while growing up, I had ambitions. However, as soon as I gave my SLC, my marriage was fixed. I was only 15 then. No one thought it was important to ask me about my marriage, neither people at my home nor the members of the family where I was getting married into. It wasn’t necessary for me to say- yes or no, my decisions were of no value. My only concern was my studies. I was worried whether or not I would be allowed to study after my marriage.

36231_133510986677175_4125445_nIt didn’t matter how I got married; the only good news was that I was able to continue my education after my marriage. I was hopeful. I continued my education and got involved in student union during my college days. Slowly, I started to take responsibilities and work with the women association as well. I had clearly understood that if it’s ever possible to end the gender and caste discrimination, it is only possible through political protests. For generations my community have been facing this discrimination, and I wanted to find a way to release them from this injustice and pain, anyhow.  I became completely active indulging myself fully in the political field as my stand against the disparity done by the then prevalent tyrannical monarchy. As a part of this, I started to work outside of the valley. Amongst everything, I always remember this one time at Makwanpur where we had organized a Combined Feast and Raato (red) Tika Campaign for Single Women. The combined feast program created an awareness and realization amidst the members of the Dalit community that every member should actively participate in politics to ensure their own freedom and secure their basic rights. Non – Dalit communities also became mindful of the fact that the Dalit communities were slowly making a progressive role in political system. With the Raato Tika Campaign for Single Women, I felt that I was doing something for my community. It felt good. Times when I got confused and lost, reading books on Marx and Marxism helped me regain myself and remind me my cause for the fight. As I was moving on, I knew I was changing; I was becoming more active.

1391975_715862028442065_416434586_nMy daughter was born. Besides being a daughter, a student, a daughter-in-law, a wife, a female leader; I was now a mother too. While playing all these roles, I don’t think so I have done a full justification to any of these roles where I feel completely satisfied. I had a huge fear. I doubted whether or not I will be a good mother and my fear proved to be true. My daughter never got the devoted, gentle motherly love. I was so engrossed in politics, I sometimes even forgot that I had a child and I was her mother. I never realized it then but years later, this gap was visible on my daughter’s face. Unfortunately, it was already too late. It took me years to make her understand why I took those steps and why I was away from her. When I got married, I had no clue what love is and how it feels. When I finally understood its meaning, my lover wasn’t with me. My friends told me that my husband was having an extra marital affair. I didn’t believe them. In fact, I wasn’t ready to accept the truth. How long could I possibly run away from the truth anyway? I was broken and it took a long time to heal. I read a lot about Marxism. I had a resolution that I will never let may personal family affairs interfere with my political agenda and I proceeded accordingly. I believe this is one of the reasons why I feel successful about where I am right now, as a political leader. Additionally, I feel happy to have found a partner who supports me on journey to fight injustice. I feel content with how my life is flowing at the moment.

99118570_3683054615056110_4877455171614932992_nFrom being a member of Constitution Assembly to being a member of House of Representatives, even though I find my political journey fairly successful; I think many issues that I raised still have not been addressed. Needless to say, the fight against the system of our government is very evident. But what hurts me the most and makes me sad is the fact that I also have to raise my voice and fight against Brahmanism and patriarchy within the political party to which I dedicated my entire life. How much longer do we have to fight?

Our laws say that everyone should be treated equally, irrespective of their caste and gender. However, this stereotypical beliefs and unhealthy discriminatory practices that the Dalits face every day, being labelled as the – the untouchables, which is deeply rooted in our society is very hard to get rid of. It is a long way to go and I am always ready to fight against these issues.

 

Life with a white cane and a pen : Ashma Aryal

One day during class, my teacher asked, “How many of you are 10 years old? Raise your hands”. I didn’t raise my hands but I was very curious to know why.  It wasn’t only me; my friends were also equally curious. Soon after, our teacher ended our curiosity. She told us that Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota had written his first poem when he was 10 years old. While she was mentioning that, there were a lot of things going inside my mind. I was only 8 years old and I was asking myself if I too was able to write a poem or not. That evening, after reaching home, I jotted down few words in a piece of paper, and recited, like a poem, to my mother. After hearing, she told me that she really liked it. I was motivated to write more and then slowly, I started to write poems, stories, and essays. My work began to get published in many different children’s magazines. This inspired me to write more.

2Gradually, I was being known for my literature. When I was in school, I had already published my collection of poems and stories. I used to take part in different competitions. In the first competition, I had won the first prize and which motivated me a lot. I would normally win most of the competitions. Also, my teachers and even my mother would usually predict that I would win. Even my friends would assume that I will win the competition that I take part in. Most of the time it was inspiring but gradually I started to feel the pressure to win every competition. Later I realized that it is more important to improve your skill and build your capacity than to win the competitions.

I started to focus on how to improve my skills. I remember ever since I was little, I loved singing and humming songs. It must be because my mother sees me being happy whenever I sing. She had arranged a music class at home. As I started to learn more, I thought it would be nice to share what I had learned so far, thus, I began giving music lessons too.

Along with music, I never stopped studying and writing. Writing became a very important part of my life. Many times when I had no space to express my feelings, it was the only medium where I could vent. Maybe this is why I established an indispensable and spiritual relationship with writing.

I never had any aim in my life, I never functioned that way. That is why, apart from literature and music, I engaged myself in various different fields. My interests and my experiences are in different areas and I never thought that I need to be a master in one particular discipline.

I recall my childhood days when I think about the colorful moments of my life.

I was my mother’s first child and she was really happy. I could hear her talk but my mother was stunned when she found out that I wasn’t able to see her.  I was taken to the hospital, and I was diagnosed with visual impairment. My mother was in extreme shock and it took a while for her to accept my reality.

IMG_5860My mother visited Tilganga hospital many times for my eye treatment. During that course, she saw a huge crowd of people who had vision impairment, and that helped her realize the scene and gradually accept the truth. The only thing that my eyes are capable of differentiating is the brightness and the darkness of day and night. After accepting my truth, my mother started to focus on how to make me more competent and more capable. She also learned how to use Braille. Throughout my learning process, she never allowed my vision impairment to be my weakness. However, because there weren’t any disability-friendly schools for people like me, we were compelled to study in a regular school.

My mother is my ultimate inspiration. It is because of her that at 22 years of age, I feel very independent. It is not only me; my family also feels the same. Earlier, my grandmother used to worry about my marriage. She would think that no one will want to marry me but now she feels that anyone will be ready to marry me.

Even though we were competent, the education system and the fact that the curriculum was not constructed keeping people like me in consideration, we felt that the exam result didn’t justify our capacity.

IMG_5883Though I am visually impaired, I am forced to face more challenges because I am a woman. Our society has basic rudimentary norms and principles which makes it very difficult for me to function on a daily basis. I am not only a woman but a woman with disability. If I reach home a little late or hang out with my friends, my neighbor would sneak peek and make assumptions about me or question my family. I and my mother have faced these questions several times. This is not just because I am visually impaired but more so because I am a woman who is also visually impaired.

Once you are identified as a person with disability, the way people look at you is very different.

I have observed that in our society if you are born disability, you are left for the government to look after, assuming that you are their responsibility. Even in the families, the disability are cramped within the four walls in the name of security. I do feel bad regarding their stereotypical social attitude towards me but more than that I feel really sad for them and their perspectives. I cannot forget all those moments when I cried alone. My mother was always with me during those days to encourage me. My family members and my teachers always supported me on all my decisions.

This is not just because I am visually impaired but more so because I am a woman who is also visually impaired.

IMG_5829While analyzing my previous days, I think it’s my interests and the choices I made that got me where I am today.  I was a good student, and because of that my mother always wanted me to work in an office. Even today, she keeps insisting me to find a job. However, I always explain to her that maybe the job will keep her happy but it will not make me happy. I’ve always loved exploring various fields and learning from them.

While doing what you love, I realized that it is necessary to raise your voice about the issues concerning persons with disability. Hence, I have facilitated many different programs that were organized for disabled children with regard to their psychosocial wellbeing. It takes a lot of effort to convince the parents of  children to bring them to the camp. Despite the challenges I faced, I want to continue doing what I am doing that concerns children with disability. As of now, I am giving them online classes. Today, they are able to recognize the letters and alphabets. Some of them are able to write poems and stories as well. I am really happy to witness them getting better at it. When I hear their stories, it reminds me of my childhood days. It’s not my age but my experiences that have made me mature.

I have no complaints about not being able to live my teen life. My life experiences are my learning and this learning will guide me to live the rest of my life.

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My worst days are strength for me: Sang Doma Sherpa

While remembering my childhood, the memory that is stuck in my head is when I heard a unique, sweet rhythmic beat coming from the narrow streets. I heard it while going to school every day. Every time I hear those strange rhythmic sounds my heart would start dancing.

My ancestral house is in Jiri but my family moved to Sindhupalchowk for business. That’s where I grew up. I was sent to a government school while my brother went to a private school. I would have to walk for an hour while my brother got picked up by a bus every day. I never questioned that impartiality that was done to me rather I was thankful that I was given an opportunity to go to the school unlike other girls from the village. Life, in general, was difficult in the village. At a certain point in my childhood, we moved to Kathmandu for better livelihood possibilities.

I never questioned that impartiality that was done to me rather I was thankful that I was given an opportunity to go to the school

One day I saw a group of boys playing something which produced the same sound I would hear while going to school every day. That was the first time I saw the drums.

2Girls playing musical instruments were rare. In fact, it would be considered bad-omen if women, in particular, do so. Even though there were barely any girls playing musical instruments, I didn’t let that stop me. When all the young teenage boys were forming music bands, I formed a band with the girls I played basketball with. I had no idea about music. But I knew that I wanted to become play the drum, become a drummer. After my 10th grade exams, I started taking drumming lessons. Financially it was very difficult for my mother; she still managed to save some money for my drum classes. Even though I didn’t own a drum at home, I was so passionate about it that I would put pillows in front of me as though they were drums and practice.

In the beginning, we went to learn music to show that girls can also play as boys but later on we became serious about music. After forming our band we were invited to perform at school. They asked the name of our band which we had never thought of it. One of our members, Sushma Ghalan, promptly suggested “Gorkhali Girls Band”. From that day the journey of our band started.

We started performing regularly in musical events. In many places, they would have their instruments for us to play but sometimes we were asked to bring our own instruments and we didn’t have any. So during Tihar, we played Deusi Bhailo in rich people’s neighborhoods to gather money to buy instruments.

Gradually we started getting more opportunities to play music and we started getting better and better at what we did. We were very excited when one time we were invited to play music along with 1974 AD, a pioneer pop band that was one of our sources of inspiration.

Also Watch this: Gorkhali Girls Band performing 1974 AD’s song in a TV show.

Some of my relatives would pass comments to my mother about me playing drums but she would ignore them. My mother was happy to see me happy playing drums and that was more than enough for me. Like my mother, other band member’s parents were also happy about what we were doing. A few years ago, a leading national daily newspaper featured our band. My mother was so happy that she cut out the news piece and framed it. I heard that my other band member’s parents also did the same. It was definitely a proud moment for us, the daughters.

 “What do we do after we get married?”

In 2019 our band was successful to release our second song. Our band was making memories and success stories. But one question always loomed in our heads, “What do we do after we get married?” All of us are getting matured. We might get into some circumstances and need to leave a band but I believe if we are strong enough to stay stick with our vision, then we can manage it even after we get married or even in our fifties.  We are slowly getting responsibility towards our families. And these responsibilities will add more as we get older. We know that we can’t sustain our life only by making music and it’s a bitter truth. We are also aware that at one point we might need to take a break from band and find jobs for a living. But we will try our best to do music along.

4My aim was not to become a drummer. It is a will power that arose while growing up and experiencing gender discrimination. It was my rage against a society that thinks that man can only play music. It was an unintended zeal to do better than boys as I was treated differently for just being a girl. I still ponder about why did my brother had the privilege to go to a decent school and not me? There are deep-rooted inequalities in society and someone has to fight against them and I consider myself to be one. I know it’s not enough but even if it could change like 1 percentage then I’d consider myself successful. The change has to be done here, so since my childhood I never thought of leaving the country. I always wanted to do something in my own country, in my own community.

Now, I’m involved in the organization, named Calls Over Ridges, which works for the betterment of the education system in Nepal. I can totally see the need for a good education in our country. I remember going to the government school and the quality of education they provide. But I’m thankful to my parents for sending me to the school, at least, while dealing with so many socio-economic hardships. But I want this scene to change for the upcoming generations, especially the girls. Together with music and advocating for better education, I think I can bring some change to improve the education system of government schools.

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My desire to go to school was never fulfilled : Shobha Silwal

It was my dream to study in a school but alas because of when and where I was born it remains a dream. At times, I think if I was trained to use my skills and talent and I would have been a professional today. If I had been given an opportunity, I would have achieved a lot.

I was born into a simple farming family in Nuwakot. I grew up with 6 brothers and 4 sisters in the village. We were a well-to-do family, meaning, we didn’t have difficulties in fulfilling our basic needs. We had property in the village and had to work from dawn till dusk. We couldn’t sit idly as there were a lot of household chores and plenty to do be done on the farm. My mother used to assign work to each of us every day. Some days tending the herd, and other days help out on the farm.

She believed that if girls were educated,
they would elope and run away with boys.

When I was old enough, I found out that my parents weren’t happy when I was born. Normally, babies are born after 9 months, but in my case, I was born after 12 months. Thus, they didn’t find me auspicious. My father had then come to Kathmandu to meet an astrologer and find some solution. Apparently, the astrologer had told my father that I was auspicious and if I were taught how to read and write, I would have a bright future. Influenced by this, my father wanted me to be educated and admitted me to a school. But it didn’t last for too long. In a matter of days of me joining the school, my mother put a stop to it. She believed that if girls were educated, they would elope and run away with boys. I cried for the first couple of days but I had no choice.

IMG_9426While I was grazing the animals, and herding them to areas of good forage, my uncle’s daughters used to go to school. I really wanted to go to school; I even tried to hurt myself with the hope that they would send me. One-day, while preparing animal feed, I tried to burn myself. I still have the burn scars. No matter what I did though, my desire to go to school was never fulfilled.

One day my father brought me to Kathmandu. He had said it was to meet a brother but turned out, he actually got me here to get me married. He introduced me to all my new family members. Considering my father’s decision, I agreed to get married at 18 years.

After my marriage, even though I was free to do things I wanted to, I still couldn’t. I would be busy all-day, farming, and doing chores. My husband was studying then and my father-in-law used to work in a bank. His salary alone was hardly sufficient for my husband’s education. I did a lot of household work at my parent’s home, but I had no idea how to run a household. We had a lot of financial troubles, so I started working outside my home for some extra money. After finishing my household chores, I would do labor for others.

I earned Rs. 3 after working for an entire day.

Five years after my marriage, I gave birth to my eldest son. Soon after he was born, I started cattle farming. It was my uncle who advised me to do cattle farming. Although I was really keen to start cattle farming, I couldn’t because of my financial situation. A few days later, my uncle bought me cows with his own money. I was so happy. My father-in-law helped me sell whatever little milk we got.

IMG_9331I wanted to add more cows but I had no money. I then remembered that my father had once mentioned giving me Rs. 10,000. I went to visit my parents with the hope that they would give me the money. After a lot of crying and explaining, my father finally agreed. I bought cows with that money and started saving. Anything I saved; I began investing in the cattle. From 2 cows to 4 cows, 4 to 6, so on and so forth, I started to set goals and build my own confidence.

After my firstborn, I gave birth to another son and a daughter. I was really happy to give birth to a daughter. I wasn’t able to get an education, solely because I was a daughter. I had promised myself that I would send my daughter to a good school without any discrimination. Those days it wasn’t an easy task to send my 3 children to a private school, but I was determined. Our financial situation was so weak that when my son had once asked me for Rs 5 for lunch, I wasn’t even able to give him that money. Even though I wasn’t able to give them enough food, I was very careful about their education. My husband was working at a bank then, but since he was stationed outside of Kathmandu, I never asked him for any money. I managed everything with whatever little money I made.

IMG_9422One of those days, I had heard about some training on agriculture and cattle farming being given to women. I wasn’t able to directly participate in the training, but I got a job to deliver snacks during the training. They were teaching about agriculture and cattle farming when I got there to deliver the food. I would sit there for an hour and listen. The next meeting, I organized at my own house so I could participate and during this meeting, they taught us how women can be independent and how things can be in our favor once we were independent. I got even more confident after this training.

I came to know about the “Aama Samuha” through this training and I also got actively involved in it. Aama Samuha later brought a goat farming program to our village as well and all of us got 2 goats in our name. 4 of my friends who didn’t want goats gave me their goats and I ended up with 10 goats. I was very confident that my financial situation would get better with 4 cows and 10 goats.

However, things never turn out the way we plan. All the goats died the very next day I got them home. All my dreams of being finically independent were shattered. Nevertheless, I didn’t give up. I collected all my friends in the village and started an inquiry. I handed over a written application along with the inquiry report to the Aama Samuha. After the hearing, the Aama Samuha again granted me money to buy 10 goats. Within 2 years, I was successful in returning 10 goats back to the Samuha. Turns out I had a net profit of Rs. 22,000 after returning those 10 goats. With that money, I made a gold ring.

I cannot explain how happy I was that day
when I made that gold ring with my own money.

Along with all this, I had also done some vegetable farming. Because our house and our farm were on the hill, we faced many water-related issues. During monsoon, we had very little vegetables and besides that, I really didn’t know how to transport these vegetables to the bazaar. Fortunately, one of my neighbors taught me how to take the vegetables to the bazaar and sell them. Keeping aside all the bad ones at home, I used to sell good vegetables. After getting home, my elder son would help me with the calculations. Most of the time, there wouldn’t be enough money. Because I was always very weak at math, my son sent me to adult education classes.

I would finish all my chores at home and go to the classes in the evening. After 6 months of learning, it became a lot easier for me to do the calculations. Every time I would sit down to do the calculations with a pen in my hand, it felt as if my long-awaited dream of education had finally come true.

IMG_9412With my savings, I made cow sheds and 3 tunnels. Slowly, I hired helpers to help me with cattle farming and to sell the milk. Now I have 11 cows. Apart from cattle farming, vegetable farming is also doing good. I am no longer a farmer; I am a businesswoman. I pay 25,000 rupees every month to each of my helpers. To this day, many women have to explain their earnings to their husbands. But I never have to explain anything.  I can spend or use my money, my way. I am an independent woman.

Nowadays, everyone tells me to stop working and to rest at home but I cannot, my heart doesn’t let me. I want to expand my cattle farming and vegetable farming business even more. Many of us here in Nepal, look for jobs abroad, and leave the country for foreign employment. Instead of working in a foreign land for someone else, it’s wiser to work in your own field. The chances of becoming successful are a lot better.

Look around, explore, and recognize your own opportunities and work hard. Your hard work will definitely pay off.

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I decided that I will not quit, no matter what: Sumina Shrestha

These days I don’t like to think about the future, I am very happy reminiscing about my past and living in the present. When it comes to our past, most of us can never forget our childhood. Don’t we get really happy thinking about those childhood days? Draw something and gift it to our teachers, and every drawing had some creative ideas. I get surprised when I think of it now. How did we get such creative ideas and from where?

I spent most of my early days in the narrow alleys of Dillibazaar. Ever since I was a little girl, I was always fond of drawing. In fact, if anyone praised my drawing then, I would be so happy and I drew more. My aunt always used to tell me that I would grow up to be an artist. I didn’t know then what it meant to be an artist but that word got stuck in my head. Maybe that’s why my childhood days were filled with drawings and colors. I always liked to draw portraits. In school, I would always be ready to draw on the class board. Despite drawing at a young age, I was never introduced to water colors. One day while commuting from school to home, I saw water color in one of the shops.  I clearly remember asking my mother to buy me that water color and I was very adamant about it. She finally bought it but I had no idea how to use it. With my continuous practice, I was getting good at drawing and maybe because I was told that I will be an artist at a very young age or maybe because I started at a very young age. I studied Fine Arts after my school.

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Despite the fact that I studied Fine Arts, I  wasn’t sure which field of art I wanted to pursue. I was also sketching cartoons at that time. I discovered other forms of traditional art, like Thangka painting and I ended up going to Boudha to train myself. I found a place but apparently this course was only available for foreigners. I went to Patan to inquire and I learned that Thangka drawings are very detailed artworks and needs serious focus and attention; my attraction towards Thangka decreased.  I never really enjoyed any detailed work.  After Thangka, I was inclined to learn more about tattoos, however, I knew no tattoo artists. I got trained at two different places. The first place I went to didn’t teach me anything about tattoos. For a week or so, they only asked me to draw. So, I stopped going there. I wasn’t happy at the second training center too. I had already paid a certain amount but they didn’t teach us well. They had given me two different tattoo machines; liner and shader. I took those machines and never went back.

I was doing a lot of freelance commission artworks, and that’s when Nepal was struck with a massive earthquake. Major media platforms were continuously showing the number of people that died during the earthquake and that’s when I realized that life is very unpredictable, I should be doing something. An organization called “Get Well Soon” had started a campaign called “Healing through Artwork”. This campaign was initiated by my teacher. I joined the initiative and through this campaign we gave art therapy to many children at different places. During the same time, I met my college friend as well and came to know that he was learning tattoo art at his own place. I inquired about tattoo artwork with him. He explained everything to me.

The fact that Nepal didn’t have many female tattoo artists got me even more interested to join this field.

I tried to understand why there are less women in this field of art. I figured out that there are women who have joined this work, but because of social and family related issues, they cannot continue to work. I began to realize that if I do start tattooing, I will face similar issues. I decided that I would not quit, no matter what.

wTattoo04I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to a tattoo training center but they always encouraged me and supported me mentally.  My friend advised me to practice at home. Whatever I earned from my commission work, I began to save and with that saving I bought the machines I needed to learn tattoo art. I started to practice at home on a rubber pad. After few months of practicing on the rubber pad, I gained confidence that I could tattoo on skin. I asked my sister if she would allow me to tattoo her.  She agreed. I couldn’t be happier.  With a little bit of nervousness and plenty of excitement, I tattooed my sister. The tattoo looked fine. For a while, I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept staring at the tattoo. I then knew that I was capable and ready.

I also have tattoos on my body. According to our social norms, people with tattoos aren’t looked upon as decent people.  I have tattoos on both my arms. Few of my relatives and people in general look at me differently when they notice my tattoos. Some of them ask me why I dirtied my arms. I used to get upset listening to the same comment over and over again. Now, I don’t care.

I still remember how frustrated I used to get during my initial days when I didn’t understand how the machine worked. We didn’t have rotary tattoo machines then. We used coil tattoo machines which had to be set up beforehand. At times I used to get upset when I failed to illustrate my vision because of the problems encountered while setting the machine. Setting up the machine was pretty stressful and frustrating but I never thought of giving up.

It was necessary to prove myself before getting into this line of work.

More than competing with others, I wanted to compete with myself and create my own identity. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary to create my own portfolio. Within a years’ span, I was able to make a decent portfolio. After looking at my work, I was offered a job at a tattoo studio. I began to work there to gather some experience. I cannot easily open up and get close with new people. That’s why I have very few close friends. Even at the studio, I couldn’t talk easily with my clients. I would only speak if and when anyone was interested to learn more about tattoos. After working in a few different places,  I got an opportunity to work at WanderThirst Hostels. Currently, I am working there.

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By now I knew a good number of tattoo artists, so getting a job isn’t really that difficult. During my initial days at the studio, few clients were reluctant to get a tattoo from a female artist. That would really upset me. No matter how upset I was, I never let my anger spoil my work. Even though I am very shy in nature, I have excelled at building a conversation with my clients where they feel very close and comfortable. But now because of the COVID 19 situation, we don’t have any work. I don’t like staying inside the house, I would rather work. But as the lockdown kept extending, it started to get very difficult. As the mental stress started took a toll on me, I began to draw digital portraits of people. This calmed me down a bit.

It has only been 4 years since I started working as a tattoo artist. I am learning a lot and I still have a long way to go. I don’t know how successful or unsuccessful I will be. But one day, I want to open a tattoo studio where I can help other women like myself who are interested in this field of work. I believe in myself and hence, I think this dream of mine will also come true.

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Now, she is my friend and I am hers : Deepa Shrestha

There was a time when, because of her, I would sit in a corner of a room and cry. But, lately the smallest changes in her, brings me a lot of joy. Also, sometimes I feel very proud of myself because I was able to recognize her at a proper time. It is because of her that today the story of my life has turned around.

I have always wanted to live independently. So, as soon as I was done with high school, I came to Kathmandu from Lahan to pursue my further studies. Even till today I can vividly remember my college days. I never wanted to depend on anyone and so just after I completed my BBA I started to work at “Kohinoor Housing Center”. I was able to sustain myself with my earnings and I also enrolled myself for a Masters course. I got married soon after. I started to work at Siddhartha Finance after my marriage and both my marital life and career was going smoothly. Three years after our marriage, we decided to have a baby. We were really happy when we conceived successfully. Like any other mother, who dreams of what she would do for her baby and how she would raise the child, I too began to have a lot of dreams for my child. I wanted to raise my child to be independent and instead of pressuring her to become a doctor or an engineer, I wanted her to be whatever it is that she wanted to be. I had a little dream to be known because of her. Nine months after dreaming every possible dream for my child, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. Few months after her arrival, I slowly went back to my normal routine.  I was fulfilling my role sometimes as a wife, sometimes a mother and other times as an employee.

In 2015, my daughter was 14 months old when we had a massive earthquake in our country. I still remember that she was asleep and I had cried endlessly when I carried her during the earthquake. After that, I had left my daughter at my mother’s place. Four months later I brought her back envisioning all wonderful possibilities. However, as they say, life is never how you imagine it to be. I felt that there was a huge difference in her behavior. She preferred to stay alone, she didn’t interact with anyone, it looked as if she was really hurt. I started to get worried. I assumed that maybe her fear of earthquake was still there and that’s why she was behaving that way, or maybe because I kept her away from me for a long time and hence she was behaving like that? I started questioning myself a lot.

How can a mother possibly be okay with any of that?
I too wanted to see my daughter laughing and playing
like any other normal child.

I started to research. I realized that I have to spend good amount of time with her. I even consulted with my brother who is also a doctor. While researching, I came across a word – autism. This word was very new to me. I knew nothing about it. I was advised to meet and consult with another doctor. During my first meet itself, the doctor said that she has symptoms of autism. I got even more stressed. There wasn’t much information about autism in Nepal during those days. I consulted with many doctors looking for its cure. It got so tiring and I lost my hope. Surprisingly, Autism Care Nepal brought back my hopes. Without any further delay, I took my daughter to that organization. After careful and thorough inspection, the special educator there finally concluded that she did have autism. But, her treatment could take some time. She was only 18 months old then and so I was advised to wait for a while. It was so disappointing. He was a special educator so he spoke in the medical terms but I am mother. How can a mother possibly be okay with any of that? I too wanted to see my daughter laughing and playing like any other normal child. I didn’t want to wait any longer. My entire life was upside down. All I could see was just my daughter. I didn’t want to lose even a single day for her treatment. I thought that autism is also like any other disease, that the sooner treatment started, the sooner it would be cured. I was confident that I will take her anywhere in the world for her treatment. No one in Nepal was really able to explain to me what autism really is. I always thought that if she’s provided with proper treatment she will be perfectly fine and so, I never stopped my research.

2After a while I found out that my aunt’s child was also autistic. They were in Kochi, India for the treatment. Me and my husband discussed about the treatment in India and decided to take our daughter. I really didn’t have to think much whether or not I should resign from my work then. I just wanted my daughter to get better. The next day after my resignation, we took our daughter to India. We stayed there for four months. The heat and the weather of India didn’t suit my daughter’s health and she often fell sick. We had to admit her to a hospital instead of the therapy center. In Kochi, they only communicate either in Malayalam or in English. Our daughter was small and didn’t speak either of the languages so communications became a major issue during her therapy sessions. During our four months stay there, she was only able to get a month’s therapy. There were not much changes in her so we decided to get her back to Nepal.

We didn’t know where in Nepal we could take her for a proper treatment. To make her a little more active, I started to give her therapy at home with whatever I knew. While researching, I came across National Institute of Psycho Educational Counseling. I took her there and started the therapy sessions. I noticed few changes in her and I was hopeful again. Along with my daughter’s therapy session, the counselor there also started to counsel me. I used to think that my daughter is disabled but after careful analysis, I understood that she was differently able.  We then slowly began to accept her for who she is and when that happened we could feel that she was also happier. Earlier, she would be terrified even to cross a small path and now she can walk across big roads.  I still remember the day when she called us mother and father. I felt like we had won it all. I was so happy that I couldn’t stop crying. Even now sometimes when she is playing, she would randomly blabber these words – mummy and daddy. I realize that it will take a long time to bring changes in her.  We have to teach her in the way that’s more comfortable for her. Clearly, this is not the easy way but it’s not impossible.

I do feel very sad but at the same time I am also happy that because of her, I am learning new things.

Whenever I had to go out, parties or gatherings, I never used to bring my child along with me thinking that it would be very difficult to manage her. I used to drop her at my brother’s place. Later, when I understood what autism is and her behaviors, I now take her with me, every place I go. Once she started to spend time with these groups, she began to understand our world. It takes a little time for her but it’s not like she doesn’t understand. Hence, these days I only go out when it’s feasible for me and my daughter. My family and my friends are very understanding and that’s why they organize any gathering according to our feasibility. I have noticed that many other parents who have autistic children find it difficult to bring their child in social gatherings. But, I think these children should be brought in social gatherings and slowly they will learn to adjust.

3I have to pay special attention to my daughter. This is the major difference between us and mothers who have “normal” children. No matter what, we cannot be as free as other mothers.  Autistic children have a different world than ours. My daughter’s therapy starts at the beginning of my day. My daughter is now six and a half years old. I need to help her to go to the toilet and brush her teeth. After a lot of therapy, she can now eat on her own. Other children can learn many things by themselves but she couldn’t. I need to teach her in a symbolic way which she can understand well. After finishing my household chores, I prepare her to do her exercise according to the schedule of her school. I spend my days mentoring her to do her exercises and playing with her.

Every one suffers and it’s that suffering which will teach you a lot about life. Sometimes I used to feel sad because of my autistic daughter but it is only because of her, I have so many positive changes in me. I am very glad for that. I used to very reserved person. I never could talk to people quickly and openly and I lacked confidence. Now, because of her, I can speak with confidence. When I first started taking my daughter to the therapy center, she used to happily run towards her therapist – Sarita maam. She was happier with her mam than with me. That made me feel very bad. Therefore, I started to talk to her caretakers. I observed how they used to interact with her. Then slowly, I got closer to my daughter.

Now, she is my friend and I am hers.

In many cases, women feel bad because after having a child, they cannot continue to work on their careers. But, when I look at myself, I feel I have learned a lot and achieved a lot as well. I find myself a lot different than other mothers. I think I have gained all the skills required to look after autistic children and would like to work with them on a professional level one day when my daughter is a bit more grown.  I am really proud of my daughter and who she turned me into.

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Photo courtesy : Deepa Shrestha

Travel and Journeys: Minu Karki

If I am sad today, it’s because of my past and not because of my present. I get chills even when I think of those days. Only I know the horrifying situations I have been through to be where I am today. I have to clear my throat first, when someone asks me about my past life. Tears roll down my eyes before I say anything. I wished I didn’t have to remember anything.

I and my brother grew up in this city, even though our ancestral home isn’t here. Our parents migrated here in search for jobs and hence we both had a rather modern city lifestyle; however, I believe in true sense my life only started after I got married at 24.

With the beginning of my new life,
it was the end of my student life.
I couldn’t continue my education and all my dreams.

It is very unnatural in our community to be not married when your younger cousins are already married, so my parents arranged my marriage to a man from our village and who they believed belonged to a good family. I still remember that day very clearly. I was at Indrachowk when my parents called me home ASAP. My marriage was fixed with someone I had never seen, never spoken, not even once. The man wanted to talk to be in privacy and the first question he had asked was whether I had a boyfriend? I was already nervous, and it just got worse. Slowly, I replied saying I don’t have any boyfriend. Again, he said, “Make sure this will not be the reason for any of our marital issues.” to which I replied that he can be rest assured that I will not cause any kind of issues. After this our marriage was confirmed. The initial plan was to get married after my 12th exams but I don’t know how, my marriage happened first. Instead of me studying and preparing for my exams, I was running around shopping for my marriage. I got married. My parents were happy that I got married and I was happy because they were happy.

I had to stay up to midnight fulfilling my role as a newlywed daughter-in-law of the house. Next morning, as a student, I went to give my final exam. As a result, with the beginning of my new life, it was the end of my student life. I couldn’t continue my education and all my dreams.

Even though my parents weren’t rich, they always kept me and my brother happy. Maybe because they loved us so much, it didn’t really matter to us when we had to borrow old books from our seniors in schools while our classmates would buy new books, every new batch. I grew up with abundant love from my parents but within a week of my marriage I came to realize the difference between a daughter and a daughter in law. I hadn’t cried so much even during my wedding, but soon after a week till the day I lived in that house, I never stopped crying.

To be honest, that wasn’t my first time at the station.
He had been arrested many times under domestic violence.

I still remember from the first week of our marriage, my husband used to leave me at night. I know why he didn’t come home and when I had asked, the tight slap I got; that was the first time.  That was the day when it had all started. From there on in, I don’t remember how many times I got slapped, kicked, mistreated; I have lost count. But I remember wearing a shawl to cover the marks on my face. I didn’t use to come to my parents’ house fearing that they would find about all of that. I never told my mother that every day I used to get beaten up by my husband and that I wanted to kill myself. Instead of troubling my parents, my concern was always about fixing everything. To protect my parents from all the social stigmas, no matter how much physically and mentally tortured I was, I never told my parents about anything. There was this one Dashain, my husband didn’t come with me to my parents’ house to receive blessings. My mother kept asking me about his whereabouts. I had told my husband that I have not told anything to my parents and come over, but he didn’t. He didn’t even answer my calls. After around 50 calls or so, he finally answered. I tired to save my relationship many times, but we all know it takes two to build a relationship. Even though I hadn’t mentioned anything to my parents, I don’t know how they figured it out. After that, both families decided to sit down and discuss. No one supported me. I had a little hope that maybe my mother in law would support me, but why would she support me instead of supporting her son? Needless to say, things weren’t going well after all that, and then suddenly one day he began to argue and demanded for a divorce. I told my parents and we went to the police station. To be honest, that wasn’t my first time at the station. He had been arrested many times under domestic violence, but I don’t know how he would be released the very next day. However, this time my purpose of going to the station was different. With everyone’s advice I wanted to file a divorce. I didn’t even take any alimony. I just got divorced. I got my freedom back.

“I am free, but where will I go?” was now my new concern. I rented a room. One day the landlady came to me and asked me about my husband. I lied and I said he’s away, will be back in few days. After few days she again came asking where my husband is. When I told her that my husband isn’t here, I was immediately asked to leave the room.  I didn’t have a place to go and I was all confused. After I shared my situation with my parents, they asked me to come live with them. Later while leaving the room I found out that it was my sister in law who had come and told the landlord that I was divorced, I didn’t have any money and couldn’t possibly pay the rent. That was the actual reason why I was asked to leave that room.

I again went back to my parents’ house. I worried that my relatives would talk behind my back and cause stress to my parents. The whole thing started eating me up. Even though my parents never showed any sign of stress in front of me, it was very evident. I could easily read their faces. Most importantly, my father is a taxi driver and he was looking after all of us (me, my sick mother and my brother). I really didn’t want to add any extra burden to them. Hence, I went looking for jobs. I used to work even while I was studying so I had fair amount of experience. Finally, I got a job at a shop in Asan and started contributing at home.

WhatsApp-Image-2020-08-25-at-11I wanted to move ahead in life instead of looking behind. I wanted to completely forget those few years after my marriage. To be honest, I never loved the man I had married then. One day I had seen him walking across the shop I was working at; I cried a lot that day. I didn’t cry because I loved him, but because of the pain that he had given me. I decided I wanted to go abroad and with the help from few people at my workplace, I started my visa process. I went Dubai on a cleaning visa. My work was alright. I used to feel very happy when I sent money back home to my parents. New place, new friends, new experience; it was all ok. My job was better since I had a bit more education than most of my colleagues so I got more facility than a normal migrant worker but I would see my colleagues suffer. They had to work long hours, couldn’t go out, eat what they wanted to, etc and that made me sad.

I made some good friends in Dubai. In a way, I was actually just beginning to live my life. One day a friend told me that an Indian likes me. She asked me if I wanted to be introduced to him. I was surprised as to where do this come from. When in Nepal, I had married a man my parents thought was a good fit for me. Even then I was betrayed. Why would I believe some foreigner in a foreign land after all that I had been? I rejected him instantly. Next day my friend came to me again and suggested that he’s a good man. I still didn’t agree to the proposal, but finally agreed to be friends with him. We started talking on the phone. Gradually, I began to feel a little closer to him. He asked me out. I was truly very scared to go out with him. I had heard of all these terrible incidents happen to other Nepali girls. I was worried the entire time. He had brought me many clothes and lots of things. But I was very scared to use it, so I would give it all to my other friends. We continued talking on the phone and went out many times. I began noticing how he cared for me, took me to places I liked, brought me things I liked, etc and because of such behavior I got closer to him. Then one day, I told him everything about my past. I also told him that I don’t want to be hurt anymore and it’s better if we went our separate ways. To my surprise he said that he doesn’t really care about my past. We then decided to live together. After some time, we got married. We were living a happy life.

WhatsApp-Image-2020-08-25-at-11.37I hadn’t told my parents about my marriage yet. I thought that I should tell my mother at least. She was really angry once I told her about it but again, I thought probably she will feel better. I got pregnant and I had to come home because as migrant workers we don’t have the right to maternity in UAE. So, I called my parents and told him. I guess my father had figured out about my marriage even though I hadn’t said anything to him. He had come to pick me up at the airport. I told him that I can’t go home because mother is upset. Even after several attempts of him convincing me to go home, I didn’t give in. He finally dropped me at one of my friends’ place.

I gave birth to a daughter. Everyone was happy. Looking at the way my husband cared for me, my parents also felt very glad.  They also accepted him as my husband and he finally came to Nepal to visit them.

After a while, I decided to go back to Dubai to work. We left our daughter here with my parents. I was working for a company that cooks meals for airlines. The work was good, but because of COVID we were returned back. It wasn’t that bad initially but the number kept increasing. For 3 months, the company fed us and paid our salaries. Everyone slowly started to return back home. I was worried about the quarantine facility and arrangements in Nepal. There wasn’t any good news about it. In fact, I was worried what if I get the virus while at quarantine. Nevertheless, I was put in a camp in Kirtipur and it wasn’t that bad as I had anticipated. It was well organized. We were 8 of us in one camp. We all had separate beds. After staying in quarantine for 13 days and after analyzing our medical reports, we were sent back home.

It is now a complete lockdown. My father hasn’t been driving his taxi because of which we don’t have any income, very obvious. Whatever little savings me and my father had, we spent it during the lockdown. Now we are worried how will be handle our expenses and take care of mother’s medical bill. I can’t tell my husband for I know there isn’t any income. “How do we survive?” is our worry. We don’t have any solution but still I have not given up. There will be some solution. I think all that confidence and bravery I have in me is from my mother. I have inherited that from her. My mother taught me not to worry during bad days and in fact be brave and fight against it. My mother is my hero. As long as my hero is with me, I believe we will overcome this struggle too.

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लकडाउनमा साथी र सम्बन्ध

संसारमा दुःखहरु त धेरै आउँछ तर यो पटकको दुःख अति नै ठुलो छ । कहाँबाट यो कोरोना भाइरस आयो? थाहा छैन । कोरोना भाइरसका कारण देशभर लकडाउन भयो । हामी सबै घरमा बस्नु पर्ने भयो । घरमा बस्नु त राम्रो हो तर बस्दा बस्दा केही गर्न मन नलाग्ने, दिक्क लाग्ने भयो ।

कोरोना भाइरसका कारण कक्षा ९ को अन्तिम परीक्षा अगाडि सर्यो । परीक्षा सकेर अब कक्षा १० मा जाने भयौं भनेर हामी एकदम खुशी भएका थियौं । सरले हामी सबैलाई घुम्न लैजाउँला भन्नु भएको थियो । घुम्न जाने कुराले हामीहरु झन खुशी थियौं । खास गरि परोपकारको होस्टलमा बस्ने हामी सबै साथीहरु घुम्न जान पाइने भयो भनेर रमाउँदै थियौं । त्यतिबेला अन्य देशहरुमा कोरोना भाईरसको संक्रमितको संख्या बढिरहेको थियो । तर नेपालमा भने कोरोना संक्रमित व्यक्तिको पुष्टि भएको थिएन । हामीलाई पनि कोरोना भाइरस नेपालमा आएको छैन होला जस्तो लागेको थियो । तर एक्कासी कोरोना भाइरसको कारण चैत्र १० गतेदेखि लकडाउन भयो भन्ने सरले सुनाउनु भयो । त्यसपछि हामी एकदम डराएका थियौं । मरिने पो हो की? भन्ने लागेको थियो । हामी सबै एकै ठाउँमा भएकोले केही हुन्न होला भन्ने पनि लाग्यो । यो सबै त्रासको बिचमा घुम्न जाने त के? बाहिर निस्कन समेत पाइएन । मरे पनि सबै एकै ठाउँमा छौं । मरे मरिन्छ भन्ने पनि लाग्यो । सबै परिवार (होस्टलको साथीहरु) एकै ठाउँमा, साथी, दिदीहरु सबै सँगै बस्न, रमाईलो गर्न पाइने भयो भनेर खुशी पनि थियौं । हामी कति पछि सबैसँगै बसेर खाना खाने खेल्ने गर्दा छुट्टै आनन्द आईरहेको थियो । लकडाउनको करिब २ हप्ता हामीले रमाईलोसँग बितायौं । हामी होस्टलमा रमाईलोसँग बसिरहदा भने बाहिर भएका अन्य साथीहरुको एकदम याद आइरहेको थियो । हामीहरुले आफ्नो ममी, हजुरआमालाई एकदम याद गर्यौैं । आफ्नो साथी, दाजु भाईको याद गर्यौैं । यसरी परिवारको याद आउँदा आफन्तलाई फोन गर्यौैं । त्यस पछि एक किसिमको आनन्दको अनुभूती भयो । सुरु–सुरुमा होस्टलमा बस्दा रमाइलो भयो, आफू भन्दा ठूलो कक्षाको दिदीहरुसँग बस्न पाइने भयो भनेर रमाइलो लागी रहेको थियो । सबैले आ—आफ्नो सम्बन्ध सुधार गर्न पाउने भयो, एक अर्कालाई बुझ्न पाइयो भनेर खुशी लागेकोे थियो । फेसबुक म्यासेन्जरबाट कुरा गरेर झन बढी नजिकियो र इन्टरनेटबाट नयाँ कुराहरु सिक्ने मौका पाइयो । होस्टलको सिनियर दिदीहरुले आफ्नो कुराहरु सुनाउँदा एकदमै खुशी हुन्थ्यौं । हामी होस्टल बस्ने भएर पनि होला बाहिर निस्कन नपाएर पनि हामीलाई खासै फरक परेको थिएन । किन कि हामी होस्टल बस्नेहरु पहिला पनि खासै बाहिर निस्कन पाइँदैनथ्यो । तर पढाई नहुँदा होस्टल भित्र मात्र कोच्चिएर बस्नु पर्दा भने एकदम अत्यास लाग्यो । स्कुल कहिले खुल्छ? भन्ने सोच्दा सोच्दा झन धेरै चिन्ता लागिरहेको छ ।

लकडाउनले गर्दा हामीले गर्ने दैनिक कार्यहरु छुट्यो । हाम्रो कुनै होमवर्क छैन, कुनै नियम छैन, टिचर छैन, लेक्चर छैन तर हाम्रो अलग दुनिया भएको थियो ।

लकडाउनले गर्दा हाम्रो होस्टलमा गरिने नियमित क्रियाकलापहरु पुरै छुट्यो । कुनै होमओर्क छैन, कुनै नियम छैन, टिचर छैन, लेक्चर छैन, तर यस कारणले गर्दा हाम्रो पढ्ने बानी भने छुट्यो, जसले गर्दा किताब पल्टाउने बित्तिकै निन्द्रा लाग्ने भयो । दिउँसो कहिल्यै नसुत्ने मान्छे दिउँसो सुत्ने भएका थियौं । तर केहीलाई भने रमाइलो पनि भएको थियो । हामी कक्षा १० मा पुगीसकेर पनि होला, हामीले ध्यान दिएर पढ्नु पर्छ भन्ने कुराले मात्र हामीलाई पढ्नलाई प्रेरित गरिरहेको छ । त्यसैले जबर्जस्ती हामी पढ्ने कोसिस गरिरहेका छौं ।

कोरोना भाईरसको डर कम गर्न विभिन्न क्रियाकलापहरु गरे पनि हाम्रो भित्री मनमा भने कोरोना भाईरसको डर हटेको छैन तर डर कम गर्न हामी नयाँ–नयाँ कुराहरु सिक्ने विभिन्न क्रियाकलाप गर्ने गरिरहेका हुन्छौं । जे गरे पनि डर त हामीबाट टाढा नै जाँदो रहेनछ । हामी सकेसम्म आफूलाई व्यस्त बनाउने कोसिस गर्छाैं ।

school supplies with medical face mask blue background. Protection schoolchildren students from covid-19 coronavirus, school education context pandemic.समय व्यवस्थापन गर्नको लागि बिस्तारै हामी केही साथीहरुले चित्र बनाउन थाल्यौं, केहीले आफ्नो मनमा लागेको कुरा डायरीमा लेख्न थाल्यौ, तास खेल्ने, गित बजाएर नाच्ने, टिकटक हेरेर बस्ने, यूटुव हेर्ने, सरको मोवाईल मागेर लुडो खेल्ने, नेटफ्लिक्समा फिल्म हेर्ने, टि.भि. हेर्ने जस्ता विभिन्न क्रियाकलापहरु गर्न थाल्यौं । होस्टलको गार्डेनमा फुलिरहेका फूलहरुको, हरियाली र स्वच्छ हावाले गर्दा पनि हामीलाई समय बिताउन सहज बनायो । अहिले पनि एक प्रकारको रमाईलो भइरहेको छ । रमाईलो वातावरणमा रमाउँदै गर्दा भने हामीलाई पढ्नै बिर्सिएको जस्तो भईरहेको छ । केही साथीहरुलाई पहिल्यै देखि अनलाईन क्लास अल्छी लाग्थ्यो । अनलाईन क्लास हुँदा कोही लुकेर बस्थे । यसले गर्दाे अनलाइन क्लासले त्यति धेरै प्रभाव पारेन । हामी सबै जना कसरी समय बिताउने भनेर खोजी रहेका हुन्छौं । समय बिताउन कै लागि हामी कोठा सफा गर्ने, झ्याल पुछ्ने, लुगा धुने, भलिबल खेल्ने र क्रिकेट खेल्ने ग¥यौ । हामी सबैको बिस्तारै भलिबलमा सबैको सुधार भइरहेको थियो । क्रिकेट खेल्दा अति रमाइलो लाग्थ्यो । सुरुमा क्रिकेट खेल्यौं, पछि टिम नपुगेर भलिबल खेल्न थाल्यौं । पछि फेरी स्कूलमा रंग लगाउन थालेको भएर भलिबल खेल्न पनि रोकिएको छ । अहिले खेल्ने ठाउँ नभएर हामीलाई दिन कटाउन गाह्रो भएको छ । होस्टलमा नयाँ स्मार्ट टिभी किनेको छ त्यसले गर्दा समय बिताउन अलि सहज भएको छ । १ बजेसम्म खाजा, खाना हुन्छ अनि पढ्ने गर्छौं । नेटफ्लिक्समा फिल्म र्हेछौं । अहिले त हामी रातको १२ बजेसम्म टि.भी. हेर्छांै । यो हाम्रो नराम्रो बानी जस्तो पनि लाग्छ । त्यहि भएर भान्सामा दिदीलाई सघाउन पनि जान्छौं । हाम्रो समय यसरी नै बितिरहेको छ । यस्ता विभिन्न क्रियाकलाप गरेर समय बिताउँदा पनि समय कटाउन गाह्रो भएको छ ।

3748610हाम्रो केही साथीहरुलाई यो चार महिना एकदम छटपटीमा बित्यो । तर कहिले काही यस्तो पनि लाग्छ यो चार महिना घर बसेर रमाईलो पनि भयो । साथीहरु भएर नयाँ कुरा पनि सिक्यो । यसरी सोच्दा हामीहरुलाई यस्तो पनि लाग्छ कि घरमा बसेर बोर भयो भन्ने मान्छे बुद्धु हो । यो लकडाउनले कहिले केही काम गर्न नआउने मान्छेले पनि घरको काम गर्न सिकिसकेको छ । हामी आफै यस बिचमा को को सँग नजिक रहेछौं भन्ने पनि थाहा पायौं । लकडाउन कडा भएपछि कसैलाई घरको याद आयो, कसैलाई साथीको याद आयो भने कसैलाई खाने कुराको याद आयो । लकडाउन अवधिभर कहिले रमाइलो भए जस्तो, कहिले बोरिङ भए जस्तै बितिरहेकोे छ । परीक्षा सकिएकोले परीक्षाको जुन पे्रसर हुन्छ त्यसरी त पढ्न त पर्दैन तर नयाँ कक्षामा गएकोले पढ्न त परिहाल्यो । त्यसैले नयाँ किताब छोएर पढ्न नपाएको भएर अब के हुने हो? भन्ने डर लागिरहेको छ । तर केही साथीहरुले रमाइलो गर्न पाएकोमा कोरोनाको त्रास दिमागमा नभएको सुनाइरहेका छन् ।

कोहीलाई भने लकडाउनले केही समय रमाइलो भए पनि सँधै एउटै ठाउँमा, एउटै मान्छे, अनि सँधै एउटै खानाको परिकार खानु परेकोले एकदम वाक्क लागिसकेको थियो । तर कहिले काही खान नपाएर मरिन्छ की जस्तो पनि लाग्छ । फेरी सोच्छौं हाम्रो स्कूललाई सहयोग गर्ने संस्थाहरु भएको र स्कूकोे राम्रो व्यवस्थापन भएको कारण खानाले गर्दा मर्दैन कि जस्तो पनि लाग्छ । तर पत्रिकाहरुमा खान नपाएको कारणले मान्छे मरेको समाचारले एकदम नरमाइलो लागि रहन्छ । कोरोनाले गर्दा संसारको मान्छेहरु सबै मर्छन् कि जस्तो पनि लाग्छ । मरिन्छ भन्ने डर लागे पनि हामी मात्र होइन संसारका सबै मान्छे हामी जस्तै त्रासमा छन् । त्यसैले हामी मात्र होईन मरे सबै सँगै मरिन्छ जस्तो पनि लाग्छ । फेरी विश्वमा वैज्ञानिकहरु पनि छन् औषधी बन्छ होला किन यति धेरै डराउनु जस्तो पनि लाग्छ ।

लकडाउनले हामीलाई धेरै कुरा सिकायो । कोराना विरुद्ध हामी सबै साथीहरु अनुशासनमा रहेर लडिरहेका छौं । हामीले एक अर्कालाई एकदम राम्रोसँग सहयोग गरिरहेका छौं । हामीहरु सबैजना मिलेर कोरोना विरुद्ध लड्ने लकडाउनको प्रतिबद्धता हो । सबै साथी, दिदीबहिनीहरु मिलेर बस्ने, सबैसँग राम्रो सम्बन्ध बनाउने सोच हामीमा आएको छ । साथीहरु बनाउने र साथी बनाउने यो राम्रो समय हो भन्ने हामीलाई लागेको छ ।

***

Friends and relations in lockdown

 

We face many problems during our lifetime, but this one is particularly a big one. Where did it come from, no one knows. There was a nationwide lockdown because of this virus. Staying home is a wise decision, but it started to get very boring because there wasn’t much to do.

Our exams were rescheduled and we gave our exams much before than originally planned. We were quite happy that we will be moving to grade 10 after our exams. We were all very excited, especially the ones living at the hostel because we were told by our teachers that we will be going out for a day trip. During that period, the virus was found in many other countries and the numbers kept increasing. However, there weren’t any active cases found in Nepal.  We were pretty confident that Nepal didn’t have the virus but all of sudden our teacher informed us that there will be a lockdown. Obviously, we got scared.  We feared that we might die. Because of all these frightening situations, there was absolutely no way we could go out. But because all of us (friends and sisters) were together at the hostel, we had a lot of fun; so in a way, we were happy too. After a long time, we all were eating together and playing together. This brought about a different sense of satisfaction and enhanced our closeness.

We thought of our friends who lived with their families. We thought of our grandparents, brothers, and sisters and missed them a lot. During the initial days of the lockdown, we enjoyed our stay inside the hostel. We all had the opportunity to spend time and know each other better. Our relationship and bond got stronger than before. We didn’t get to go outside our hostel premise. Nonetheless, that didn’t really make much difference to us, maybe because we are used to staying inside our hostel. However, later it started to get very suffocating. “When will our school reopen?” was our constant concern.

The lockdown has completely changed our daily routine. We don’t have any classes, no teachers, no lectures, and no home assignments; we now have a different world altogether. We slowly lost our interest in studies and began to take a lot of naps during the day. Our only motivation to study is the fact that we are now in grade 10 and that is why we push ourselves to study regularly.

Even though a lot of activities were conducted to decrease our fear of coronavirus, deep inside we were still very scared. No matter what we did the fear didn’t seem to go away and that’s why we did everything to keep ourselves busy.

Slowly, a few of us started to sketch, some started to write journals, play cards, sing and dance, watch TikTok, YouTube, play online games, watch Netflix, etc to manage our time better. Bright flowers in our hostel garden did lift our mood and brought joy to us. Somehow, it seemed as though we had forgotten our studies completely. Few of them never liked online classes, and few others would hideaway during online classes.  Because of this, we don’t think online classes were productive at all. We were constantly thinking of ways to spend our time. We started to clean our rooms, wash clothes, play volleyball, and cricket.  They brought a new smart TV at our hostel. That also helped us to spend our time.

We would eat our lunch at around 1 PM and watch a lot of Netflix. We are aware that it isn’t very healthy to watch a lot of TVs. Besides watching TV, sometimes we also help in the kitchen.  This is how we were passing our days.

Few of our friends had difficulty these past 4 months. But, sometimes, we think we had a good time staying inside. We learned new things. Due to this lockdown, people who didn’t do anything at home have started to contribute to housework. Some days it was fun, some days it was very dull. Some missed their families, some of their friends and some even missed food.

For some it was getting very monotonous; to be around the same people, eat the same food at the same place. At times we feared that we might die of hunger, but again we knew that there are various organizations that help our school and the management of our school is very good, so probably we won’t die of hunger. We read news about people dying because of hunger. That was very saddening.

It’s frightening to think that we all might die because of the corona. Not just us, but everyone all over the world. But then again we know there are many scientists and maybe they will find a cure for corona after all?

This lockdown has taught us many things. To win the fight against corona, we all have to be disciplined and thankfully, we are fully supporting each other. This is a perfect time to build and strengthen our relationships.

***

Photo Credit: shangarey & raulteran

I sang through war and peace: Nirmala Ghising

When I was studying in grade 8, I joined the Maoist Movement.

I imagined a just nation where no one had to face any problems. This is why many of us were attracted to the movement. I was ready to die for the cause. ‘If my death makes my country better then it’s not a big deal for me to die’, these types of patriotic thoughts directed people towards the movement. The thought that poor people will get food to eat, no-one needs to face caste and class discrimination, and women will not be oppressed and get the same rights as men; all these ideas motivated me to join the movement.

1We had to be fit and well-trained. Biologically women are different than men but the training in our camps was the same both for male and female combatants. It was all about being courageous and breaking your mental barriers. We did everything that men would do. We would fight furiously at the forefront of the battles. Many of my friends became martyrs. I am one of the lucky ones who survived death.

I was born and raised as a child of a poor farmer in Faparbari, Makwanpur. Life in a village is difficult compared to the city. I could only go to school after finishing my household chores. I had no big dreams about what I wanted out of life. I don’t think I was ever taught to dream – rather to just accept my fate and live my life which would be filled with struggles. But I loved singing from a very young age. When I heard songs on the radio or television, I tried to copy and sing correctly. I would practice for ages.

During the movement, our life was tough. We would walk all night; sometimes from the hills to the terai. While walking we carried our musical instruments and food. We would stop in villages and stay with the villagers. We sang progressive songs, danced, and performed dramas. Our art was what inspired people to join the movement. Many people joined the movement, many supported. I think it was possible only because of this soulful artist’s front.

We would reach remote and far away villages. Our songs spoke of people’s sufferings. That’s how most people connected to us. Our songs work like medicine to their wounds of poverty and state of being. And many times it would work like an appeal to support the movement. We’d walk these downtrodden villages everywhere, throughout the country. We would walk from Tamang villages to the Chepang habitats. We would reach Thami villages and Dalit settlements. While traveling to all these areas, one thing I remember vividly is that – the nature of poverty and state oppression was exactly the same regardless of their geographical differences.

People in these villages and settlements welcomed us wholeheartedly. We went in there like a messenger and left as a family member. In some villages, our whole team would have to leave abruptly due to army patrol and raids. We’d run from those villages and sleep in the middle of the jungle. Wartime days were tough but they were worth it.

2It was after the peace agreement that our leaders failed to protect us and the overall artists’ role became weaker. There was scarcity in the artist’s front but the leaders did not care. They would not directly tell us but their behavior showed that they didn’t need artists anymore. Many artists went back to their previous lifestyle of farming but many left for the Gulf countries in search of work.

Many of those who left to go abroad for work have returned home empty-handed. They still have that fury inside them against the system and the leaders. They say, ‘Even after all these years, things haven’t changed.’ I feel for them. I know the level of anger they must have inside them towards the leaders who failed to guide or protect them. The rising inequality and mass poverty that still exists in our country are unimaginable. Instead of working to increase our living standards, our leaders have turned to middlemen and mafias who constantly exploit their own population for labor, money, and resources.

We were very young then; maybe around 13 or 14 years old. But we weren’t naïve. We knew what we were getting into. All our socio-economic struggles in the village left no other options to fight for change. We wanted a drastic change in our system and that was the only reason why youth like me participated in the movement.

However, in our country, change has only been limited to words. Few words have changed here and there, but the situation of the country and its people hasn’t changed much.

3After the peace process, I decided to continue my education. I completed my bachelor’s degree in journalism along with focusing on music lessons.
I started working at various radio stations. Though I was busy doing journalism, I wanted to engage myself more in music. So, I started networking with people in the music scene. Gradually I started to go to studios and getting offers for performing live. I got an opportunity to sing a song in a Tamang movie. In 2014, I released my first solo music album ‘Rahar’.

I was becoming more of a commercial singer. I had to, to sustain myself. At times, I wondered how my former comrades would see me in this commercial world. And at times, I wondered how my new audience would react if they find out about my communist background. Gradually both my comrades and audiences seem to pretty much accept the reality of who I am now.

After releasing albums and going around the world to perform, I’m still giving my best to create more opportunities and to preserve my existence in the musical world. I feel blessed to have supportive audiences and Chandra Kumar Dong and Maila Lama, my uncles, who inspired me a lot to continue.

Being a musician, I am trying my best to raise awareness in society through music. That’s what we did being a part of the musical front during the war. Now, all those memories of the war feel surreal.

last-photo

***

They would always try to slow me down: Santoshi Shrestha

Whenever I remember my childhood some memories come to my mind which makes me very happy. And those memories make complete sense of who I am today. I don’t remember playing with toy dolls like other girl child, may be because I had more male friends than females. I used to play football and dandibiyo, a complete male dominated game back in the days. That may be the reason why I walk faster than others. But my mother and grandfather and most of all, my neighbors, hated it. They’d always try to slow me down whenever they saw me walking fast. They believed that a girl shouldn’t walk so fast. It was one of those proverbs that were implied solely on women for stupidest reasons one could find in the planet. But my grandmother, contrary to those existing conservative ideas, always told me to walk how I wanted to. She inspired me and motivated me to walk ahead and run faster.

They’d always try to slow me down whenever they see me walking fast. They believed that a girl shouldn’t walk so fast.

I was 8 years when I moved to Kathmandu with my brothers in pursuit of better education. Kathmandu was completely new to us. Even though my elder brother was young, he was responsible for us. After him, it was me who had to take all household responsibilities including taking care of my younger brother. I was shy in nature and a pretty quiet girl. I was scared to talk to people so I chose to remain quiet than speak. Life in Kathmandu was way too hard, more than we expected, in the village.

I studied at Gitamata School in Kathmandu. Our school organized a program ‘Gitamata Star’ which had various other competitions including Athletics. I participated in all competitions except dance. As I naturally walked fast and ran even faster, I decided to take part in the running competition. I registered my name for it. Later I realized I needed proper shoes to run and most importantly formal techniques and skill. I became hesitant to compete and thought of excluding my name as all my other friends were retreating from it. Meanwhile, our teacher announced a monetary penalty for those students who wanted to remove their names from the competition. Even though I wanted to remove my name, I wouldn’t dare to ask my brother for money. So I was forced to run.  I became first in that running competition.

received_1597777560312771After a year, Red Cross Society sent an invitation to my school for another competition. Six students had to partake and I became fifth during the selection round. Everyone appreciated it as I competed and secured winning positions without any formal training. Many competitions kept coming. I also became second in the valley level championship. After that, my teachers would nominate me for any other competitions without even thinking.

In the school running club a senior student, who was also passionate and wanted to be a professional runner, guided me. I became more interested in running but I never thought to be an athlete. During school days, I had far too many responsibilities. Managing time for my studies, training and household chores was pretty tough. As soon as the bell rang at 10 o’ clock, I had to rush for school. I used to come back home during lunch break to wash dishes because I had to queue to get some water after my school. As night fell, I would run on the roads of Kathmandu to train myself, without fear or embarrassment.

I was a bit confused. It was more like a fear of obstructing my education while focusing on the game.

During high school, I couldn’t give much time to athletics due to my studies and responsibilities. I participated in junior and school level competitions only. After a year gap, I took part in an open competition with the support of my seniors and my brother. I secured third position without training. Then, everyone suggested me to continue but I was worried about my studies. I was a bit confused. It was more like a fear of obstructing my education while focusing on the game. In the midst of these confusions and uncertainty, I kept participating in the competitions. I’d run whenever and wherever I could. I couldn’t give my full time to running until I finished my bachelor’s degree. I was also offered a contract by a sports club but I had to refuse it because I couldn’t manage my time.

I would constantly worry about my career. I would think about how to possibly balance my studies and my running but somehow I’d completely mismanage. There are instances when I couldn’t participate in district level games because of my exams. I cried, totally disheartened. And there were other times when I would fail to participate because of lack of money and connections. And then again, some other times, I couldn’t participate because I was a girl. A girl leaving her home to participate in games outside the district was problematic.

Time passed between these days of dilemma.

IMG-0d8536d3d2a9fcc5925761cbd1b1f82f-VI would train myself. Although my brother was not from this field, he taught me whatever he knew. I wanted someone to coach me in the evenings but no one was ready for that. When I was in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree, a coach contacted me. But I ignored him because I wanted to focus on my studies. I thought I would not be punctual and would just be wasting his time. He seemed to be a very philosophical, positive and over all a good person. He convinced me well. He agreed to train me whenever I had free time. He trained me on the roads of Kathmandu in the evenings. He didn’t put a lot of pressure on me. Once I was done with my Bachelor’s degree, he finally started to train me on a regular basis.

My training and job would go hand-in-hand. I realized that working full time and running at the same time was more difficult than studying and running. Luckily, my workplace supported me a lot. After training, an athlete must rest for two hours. Instead of resting, I had to go work on an empty stomach.  Most of my competitors were from athletic clubs. I had a nagging fear about whether all that hard work would be worth it or  not.

I joined Tribhuvan University for my Master’s Degree. I had to go to college in the morning and office during the day. My coach would often ask me, ‘When will you do your training?’ So I started doing regular training at 4 in the morning and jogging at 7 in the evening. It was a hectic life for me and also for my coach.

IMG-6187I talked with my family and coach and decided to stop studies. I felt unhappy for a while after but now I’m grateful for that decision. Slowly, I also quit my job to focus on national games. I had to prove myself better in the national game to take part in the South Asian level. I performed well in the national game and also grabbed a gold medal in 13th South Asian Game in the race of 10,000 meter. I cannot define how I felt to know that I became a first Nepali woman to win gold in athletics.

Now, I am doing my Master’s Degree in Public Administration and also preparing for Master’s Degree in Public Health. I am also working as a sports program officer where I train and empower girls of Nalang, Dhading through sports.

I want to set an example for upcoming generation that we can balance both study and sports together. And we must not bind ourselves in anything small. We should experience this world and life. From a young age I heard many people saying that one should not step in two boats. But now I realize if  I had stopped doing what I loved the most, I’d not reach the point where I am now.

I wouldn’t have reached here without a supportive coach, family members and my friends.

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All photos received from Santoshi Shrestha.