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

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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

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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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म भित्रको डरलाई फेरी ब्युँतायो कोरोनाले

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जनवरी देखि कोरोना भाईरसको बारे सुन्दै आएकी छु । नयाँ वर्षको सुरुवातमा नै विश्व भरि  नै त्रास लिएर आयो कोरोना भाईरस । त्यही समयमा अमेरीकाले ईरानलाई धम्कि दिएको थियो । त्यसको अकै त्रास थियो अनि त्यो त्रास थियो विश्व युद्ध  कतै अमेरीकाको यस्तो धम्किले विश्व युद्ध त हुने होई? एक प्रकारको डर थियो तर भएन । तर हामीलाई के थाहा थियो कि यो भन्दा नि ठुलो त्रास र संकट सबैको जिवनमा आउनेवाला थियो । हजुर त्यो संकट कोरोना भाईरस महामारी हो । जुन पुरा विश्व फैलीएको छ ।

यसरी नै यो लाग्यो की करोडौ मानिसहरुको त्रासमा मेरो नि धेरै त्रास र डर छन । म सानै देखि एकदम कम्जोर र एकदम डर पोक केटी थिएँ । सानो सानो कुरामा नि डराउने रुने केटी थिएँ धेरै पटक म टुवाईलेटमा लुकेर बसेको छु । हुँरीवतास आउँदा, भुकम्पको कुरा गर्दा, बाढी पहिरोको समाचार सुन्दा एकदमै डर लाग्थ्यो । घाँटीबाट एक एक गास खाना निल्न सक्दिनथे म । पानी पर्दा लाग्थ्यो अब बाढी पहिरो आउछ, हुरी बतास आउँदा हामीलाई उडाएर लग्छ सोच्थे तर यम्ी त साना बेलाको त्रास भयो अहिले त यि कुराहरुको त्रास छैन । तर म अहिले पनि त्यही डरपोक र कम्जोर केटी चाही हो । ति कुराहरुको त्रास नभए पनि म एकदम डरपोक किसीमको हुँ । मलाई अहिले पनि याद छ  विज्ञानको विषय पढाउने म्यामले कोरोना महामारीमा नेपाल उच्च जोखिममा पर्छ भन्दा मेरो जिउ तातेर आगो भएको थियो ।

मुटु हल्लिएर धड्कन एकदम छिटो छिटो चल्न थालेको थियो
म टेवलमा टाउको अडएर रोएको मलाई नै थाहा छैन । 

सानै देखिको त्रास र त्यो घटनाको बारेमा एकदमै गहिरिएर सोच्दा म आफैले आफैलाई किन म यति धेरै डरपोक छु भनेर प्रश्न गर्दा थाहा पाए कि मेरो जिवनको सबै भन्दा ठुलो त्रास यि कुराहरु होईन यो त्रास त मृत्यु पो रहेछ । मलाई मेरो मृत्यु देखि डर लाग्छ । तर म अहिले आफुलाई सके जति निस्कने कोशीष गर्छु र मलाई थाहा छ कि म यो त्रासबाट निस्कने छु भन्ने सोच आउँछ । 

तर फेरी यो त्रास बढाउनको लागी यो कोरोना महामारी आयो यो महामारीले मेरो त्रासलाई अझै बढायो । जति सोच्छु यो कि यो त्रासबाट बाहीर निस्कन्छु । त्यती नै भित्र जान्छु । कोरोना भाईरस यसले त मेरो मेरो त्रास र दुःख लाई मेरो जिवनमा अझै गाँजीरहेको छ । दिन रात लाग्छ की मेरो मृत्यु भयो भने! डर लाग्छ की मेरो परिवारबाट म विछोड भएँ भने! यस्ता डर र त्रासले गर्दा मैले समाचर नै पढ्नै बन्द गरि दिएँ । कोरोना महामारीको डरले हामी काठमाण्डौ देखि इन्डिया आयौ तर मलाई इन्डिया आईरहदा फेरी काठमाण्डौ फर्कन्छु की फर्कन्न भन्ने डर लाग्यो । यस्ता डर र त्रास कम गर्न सके म सम्म सकारात्मक विचारका साथै प्रेरणादायी प्रवचन र युट्युबहरुमा सुन्ने गरीराछु । आफैले आफैलाई भन्छु हाम्रो डाक्टरहरु सक्षम छन् । उनिहरुले हामी सबैलाई बचाउन सक्छन् र बचाउने छन् भनेर आफैले आफैलाई भन्छु । सम्झाउँछु की यो कोरोनाबाट मृत्यु धेरै भईसकेको छ तर मृत्यु भन्दा धेरै गुणा मान्छेहरु निको पनि भईरहेका छन् । अनि दिनरात आशा गर्छु की यसको केही न त केही समाधान वा उपचार त अवश्य भेट्टाउँछ एक दिन ।  

 

कक्षा ९
१७मे २०२०
श्री कान्तिईश्वरी मा.वि.

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Corona has revived the fear inside me

 

I have been hearing about coronavirus since January. Corona came along with the New Year spreading dreadful consequences all over the world. During the same time, America had threatened Iran. That was another fear and it was concerning world war. What if there will be a world war because of what America said? There was a strange fear, thankfully nothing happened. But, there was a bigger fear and bigger concern and it was of coronavirus.

Ever since I was little, I have always been a weak and sensitive girl. I cry over small little things and many times I’ve cried alone in the toilet. Be it thunderstorms, earthquakes, or news about landslides, I get really scared. When it rained, I used to think there will be thunderstorms and landslides and we will die. But these were mostly during my childhood; I don’t have these fears anymore. I still am the same sensitive girl though. I still remember during science class when my teacher had mentioned that Nepal is highly vulnerable to coronavirus, my body had heated up rapidly. My palpitation had increased and unknowingly I was crying.

After a lot of self-introspection, I had realized why I was such a sensitive girl. I figured out that my biggest fear was death. I fear that I will die. Now I try my best to overcome this fear and I believe someday I will.

However, due to this coronavirus, my fear has only increased. The more I think about it, the more intense it gets. I am constantly thinking what if I die? What if I get separated from my family? Now I have stopped reading any news because it only makes things worse for me.  Me and my family came to India during this pandemic, but I worry if we will ever get back to Kathmandu. I spend a lot of time working on positive thinking and listening to the motivational speech on Youtube to fight with my fear and anxieties. I remind myself that doctors are efficient and competent. They can do anything; they will save us. I keep telling myself that of course there are many who have died because of this virus, but there are even more people who are recovering. I hope some solution will be found eventually.

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From a big kitchen to bigger ones: Manila Tamrakar

COVER_MANILATAMRAKAR

I can only imagine how happy my family members must have been when I was born. I was the first grandchild to be born in my house. A Laxmi is born, someone must have said. In an extended family, led by grandparents, I must say that I definitely grew up pampered. But I wasn’t spoilt. At a very early age, I had started to take care of all my younger siblings.

We grew up playing in the little courtyard of our house in Dhokatole, Kathmandu. I had to be my sibling’s parent and friend at the same time. We’d play, study and eat together. I remember, each lunch and dinner was like a feast. Fifteen family members eating at the same time turned any ordinary meal into a Newar jho-bhwe style feast. My mother and aunties would prepare food and I’d help them by going to the market, buying vegetables and essentials.

Looking back, I’d say that my family was not that conservative when it came to educating the girl child. I was sent to the neighborhood girls-only school where I completed my school leaving certificate. I also completed my intermediate from Shankar Dev Campus. My brothers and cousins went to co-ed schools. Back in those days, parents would worry about their girls ‘reputation’. They believed that educating girls too much would make them ‘spoilt’ – their way to describe independent women those days. I was a decent student and doing well with my studies. I had plans to enroll into a bachelor’s study.

But I raised my concern over my study –
they said I could continue it after my marriage.

Meanwhile, a wedding proposal arrived from a well-to-do family. One evening, I was taken to the market in the pretext of buying clothes for Dashain. But the motive was that the man would get to see his probable wife-to-be. I had no choice of agreeing or disagreeing to it. But in my head, I was clear that I should focus on my studies. ManilaTamrakar_sheisthestory_1My birth astrological chart was taken to match with his. It matched perfectly they said. We weren’t raised to question our elders. In those days, you could not even raise your eyebrows to your parents. The wedding got fixed. But I raised my concern over my study – they said I could continue it after my marriage.

I was just 19 years old when I got married and moved from one giant family to another. I felt everything emotionally that a 19 years old ambitious girl would think to be sent to another family all of a sudden. I can’t even express the level of anxiety, pressure, embarrassment, nervousness that I had on those days.

I became another hand to help in the chores of this new unfamiliar house. I became another assistant in the kitchen where they’d cook food for another big family. I got scared to see the rice-cooker my in-laws would be cooking rice in. I remember the first day in the kitchen quivering until I finished making cauliflower curry for them. Although I grew up in a big family, I never had to cook at home. I would often make mistakes. Miscalculating portions, adding less or more salt, under or over-cooking kept happening. Gradually I got accustomed to it and life in the big kitchen got normal.

ManilaTamrakar_sheisthestory_3True to their word, my in-laws let me join college for my bachelor’s. I’d wake up in the morning at 4am to not miss any classes. I’d try to focus on my studies in-between my family responsibilities. Regardless of having too much chores to do, I completed my bachelor’s. I promptly enrolled myself into a Master’s program as well but I got pregnant and gave birth. A girl. Laxmi is born in the house, someone had said. After the child, it became impossible to continue my education. I had completed a semester of the Master’s program too but that went in vain. 6 years passed being a mother and then we had another baby. This time a girl child again, but not a definite Laxmi this time. Some of my in-laws were not that happy with a second girl child. I heard them saying “Oh no, not a girl again!”

But it didn’t matter to me. What mattered most, was my husband being happy about it. I knew I would be forced to have another child and try for a boy next time. Various nonchalant ways of putting pressure on me didn’t stop. Right then, my husband got transferred to Pokhara to work in the industrial estate, in a bakery factory. In one hand, it was a blessing to stop being pressured to have another child, on the other hand – I’d have to leave my families behind. We moved with two girls, one was only six-months new, to this new city to start our livelihood from scratch, with heavy hearts far away from all familiar faces. It took me a couple of months to get used to life in the new city but I adapted. Slowly my kids adapted too.

ManilaTamrakar_sheisthestory_2Years passed, we upgraded from our bakery factory into the restaurant business. I had both my children going to one of the best school in the city. I wanted them to get better education than me under any circumstances. Amidst all those days of business going up and down, we made sure their education wasn’t hindered. Today, both my girls have completed their bachelors and are successfully working in their respective fields. And I’m sure they’ll pursue an even higher level of education soon, unlike their mother.

Big utensils, same big rice-cookers, lots of food and vegetables.
It is a nostalgia I’m living in here even after so many years
of leaving my born place.

My husband and I own a chain of restaurants now. I am a supervisor in the cafeteria of Manipal Teaching Hospital. I make sure the food provided in there is healthy. I overlook and take care of 70 staff members who help us run the business. I feed doctors and nurses nutritious food so they can take care of others. But even today, after all these years, whenever I go into the kitchen, I feel like a small kid peeking into the kitchen of my house. Big utensils, same big rice-cookers, lots of food and vegetables. It is a nostalgia I’m living in here even after so many years of leaving my born place. It’s sentimental how I see my regular customers as my family members sharing their food experiences. I listen to their compliments and grievances about our food. I answer them, “not everyone has the same taste, we’ll make sure to match up to yours next time,” like I’d answer to my in-laws back in my Kathmandu home.

I never thought I would be in a position of leadership, entrepreneurship, and independence as I am now. After I was married off so young, I thought my life would be spent inside the 4 walls of my house. But here I am, successfully leading an army of staff.  I’m 52 now.  If I have to define life, I’d say – Life is like a hot-and-sour soup. It’s filled with sweet and spicy memories together. You keep stirring and sipping it, once spoon at a time. At times I step back and appreciate the life I have today, blessed with a supportive husband and two aspiring girls. Aspired to become ‘spoilt’ women – their way to describe independent women these days.

 

END_COVER

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Laxmi – a hindu goddess of wealth.
Jho-bhwe – a traditional feast where people sit on the floor and eat.
Dashain – a hindu festival.
Pokhara – a lake city in the western Nepal.

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Photo Credit : Manila Tamrakar, Bikkil Sthapit