My worst days are strength for me: Sang Doma Sherpa

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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

shobha silwal - she is the story

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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