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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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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