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

लकडाउनमा साथी र सम्बन्ध

corona_sheisthestory

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 ।

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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.

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Photo Credit: shangarey & raulteran

I sang through war and peace: Nirmala Ghising

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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

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अब स्कूल खुल्छ की खुल्दैन त्यो पनि थाहा छैन

Designed by crowf / Freepik

मलाई घरमा बस्दा एकदम नरमाईलो लागेको छ । लकडाउन हुनु भन्दा पहिला नै इन्डिया जाने प्लान बनाएका थियौं तर जाने भन्दा भन्दै लकडाउन भयो । त्यसपछि जान पाएनौं । अब त मलाई डर लागीरहेछ हामी कहिले इन्डिया जान पाउँछौ कि पाउदैनौं भनेर ? मेरो हजुरआमा यहि बिचमा बिरामी हुनुहुन्छ । डर झन बढेको छ उहाँलाई निको हुन्छ की नाई ? धेरै बिरामी हुनुभयो भने यो बेला हस्पिटल लान पनि गाह्रो छ । कोरोना भन्दा पनि मलाई यस्तै अन्य कुराले बढी सताई रहेको छ ।

लकडाउन पछि म बिहान ७ बजे उठ्छु । फ्रेस हुन्छु, चिया पकाउँछु, भाईहरुलाई खुवाउँछु अनि आफु पनि खाईसके पछी भाईहरुलाई पढाउँछु । १० बजे तिर ममीले खाना पकाईसकेको हुनुहुन्छ । सबै परिवारसँगै बसेर खाना खान्छौं । ममी भान्सा सफा गर्नुहुन्छ । भाई र म लुडो खेल्दै टि ।भि । र्हेछौं । त्यस पछि म पढ्छु ।

अब यो लकडाउन खुल्छ की खुल्दैन?
के हुेने हो?
दिनदिनै चिन्ता बढी रहेको छ

अन्य धेरै स्कूलहरुको त अनलाईन क्लास भईरा’छ । हाम्रो स्कूलमा त अनलाईन क्लासको व्यवस्था पनि छैन । अब स्कूल खुल्छ की खुल्दैन त्यो पनि थाहा छैन । मलाई पढाई के हुने हो ? भनेर धेरै चिन्ता लागीरा’छ । लकडाउन कै बिचमा हाम्रो त रिजल्ट आयो । म पास भएँ । मलाई एकदम खुशी लाग्यो । तर एस ।ई ।ई । को त परिक्षा पनि भएको छैन । उनीहरुलाई कस्तो धेरै चिन्ता परेको होला ? उनीहरुको परिक्षा हुन्छ कि हुँदैना भन्दाअ भन्दाइ उनिहरुलाई परिक्षा नै लिन नपर्ने भन्ने समाचार पढें । हाम्रो अनलाईन कक्षा हुन्छ कि हुँदैन ? हाम्रो स्कूल खुल्छ कि खुल्दैन सोच्दा सोच्दा अब के हुने हो ? भन्ने डर लागिरहन्छ ।

ममी बाबाले हामीलाई चोकमा समेत जान दिनु हुँदैन । कोही साथिहरुलाई भेट्न पनि पाएको छैन । यो कोरोनाले गर्दा मलाई कस्तो चिन्ता भईरा’छ । अब यो लकडाउन खुल्छ की खुल्दैन? के हुेने हो? दिनदिनै चिन्ता बढी रहेको छ । घरमा बस्दा राम्रोसँग खान पनि पाएको छैन । मेरो बाबालाई धेरै चिन्ता भईरा’छ । लकडाउन अगाडि मेरो बाबा फुटपाथमा लुगा बेच्नु हुन्थ्यो । अब त्यो पनि बेच्न दिँदैन । हामीलाई धेरै समस्या भईरा’छ । लकडाउन धेरै लम्बियो भने के खाने होला ? भनेर बाबा धेरै चिन्ता गर्नुहुन्छ । मलाई एकदम नरमाईलो लाग्छ बाबालाई देखेर ।

कक्षा ९
कान्तिईश्वरी मा.वि. प्याफल

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Hunger crisis during lockdown

 

I don’t like staying at home. We had plans of travelling to India before the lockdown, but the lockdown happened and we couldn’t go. Now I have this fear whether or not we will able to go to India ever again? My grandmother is also not keeping well. I am really worried about her health condition. What if it gets worse? How will we take her to the hospital? I am actually more concerned about other issues as compared to Corona.

These days, I wake up around 7 in the morning; make tea and breakfast for my brothers and myself. My mother prepares lunch and it’s normally ready by 10 in the morning. We all have our lunch together after which I play ludo and watch television with my brother. After that, I study.

Many other schools have organized online classes but since I go to a government school, our school doesn’t have an online facility. I don’t know if the school will reopen again or not. I am really worried about my studies. I got my 9th-grade exams’ result during this lockdown period. I was really happy that I passed my exams, but the National Board Exams (SEE) are still pending. I guess all the SEE students must be very worried about their exams. I don’t know whether the SEE exams will be conducted or not. I think a lot about all these things and I tend to get worried.

My parents don’t allow us out at all, not even to go to the main road. I haven’t been able to meet any of my friends either. I am really distressed because of this corona. I wonder if this lockdown will ever ease up and my stress is also increasing day by day. We have not been able to eat properly as well. My father is really stressed. Before the lockdown, my father used to sell clothes on the streets, and now he can’t even sell that. He keeps wondering what will we do if the lockdown keeps extending and how will we survive? I feel really bad looking when I see him in such a state.

May 24th 2020

यहाँको केटीहरुलाई बाहिरको संसार कस्तो हुन्छ थाहै छैन

Photo Courtesy : Simone Wenth / Unsplash

जीवनमा दुःखहरु धेरै आईरहन्छ तर यो पल्टको दुःख अति नै ठूलो छ । कहाँबाट यो कोरोना भाईरस आयो थाहा नै पाएन ।

कोरोना आएपछि हामी गाउँ आयौं । सबै घरमा बसीरहेका छन् तर मेरो बुबा त घुम्न मात्र जानु हुन्छ । बिहान ८ बजे तिर नल तान्न जान्छु । खै किन हो ? जहिले म उठ्दा ममी र बुबाको झगडा भएको हुन्छ । म बाबाले ममीलाई गाली गरेको सुनेर उठ्छु । अनि चिया खान्छु । पहिला पहिला त इन्डियन सिम कार्ड पनि थिएन । पुरा बेकारमा आएँ झै लाग्थ्यो । त्यसमा यहाँको मानिसहरुको सोच नै फरक छ मलाई यहाँको मान्छेसँग घुलमिल हुन एकदम गाह्रो भईरा’छ । यहाँ आएपछि त VOW MEDIA को कुरा सोच्दै त्यहाँका दिदीहरुले भनेको याद आउँछ । कहिले सम्म यसरी बस्न पर्ने हो ? अत्यास लागेर आईरा’छ । बाहिर कतै जाउँ भने पनि निस्कन दिँदैन । बोर लाग्दो छ यहाँको जिन्दगी ।

यहाँको केटीहरुलाई त बाहिरको संसार कस्तो हुन्छ थाहा नै छैन । बिहान उठ्छन्, खाना पकाउँछन खान्छन्, सुत्छन् । फेरी उठछन् खाना पकाउछन्, केही बोल्यो भने पनि यो केटी कति बोल्छ ? केटी भएर यसरी बोल्ने भन्छन् । यसरी नै बिहान सुरु हुन्छ, अनि रात पनि बित्छ । म बिहान उठ्छु, खाना खान्छु, मोवाईल चलाउँछु सुत्छु ।

यहाँ मेरो कोही साथिहरु पनि छैन । जे गरे पनि एक्लै हुन्छ कति दिन यसरी बस्ने होला ?

कक्षा ९
श्री कान्तिईश्वरी मा.वि.

***

The girls here don’t know what the outside world is like

 

We face a lot of ups and downs in our lives, but what we are facing right now is a big issue. Where did this coronavirus come from, none of us know.

We came to our village, which is in India right after a corona outburst. Everyone stays home except for my father. He keeps going out. Every morning I wake up around 8 am and I go fetch water. I don’t know why but my parents have been fighting. I wake up to the sound of my father yelling at my mother.

Initially, we didn’t even have an Indian sim card. We felt bored and regretted coming here. Additionally, I am having issues getting along with the people here. They are much more orthodox out here. Being here reminds me of VOW Media and what we spoke about there. I don’t know for how long do we have to live like this and I panic thinking about it. We aren’t allowed to go outside, and it’s really boring here.

Girls here have no idea what life is like outside of this place. All they do is get up, cook food, eat, and sleep. They have the same routine every day and if they speak, they get yelled at for speaking. No one here likes girls speaking. This is how their day begins and night falls. I get up in the morning, eat my food, and use my mobile phone and sleep.

I don’t even have any friends here. I am always alone and how long will I be like this, I wonder?

***

Photo Credit: Simone Wenth

Happiness lies in little things

By Aparna Singh

 

It all started with an announcement on March 24 at around 8pm that there was going to be a nationwide lockdown. No one knew what it was going to look like and how long it would go on for. The first few days felt good. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a long weekend?

I binge watched pretty much all the pandemic movies in the beginning like Contagion and Outbreak. I started to get too consumed with the news, both local and global. CNN showed COVID-19 numbers rapidly increasing around the world. There were recoveries but what I only saw was deaths. Then Nepal started reporting infections too. The news drained me. I was scared and anxious. It was time to shut off the news. I also found myself comparing this pandemic to the devastating Nepal Earthquake that occurred exactly 5 years ago. I remembered the life we had back then post earthquake. Living in tents, not going to work, feeling anxious of the future. This felt like another painful reminder of the horrific incident.

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While I was at a privileged position to be working from home, I knew that there were many who did not have a roof under their heads, who could not afford three meals a day, and the essential workers for whom staying home was not an option. I felt blessed. I had a clean blue sky to look at that gave me fresh air, I had a supportive family because of whom I always had food on the table, I could listen to birds all day, play with my puppies and basically do whatever I wanted to. I was inside a perfectly safe bubble.

The first few days of the lockdown, I was determined to bring structure into my life. I tried to make my life as normal as possible. At 10 o’clock, I would dress up, do my hair and sit by my front porch with my laptop ready for work. Now that a few months have gone by, I no longer have the energy to dress up and do my hair. It’s also hard when you know that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.

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There were days when I felt anxious about the future. So I started working out. Of course there are days when I do not feel like working out at all. But I loved doing yoga, meditation and jumping rope. I baked, cooked, made dalgona coffee and what not. Someday I felt angry, sometimes I gained a new perspective on life. I pondered if this is the new normal. I realized that I was spending unnecessarily and that I was fine not shopping for two months.

Then, we started baking our own bread, made our very first seasonal fruit jam from scratch, and ate picked vegetables from my garden. I felt independent and alive. I also grew my very first watermelon plant. For the very first time, I learned that I did not need to achieve big things to be happy. I understood that happiness lies in little things, like watching my plant thrive every day, the cool evening breeze, the rain after a hot summer day, and warm sunshine after days of heavy rain. I learned to live in the moment and realized that happiness is in the now.

***

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.

***

 

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.

***

कहिले पो रोकथाम हुने हो यो भाईरस?

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देशभरी फैलँदै गएको महामारी कोभिड—१९ कोरोना भाईरसले गर्दा हाम्रो समाज र जीवनमा धेरै असर पारेको छ । यो कोरोना भाईरस सरुवा रोग हो । यो रोग एक व्यक्तिबाट अर्कोमा सजिलै सर्न सक्छ ।

यो रोगबाट धेरै मानिसहरुले आफ्ना आफन्त परिवारजन गुमाएका छन् । यो रोगका कारण धेरैको घरमा चुलो निभेको छ । मानिसहरु आफ्नै घर भित्र कैदी जस्तै थुनिएर बस्नु परेको छ । बाहिरको स्वच्छ वातावरणको हावा नपाएका कारणले दिमागी रोगले सताएका छन् र यसले गर्दा हामी जस्ता साना बालबालिकाहरुको पढाई छुटेको छ । धेरैजना मोबाईल, टि.भी., ईन्टरनेट जस्ता साधनमा ध्यान दिन थालेकाले पछि गएर अनेक रोग जस्तै टाउको दुख्ने, आँखामा समस्या आउने जस्ता समस्या आउन सक्छ ।

स—साना बालबालिकामा मात्र नभएर ठूला मानिसहरु पनि अहिले यसमा नै रमाउन थालेका छन् । कतिपय मानिसहरु गाउँ फर्कन वाध्य भएका छन् । यो कोरोना भाईरसको कारणले धेरै मानिसहरु मृत्युको मुखमा पुगेका छन् ।

अस्मिता भुजेल
कक्षा ९
श्री कन्या माध्यमिक विद्यालय, यट्खा

***

When will this virus be prevented?

 

Everyone’s life has been greatly affected due to this COVID -19 coronavirus. This virus is communicable. It can easily be transferred from one person to another.
Because of this virus, many people have lost their loved ones. Many are unable to feed themselves. People are forced to live inside their own houses like prisoners. Many are facing mental issues because they cannot go outside and children like us cannot study since all the schools are closed. Most of the people are over-utilizing their mobile phones, laptops, the internet, etc which can lead to various problems like headaches, eye strain, dry eyes, etc.

It’s not just the children, even adults have begun to overindulge themselves in internet. Many are forced to go back to their villages. A lot of people are at death’s door because of the coronavirus.

***

Musings of a tired soul

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By Deepa Rai

 

My nephew was born on 22 March 2020, just two days before the lockdown. The news of newly set up ‘fever clinic’ in Patan hospital was enough to give its patients and their families- chills. Rumor of a recently admitted COVID-19 patient was also doing rounds in the maternity ward. Contrary to our expectations, we were happy that the newest member of our family didn’t get the usual welcome visits by family and friends. Amidst the fear of pandemic, indifferent hospital staff and a pediatrician who didn’t know how to unzip onesie (commented that the baby should be wearing ‘easy’ outfit so that he could check the baby more quickly and disappear just as fast as he had come in), my brother and sister-in-law waited patiently to return home.

25 March arrived but the ambulance they had booked in advance, didn’t. Their wait was little over three hours on the day they were discharged from hospital. They finally made it home in a taxi that was dropping off an emergency patient. Sheer luck that they found one.

1While I was posting this incident on twitter (image on the right), I was thinking of those in similar situations in far-flung districts. How would new mothers fare in such situations? Lack of vehicle coordination in one hospital had already seen several patients stranded in its premises. This was only the beginning of lockdown effects that the country was to face. It was a grim realization of what was yet to come.

For the next two months, grocery shopping, buying essentials for newborn, cooking,  all of these chores got shared among the big family of 11. Attending virtual meetings with toddlers constantly knocking on the door became a new normal. I became an accidental chef to my own surprise (and that of my family). ‘Extremely busy’ became the new normal too. Juggling house chores with professional work had a different meaning. ‘How can I be fully productive when I have to shift from one role to the next without a break?’ This question kept hitting me but then I surprised myself, yet again. It could be done. It needed to be done.

The news of people on their long march home having lost their jobs due to lockdown made me realize the state of vulnerability that our state was in. No, I couldn’t be moaning about having a busy worklife. I trudged on, though frustrated, insecure, agitated and at times, angry – much to the dismay of my family who had to bear the brunt of my behavior. That makes me come to yet another revelation of the lockdown, of how lucky I was to be with my family –  children’s constant shouting, and crying for attention included.

‘What are we doing’ as a nation to help them?
The desperation is real but limitations, even more so.
I shut down the news for a week.

A close friend reminisced about the humble lives she had met in the past in a short memoir, wondering how they are surviving during lockdown. The heart-felt piece left me feeling guilty of the privilege that I was in. It brought up the same question of ‘what are we doing’ as a nation to help them? The desperation is real but limitations, even more so. I shut down the news for a week.

Other friends are busy posting photos on social media of their new found passion for baking, mithai-making and tiktok-ing, a cool respite from the burning issues of hunger, hysteria and the helplessness that pandemic has brought in. This goes on to show that despite of frustration and agitation, we are surviving and slowly conquering the pandemic, by staying home, by staying sane and by spreading love albeit in distance.

A quote shared by another close friend hits home for all of us.

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Respect, indeed!

***

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