Mockery of a humiliation

Sunita Giri 11:45 PM |

It was afternoon time. Chinimaya Didi, had just taken a bath and she was enjoying the warmth of mild winter sun. Her hair was still wet and left open, which she let it that way to sun dry it.

Near by her, a bunch of preteens and teenage girls were also relaxing; doing what they do during winter vacations, some were knitting and some were helping their friends to make woolen balls and then they were chatting like girls of that age do most of the time.

Moti Tamang, entered on the scene from the toilet area and unintentionally stood in a distance from where her shadow some how bothered Chinimaya Didi [boys room nanny]. Without a warning, Chinimaya didi, started scorning Moti didi, for overshadowing the warmth of winter sun. Then, it was not the culture inside Bal Mandir, to request for some thing. One just shouted, until they leaked or scorned most of the time, without giving a hint of some body's action.

Therefore, Moti didi, was not aware, why she was scorned. Like any teenagers, she was also not careful enough to watch and learn and then try to understand, why she got so angry. So what she did next, irritated the nanny even more, because the nanny had used words like ‘maharogi’, meaning the mother of all illness. Moti didi, went gingery without giving much thought to the words, that was hurled at her. Her both hands faced upwards with twisted fingers, she bent her body in awkward position, her head turned in side ways, her eyes was darted in odd directions, with her mouth open in a bizarre way and twisted. Then, in that odd shape of her body, she took some wobbly steps forwards. This made all the girls erupt in laud laughter, but that exactly irked the nanny to the max.

It is natural that, what make no sense to adults, makes teen laugh hard, more they don't get it, more they find it amusing. Its kind of a triumph for the preteens & teens.

With her mouth still twisted on one side particularly  she asked, “what she should do now ?” not even understanding what she is doing and why she did that the didi, asked in very scornful tone, “ …. and why are you acting like that ?” “you said I am a ‘maharogi’ meaning incurable diseases, so I have just become like one of them”, Moti didi replied, unaffected by her angry tone. She had just imitated, one of the down syndrome children in the Bal Mandir, without even realizing it.

That mockery of humiliation was some thing very amusing to the teen bunch of girls but it added the anger of the didi, and she started scolding them for being so rude and disrespectful towards elders.

She turned towards her colleague, who was there chatting with her from the very beginning and then said in angry tone, “these children are impossible”, the other nanny, Chandra didi was also boy's rooms nanny, supported her feelings. But their scorns were somewhere buried under the loud laughter of teen girls.

This incident was unusual in many ways, specially it mocked the humiliation instantly. Moti didi, was just back from Japan, after a month stay. She had won the special prize, through a dance competition. She had been to Japan through a cultural exchange. She was good and unbeatable in her hobby. Her new found confidence which made her airy about everything around her, could have been the contribution of her recent achievement. Some time, she must have forgotten that at the end of the day, she still lives in the Bal Mandir.

When I look back, I think Moti didi, or one of such act was the reason, which made it possible for us to tolerate all the scornful remarks hurled at us. That mockery was some thing fresh and on the face of somebody, who hurled the scornful remarks.
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The snap

Sunita Giri 10:49 PM |

When my niece came to say with me, I took one snap of her, the very next day. Of course it was for official purpose, her new school needed it for record. I took one more after a month. I thought, I should take one every month, to capture the change; she had been going through.

When she came to stay with me she was thin, which can not be regarded as healthy and slim. Now she is on self impose diet, she is only fourteen. I am quite not sure, I should interfere her or not, for that diet idea of hers. She is worried that she is getting fat too fast. She is healthy and not facing any health problems, even after that self imposed diet program of hers. All this happened in less than three month she came to stay with me, so I am not taking any step to force her to eat more.

However, I gave up the idea of taking her snap every month. That idea pulled me to another memory zone. As usual, I do not remember my exact age, but I only remember that particular incident and the people involved in it, and the lines used on that time frame.

Ajeet, was just admitted in Bal Mandir, my guess here is one of his family member must have accompanied him to leave at the door of Bal Mandir. When his loved one left him on the hands of office staff he started crying, profusely. This kind of picture is quite usual, when a new one joins and sees no familiar face around him/her for some time. Some recover from this phase pretty fast and some take about a week or perhaps more than that, but sooner or later they will recover from this kind of situation.

He was still crying, when he was handed to his new care taker [ room nanny ]. He was in front of the veranda of the room; where he was going to live for some years. Perhaps he was seven or eight years old. His nose was running, his dress was ravaged and dirty. Just like his clothes, he too needed a clean bath, which he will get soon. At that very moment, didi of that room, must have been rummaging in the pile of clothes to find one that fits him, when she gives him the bath.

Then a housemother, Kedar Shrestha, came. She was carrying a camera, in her hand, then she started taking some snaps of Ajeet. When she was taking snaps, she was also talking to herself, “when you guys enter here, you look like this and when you grow up you act like you never have a past like this, I need to take this pictures, so that I can show you when you grow up, how you looked when you entered here.”

If she would have turned back, there I was, slightly behind her. There were others too like me, who was watching her, taking those pictures and listening what she was saying, amid the cries of Ajeet. If she had taken one more picture of me; I bet, I would have been caught in that camera like this: with long face, open mouth, my head turned upwards, trying to read her mind, with slightly raised eyebrows and then that dazed look of a preteen or perhaps early teen girl.

When I reflect now on that particular time frame, those lines really force me to think; not just think, but think hard. If we were not that ravaged looking and did not gave the perfect picture of poor and needy one; will any one of us would have, ever landed in Bal Mandir ? So, what if the food, clothes and education bring change in us, in due course of time ? was not that the main objective of any orphanage around the world ? Provide better life, which otherwise, we would have been deprived off ?

Why staffs in orphanage, in almost all level, think its necessary, like a ritual to remind us how we looked, before we entered in Bal Mandir ? Why they don’t want us to forget the truth ? Why they never wanted us to be normal teenagers, careless and carefree ? Most of those reminding came at the time, when we were so careless and carefree about our past.

If they don’t remind us that way, will we ever find ourselves surrounded by our loved ones like other children ?
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Sunita Giri 10:20 PM |

This year, [2011] we saw more rain than usual, and not just more rain, monsoon started much much earlier than usual time. This much rain, is sure to pull me back to my memory lane.

It could have been early eighties time. Some adult around me kept mentioning it in following years, about the incessant rain. They talked, that year [2036] once it rained, non-stop for 36 hours.

Although, I am quite not sure about the exact time, but what I remember is around that time, when the angry flood swept some parts of villages in Nepal, Bal Mandir, was over flooded with children. Flooded in a sense that; there was not much space for all the children to provide bed, bed clothes and the plates and dinning hall. Probably there were 100 or more children, than it normal capacity of about 200 children at a time.

Some of the children, who arrived was shocked to find themselves inside an orphanage and even hard for them to hear the voice of irritated didis, who could not handle the sudden pressure, beyond their capacity. Some of the children were rich in their own locality. They were living, a lot different life just days before and was shocked to find themselves in an orphanage in a matter of days time. They have lost their parents. Some of them have seen their home swept away in a matter of seconds in front of their eyes and some have watched so helplessly; swept away their family members and loved ones.

What was even more shocking was the behaviour of the Bal Mandir children's. They were not ready to share their bed and blankets with the new comers and they were looking at them as if they were aliens. Perhaps it was due to the flood in their village most of them have not got any chance to take a bath for days so they looked dirty and in their eyes there was fear and loss and blankness.

Needless to mention, didis (room maids) were angry with our selfish behaviour and they were scolding us to share it with new comers, which went on our deaf ears. Huge extra stock of beds/blankets was also not enough to meet the extra demand for the night and they already had used, even quilts, winch is unusual during rainy seasons. Except for few exception, who were ready to share their bed with new comers; others were clinging to their blankets, so that the didis won't snatch it from them and give it to the dirty looking others. That was the week, when most of children were forced to sleep on the floors, for days.

It must have taken about a week or so, to the management team to resettle all the children in another orphanages, for that extra load of children. Bal Mandir has many small branches where they can accommodate many children, within the Kathmandu valley and almost across the country. Like one is in Shiphal and another is in Panchkhal to meet needs of those children of flood victims during the hours of such natural disasters.

Today, when I am full grown, I understand why those didis were so irritated with our selfish behaviour, and angry with us; the new comers were one of us and we were treating them as if they were aliens. Some realization in life comes just too late. I mean little bit too late.
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The Chinese clip

Sunita Giri 9:16 PM | ,

Three teen girls, Junkiri Tamang, Parbati Magar and Ishwory Lama, were in the corner of the upstairs kitchen. This was office kitchen as well as a housemother also used this. They were looking for something to eat and whispering in audible voice to each other. It was an unauthorised area, for the girls who stay in that particular row of rooms in Bal Mandir. They were unknown to the fact, that somebody from nearby was watching them very carefully and they were clueless about it.

When they came out of the kitchen, the lady, office manager called them towards her office but stopped them on the corridor and asked them, “what were you doing their ?”

Trying to be innocent, they replied, with some kind of intimidation “nothing.” She checked their hands but could not find any thing to fetch from these girls, so she had no option but to believe what they were saying.

But when she was about to let them go, she saw an yellow color Chinese clip flaunted by Junkiri. “She gestured me with her left forefinger saying, one minute you come here !” she recalls now. After, thirty plus years later, she still remembers the entire episode as if it happened just yesterday.

“My class mate had given me that clip a couple of days before only. I was also wearing yellow color kurta sulwar that day” she recounted showing us how good her memory power is. “When I went timidly in front of her, she pulled my clips with her left hands - her right hand was bent on her bust permanently - and while she did this she not only messed my hair but pulled me towards her also.” “Can you believe what she did next ?” she asked me, as if I know the answer or I was watching it, when all this was happening, then she replied the answer herself, “she crushed my clips under her feet.”

This incident may not have been worth remembering, to the manager, Mrs. Rawal, when she did such an act but to the girls aging below fourteen years and the other teenage girls watching it from a distance, hiding themselves behind the big doors, was an act unforgettable and unforgivable. No, not because the clip was expensive and had high market value, but because the way, she had made them feel by crushing the clip under her feet. “Why, are we not supposed to wear clips ? her daughter was wearing it, when she last visited here with her mother”, they questioned ? “Should not we wear anything, just because we cant afford one, which is as beautiful as her daughters ?” she raised some serious questions; but there was no one to answer them which could have consoled the hurt teenagers.

The young girls could never ever understand, why she was so cruel and ruthless to such small issue, like Chinese flowery clip.

There are certain things like, a crown may make any sense to grown ups but to a small children, a toy or some other small things like Chinese clip holds more value and importance in their life than a crown.

Did not that manager knew this small thing ? How come she was the manager of the orphanage, without knowing such small thing ?
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Donation from America - Truck load of cloths

Sunita Giri 10:10 PM |

It was late seventies and it was around 9:00 am, an hour before school hour no student had entered the premises yet. I was standing in the center of the entrance. When I am writing this, I am just wondering, how come at that young age - I could have been around seven or younger than that - I was there where a child of my age was not supposed to be, especially at that time. It looks like that scene happened in my dream, only that it was not a dream, because those dresses lasted for 10 years and more.

Although, there are three entrance gates on front face of Bal Mandir; once you enter from the main gate of the Bal Mandir, but in those days all the people used just one entrance to enter inside the Nepal Children’s Organization office, NAFA Art Gallery including the school in the Bal Mandir. The entrance gate, is located at far right side of the Bal Mandir premises. Center one was for the Royals only. Far left side get used for mostly children and the staff at the BM.

On that particular day, when I was there alone, a big truck came. The white color truck was very big. It is the kind of truck they use for you haul or movers/packers company. We see this kind of big trucks only in English movies and then the whole story revolves around, how come a full grown person vanished inside that truck ?

I don't remember how the driver looked like or what he said or asked, I just vanished from there and must have worked as a little bird with a news. This truck was carrying the goods from America, mostly all kinds of clothes including sucks, shoes, caps and blankets. About the blanket, it is rumored that it can not be bought even today here in Nepali market, because of being very high quality of blanket, but to tell you the truth I never saw them or was I just too young to remember all of it . But a blanket of that high quality should has lasted for more than 10 years rights ?

When they emptied the truck one biggest size room was not enough to stack all the goods. In that big room it was filled from floor to ceiling and from this corner to that corner and it took more than four years to empty that room with those clothes and other goods. Then they kept those goods in other smaller stores.

I grew up hearing the rumors that, that big room had three keys, one was with a housemother, Kedar Shrestha, another one was with front office manager, and the third key was with Royal family. When I grew more, I do remember one name more than any other royals, who was particularly interested in those dresses, its Komal Sarkar - as we used to say royals in those days - she is the last ousted queen, her name came repeatedly, who came to select cloths from the piles. Some big girls do keep talking about a ‘poncho’ which was so beautiful, I mean so beautiful almost every one wanted to have hands on it, when it made its way to her home.

First, the royals used to scan cloths, then the housemother used to select the best and good ones, after that we used to get a chance to wear the remaining lot of it. Still it would be too much to say we used to get the tattered ones. There were so much of it, their selecting hardly made any difference. Perhaps for some reason, the donors knew; how the things work in Nepal. That truck load of cloths was enough to distribute 200 children for almost 10 years or may be more than that. Surely in the later years it has dried up a bit but, we were wearing one of those dresses, until I was on tenth standard. That truck came when I could have been in first or second grade.

I was also rumored that the housemother used to select the best one from the lot and then she used to take it home and then sell it from there. Rumor has it, that she had build a brand new house in the heart of the city - Ason, with the money, she made from those selling. But she died long before she could even move in that house.

It was not just the royals and the office staff at NOC and housemothers and supervisors of the Bal Mandir, even the children at the Bal Mandir, used to steal cloths ans sell good quality sneakers.

Children used to steal those cloths mainly as a give away to others, who came in Bal Mandir, to admit their child but could not get in their child due to limited sit or the parents or relatives who visited their kins occasionally. Some gave it to class mates who were not very good condition than that of us. But some of the big boys and girls used to steal it and then sale it. Couple of boys and girls were expelled from Bal Mandir, due to the same reason. Those who got caught, were not smart enough to escape from the loot. Some of the staff at the Bal Mandir, made house out of those selling, yet they never get caught.

But one more important mention is a must here, that big truck load of goods was the first and last I [we] have seen in the Bal Mandir premises. There was a rumour that Uma Panday, who was on the highest ranking position of the NCO, was not happy that other people rather the the children are benefiting from those cloths. So, it is said that she wrote a letter to the sponsoring body in USA, not to send any more, ‘whats the use, if the needy does not get benefited in pure senses from those givings’ was her logic.

That logic has weight on it, has not it ?

Perhaps she knew a lot more what was going on there, I mean a lot more than what I have written here. Otherwise why would she write such letter to those sponsors ?
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The punishment - I

Sunita Giri 9:29 PM |

I really can not remember how old I was, when this incident happened, I just remember the incident. At that time I was still in a room, where children under ten years old used to be placed.

Indra Karki, was perhaps was the only male supervisor in Bal Mandir, when I was young. Rest all other supervisors were women they are also known as housemothers. One male supervisor was perhaps needed to control teen bunch of boys. But control has different meaning to different people and how much of one’s controlling habit should come alive to maintain the discipline in children under sixteen, come with different size of baggage from all kind of background and most importantly, who are orphans is another different topic for debate, I guess.

All the children - big or small - in Bal Mandir, is expected not to throw any meal they are served on their plate, even though they could not finish it. Ask how much you need and if you ask for it finish it was his logic. This logic is understandable to adult and nothing is wrong with this logic. Before we stay for a meal we were reminded, almost daily, not to throw any left overs, try to finish it.

It does make all the sense.

Ever since I was a child; I am scared to chew my rice due to ample of stones on it. Stones on our rice is perhaps some authorities concept of making us strong, mentally and physically. As they guessed, I am that what they had thougth, strong mentally and physically. There is no doubt on this fact, people who know me closely know this very well.

Even today, I don’t chew rice and don’t know when was the last time I had chewed it ? that childhood fear of grinding stones in between my molars almost daily is just too much and is not easy to forget. Just like, that long white insect on our meal, which used to stare at us menacingly. Yes, when they were on our plate they were dead long ago yet the fear is so much to young children when it used to stare at us with its back eyes, just when we were about to eat our meal. These two things is enough to send all my nerves on numb mode.

One day, when I had finished my meal, and about to walk out of the dinning hall, the supervisor stopped me at the exit point, where normally one housemother or a supervisor used to stand by until we finish our meal. I cant remember how much was there on my plate but perhaps it was enough to catch his attention. Then he told me to finish it with his thunder like threatening tone.

All the children were also expected to clear the area, where we stay for meal before we leave the place alone with our plate. What was on my place was the portion of the litter which I had messed on the floor around my plate so I could not eat it even though he kept repeating to rfinish what was left on my plate. Suddenly, I was the center of all eyes in that dinning hall.

Because I did not obey his order so he had to punish me. What he did next must have left many jaws wide open and must have scared them but that is what I did not see. Because, he caught my belly with his one hand and then raised me above his head and then he repeated it twice, as if he was doing some kind of exercise and I was serving as his dumbbell.

Let me tell you one thing here, I was never a lean and thin child, I could have been ten years old or below than that, just cant remember how old I was then. I was not the first child nor I was the last one, who had provided him the kind of pleasure, that exercise or punishment gave him.

Damn ! my bad memory power. I can not remember what happened after that, did I vomit after that, did I cry, how painful that was. most importantly did that changed my habit to clean my plate in following days ? Just cant remember. In my blur memory, I think I made me to clean my plate by force before he let me go out of that dinning hall. But as i said Damn ! my bad memory.

It seems that, that punishment had not changed my habit to clean my plate and throw some left overs, until I was in first year of my collage. It was my boyfriend [then], who had changed my that habit completely.

When he saw me doing the same, he said “respect the grains, other wise it might curse you”, I asked, “does rice has mouth to curse me ?” this is the question I[we] used to raise when I was in BM. Then he told me, “I have seen people, who were not respectful to grains and used to throw it like anything, but it was not long after that they were crying for two times decent meal.”

That worked wonder on me, instead of that harsh punishment, but the point is would I have understood the same logic, when I was less than a 10 years old ?

When we were growing up in Bal Mandir, staff both junior or senior at the Bal Mandir as well as Management team at NOC, used to expect us to be more reasonable, more sensible, more responsible and more understanding to the situation around us, just because of our background. What they ignored is we were just like any other children and any other normal teenagers; careless and carefree, about our future.

When I look back, one thing that really surprise me is, why have not we got horns on our head, we should have got one set of it by all those punishment and lecturing for being orphans. But, there sure is invisible horn, that kind of punishment nurtured so much hatred and disrespect in our young hearts towards the adult around us, its not easy to wash off in times flood water also.
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I love you - just like my daughter

Sunita Giri 10:15 PM |

I was only on fifth grade and I could have been, about 11 years old then. I was one in a small group to learn how to stitch and sew but for this we have to go to Shiphal - a branch of NCO for boys only. It must have been arranged during the long winter vacation, to keep us occupied because on normal days we have to go to school.

There, I have first met Mrs. Krishna Shrestha, our new teacher, who was to teach us, how to stich and run sewing machine. I was so young to run the machine, that I do remember I had pierced my middle finger by the thick needle of sewing maching during my initial days at the sewing room.

By the time, I was on seventh grade, she had already moved in the Bal Mandir. We used to to make all the cloths we needed for our daily needs. There in the sewing room, we have to sew all kind of dresses for 200 children. Like school dress, nighties and dashain cloths. Therefore, it was one of the busies room and her job was to cut the clothes, so we can run it under the machine and give it a complete look.

Despite the age difference, she and I were compatible and comfortable sharing our thoughts with each others. I am very short tempered and she is very cool by nature or she can hide it so well her feelings from the people around her, whatsoever so we were easy to talk on any thing. I was her confidant also in some cases.

Sewing was never my favourite work but if you had listen to her then she had no complaint about my work and thought I loved it. In fact, I don’t like it at all and pick up the needle once in a blue moon for sewing purpose, until the situation gets pretty ugly. My favourite pass time work has always been knitting, but hate the part when it comes to stitching it to give it a complete look.

On the contrary, then she had all prise for my work my guess is, for that very reason she must have liked me. Occasionally, she used to say that I am just like her daughter, Ruby her oldest daughter was only couple of years younger than me. How much she liked and loved me came pretty close, when I was in seventh grade. Perhaps, its been only months she had moved to Bal Mandir for her job. I was around thirteen then.

One day she sat me down and asked me a serious question; she had been wanting to ask me for long, but was not quite sure of it. She asked me to be her domestic maid. She said she will send me to school and all I have to do is to help her to do her household chores and stay in her home. Her logic was, I was sharp, I was good at my work and bright also to cover my study even if I do all the household chores.

She perhaps was the first person in my life, who had said she loved me, liked me and feed me and now she was telling me to be her maid in return. “You are just like my daughters” is all ringing in my head and even today, whenever I see her, this lines reels in my mind and the meaning of it along with her intentions.

I do take some of the big decision of my life in just 3 seconds without even blinking my eyes, and this one is one of that. Damn ! my poor memory power !! I cant remember how much she feed me in the following weeks to change my mind and hear ‘yes’.

When I said ‘NO’, she talked with Bhagbati Sharma. I do not know, wheather she had consented for this work or not but she was allowed to leave Bal Mandir to work as a domestic helper. The person who sealed this deal for the final approval for this work was Mrs. M. K. Shrestha. If Krishna Shrestha, was the neck Mrs. M.K. Shrestha, was the head and everybody knows this, without neck; head can not nod. I have never ever in my life seen a person who is as manipulative as Krishna Shrestha. If she needs something from a person, she wont have any problem kissing that person feet either.

In the following years, I did detach myself from this lady, who loved me like her daughter and wanted me as her maid. But I do remember the face of Bhagbati Sharma. her look was the perfect face of a lost child - she was still playing the dolls when she was taken as a domestic maid - and one more thing, I have not seen such malnourished person here in Nepal, such face is something you can see only on CNN when they are covering stories of drought and famine effected Africa. Some say its her face which is very thin with sharp features and body wise she is not that thin, but if you see her face that hardly vanish from your eyes without lingering there for long to keep you wondering why ? She hardly stepped out of that narrow home of Krisha Shrestha, Babar Mahal, during her stay in that home for about 15 years. That home was the whole universe for her. So much to that that she was not even allowed to talk to her close relatives who were staying near by her home. She is very private person and knows very well, how to keep secrets of her home within the boundary. Bhagbati Sharma, was never sent to school either.

When she was sent off from her home only after she was married to a guy couple of years ago, she left the home with cheap bedding's, you have to use your wildest imagination to see how cheap it was.

Every time I see her, one thought never leaves me, I could have been in her place and that condition. Normally Bal Mandir, is a rescue shelter for such children and never sends any one off as a domestic maid, to my knowledge this perhaps was the first case from Bal Mandir.

And in the following years these authority keep wondering what went wrong ? What did we to these people and why they never shows an ounce of gratitude for us and why these children are so disrespectful ! Why ? not even for the position they held !

Here in Nepal, keeping a minor as a domestic helper means the person is very sympathetic towards such people but does this applies to the one which one gets from the orphanage, Bal Mandir is a lot better, in fact 10 times better place to be in rather than the Mrs. Shrestha, house as a domestic maid.

No other domestic helper lasted in Krishna Shrestha’s home more that a year once Bhagbati, was sent off. Who will last if she has to pay them as per the market rate ? and who will stay if one has option to stay or not ? If only you get one from Bal Mandir, you don’t have to pay them as long as they stay in your home, do you Mrs. Shrestha ?
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Greed has no depth

Sunita Giri 10:11 PM |

When I was growing up in Bal Mandir, as a school girl, we had to do some household chores, which is quite normal you know. Some chores were given to us, when we reach at certain age or class. Like cleaning rise and lentils was given to us, when we reach about 7th grade.

Normally, this is a task of Aayas ( didis ). On weekdays room nannies used to do the task on rotation. during the weekends it was the turn for the young girls. In a group there used to be about 4-5 girls to clean two times rice and lentils for 200 children plus staff. There were many girls, who were studying in 7th grade and above that so a groups’ turn used to come once, in about three or four months only. The task normally used to take about two hours after half day at school, to clean that much rice and lentils.

But, once there was so dirty rice, I mean so dirty rice 5 girls and four hours was not enough to clean it properly. The rice was more than dirty; there was so many stones to be sorted out from the rice, many big and small and it was equally dusty as well as so many dried long white insects. While dusting and sorting out the rice we looked like, as if we have been doing the cleaning work for whole day instead of couple of hours as the dust had covered our hair and it had made us very cranky too. We were cursing the people who brought such dirty rice for us to eat.

More than three hours later also we have not finished cleaning the rice. It was already time to cook evening meal for the day, so when one of the cook came to collect rice he was surprised that we have not finished it. We all were so angry specially, me for being in the group to clean such dirty rice.

So he asked us, “have you girls finished cleaning it, so that we can start cooking, other wise it will be late for the evening meal.” I have become so crankier and about to cry, I pointed toward the drums where the done rice and lentils was kept, he even double checked it, “Is this the finished one, can I take it ?”, in the state when we all were so irritated and angry I answered ‘yes’.

That evening when the rice was served on our plate the sound of stone could be heard so clearly. That was not enough the dust on it made rice so sticky. One of my friend still talks about it, that her hands used to smell hours after we had our meal. that smelly hand incident is something, I can’t remember but except one. What happened that day was in the crankiest mood and state of mind, we had pointed towards, the cook had taken the wrong drums by mistake. the drums that needed to be cleaned not the cleaned one.

More than 20 plus years later, I shared this incident with Mrs. M. K. Shrestha, who was on the management team of the Bal Mandir, when we were eating such rice. She said she had no idea, we were eating such food. But whenever there is rumours that Bal Mandir, is going through sever financial crisis, she always wonders asking, “how come ? When we left Bal Mandir, it was so rich it has millions of property (fixed as well as liquid assets ) to run Bal Mandir, smoothly for many more years to come.”

We were having such dirty food not because BM, never had enough money to feed us but because it was the greedy and corrupt staff at the BM, who feed us that kind of dirty and cheap rice. More they don't get caught for feeding us cheapest food and more they keep making money out out it. They became more and more greedy by the passing days. Specially, store keeper- Arjun Basnet, who was in charge of groceries purchase.

It was not because of the lack of money in Bal Mandir, we were having such shoddy foods, but greedy people saw opportunity to make money in our name and they were the people in power and position. If it was for these people to feed us they would perhaps find a dirtiest rice like that a lot better for us. Thank God, they were only greedy and corrupted staff.

Years later, perhaps 10 years must have gone by the time we had that filthy rice, there was a rumour about Arjun Basnet, storekeeper, that he had accumulated properties and became rich in such short time during his tenure in BM, his neighbours in his home area became suspicious about his work and wanted to form a group against him and report about this, who and where is not known to me. But my readers should know very well, this is Nepal; they talk and talk and talk behind the back and when they have to come up front to speak what they know, they suddenly realise that they have nothing to say against him. I promise, you will get a chance to read more about him in my future post.

When I look back and try to understand, why we were eating such food, it seems that its not just the storekeeper, but the government sales depot from where the the grocery was bought for us, had to be equally corrupted and responsible for shoddy food we were having, and what about the supplier who supplied that kind of rice, to government depot ? Storekeeper can choose a cheapest rice but he cant instruct the government staff at the sales depot, to add stones and dust (the rise was adulterated with full conscious mind of the suppliers, as you can not find in the local market even today that kind of filtyest rice at cheapest cost to buy from normal retail store) as an ingredients inside the rice sack. Government officer can make the deal based on handsome bribe but still won’t ( I am sure on it or I must be too naive to know how the government staff works ) tell a businessman what all to add in that rice sack. He definitely wont shake hands for extra stones, dust and dried long white insects, which after cooked, became taller more swollen, used to look at us as if asking, how dare you look at me and who cares you are hungry or not, with its big black eyes when we are so hungry and about to eat it. Unless and until, strong nepotism existed, like uncle is in government job to clinch the deal and nephew is suppliers of such foods.

That was the time when the Royals was running the NCO as well as Bal Mandir, were very kind towards us that they used to send us, even a small bawls of meat they had hunted in the jungle. It does not matter it was not enough for 200 people for one time curry, it was enough only for taste bud but the point is they used to send it that small portion of food also, was all matters.

But making money in the name of orphans, needy and poor is not a new thing or business for many people; it happens around the world and every country and century.

You must have heard of the warlords of Somalia, how they are so powerful enough to fight security force from US and UN, in the country where people are dying with drought and famine for decades. They fight for the food items sent to that country. Couple of years ago, I had watched a news coverage on the Star News - India. It was reported how, the 2,000 crore project to uplift the slum dwellers of India (Dharavi) was halted due to the corrupt bureaucrats. Every body was making money, the project engineer and the government bureaucrats were getting 15% on one flat for those people and others junior staff were getting 10%, the list went on. The one who were not getting full service and product was poor people still living in the slum area.

I am also presuming you all must have watched The Pianist. In this Oscar wining movie, when the pianist was locked in a room and was about to die, due to the scarcity of food to eat and when was boiling potatoes only the caretaker was on loot spree. Do you remember the scene, when he had asked the pianist’s watch to sell, so that he could buy food for him. But the fact was, people were pouring their hearts out to give food stuffs to keep him alive. That scene is stamped on my mind when he learns about it through the lady, who was doing every thing to keep him alive. The pianist almost chocked.

Even we read and know all this kind of information all we need is a couple of kind hearted people, but the irony is that all these people end up working with the corrupt people - not intentionally - to run such orphanages, shelters or agencies.
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Royal Link-up

Sunita Giri 10:47 PM |

When Shova Acharya, was admitted in the Bal Mandir, in about early eighties, she was around ten years old. There were bruise all over her body, specially her back, blue and purple. One of my friend remembers even today, that there were hardly any space left on her body, where the bruise was not there, except her eyes. She was so traumatized after sever beating and electrocution, that it took her months to recover from that nightmare like realality. She was so scared of the sites of an adults specially men, even passing from her side. Although, Bal Mandir, has more ladies staffs compared to male still even a shadows of men haunted her many more months after that.

As I was collecting the information about her, half of which I have already forgotten but chatting with my old pals from the Bal Mandir, was very helpful. Many name keep coming up and all the names sounded so familiar, which had been buried in the time memory zone.

While living in the Bal Mandir, generally we do not dig any information about our roommates or other big or small ones but we do know his/her story from the housemothers. They tell us those in very wrog way, when they get angry with a particular person and use the persons history to scold them, to shrink them and to abuse them. Very few people talk about how they have landed in Bal Mandir, its not that they are shy about it because every body has almost the same story. They are children, normal children wanting to forget their horrible past and more that that the normal life in an orphanage filled with 200 people keeps you busy in many different task rather keeping your mind occupied thinking, all the time what landed us there.

But Shova’s story of landing in Bal Mandir, was a lot different than most of us. Her story was rather unsual.

Shova Acharya, was a domestic maid, she had been working in that house ever since she was very young to be a domestic maid. In fact, as she shared it with her room mates in BM, it was her mother, who had sold her to a very influential people of the society. Her mother told her one day she will come back to meet her, but Shova, shared with her room mates, she never came during her stay in that home. One name she will never ever forget even if she wants to in her life, is Pushpa Chalise, resident of Dilli Bazar, Kalikasthan, who was the main culprit to torture her brutally. What she had gone through, was the height of brutality only the kind of people face it on war time prison not outside the prison cell. No child or even adult should suffer and go through what she had gone through.

The story surfaced like this: one day Shova, saw the lady having physical relation with other man, when her husband was out. She feared that this girl might fill the ear of her husband got her so much so that, she started torturing her to the max. The kind of brutal behaviour that force any civilized citizen of the society to think; is this human behaviour ? Is this kind of punishment is normal for such situation ? She was beaten with sticks, smacked with whatever she could have hands on kicked and she was even kept on top of burning electric heater, the policemen ran the electric rods on her body and also tried their kicking power on her when she was only around ten and lean, she was very helpless to help herself from any angle. Its also rumoured that once they had even rolled her in a bundle ready to take her to bury, presuming that she was dead, meaning that such was the force of torture. How the story was out from the boundary of the Lady's house is also pretty interesting. Irony of the truth is that it was, one of the sons of Pushpa Chalise, who had let the cat out of bag. The details of how is not know clearly. The people I am in touch, can give me only the details of after she was in BM, and then what she told and what surfaced on the courtroom while fighting for the case.

After she was admitted in the Bal Mandir, one of the manager, Bhubaneshowery Satyal, who was on Sr. management of the NCO, had fought for Shova. She had grown very personal attachment after hearing her horrible story. I came to know that the managers of the NOC had lost the case because of Pushpa Chalise’s link-ups to the Royal palace, mainly to the late queen Ayshwora Saha. Bal Mandir, was running totally under the royal family, which made Pushpa Chalise, untouchable and nobody could budge her off even in the courtroom. At least Shova, was rescued from the death trap and landed in Bal Mandir.

But right now my mind is racing fast, why those policemen was testing their kicking powers on that helpless child ? How come those policemen were used to kick her ? was she married to any high ranking police personnel ? or does this indicate that the other man was from the high ranking police officer ? How come Chalise family have the royal link ups ? who was related to royal family ? what was the connection that made her above the law ?

But when I was growing up in BM, what I knew about her was that she was beaten brutally because she had stolen and sold some of the household stuffs when the masters were not in their home. Keeping in mind of her age and physical and mental condition, nobody could believe she was beaten that way for something like that. Now it makes more sense with the above story and the blue and purple stains all over her body. Perhaps that was the first time we have seen that kind of blue and purple bruise on some body's back.

I do remember one more name in this whole story; Ananda Bhattarai, who had covered one article for the ‘Balak’, a children's magazine, which NCO published every month. Shova’s story was published along with all her pictures following the month she was admitted in the Bal Mandir.

Shova Acharya, was sweet and in her later years, she became like any other teenagers careless and carefree about the future. Even though, some of the management members wanted her to do best in her studies. Of course, she was a very bright student never came below third position in her class thought out her school life. She fell in love with a guy who lived near by Bal Mandir, Naxal and married very young, disappointing some from the management team of NOC, who wanted her to be very successful in life and show the lady who had torture her when she was so young. She married young and became the mother of two son, and then her husband died when her two children was still young.

I have bumped with her on the busy street of New Road, more than a decade ago. Her eyes was beaming with the picture of bright future when she was talking about leaving the country for America.
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