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.

1 comment:

Henry Scobie said...

Here is a terrific thread on the Kathmandu children home rackets:

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2032255&start=0&limit=1000

The entire thread is worth reading.

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