You are what you read

Sunita Giri 11:35 PM |

A couple of years ago I was watching this news on Indian channel where the anchor was interviewing this young boy of 12 years who was doing his computer course in college that was even tougher for guys of their early twenties. But it was easy for the boy to do that course in college. The anchor wanted to find out why the boy is so exceptionally brilliant and that too at that tender age.The boy had a sister of 7 years old girl, who had already completed her SLC equivalent from India. In an effort to trying to track down the parents being well educated it turned out, that the boy belonged to a lower middle class family, meaning uneducated parents.

Because they were just too young to ask what you do to hone your brain, she asked him, “what do you eat to be so brainy like this, I mean what is your favourite food ? ”  The boy was very docile, decent regardless of exceptional achievement in school and college at that age  replied very meekly that his favourite food is ‘khichadi’. This particular food is not associated with any thing that is going to make your memory gain or adding something essential in brain. I think, khichadi only fills your stomach, when you are hungry like a ghost, nothing more than that. He coming from lower middle class family, made him so humble and unpretentious too; as they say all the gifted people like him would be. The interview after that got only funnier for me, when the news anchor was trying to make the news out of nothing. Especially  not knowing how to stretch that news in any better way.

There is this one saying goes on in so many ways, as it is easy to mold it in any way it fits to the taste of writer. Some say, you are what you eat, and some say  you are what you read. But recently my friend told me one more version of the same line you are what you do. I reacted that I have never ever heard this term then he gave me his personal experience on this matter. How a relative of his was working in America, flaunting her money and diamond and property here, but she had not made doing something very respectful work. What she used to do was very menial work and she was in touch with those who did made their living doing same menial work. As he puts it, “the words she used in her lines was just scary, purely because the people she interacted in her daily life.”

As a child, if there was anything to keep my overactive brain to focus on something, all I needed; was to do reading. But, I was growing up in Bal Mandir. I don't want to say I did not get a chance to read books, by saying so, books meant all the romantic Indian novels, which my best friend Bobby used to borrow it from her classmates. I loved reading it as it gave me that desired to read anything that was available, I did not care what it was ?

Don't get me wrong, Bal Mandir did have libraries, but it was not for us. Those staff, they really acted strange and treated unbelievable at times; beyond my brain really can come up with convincing answer to that kind of behaviour to us.  The Incharge who used to take care of this particular room enjoyed shooing us. That beautiful lady, whose name is Geeta Basnet just became so ugly after her shoo shoo act; as if we were not the human children. But, why I am even wasting my time talking about they treating us like that, not like human children whenever they saw us near the hall, that was  very common behaviour then.

Bal Mandir also did have many rooms that was closed for many years and nobody entered in those rooms. Dark rooms, due to closed doors and windows was scattered with books and books all over the floors and stacked books randomly, was just a place for me to visit. Oh, I am sure that you don't get confused, when I use the word visit. Honestly speaking I [we] had to sneak in those room via windows only that too without any torchlights. some of the rooms was so dark it was not easy to figure out which book is good to read and pick up and those dirt filled books, half of them were so damaged from corners of it; were in fact gave me the chance to travel around the world, without leaving my room. But, when I look back it seems to me that those sneaking, just paid me so much knowledge. I did get a chance to read so many classic children's story books, that  otherwise would not have been made available to us. See stealing is not bad at times, specially when you are going for books.

Okay, I have to admit it now, given a chance to reverse my childhood to change one thing only, the one thing I would like to change would be, books and lots of good books I would like to add in my childhood than anything else. Yet, it seems that I did get a fair share of books reading than some of the people I did interacted later in my life. It seems that its  purely individual interest when it comes to reading or spending one's spare time.

This just reminded me one small incident. Just a couple of years ago, I made one small list of children’s book for a Children’s home here and handed it over to the Madam S*, Chairman of the children home. Due to sensitivity of the case I am just not using her name and that children home also. Total cost of the book did not even cross more than Rs. 5000; still her response and unwillingness to spend that much money just stunned me.  Why they are so unwilling to spend that much money for couple of good books for about 100 children ? Its not their money to give that kind of radical decision for something as simple and inexpensive like classic children's book. One of those suggested list also contained a VOW’s [Voice of women] monthly subscription to the children’s home and an old copy of Elle, Vogue, or Cosmopolitan. It so happened that, madam S. son seem to be a regular reader of VOW magazine.

I would like to clear here one thing I wanted only one copy of any years old version of Elle, Vogue or Cosmopolitan. That kind of magazine teach so many things to growing up girls around the world.

But then I was even more shocked to hear her response; when she was not ready to provide even the old collections of her son, to the children home. It was not just she, who disagreed with me to add  good books in children home’s library for children, but it was her brain also who agreed with me. Opps,  sorry his name is Manish Shrestha, who went on to such length to explain to me, why its not a good idea to keep those books in children’s library.

That lady, who shooed us when I was just a child, whenever she saw us nearby library must have thought books were definitely not for us. It's pretty interesting to understand, even trying to read human mind, and their behaviour during situation like that. And twenty plus years after the response of Madam S, who was in the management of NCO when I was growing up Bal Mandir still force me to think hard.

Why they think we should not be provided the easy access to books or in library ? Since when books and magazines are also part of somebody’s prestige ? What wrong reading some magazines that fall in expensive bracket ?

It is said that Japanese are the most healthiest in the universe; due to their eating habit but brainy people are around the globe and I strongly believe we are more than what we eat. We are what we read, we are defined by the brain not by bread. When I look back it seems absolutely true to me.

*Madam S. was in the management team of Bal Mandir and I know her since I was about 10 year or younger than that.
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A Cultural Difference ?

Sunita Giri 12:31 AM |

After watching Dishanirdesh that was aired on July 12, 2012 episode; it got me thinking really hard. That particular episode covered the life and work of Dil Shova Shrestha. She sure has a lot to share from her personal side and and lot to give including her life for the others who need her help. A Complete devotion of her life to those who need her help more than she needs them in her life.

She herself does not come from very well-to-do-family family back ground to give all what she has. Instead it's not enough to give all what she has to meet all the daily cost, that is needed to run her charity work. She has sheltered 85 people in her own home and then provides all the other needs in their life as much as she could. Forty estranged old ladies mostly she picked them up from the street or some police felt sorry after seeing them on the street left them at her ‘Aama Ghar’, and forty five conflict affected children from Karnali Zone.

To my knowledge till date, I do not know; I mean read or heard of a rich person devoting his/her life to a cause which is as big as what Dil Shova Shrestha is doing. They just give money to help. But they do not give life for such a big cause like that, unless and until they themselves have gone through, the tragic phase as Dil Shova Shrestha had been through.

Leave all this aside this is not what I saw when I watched this show. From my angle, I see there was lots of tear and lack of money and besides all that she is running her good deed without expecting anything from anyone. She takes it happily when somebody gives it to her. It could be a person or a  government. She however do not believe or practice in going out and asking [raising ] money for what she is doing.

As a child, who grew up in Bal Mandir, it was very uneasy kind of feelings for me to watch her teary story. No, not when she was sharing about her personal tragedy but specially when she had to cry fearing that her house that shelters 85 people might go under hammer. A friend of her put that house as a collateral saying only for couple of months but its her house that has to go under hammer. Every time she sees the notice on daily it hurt her so much the tear flows freely from her eyes. About a year ago Finance Minister, Bharat M. Adhikari allotted to give her two million [ 20 lac ] but it was the Samaj Kalyan Mantralaya, who scraped it to one million [10 lac ] only saying they have to distribute it to others also. That amount was given to her so that her house won't be on this list of auction list of bank. Remember, she never used that money for her own use or for her charity work. That scrap mentality of Samaj Kalyan Mantralaya is made me only think. Who others ? are there any other who is doing this kind of worship all on her own ? Which other person shelters that huge number of dependant ? I doubt it and I truly doubt the intention of the scrapping the budget that was allotted to her good work. But again there is whole other side of the story also.

Life in fact, was indeed quite easy as a child in Bal Mandir for anyone like me who was growing up there. Never seen money, but never needed any; as it was not up to us to worry about anything we needed in our daily life. Of course, there were things, we did not get when we wanted all the time when we needed. And the ugly part of all that came with a line, “you have to be in your parents house to get what you want.” Although, today when I am all grown up, know that it is not true; at least not all the time. Having patents is not the end solution of world’s problem end of solution to one's problem, as it was made believe to all of us when I was a child.

When I say life indeed was a lot better, when I was growing up as a child. May be I was a child and it was the golden age of life. But, I remember when I was growing up in Bal Mandir hardship of money was not our issue or problem, lack of money was not our headache too. We had shelter on our head, cloth on our body in fact plenty of food on our plates. On top of that we used to go to school do all other kind of after school programs also and that too just at our doorstep.

The difference between her work and my childhood had own huge similarity and at the same time huge cultural difference. Bal Mandir was ran by Royals but funded by westerns countries to keep going on. They say Bal Mandir is a very rich orphanage. There was a whole bunch of staff to take care of us and a whole management team to plan it to keep going. Still there was whole different group of people who were working harder to get the fund in european or western countries. But mainly it's from UK. Royals of UK had joined hands with our Royals and they were the ones who used to do the fundraising there. There used to be plenty of donation not just in terms of money but clothes and foods in abundance from not only that country but from many other countries too. I really don’t know for what reason but there were Americans who stood tall in givings and used to send food to us. That nutritious food division is also a division of Bal Mandir, I guess that loads of food came not only for Bal Mandir it was for nationwide distribution not only too children home but for schools also I mean Government ran poor schools in remote part of the country.

The fund and donations just poured in not for a year, for many more years to come so that they can shelter about 200 children in Bal Mandir, and there were many more small branches of Bal Mandir around the nation, because there was never a money problem, when Royals were still the one who were running it.

The donation was so abundant that children in the Bal Mandir alwasys doubted that the NCO’s staff or managers stole from those donation. But interestingly there were still plenty left for us to eat or wear.

As a child, I had not seen tear on anybody’s eye due to financial problem; but may be for that very reason they were very harsh or rough with us; but that again its just only maybe.

Dil Shova runs her good work, which is almost like a worship if giving is a form of worship. Solely on her own or the donation given purely by Nepali people even if its the government at times. As she shares it with Bijay Kumar on his TV show, “when they see me on program they flock in to my door then they slowly forget soon, I wonder why ?” "Some people ask me are government or any NGO giving you money or helping you in any form ?" that question makes her wonder why they ask me that kind of question, I am doing my work without expecting anything from anyone."
And this is where it made me wonder, is this just a cultural difference or believe ? that there was no tears in my childhood who raised us and Dil Shova has so many tears to share despite her strong believe in God, and He meeting all her needs. I do not remember eating black tea without sugar. In fact I do not knew people do eat tea without sugar also. There were plenty of good food which poured in as donation and in fact, NCO’s staff did stole it; purely it was just too good stuff for us to eat.

If not all but good sum of the percentage of the money and majority of the donations [goods and stuff] came from western countries can run bigger children home. At the same time half the size only 85 person purely on Nepali fund. There is so much lack of fund. She is eating rice without lentil and black tea without sugar tells a whole story about how sever the lack of fund is there. She wishes nobody dies at her home because one death [that cost only 5000-6000] per death means a whole month of unbalance in finance, because those death directly affects the basic food in Ama Home.  

This is the hard truth of cultural difference in eastern and western believe of giving. Just then I would like to mention this line which I copied from 'Daring to leave on the Edge'. This is why christian in Asia and Africa and Latin America need to be taught to give to missions and to the poor and needy in other countries. Unless we teach developing nations the power of giving, the poor will be kept poor.

The line above really hammers the believe, we can give if only we have to give. Give even if you yourself are at the receiving end is the core idea of power of giving, which I learned after reading this book by Loren Cunningham.
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Education v/s teach them to fish

Sunita Giri 10:39 PM |

When it comes to running any children’s home, there always will be a conflict of thought in two schools of believe. One school of thought believes to provide them all they need, along with the good education; so that these children will be self-dependent later in future so that one day they can survive in this society with ease.

The other school of thought always ready to argue, that no, not just education but these children needs to be trained in vocational works. All kinds of vocational works that is, in need of day in day out works which will help them to live in society; such as sewing, carpeting and weaving carpets. Based on a philosophy like, if you give a fish to a man, it will feed him only for a day, but if you teach that man to fish; he can sustain his whole life with that learning.  

Children’s Vocational Center at Shiphal is one of the branch of Bal Mandir, which was opened perhaps based on the above believe. If you have been reading my blog posts regularly, I have mentioned in my earlier posts that, I was a part of sewing class long before I even entered at the age bracket of teen. If my memory power serves me well, I was only about twelve, but its has to be during holiday. I mean long winter holidays. I along with other group of girls, used to go to Shiphal for learning or maybe sewing dresses. I was so young, when I sit on the sewing machine, I ran the needle on my finger tips. It was my middle finger but which hand [right or left] I don't even remember today; just like I don't remember, who were other girls with me who used to go to learn this training.

Some people may find tailoring and stitching fun, but it may all depend on who taught you or where you learned all this. To me, it was one of the most boring work on earth. At the same time, I was okay student; as for my teacher and she some what kind of liked me also until, I found out the real intention hidden behind it; why she liked me. Read my earlier post, I love you just like my daughter to find out the reason in details.

Then Shiphal was the place where all the dresses for three children’s home used to get ready, including for its own boys. Bal Mandir which is in Naxal, Children's Vocational Centre which is in Shiphal and another one which I dont know its name but only by its area place as its being at Panchkhal. It was the boys, who used to get ready all the dresses for more than 350 children [perhaps]. Bal Mandir alone had and have around 200 children and I don't know how many other two children’s home had total number of children then.

There used to be a cutting master, who used to cut all the dresses and the big boys [ 14 - 16 years of age] ran it on the machine. To most of the people, it was after school program; and some boys used to go to morning classes and they used to sew all day long and once the day school boys came back from school,they used to do it on relay.

I myself did this for about three years after my morning class when I was in class eight; I did this until I was in tenth grade. It was a full day job kind of thing for us. So, it meant by the time I was in eighth grade, the centralized makig dresses had been decentralised and children from the respective home used to make dresses for all the other children.

When I look back, although I have no regrets for what happened to me and how the situation surrounded us, all those teach them to fish idea was stealing our childhood from us, and nothing more than that. Besides its a failed concept also.

I did check with couple of my friends, “do you know, anyone who makes living, based on the vocation classes that was given to us ?”, all the answer came in “No”.  I, myself do not have heard of anyone, irrespective of they being boy or girl who make their living based on who have spent life in Bal Mandir just like me and then they were moved to Shiphal later on when they were in high school. Yes, there are people who got engaged in some garment work for some time; but it was only for short time not for long.

Why even a most practical aspect of making a living like tailoring  and carpeting has also failed attempt,  when some are so fond of designing and the word ‘fashion’  and furniture being a part of a lifestyle ?

Personally for me it looks like that, if a person hates to cook and still cooks and people who have to eat it anyway, will never ever have disciple in his team, who will have a passion for cooking and will follow the dream of it in life time. I strongly believe that, this is the same case here. So much money poured and so many children lost their childhood just to find out that it was an absolutely failed idea.

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Five fingers are not equal

Sunita Giri 5:05 AM |

It was the end of 1988, when there was a first of its kind reunion meeting of the people who have left Bal Mandir in all these years. Coincidentally, this was also the year, Nepal Children’s Organization had organised the 20th anniversary [perhaps] of Bal Mandir .

During one of those early meeting held by the big boys who were recently out from from Shiphal, another branch of Bal Mandir, but this home housed only boys. What I remember clearly even to this day, is one core issue that was the topic of meeting; which was held in  the rooftop of a house nearby Shiphal’s boys home.

The major issue of the discussion was of the life support method Binod choose. Like each of us he had spent time in Bal Mandir, got all the education, trainings and facilities. After that, all he is doing now to support himself is, working as a shepherd in a house. This was something, no one had expected to end up like this, for him or for anyone. It was enough to break anyone’s heart and moral.

Hari [Pandey] Dai, who was heading that meeting as a president of the union of this group, wonderd, “why Bal Mandir did not take care of us in a proper way, that one of us has to end up as a shepherd.”  

I was freshly out from Bal Mandir and still in my teen years at that time; meaning I yet had to grow up more from my careless and carefree age to give much of thinking to his condition and life after Bal Mandir. But I still did not get the clear idea of that question. Why it was so hard for them to accept life after Bal Mandir ? The big boys, who may have been in their mid 20s raised some other issues, which I don’t even remember now.

Life in fact, was indeed quite easy as a child in Bal Mandir for anyone like me who was growing up there. Never seen money, but never needed any; as it was not up to us to worry about anything we needed in our daily life. Of course, there were things, we did not get when we wanted all the time when we needed. And the ugly part of all that came with a line, “you have to be in your parents house to get what you want.” Although, today when I am all grown up, know that it is not true; at least not all the time. Having patents is not the end solution of world’s problem as it was made believe to all of us when I was a child.

Today, I am quite not sure, does Hari Dai, still thinks education and  training in Bal Mandir was not sufficient enough for some children, that when they grow up, they can't be self depend enough to self support with dignity. Being a shepherd is not the dignifying work, not at least when one had got all the education and trainings.

Binod, and his elder sister both were in Bal Mandir and long before I can remember; what was my age she died of electric shock.

In my blur memory, my guess is, I could have been around or less than 5 years old when this incident happened but as I mentioned earlier it’s not easy to guess how old I was then when this happened.  At that time, when they used to run the Rana era machine to fill the water tanks, it meant all the children should be kept away from the running water taps. I don’t know the scientific reason behind it as my knowledge of science is still very poor; but touching it meant hugging instant death.

I wonder today, how did they managed just one dead child only; in all those years when they had 200 children and water needed to be passed daily on many water tanks. It was the time when the electric current used to grip the person in its power, not like today which throws you out of its power. A/C or D/C whatever the system is called was made available inside the Bal Mandir to save more lives to succumb to death, after her death.

No, I don’t know, how old she was, when this fatal incident happened. The rumor lasted long for me to know when I grew up, all she did was to went on towards the water tank, which was located at one corner of the front yard and opened the tap when the machine was running to fill the water tank, the electric power gripped her into her death. She died, before anyone could do anything to save her.

But, does anyone kept any track to keep any kind of proper record what was the impact of the incident in young boy’s mind, when all he had was his elder sister ? Don’t even ask; I don’t know, how old he was, when his sister died on that fatal day.

When children are brought up by parents, does all the children enjoy the same kind of success ?  when a reputed school can’t give 100% success result to achieve high career to all of its students, how come a children home can generate all educated children with equal success rate ? when there are children all with troubled family background with so many history to be delved with ?

Was the naivete of the age Hari dai raised this question or we are too self conscious that its too hard for us to accept that one of us, our inmates or the childhood friends is someone who is doing such a menial work ?

I remember one such example, perhaps by a house mother - Kedar Shrestha, spreading her hand in the air and saying look, in a hand there are five fingers and they are all different size. Not all will make same kind of success in life even if they are raised by same parents and they go to same school and gets same trainings.

Why it does not surprise me now but this was what I was thinking when Hari dai raised his question  some 20 plus years ago. But then I just did not give him a hint what was in my mind about Binod’s condition.  

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