An unexpected Visitor

Sunita Giri 10:46 PM |

I do not remember month and particular day, as it was a lazy Saturday, normally we do, all the cleaning work on this day, like bathing, washing clothes, sun drying our beds and blankets including the carpets. But, it was already well past 2:00 pm, so almost all the work have already finished for the day, and all we have left was free time for ourselves, including room nannies, who used to be busy like bee on this day.

And just then, there was an entrance of entourage in Bal Mandir. It sure was an unexpected visit, I mean very unexpected visit from royal palace. It was non-other than but the then queen Aishwarya RLD shah herself; she was there with all the crew that normally followed her, I bet without her consent at times, maybe most of the times. But I would never know the truth behind it.

To my knowledge, it was her first visit inside Bal Mandir for inspection, just she and no other official from NCO following her. Although I do not remember today exactly, but I must have jumped on my toes, the movement I saw her in the statue yard or lets say it in the kitchen garden where we were playing at that time. Because I was her guide that day to show the rooms or where she wanted to go and what she wanted to see.

At one time, when she was visiting young childrens rooms [ younger than 10 years old ] she was very curious, “why all the children were kept in children rooms and not mixed up with small and big children in one room ?” She meant to mixing about children  8 or 9 years olds, in a room with teen age group; so that the big ones will take care of small ones.

Today, I might use the word children for all the people that live in the Bal Mandir in my all the post but when I was one of them, I was not the children or at least, I did not think I was child then. Today when my early teenage niece and nephew say bluntly, “ I am not child”, I know what they mean, I was there too.

Okay, at the toddlers room, she spent bit longer time, than in other rooms; mostly asking questions about the children. She took keen interest in couple of children there and just gave her heart completely for two, one boy and a girl.

When we were out from the toddler’s room, one of the ADC of the queen, pulled me from back, for this he inserted his finger on my skirt belt and then he just pulled me away from queen. Suddenly, from the front row, I was place at the last in the mix of crowd and they just walked ahead of me leaving me back. Then, I get lost in the group, which have become very big behind her and following her. Everyone wanted to take a good look of her from close and greet her and touch her.

You see, I don't have a royal tongue and I was talking to the queen with the same kind of language as I usually spoke with. The kind of language, we spoke in Bal Mandir had a dash of it or whole mix of tamang and gurung way of talking. In these language, without intending it sounds so disrespectful. Its very direct and impolite too. We grew up hearing all that and adapted without knowing it then, how impolite our language have become and how direct we were then and on top of that; we use very crude or rude language there which completely lack the respect to our fellow. Those language lack respect to those, we were talking to, senior or junior. It was the plain truth.

She may have noticed it, but did not put it in words and did not even pointed it to me. I just walked with her and  answered what  all she asked me. She was checking in and out of all the rooms and asking me questions relating to every rooms.  I have forgotten almost all of that now, but I do remember, I was responding all her queries. Not a housemother, out of four, was around to escort her. They must be behind my back, with the whole crew, but I have no idea. As I was on the front row with her, showing her around.

I do not exactly remember, who took charge after that to guide her. Chhaya didi, must have been allowed to escort her after that, to show remaining rooms. By this time only girls room, pre teens and teenage girls room had left to show her, mostly on the second floors. Because, later in the evening, she was talking about her experience with how she spoke with queen, when she asked her questions. It really surprised me, when she said that she had used the word ‘your highness’ while speaking with her. I do not remember using that kind of words, when I spoke with her, when I was guiding her. Ok now it makes sense why that ADC may have pulled me away from her. Was that the reason I was pulled by her bodyguard and then pushed back in the following crowd behind ? however the real truth is something, I may never know, but I can always guess, and try to find the answer right ?

Did the housemothers joined the entourage ? I have no idea, was they embarrassed after that for not jumping on their toes to give her a proper visit ? No idea again.

Needless to mention, the next day, two major dailies of that time, The rising Nepal [english] and Gorkhapatra [Nepali] gave the news in big headlines, about the visit and also the news, that she had picked up two children, for education sponsorship. Although, I did not used to read news much then, but some big boys, who were in the last years of schools [ ninth and tenth grade] used to read it and then, they got the glimpse of the bigger picture of what had happened a day before in Bal Mandir.

Everyone in the Bal Mandir, specially room nannies, housemothers and male staffs were talking, that the two children were very lucky, that the queen herself picked up them and selected, to take the complete responsibility for their education. Although, she did not check the real truth about the background of the children who were about four or five may be or may be younger than that, she went by the pure instinct, while choosing for two. She sure did helped them a lot, but by the time these two were in school, I was already out from Bal Mandir.
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Say Yes

Sunita Giri 1:41 AM |

Sometime around 2006 or 2007 I had gone to visit  Madam S  at her residence, which was a courtesy visit and  I did occasionally. When I entered her TV room, her favorite spot in her home, there was a woman, already sitting  on the long floor mattress. The woman was  mother of Binita trying her best to please Madam S, so that she will reconsider to send her daughter, to nursing college.

Binita was not very bright student, in fact, she was a bit lazier than the average student. Maybe for that very reason, Madam S was not willing to reconsider to take her back in the project. Then, she was chief in charge, here of the education project; which is started by Bernhard Rutz, a Swiss by nationality since 1989. This project provides opportunities to underprivileged children, to get better education in school and college. Binita was in the project for long but recently her behaviour had been changed specially, towards her study and her result was not so good, to give her another shot at nursing college. Nursing colleges are expensive in terms of admission fees, compared to other colleges to get in and at times its bit hard also to get in as there is huge demand for nurses in foreign countries. perhaps for that very reason, people here are also seeing money in this colleges. It also need good marks on report card.

How Binita was on her study was one thing, but for this mother, all she knew was, if she could please this lady; her daughter’s future will be secured with better career, if only she tried little hard to please madam S.

Binita’s mother was seating on the floor mattress, on my left side and madam S was on the small bed-cum-sofa in front of TV on my right side. I was in between them alongside madam. So, not surprisingly, I was mostly watching them doing all the talks. It was very obvious that, Madam S was agitated and irritated while she was talking with this mother. She found her deceiving and untruthful, when it came to provide her facts, which she sure needed to know, especially about her financial conditions.  

The woman was a vegetable seller nearby her home as well as madam S, at Old Baneshwor. Occasionally, this women used to give some vegetable to Madam S, but this only fueled her anger and she said to her, “ do not give me any vegetables, if you do, I am going to throw it on the street”. I found this line so amusing and confusing at the same time but  before I dared to bring that line of laughter in my eyes or even on my face, I turned towards the desperate mother to see her reaction on this statement. To her this was not funny at all, so I did not dare smile in front of her. Honestly speaking, she was kind of begging her to give her daughter, one more chance to go to nursing college.

Here I learned that, this mother of three, has a daughter and two more boys and one of her boy was drug addict, lives her life by selling vegetables at vegetable market. No wonder, money was always tight to meet her daily needs. Therefore, she was trying her level best to please Madam S to get her only daughter to college; if only she melted to say yes.

What I was not getting clearly, while listening these two; was one was literally begging and needed sympathy and another was visible irritated and angry with all her plea. Plea of a desperate mother seem to be falling on deaf ear or the dead person. I just could not get it at all, when this desperate mother was begging for better future of her daughter does Madam S, has to be that agitated ? Even if she thinks, this mother is lying and deceiving to her.  What she has to lose personally in all this, to to give her worst mood to this desperate mother ? The money she uses is all charity money raised by somebody else to help the needy ones and she is just a social worker, for God’s Shake.

But this pungent reality is something, so hard for me to shake my head off; even after all these years I have witnessed this scene. She does not have to give anything for her from her own purse, to this mother to be so irritated and agitated like this, does she ?

It is understandable, that she has to deal with this kind of request, almost regularly in her life, but that is the part of her life as a social worker. But the reality kept me nagging; is that reaction normal ?  What she will lose, if she listens a desperate mother or indulges her heartbreaking request once ? What will happen, if she says ‘yes’.

This is one word, she has to say for herself not for others, not for us. Say yes madam, you will not lose anything, from your personal treasure; to give them hard reaction like that.

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My Comfort Food

Sunita Giri 9:55 PM |

 “Oh, lord they are hungry again”  

“They just had their meal, what makes them hungry like this ?”

“These children never drank their mother’s milk so, their hunger is never going to be quenche properly.” As a growing up child in Bal Mandir these are the lines, I accustomed  hearing with.   

As for that last line, which stamped in my mind forever, I clearly remember, Shova didi said it. Is her conclusion right ? She would have known the real truth behind the ever hungry growing children, if only; she would have raised her own growing children and then watch behave her teenage children. Sadly, she died when her children were so young. In fact, she had died with excessive bleeding, when she was giving birth to her second child.

I really don't know these are the  common lines every children who grew up or are growing up in children homes has to hear due to lack of food to feed them. But, Bal Mandir never faced lack of food to feed us. Even if, we were hungry like larva, then there was country like America to feed us.  

I am sure, it was American agency, which used to send us multigrain roasted flour, powder milk and animal fat for our daily consumptions. As a teenager, I have read the twelve language translations saying they’re for not to be sold in market, for about hundreds times times in those packets, as these products came via shipping. The flour and milk powder came in about 25 or 30 kg tetra packs and fat came in 5 and 10 kg tin can.  

However, my mind todays goes completely blank, even trying to remember what is the name of that company, which used to send us those nutritious food. In fact, it was a part of nutritious food division, which distributed those supplies to Bal Mandir across the nations as well as to some school. Because the school I attended, as a child until 7th grade, was also the one of the school, which used to get the flour. Do they used to get fat and milk also ? but I have no recollection whatsoever of this now. This is very strange, we do so many things for years and eat and repeat things so many times in life during our childhood, yet, when trying to remember those things; only make us go blank. But I remember so clearly is the ‘puwa’ [is a snacks for day time], they used to make was so dry than what they used to make in Bal Mandir, yet for a change, we did like that different taste. No, we never used to get a chance to eat in both place the same meal.

Bal Mandir provided four times a day meal. First meal started at 7:00 in the morning. Its pudding 365 days, only nannies changed, everyday to give us a new taste every day. It was served with milk for children and tea for preteens and teenagers. At around 9:00 we used to have our morning meal before school. Dal, bhat and tarkari, meat was once in every Saturday without fail and then at 1:00 we used to have our day snacks, our last meal of the day started at five again dal, bhat and tarkari.

The food seem to be alright, or to some, it sure sounds more than okay. But, we were hungry like larva and needed food in between snacks and late afternoon meal. There were no provision for pocket money to meet that need, but who needed it ?

I do not exactly remember, steading those roasted flours, milk or sugars but all these were available in plenty to feed our hunger. But the truth is without stealing, we would not have had it easily also.  We used to eat that roasted multigrain freshly grounded flour, dry, just like that or sometimes with pinch of sugar  and occasionally putting it on tea  and making it easy puding like to have it as instant food. It was a roasted multigrain flour of five cereals [ maize, soybean, wheat, chick peas and perhaps the last one was black eyed bean]. It was somewhat instant food, like our noodles now a days, which can be eaten raw and easy made. I still know lots of my grown ups friends, who grew up eating it, want to buy it and then have it; purely because of its taste and it being so healthy food also. I doubt that a rich or the richest family here in Nepal, could afford that quality food for their growing child even today.

But, when I grew up bit, I have moved up to have powder milk, sugar and fat as a comfort food. I used to mix all three ingredients  properly and then used to eat it, just like that. No wonder, as a teenager I was a fat girl; I don't think I came under the bracket of obese child, but I do remember vividly  a friend of mine saying to me that, “ you don't walk, you just roll.”

One of the easy way to manage those comfort food was, to be friendly with room didis, who were also in charge of the days snacks once in every week. Help them in their work in the kitchen and outside the kitchen. Oh, yes there was other way also to get it, sometimes wait for the right moment to steal it either from kitchen or from main store. But, because I needed three things [ powder milk, sugar and fat] so stealing was definitely not the option so getting cozy with didis seemed to be an easier option for me.

‘Du’ my childhood friends was very hardworking and helpful to all nannies and could give her hand to help them anyway and time they needed; so my closeness with her and she being helpful to all gave me more opportunity to have my comfort food as much as I wanted. I do not remember, particularly that I was close with any nannies, but because it did not cost any of them nor it costed Bal Mandir to buy those foodstuffs, so maybe nannies or storekeepers were not that strict to control the quota. Therefore, they let us have it, whenever we asked for it.

Yeah, I do not eat it now but this still falls on my all time favourite comfort food, do I really have to grow ever to have my all time comfort food ? Have a bowl of it; and then you know, what I am talking about. If you have not eaten it yet, then you have not lived your life either.

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Stone Bladder

Sunita Giri 10:40 PM |

Its really not easy for me to guess the age of that boy, specially when I can't remember my own age. Perhaps, I was not at the age, to see someone and then guess the age of a child. Maybe, its just me or maybe is just my age. I sure was in the age, which of course, was careless and carefree time of my life. Yet there was no doubt that the boy was young, perhaps about six or seven years old.

I could have been studying in about eighth or ninth grade, when the boy whose name was Narayan was admitted in Bal Mandir. See, I don't even know his full name.

Like any normal child, the boy was sweet, adorable and quiet type of child. Although, I exactly don't know why and how; but he looked better than the other children in Bal Mandir, bit different than others. He looked like from a bit well of family, compared to other children, if we go by the look only. But, he had a problem, which he faced daily for many times, that none other children faced there in Bal Mandir..

Whenever he has to urinate, it never came easily to him. He used to rub his penis with his   both small hands, which seemed like hours. It may have been painful for the boy, but as the boy was very quiet, he did not say a word about his problem. Narayan kept rubbing his penis for hours, without a word, yet he kept rubbing it with his both hands, until the urine ultimately passed through it. The problem solved only for couple of hours for the little boy. I do not remember him ever complain or see him crying for the problem he dwelt but he sure looked troubled doing that.

Sometime later everyone, well almost everyone in the Bal Mandir knew he had a stone in his bladder. The root cause of trouble passing his urine, making it so hard and painful affairs of the day or perhaps in his life.

Don't know exactly how many months later, the operation took placed to remove the stone from his bladder. Perhaps in those days, I mean in mid 80s time, the cost of operation may have been higher compared to todays. I do remember nannies talking about the operation, saying it was costly. I guess the cost may have been came to 150,000 or more than that at that time. Then again do not remember what was the total monthly cost to run Bal Mandir then. It seems that it was huge sum and maybe enough to feed about 200 children for couple of months back then. We hardly used to get money for our personal use, but then again; there was everything ready for us whatever we needed, so none of us felt the need of it. Well, of course, not everyone may agree with me for this line, but leave this here because we are not focusing on this here.

After removing the stone from his bladder, Doctors did not throw it in the dustbin, instead it was wrapped in a soft cloth and then sent with the patient. The look of stone was rough, I mean bumpy rough like the back of a frog. It was about 5 centimeter in diameter and it was big to stay in human body, especially when it happens to be the boy of about seven years old. I guess the size of the stone is big even for a adult body; maybe for that very reason, it may have been sent along with the patient, to show all the other members of the family. No wonder, the boy bad so much trouble passing his urine.

If I am not mistaken in my memory, after the successful operation; boy was abducted from his own family member, presumably one of the boy’s parents. His was not the only case, when people used Bal Mandir for medicinal purpose, as an easy way out to escape huge medical bill specially if it involved operation. Some parents used this tactic, when they see the medical bill is so high and then they left the child in Bal Mandir for sometime and then; once the child is treated, they used to pull back the child from Bal Mandir. They always had a backup story to cover up, as they had for admitting the child. One of those back up story was to resorting in easy blame game;  another parents being, “irresponsible and erratic and leaving child here in Bal mandir but, I will take care of my child alone anyway possible.”

Now, when I look back and try to understand, why there were sometimes huge bru ha ha when some child was given for adoption and then the same news made the headlines on all papers claiming, Bal Mandir indulges in child trafficking. There may be some real cases like that  but I guess this is the real reason behind the bru ha ha, when some people leave their child with fake tear jerking story in the beginning; so that Bal Mandir will accept the child. But at the same time those parents are planning to pull the child immediately after the operation, which they could not afford by themselves.

In my personal opinion, Bal Mandir or any other orphanages around the world do not keep  child without the consent of family members, therefore some scrupulous people use[d] Bal Mandir for medicinal purpose purely mocking its real intention.
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Aggressiveness where it comes from ?

Sunita Giri 11:08 PM |

Couple of years ago, I found myself seated behind the roomful of school and college going children of a Children’s Home here in Nepal, which is help run by a Swiss people.

Manish Shrestha, is a son of a staff and he offers volunteer service, now and then by guiding children in many ways, during his vacation time, whenever he is here in kathmandu from his job in Australia. Today, he called Prem and Shiva in front of the room and then gave two college going boys a situation. Suppose Shiva you have left your wallet in your room when you went out. But, when you came back, you find out that there are couple of bucks missing from your wallet. At the same time, you see Prem in your room; now  you two start  conversation based on this information on your hand.

Undoubtedly, the conversation started with Shiva accusing in attack mood to Prem, and he defending himself for the accusation of lost money. It was kind of teen’s angle of tackling a situation. It was a scene deja vu for me. Having been raised in Bal Mandir, subtle way of trying to find answer was not in our blood, we just go in attack mode and jump into the conclusion to blame others. There was never a thing called  ‘benefit of doubt’ existed in our knowledge when we were child. Is this because there were no grown ups around us  who were wise to teach us such things ?

But just then Manish interrupted both of them, and asked “Shiva have you seen Prem stealing from your wallet ?” “No” came the prompt answer from the first. Manish asked again, “Has anyone seen Prem stealing from your wallet ?” “No” was the response this time too, “then how come you are so sure to accuse him ?” Manish tried to make them see the things from different angle. “And Prem, if you have not stolen then it can be said without raising your tone or getting offended.”  Manish tried to reason with Prem too.

“See we don't live in stone age to behave just what you two gave us a glimpse of it, by entering into bitter argument like this. We can settle things in very reasonable and amicable manner also; like civilised people.” the volunteer went on.

Madam S, who is the chief in-charge of this children’s home from Nepal, was seated next to me and she whispered, in fact, honestly admitting that, “this is good for me too, as I too have tendencies to lose my patience and resorting to bitter argument.” Let me tell you one thing Madam S comes from very well to do family and there was every bit of things needed in life was available without even wishing.

She had been working for more than 30 years in children home by now and knows how we behave and respond to some issues. She calls the children ‘fightman singhs’ for children  being ever ready to argue and fight for every teeny tiny things.

People should listen to her, for what she says about the children because she has spent her thirty years, watching them grow and behave in Children’s home.  All logic seem to be getting lost for adults, when they try to find out the answer to some of the differences. Its really strange to see how fast the children get offended and go into defensive mode in response, in situation like that. There hardly exist a middle way to sort out, its just the tete-a-tete and nasty verbal fight, always.

I would not say this is the 100% behaviour pattern in the children but 90-95% cases  gets sort out the difference amongst the children.  Remember, this is not the case with close friends circle, but other than those who falls on close knit circle with us. Did I say, this was the same case with the school I attended. Doesn't this tell me, now that its the poverty not the parents or family as its believed by many, that is the root cause of a problem of aggressive behaviour.  

Is this also is the part of mood swing in an adolescent or the uncertainty of adrenalin rush in teenage blood that make them so argumentative ? or it distinctly has to be the kind of behavior with children who are brought up under lack of provisions. Those who were not loved, neglected for their needs or ignored for their demand and never hugged when they cry ? I do remember we were never hugged when we cried, not even after the tear dried in our eyes and cheeks.

When I look back, and try to understand those behaviours, it seems to me teenage behaviour has a lot to do  in argumentative nature and in boys its even adrenalin rush has to do a lot to explain their behaviour. Of course, understandable some attack mode and overly defensive nature do exist amongst the people who are not loved properly and ignored most of the time, but such behaviour do exist in children who grew up in family too. Some are overly sensitive and touchy beyond reason. I don't think I am defensive here now on behalf of all  the children who grew up in children’s home; its just that, this kind of behaviour can be seen here in huge mass also if I read their wall post on facebook, nothing makes sense to me.  If I see my country people, it just reminds of my life back in Bal Mandir, in terms of behaviour and thinking too. Of course, in every case, there are some, who come with exception just to surprise you.

However, I was shocked to see the reaction of grown ups by now at the reunion picnic last December to the things they were reacting to some simple questions or situations. It was so rough and hard to believe. Not knowing how to react what I was watching, I started laughing loudly and some of my childhood friends found it very humiliating and insulting too. They used the words same as they used to use,  when we were children and we have heard those words used by nannies or housemothers. All this reminded me how we were brought up and raised, and none of them could not live any better life, than the one we once raised and left behind. Thats how we were raised, and they say apple doesn't fall far from the tree. It was just witnessing a good example of how none of the apple rolled really far away from where it fell.

All of them were behaving exactly how they were raised and they seemed to be in ‘locked-in-memory’ in their subconscious mind; and not trying to understand, why we are behaving the way we are behaving.

Where does the aggressiveness comes from ? its nurture  or nature ? but there are school of thought that argues that its nature not the nurture that makes a person who he is or what he is.

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