Thank you - I

Sunita Giri 9:26 PM |

I love knitting and designing is my favorite part. Knitting is my favorite pass time, stress buster and needless to say, its my passion, pride and hobby too. I am really good at it. Every winter, I have to knit to relax my otherwise very busy mind, did not know what to do with this. But, at the beginning of this year, my usually crowded mind with new designs went blank, when it comes to coming out with new designs, whether its for sweater, caps for new pattern to try out. I was totally blank. But, interestingly, it does also mean that I should not knit, because I can't stay without knitting, not in winter months.

Then I got a simple idea in my brain and I wrote, couple of my facebook friends, to help me to take shape of this idea, which I have in my mind. Just like that, they funded my small wish. I just wanted to make caps for all the children in Bal Mandir and needed some money for wool, all the rest I will see; they just said, ‘okay’ to send me money for that.

So, from about last week of January, I started making caps and the money started coming in from February onwards. It took me, just couple of months, to make two caps for everyone in Bal Mandir. Making caps for the children was not much tough task for me, what was more challenging for me, was to not to repeat the same color and designs twice; so that the one of them lose it, and will go to the other one claiming to him/her saying its mine. You know, I myself grew up in Bal Mandir, so I know all kind of things, that happens there. This is one of the best challenge for me as a designer.

Its bit strange, why I came up with caps to give all of them.

Last December, when we had gone to reunion picnic; one of my friend was wearing a cap, which I had made for his first child and told me “Sunita, do you remember this cap, I have been wearing this for the last 16 years.” It was simple knit, yet  that cap sure had my signature style on it. I found it amazing, a simple hand knitted cap, can last more than 15 years, which takes only couple of hours to make it ! One of the reason I came up to make caps for all is, because I learn knitting in Bal Mandir. Another is, I have received so many things and kindness, from so many people in my life; so why not give something back when I can ! One more reason, I do not remember wearing caps, when I was in Bal Mandir during winter. Its really hard to believe that we did not take much notice of it then.

There is one more reason to make caps for all of them, I got this inspiration, seeing those who spin cottons to make butter lamps of 100,000 and some times 125,000 thousand butter lamp to offer it on temple of thier choice of God. Do I have to tell you how much time it involves when they spin it with so much devotion. Not to forget about the cost whatever money they spend for this particular reason. Then, all they do, is to go to the temple and then, Whoop ! burn it out in the name of God. Are they trying to find peace of mind doing this kind of work in the name of God ? Its really hard for me, even try to understand; why they do this ? But, doing something like that, my hours of work and money should help some group of people, but not see it burn into ashes, not even; in the name of God. Besides this work will sure last more than 10 years so why not make it for them.

I would like to thank my facebook friends, Pankaj Bastola [USA], Girish Pokharel [USA], Govind [Khatri][Canada] jee for helping me to take this plan into reality. Gobind [Yadav] jee, you know why I should not forget to thank you for saying ‘Okay, I will give you money’ and thats what all of the other people said, when I wrote them a letter. Last but not the least I would also like to thank Rebecca Ordish, Executive Director of Mitrataa Foundation, which has been taking care of the Management of Bal Mandir now a days. I did not know, it was not easy to enter in the Bal Mandir [even if we grew up there] and give them what we want to give them.

This years thanksgiving day, holds a lot more meaning and importance in my life; as I have got the genuine reasons to be thankful. Whether, I was giving it to say thank you to all the people who made me thankful towards them, or remain genuinely thankful; to so many people in my life. No doubt, I love being in social network like facebook, as long as my virtual friends, keep giving me reasons to remain thankful, for so many reasons.

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Little Thieves

Sunita Giri 9:28 PM |

This time when I visited my brother during dashain holidays, I had one more reasons to visit him; I wanted to ask him, his memories of Bal Mandir. I do not have the boys version of memories in my blog. He and I grew up together in Bal Mandir, when we were young, later on, we were separated as he was moved to Children’s Vocational Centre at Shiphal, when he was about 12 years old.

He sure had some things for me but he was not giving me much choice with his narration, not even single name of his friends who were part of his story. His story needs me to explain some basic trainings of Bal Mandir, that they choose to teach children, with so much ease.

Although, my brother tells me, he was about ten years old, when he got his garden from one of his friend, who was not interested to take care of it anymore. But, I think they were given that kind of responsibility, when they reach about twelve years old. Some of the boys were given a piece of land to do his choice of gardening in that piece of land. He could plant anything of his choice, and no pressure at all from anyone. Most of the time they watched their friends or consulted their classmate for this, but no adult was involved to take any decision for him. I am quite not an expert to give you an idea on this matter, that  exactly how much land they were given, but the piece of land was sufficient to keep any twelve year old busy after school for some hours. This was simple and best way to teach, a group of boys to take care of something, other than himself or his clothes at that very tender age and that too without much lecture.

The boys were responsible to water their plants. It could be flower or vegetables, weeding and seeding too. Most of the boys choose to plant flowers according to season and some planted vegetables that can be eaten raw like, radish or cucumber. Bal Mandir never touched their vegetables, as they grew enough to feed 200 children; so it was all their own, and they could use it as they wish.  This freedom gave boys some kind of satisfaction in their own work and they also could experiment on their very own garden. One of the thing that was common in almost all boys was sugarcane plant. It was easy to plant and somewhat hassle free also to maintain for a whole year, but what do I know about kitchen gardening to say its easy ? I do remember Sukdev, my brother planting sweet potato also in his garden, so, not surprisingly, I can still recognize the plant by its leave even if I see it in china.

On one particular winter day, some staff at the Bal Mandir needed sugarcane to be used as a ‘prasad’ during a small puja they held. Boys heard of this plan but they were reluctant to give their whole year's efforts, just like that. So, what he remembers is boys coming up with a plan to steal their own sugarcane at night and hiding it, so that it won't go just like that, in the hands of people who never worked hard to grow it. Needless to tell you, they of course, went to steal it at night, but as they were cracking the sugarcane sticks, the creaking noise it made, invited unwanted attention. Fearing that the sound may have made by some intruders and thinking the thieves may have entered in the kitchen garden area, some big boys went to see the place. Having the young boiling blood running in their veins, they also wanted to catch the ‘thieves’.

Four doors leads to the kitchen garden, but at this time of the day, only two needed to be used, one from the main kitchen area and the other from the all males staff’s room side. This particular row also had the prayers room and the males staff room was at the end of the row. Having their room at that corner of the area also protected us from the unwanted intruders, specially at night time. But as the Bal Mandir is protected from tall boundary walls from all sides, so that it hardly let anyone enter at odd hours.

Some boys in a rush to catch them, went straight to the last end of the gate and some entered the kitchen garden from the main kitchen area. Remember this is the part where no light was needed and one needed to use the torch light to see at the night.

As the second group of boys had entered the kitchen garden, shouting thief,  thief,  thief trying to trap them from the both gate, that lead anyone to the kitchen garden are and it made the ‘little thieves’ worry even more. The boys, who were at the kitchen garden, was trapped in there not knowing what to do and where to run from there. Due to darkness, the boys who came to catch could not see the boys who were already in the kitchen garden and were so confused what to do and what not to do.

Just then, they joined the second group of boys shouting thief, thief and thief and joined them in the dark of the night, to look for the thieves who have entered in the building. It so happened that, the second batch of boys thought that, the thieves ran away, before they   could catch them.  

While telling me the his story, he was back in the memory lane of his childhood and so rejoiced being the child at that time as I could see the boyish twinkle in his eyes.

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Gardens, gardeners and garlands

Sunita Giri 10:47 PM |

Tihar is one festival that sees loads and loads of garland on the street side at the main shopping areas. In fact, the festive mood is so much that, now a days you can get the ready made garlands that is required for Tihar in your nearest grocery stores. Of course, to make a garland, one sure needs loads of flowers. Marigold is very popular flower among other flowers, to make garland during Tihar; as its good for all purpose compared to other flowers. There is another kind of flowers also which is equally popular during Tihar. Its a small maroon color flower and is chosen for the belief behind its longevity hoping, if sister put this garland on the neck of their brothers, their brothers life will be longer like this flowers.

Seeing all the garlands on TV and on the stalls ready for sell, only reminds me of my childhood in Bal Mandir and how plucking it and collecting enough for the tihar, especially to make garlands to do ‘Bhai puja’.

We used to have plenty of flowers to make garlands, may be more than enough. Every group of girls did have the prior planning to arrange the flowers for their need during tihar but other group of girls who went to collect the flower fist just used to spoil one groups plan. The early birds, always got the good flowers. I do not remember spending a single penny to make a single garland out of more than 100 or so. The front garden, which now a days wears so brazen and unwelcoming look, used to look a lot more vibrant and colorful back then, when I was in Bal Mandir. There used to be a lovely garden in the front of the Bal Mandir and it was as if, a way to welcome with a big smile to the all visitors; whoever visited Bal Mandir.

A gardener, used to take good care of this front garden. He was very hard working man and loved his work. It seems today to me that he kind of worshiped his work. He worked relentlessly on all kind of season on his garden.  He was an average  kind of person with average height of Nepali, lean and thin but very sturdy man. He used to lose his patience, tremendously; when he saw us stealing ‘his’ flowers. Sometimes, he used to scold us for that and sometimes, he used to give us a real good chase for plucking flowers from his garden. He tried to keep us away from his garden specially; using the rose plants of all kinds as a boundary in his garden, even though, it was protected by proper barb wires. But some mischievous children were smart enough to climb the boundary wall to sneak in, just for fun from the broken part of the garden. It caused him a lots of trouble, but that was his daily work life to face the urchins from Bal Mandir or nearby school that was within the Bal Mandir premises.

There used to be garden maintained by some boys - aged 10 - 16 years old - inside the Bal Mandir , which provided plenty of flowers to make garlands or do the puja also. But, this was the garden that provided us the major portion of the marigolds during Tihar to make garlands and also for puja. Then, there was the other gardens too, that was maintained by NAFA art gallery. It was even more protected than the front garden, with tall walls and then proper gate not just the kind of gates designed for gardens. Yet, the the keeper used to be shocked to see his garden totally empty after the tihar holiday.

Those days, Bal Mandir looked so beautiful and welcoming from walking distance as well as from the top. Yeah, it used to look bit of weary and deserted after tihar, as its the time, that brings the bell of the arrival of winter seasons.

Now, needless to mention, the garden looks so brazen and unwelcoming and the place where once vegetable garden and small garden used to be, wears so completely deserted, wild and unkempt look. Sad look without the beautiful and colorful flowers of all kinds.

Bal Mandir, definitely is a different place nowadays. Just a look with those gardens and it has a lot to tell us and seem to scream on top of it lungs to share so many of inside story of its office policy.  Just by maintaining its outer looks, which obviously I mean by maintaining it gardens, that do not have a single flowers now a days. Forget about the time, when there used to be all kinds and colors of flowers to make it a beautiful garden to welcome all the visitors.

The beautiful and lovely garden have stamped in my mind, as a good memory from my childhood days.

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Festival foods brings back childhood memory

Sunita Giri 11:47 PM |

“Sunita, meat is ready, now its your turn”, bhauju gave me call from upstairs kitchen. I am a cook in demand and a good cook, if I find myself in the group of people who do not want to cook, but anyway cooks; having no option but to cook. I think I am in love with the line that says, I love cooking, how much I love it actually, is something I really need to think hard. It took me time to understand to figure it out but still I do, I mean I really love cooking. This quality gets highlighted if only  my cooking gets appreciated by the people I cook for. If they don't, I guess I better learn more, yet cooking is something I purely do for me rather than to please people around me.

However, its really nice to have people around during the festival seasons to do all the cutting, chopping and grinding the spices. My main work was to calculate and then mix it in the meat. Like how much spices, onion or seasoning is needed to add and how long to leave it aside, before we cook it.

You can call me foodie.  I seem to be knowing almost all the TV’s good chefs regardless of their nationality. More so, I know on which channel they come. Nigella Lawson and the Master Chef Australia is one of my favorite show and I hardly miss them. However, this dashian I was in so much demand for my cooking skill and for the first time I am so proud to be the one who was in demand for my hobby.  

This time, I was in charge of preparing festival foods and all needed spices are anything but pure Nepali. I really don't know what it really has to do with me being so addicted to watch so many cooking shows and me being able to master something that is pure Nepali Food. That too all I wanted to do is to cook the meat items; as good as I grew up eating it, during Dashain in Bal Mandir.

While I was in Kitchen preparing for marination, Arpan asked me, “have you eaten blood ?”   Arpan is my nephew. He loves to eat and did help me in the kitchen to make meat items. Well of course, not regularly but its okay, he is only fifteen. But more than that, I am a guest; in the house full of all christians that too during the month of dashain.  

“Yes” was my answer and that, “I had the variety of blood as a dashain delicacies; when I was of your age or well younger than you.” It is another thing, it was not my favourite festival dish. They also used to make one variety of intestine and bowls too, well that too, was not my favourite festival dish. But that is not the important part of festival.  Due to the varieties of the foods, meat items and entertainment, I think everyone can find, what is their favourite dish of any festival.

Arpan was curious, to see me marinating meat and its spiced up scent that filled the kitchen and wafted in the house, which really wowed him and everyone in the home. He asked me “do you always cook meat like this ?” “Yes” was my answer, “I don't eat meat as regular as you [they eat meat almost daily ] but when I eat it, it really has to satisfy my eyes, my other senses long before I actually stuff it in my mouth” was my reply to his curiosity. I am very liberal when it comes to adding spices and seasoning, it sure is not for those, who love boiled food for the health sake.

Some believe, festivals are for children and not for adult. At least thats what, most of the adult thinks so. I think its for both, adult needs to transfer the tradition at its best form, to   the children; so that they will transfer it to their children. As they are the one who enjoy it a lot.

No one can deny, one core fact about any festival and that is, major part of the all the festival around the world is food, food and food. Food do have power to bring back memory and take us back to our memory lane.

For long time, I wanted to master the kind of food, I used to eat in Bal Mandir. Not the regular food but only the kind they made during Festival. Couple of years ago I made some radish and green peas pickle, which was as good as it used to be when I was child. Meat was something, I have learned during my time in five star hotel. People in hotel knows so many ways to make food wow and yummy and look good too therefore, at times meat was somewhat better than what it used to be in Bal Mandir, curries were also not that hard to learn and make it good in due course of time; but it was not easy to master on pickles and to make best pickles was not easy anyway.

Now, I can make some food that was as good as they used to make in Bal Mandir but there are still some food which I yet have to master. Still there is no one and no house that can serve me food and make me forget the taste of food which I [we] used to eat in Bal Mandir during Dashain.

So this time there was everything to make it a Dashain, I was with my family in Chitwan and they did tried their best to make it feel like Dashain, at least for me because they are christians and I am not. Yet, how on earth that lack of radish pickle [ radish, and lapsi was not available in Chitwan at that time]  has so much power to make feel that something is missing, something is lacking. I was missing the taste of it and scent of it.

Not surprisingly, when I am back in Kathmandu, first thing I did is to make that radish, peas and lapsi pickle. Oh, God it sure has the power to give me the childhood memory and feel of the Dashain. But some food you should not eat it alone it needs people around you and the other festival food to accompany it, which we enjoy making it only in festival time.

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