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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