Essay competition

Sunita Giri 10:46 PM |

Its really not easy for me to remember, exactly when, but there is no doubt that then I was a teenager. I just can't remember in which year of my teen I was then.

Bal Mandir used to hold all kinds of talent competitions back in 80s and may before that. Once there was essay competition to be held. Geeta Basnet, who was incharge of this department perhaps, may have made some mistake in its pre plan, that's why there was not much show ups for this essay competition. It was then the officers at the NCO - Nepal Children Organisation, which runs Bal Mandir sent news to housemothers to send some big girls may be boys too but I can't remember them to take part in this competition.

So, we about six or seven girls found ourselves in the Baithak Hall, where most of the competitions used to take place and then after some time we huddled in a bunch wondering what to write, in its big terrace which remained closed most of the days except there used to be such competitions only. We were given a subject to write about this essay : country’s soil.

Bal Mandir also used to publish one monthly magazine named Balak, where prominent writer of that era along with budding talents used to publish their creations. This magazine covered story, poems, essays, lives of influential peoples and many more. We have read in that magazine that country's soil meant, that our country has been fertile enough for centuries to give us legends and heros like Ram, Buddha, Janak, Arniko, and  daughter like Bhrikuti who did put world spotlight in our country, did something to raise the pride of our nation in the eyes of the outside world and also some brave soldiers, who had always protected our country from mighty english invasion.

Geeta Basnet felt really sorry for us as we looked totally confused and clueless how to fill our pages and how to submit the essay papers. Normally, they used to separate competitors fearing they may copy from each others, but then, she had allowed all of us to stay in a group and have open discussion on this and then write as we felt comfortable.

Many of us were clueless and not prepared for this competition and looking like a fools and wondering how to fill the pages. But it was not the same with Radha Didi, after some confusion, she started writing with ease that, how the soil of our country is fertile and versatile depending on different places and we can grow anything on it if we want. like some soil gives us sugarcane, and some gives us radish, and some gives us chili and fruit and foods. She probably may have been studying in seven or eighth grade then.

Most of us were almost in the same grade as hers, just one years up or down than her; but she was the only one who was thinking differently than rest of us. Should this surprise us that, she was the only one, who went to St. Mary’s School a convent education and rest of went to government schools. I do remember, when a housemother [Kedar Shrestha] used to get angry with us for our rough and coarse behaviour, she used to rant that its because we go to shitty school.  

Maybe that’s why, the clear difference between her thinking  and ours. Call it whatever you want, but lack of confidence and capacity to think differently than the rest have emerged so prominently at that very young age, but [I guess] none of us were smart enough to understand it then.

Radha Didi was using her common sense and not trying to tune in with some finicky writer’s imagination, who envisioned soil as being fertile to give us legends and heroes only, instead of all types of foods, we need to survive. As she was writing some of us was laughing like anything, because we thought it was a pure joke, rather than reality of life. She did laugh with us but yet kept on writing what she felt right then. We thought, we should be focusing on legends and heroes only, but, we knew nothing about them to write and fill the pages that was given to us by the event organizer.

Some girls did found logic in her thinking and started filling their papers accordingly, based on her opinion. Because, if they did not copy her, then the condition would have been arisen that, we may have to submit our essay competition papers blank and they always said in clear words, “Bal Mandir children are not smart enough, like the children who grew up in family.”

Today, I can't remember what was my opinion about that and how I filled my pages, I am totally blank here at this moment for that part. I also can't remember anything about the final result of that competition. Writing was never my forte then nor during my college days. All I do remember is, how unprepared we were, how we thought what we have read was true and how fragile age we were in then; to form our own mind about something we have heard already and how incapable we were to form our mind for the things we have never heard before.

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Tamarind pickle

Sunita Giri 11:36 PM |

 I could have been in about sixth or seventh grade and tamarind used to be the best food of my childhood memories. Perhaps our age is just right to like its soury, citrusy and tangy taste. During those days, I was very close with Junkiri and Dibya during those time,because we were in same class as well as we were bench mates also, not to mention we all lived in Bal Mandir.

Girls in our school used to have tamarind as a snacks or during the class to get rid of boring sunny days of hot summer. We did not have money like those who grew up in family to have extra money for those extra expenses like that. In Bal Mandir there was nothing called pocket money concept, when we were young because we did not needed it for anything, as all our needs were met. But sometimes we did had money to buy something of our choice, a good way out from those group food or meal year round. School lunchtime or after school hours made us hungry like ghost, although they used to provide us four time meal a day but it seemed that, those meals were not sufficient for children's like us, who were ever hungry.

When I try to understand, why we were hungry like that ? why they used to say that we were not breast feed during our childhood that's why we were hungry all the time. But new age lifestyle psychologists call it emotional eating. This somewhat satisfy me answer, may be we used to feed our emotions. In absence of our loved one around us, who took care of our needs and ruffled our hair; we shook shelter in foods to pamper ourselves or feed our emptiness that lies in our unconscious mind.

What the heck, lets enjoy tamarind pickle and not worry about what’s their opinions about  our never ending hunger pangs.

I and Dibya used to manage money to buy tamarind but Junkiri never had money to chip in for food, because her relative never used to visit her in Bal Mandir and give her money to spend occasionally. Therefore, she used to manage for sugar, which she had to get from the store or steal it anyhow before we enjoy the tamarind the pickle. And as for Chili we had to fall in front of the chili plants and when we stand up from the fall, we already had handful of green chilies for the pickle.

Finding a small bowl for preparing the pickle was one of the toughest task, as in Bal Mandir we hardly used to have small bowl, which was sufficient to prepare food only for three young girls. Smallest bowl in Bal Mandir was enough to contain rice or lentil or pickle for at least 18 children. I can't remember who owned that red plastic bowl but we found anyway one to make it. There is no doubt that, we must have stolen it from one of the girl, who owned that bowl, just can't remember whose bowl was that.

Once we had all the ingredients to make the pickle, we used to go to one corner of the long veranda, and made sure there was enough and long clothes hanging on there to hide us, so that we could make the delicious and spicy pickle and then dig in all by ourselves, what we had just made.

Hiding ourselves in the place, where about forty girls lived in two different rooms and about twenty girls visiting from other rooms to see their close friends, staying in this part of of the building was definitely not easy task for us.

Sometimes we had to stop our work in process or devouring the pickle in the middle of it, if someone showed off the place where we were hiding ourselves, at that part of the veranda. stopping it meant, we don't have to share it with them. I was one of the mean person, who was least interested to share our delicious food with them, Junkiri was equally unwilling to share our foods with those unwanted poppers but, Dibya she was willing to share it with others, occasionally; when they appeared during our devouring time. She was the skinniest in our group but was the most kindest than two of us. We two did not used to share it with anyone but she used to share it from her share of food. Junkiri and I thought, her sharing quality had made her skinniest.

We were so childish that we used to eat its pit too, yeah all of it.

The Tamarind pickle used to be very tooth achingly citrusy and soury therefore, that hot green chilies added much needed extra zing to the pickle. We used to add lots of sugar cut that sharp citrusy and soury taste of tamarind and also to kill the hot taste of green chilies. It was one of the best food I had during my childhood and one of the best memories to cherish of that time; which reminds me how greedy we were, how careless and carefree we were.

But, that's what makes us child right ?

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A Familiar story

Sunita Giri 11:56 PM |

When I read the latest book out in market by Hari Bansha Acharya, who is not just much loved comedian of our time, but he is a well respected social reformer too. In his storytelling, I noticed so much familiar tone. His story telling reminded me of my life in Bal Mandir but particularly one of our friend whose name is Junkiri.

His entertaining qualities, which he obtained watching many people around is one of the core part of Bal Mandir and for us Junkiri provided all that entertaining for us that. Junkiri is one of his huge fan and she is as entertaining and time pass for the people around her, as Hari Bansha Acharya. Like him, she has nothing to hide from the people she is close with, and closeness is something has power to force me to think. There are things in everyone's life to hide but she has nothing, nothing to hide. If I like her, I like her for that very quality and if I don't like her, I don't like her for her inability to hide some of the things that happens in her bedroom. Sometimes, I tell her do I really need to know it ? She gives the question damn and don't even pay attention to it, because she has perhaps that much to tell you and she will tell you anyway.

Just like the superstar and multi talented actor, who loves dog, she too is multitalented and a dog lover. She never hesitate to let dogs [including stray when she was in Bal Mandir], to lick her; which almost made me puke. She is so jealous when she sees that her dog loves me more than he feels gratitude to her caring for it, would not hesitate to scold her if she has too.

Like Hari Bansha, Junkiri was least interested in her study and failed so many times in one class but those failing  happened before she appeared S.L.C. unlike his fourth division status repeatedly.  Despite her being in poor in her studies, she was liked by her teachers due to her very likable qualities which she made everyone laugh mostly her wrong pronunciation, she utter without realizing how funny it sounds to others.

Today, I know this for sure, that she was suffering from learning disabilities; I wonder is the comedian is also suffered from the same disabilities ?

Apart from he being so close resemblance to my childhood friends Junkiri, there are so many distinct qualities which is so similar to us with the star comedian, which is so common with the children of Bal Mandir, his strength and flaws are so much like ours.

Like he indulges in self-pity, suffering from low self-esteem, and lack self confidence and don't have anything to hide from the world. those flaws are so much like us because we think we have our birthright in all the negatives in us, but reading his book, only tells me more deeper reality of those strength and weakness.  All his flaws and strength make him so much like one of us.

Just like us, he too felt it ignorant to the good things that was given to us by god to appreciate instead we tended to believe those nannies and housemother who treated us very demeaning and disrespectful manner just because we were orphans.  

There is no doubt, he is an orphan too, but how come an orphan who grew up in family is not much different from the children, who grew up in children home like us ? Therefore this question has power to think me hard. Now, it gives me more reason to dig deeper in behaviour issues, that we see in children who were raised in children home. However it also is force me to think now that its the other people who treat us badly because of the bad situation we ended up instead we acting badly to them because of the bad situation that land us. Bad situation is somewhat taken as a licence by the people around us to treat badly.

Its fine, because we believed those illiterate nannies and dominating housemothers and at times those well educated officer managers too, for whatever they injected in our young minds; but who injected forced perception in his head, like, we should not respect ourselves, take pride in our talents and believe in our true potential  us like others who grew up in family ? How come, he has not overcome with that kind of flawed in thinking, even after seeing such height in his more than 35 years successful careers track ?

In my case, when the guy was dating, know I grew up in Bal Mandir, it sure gave him licence to treat me like second class citizen. Do I have to tell you that what makes him my Ex ? But in his case it was when he had money after selling his house and some some cash in his pocket and one person, called Thapa got the opportunity to swindle him, hoping he can run away with the money. And its more interesting for me to read in the change of behavior in him from then onward. It changed the teen boy into more aggressive, fearless and not respecting anyone regardless of their position and status they enjoyed in society. That was so very much like us and that is our story in Bal Mandir. This is why his story has so familiar narration. He lived almost the same life we lived in Bal Mandir.

But, I must thank the star comedian, for his honest writing, pouring his heart out in it when it comes to share his life story with us. But, more than that; I feel so grateful to tell you, your story made me feel like, my life in Bal Mandir felt like heaven, despite all the ill treatment by nannies, housemothers and office manager sometimes.

At the same time I would like to request the writer to shake off your head from self-pity, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.  Its okay, to take pride in your achievements, respect yourself for whatever you have been able to earn in life and have more self-confidence in your future projects, if not for all, then what you have done and achieved in your life, should be sufficient enough to feel new found pride and respect for yourself.

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Sunita Giri 12:40 AM |

One of the best movie, I have watched in my life, is Anand. This movie is made by Satyajit Ray, the Oscar award winning director from India. 

This movie mainly revolves around two men, one of them was dying with deadly disease and the other man was a doctor, who was attending the dying man. The man, who only has six months to live. This is also a story of a two people’s perspective, of life and how it should be lived. The interesting part of this movie is, the one who was dying is the one who knows how to live, I mean  live in real sense, well before it ends; and the doctor who had whole life to live, was the one who forgot to see the beauty of life and was scared of death. 

Therefore, he was kind of living his life in dark. The dying man did not liked to see death in the eyes and face of the doctor so, he avoided him as much as he could and the doctor wanted him to take medicine on time and realize it well that his sickness is kind of serious and he can't ignore the fact, that he was dying. But, the man who was undergoing treatment refused to live life, as per his doctors assumptions. This is the reason the movie makes worthwhile to watch before you die.  

After watching this movie, I came to understand the meaning of untold or chewed words and language, in fact, body language and eye rolls by top level offers in the Nepal Children's Organisations or the demeaning, disrespectful and undignified words that middle management or junior staff hurled at us, without a slightest hesitation.  Why they never respected us ? Although, they were there to take care of us, but most of them acted, as if they were superior like God. As a child I failed to get it.

Interestingly, when I was growing up child I just did not get the hidden reason behind it, but  I resented people who felt comfortable to hint us that our life was not worth anymore than what it looked like. They always treated like us as if it won't be any better than what was our conditions in Bal Mandir.

Although, I have along with many of my childhood friends, this kind of resentment to most of the staffs who worked in Bal Mandir whether they were top level officers or lowest staff but here I would like to give you just my one person with whom I was in touch long after, my teenage time was over, to understand the gravity her thinking; which I found hard to believe as I learn more and more as I grew older. I would like to say that, this kind of differences was bigger than rich and poor and growing up in family or orphanage, there was more to that difference in behavior.

I remember visiting  Mrs. Shrestha, in her office in Bal Mandir during the early years to collect my sponsored money which included my entire cost of living and education. Mrs. Shrestha was trusted for her honesty and all the money was handed over to her, so that she will give me on monthly basis.  

I still can't forget to shake my head to that question, even it had passed more than twenty years, since she had asked me that question, at the end of my two years college study.

“Do you really have to go to college further ?”  she had asked me this question, when I had told her I want to continue my study after completing my intermediate level. Why she asked me that question and what does that mean ?

I personally don't think anything wrong, if she had felt, we need to work to support ourselves, instead of ‘wasting time in study’, but I have a sponsor who was there to send me to college. why she wanted to put full stop in my study. Fine I was not the good student still graduation is a must for every child.

A Swiss man Bernhard Rutz had come forward to pick up my college bills and help me in more ways than just sending me to college. These two still work together for the betterment of underprivileged child like me.

As a growing up teenager, all, I wanted to do in my life, was to graduate, therefore, I decided to talk with Bernhard directly in this matter. I used to meet him once in a year only that too for a couple of hours only. It was the beginning years of 90s and that was the time there was no email and internet to contact him and writing letter to him was something, used to get lost in postal service or I never used to get letters he wrote for me. So, when he came at the end of 1991, I have enough time to get myself roll in college for the next two years also.

“Bernhard I want to go to college for my graduation”, I simply told him.

“Okay” was the fast and simple answer from him and he did not even blinked his eyes or think twice before responding my request.  It was so different response for my education, from what Mrs. Shrestha had reacted to my keen interest to go to college for two more years.

What is more interesting to pay attention here, is that it was she, who had recommended my name to Bernhard to get this scholarship, instead of me requesting her to find one for me. And that's what, it makes me wonder, why she used to react the way she reacted ? To her I was not acting, dressing or behaving like I should, meaning I forgot I grew up in Bal Mandir. And it was her job, duty and full responsibility to remind me that; in so many ways. Her behavior was hard to understand ? Why she did not think it necessary to increase our lifestyle even by a little bit  than we used to live in Bal Mandir ?  Even when I was lucky enough to get kind hearted person like Bernhard to pick up my all bill during college and not just education bill ?

One of the biggest effort she made in her life, was to hint me that Bernhard was not my father to lean so close with him. Mistake was already made so we got very close. Told you, I was not brightest student to get her hints, fast or I resented it so much, I went on different direction than she thought. Today, they call it reverse psychology for this kind of behavior.

Disagreeing seem to be my biggest strength; and if I have to disagree with her, I enjoy doing so; even more. But now I know this for sure, its not just disagreeing with each other. We two have totally different perspective about life and how we should live; just like the doctor and patient in the movie Anand. We both may make sense but its my life so I don't have to nod my head to her thinking and I have a luxury to disagree with her, as she is not my family member and thank God for this biggest gift in my life.

Apart from that, before seeing Bernhard I had not met anyone who loved me and cared for me the way he did. I was his first effort, to  his yet to grow big dream to help children like me and and we both forgot the boundary of the limitations that how close we should be or much distance we should keep from each other. We got very close and it was viewed as almost like a crime by Mrs. Shrestha, I did not get it for so long. 

But I am not going to nag about her behavior, instead I should be profusely thankful to Mrs. Shrestha for her kind of approach, she kept towards me, because it played huge role in my  life. Her view is what,  taught me, that there is nothing called right or wrong thing, just the different perspective of it. When I find things so very right, to her it make no sense and what makes sense to her numbs my deep conscience; and that's the time I stick with my own convictions.

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