Magic Clay

Sunita Giri 11:28 PM |

Its not that we never saw beautiful dolls, that was made for rich parents children only. Of course, I did played with good looking dolls too, when I was growing up child in Bal Mandir. Oh, forgive me If I sound bit misleading to you here; because those dolls used to be in such conditions, they needed major operation on almost all parts of the body, with some exception. However, no need to worry, as it was only doll and needed no hospitals, if they had their body parts separated and lying on different parts in different area of the room. But, what can you expect when there were almost 50 girl children to play. A perfect toy that would not break, was a distant dream unless its made with wood or so.

What is interesting to learn now is that not having, does not necessarily mean, that we did not play with dolls. We have liberty to use our brain at the very young age to make our own dolls and then play with it. I would not go into the details of it as playing dolls was not something my favorite things. Okay, I am not telling that it was of best quality but it was  good enough for us to play or even pass time with something we created for ourselves. What I can remember was playing with dolls just could not hold me for long and I did stopped playing with it, you sure can imagine that the dolls I used to make was worse in the group perhaps to entertain me or to hold on me to it.

But that was not much of a problem. If I don't like dolls to play with, I don't have to force myself to it. There were plenty of other children like me to pass time and there was even play room for us.

Maybe I could have been younger than ten years at that time just cant remember my exact age then; but, there was one thing in that toy room, that hard to forget even today. It was a non-sticky magic clay.

I was not the much of an artist to make good art out of that clay or to make something worthwhile from it, that was not expected as we were just a learning child. But the good thing about that clay was we could make anything out of it, and then dismantle it at the end of the day and then next day we still could make something totally new item out of that same clay.

Another good thing about that clay was that it never made our hand dirty, it was a clean clay and and it did not stick in our hand, while we work on that clay.

There is no doubt that like so many things during my childhood, this magic clay was also a donation from rich nation. This perhaps is one of the best toy I have ever played in my life that has lasting impact in my mind. We could be as creative as we wanted, we  could be as messy as we wanted and unlike making doll from rags, I did not have to see it for days with its horrible and scary look, staring at me even at nights from the pace we keep it. The dolls we made used to be our own property and we could keep it with us. But the toys we used to play in the toy room was something, we have to leave in the toy room once the playtime was over.

Its been more than two years, I have been writing. Writing is kind of that easy like playing with that magic clay. Freedom to use words and then again deleting whole line or paragraph or at times pages and then finding other words to make another line that forms a paragraph instantly that makes more sense has something to remind me of that magic clay. You can mold it anyway you want and any story you can tell.

The same words can be used to form another story and then other article and then other book. Even then, no one is going to tell you that you have used the same words to tell us this story too. To tell a story, to the whole world all you need is words and mold it as you wish. Freedom to mold words in a story could be that easy, was something I could have never thought of when I was playing with that magic clay. As I write, If not always then most of the time that magic clay keep coming in my mind, that used to be our toy as I was growing up. Never knew not even in my wildest imagination that small thing can have this kind of impact in my mind and one day mold my own path of life.

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The Dance

Sunita Giri 11:42 PM |

In just a months later, children’s day will be celebrated here in Nepal. When I was child this day used to the biggest day in our life, as it used to be celebrated with much fanfare on 4th of Bhadra, which falls on early days of third week of August. On this day the birthday of the late queen mother, used to fall, who perhaps was the founder of Bal Mandir. Needless to tell you, with much ado ! this day held very important part of my childhood days.

The best part of this day was that there used to be big celebration, we were given sweets and there used to be program at the big lawn inside the Bal Mandir as well as outside. We were part of both programs, there used to be nationwide competition on dancing and singing, drama, which ultimately used to take place in Royal Nepal Academy hall for the grand finale. Because, in mid ‘80s it was the royal ruling era in our country, so this particular day used to create so many buzz inside the Bal Mandir as well as create huge noise and attention in the country. At the same time this single even used to make royal members busy like bees. Without a doubt, those days were pure fun and escape from the boring schedule of school and home and study for many children like me, who used to take part in dancing or singing competition, regardless of which school they attended.

It was the time we used to get a chance to be friend with other school children. Bal Mandir  was not just a children home but also a big training center for after school programs, that used to train budding talents in dancing, singing, drama, and many other creative areas of life. Here all the program used to take place for the grand finale and about three weeks before the main event, royals mainly the three sisters of king Birendra or the sister of  queen mother, used to come to Bal Mandir and then select only the best one they liked most from amongst the many participants for the big event. The sisters used to take this task one at a time, my personal favorite was late princess Sharada Shah, the middle sister of late King Birendra. Under her management food used to be better than the other sisters. Other sisters used to save more money than spend money that was allotted for the event.

Once they used to select the dance, song and then drama almost immediately we were needed to go to Royal Nepal Academy for rehearsal for the big day to be acquainted with big stage accordingly with our dancing groups, or singers or drama. Getting used to on this big stage used to take almost fifteen days every year. Those days were one of  the best days of my childhood life. It was also a good escape from the stale and bland food from Bal Mandir, because during those days they used to provide us almost three meal or at times four from five star hotel. As for those in dancing practice it was made even easier because, unlike during the learning of dance steps prior to selection, the songs used to get recorded and from then onward only the record players was needed to be pushed for dance practices.

At one time, a dance group was selected from a deaf school, which is inside the Bal Mandir premises. It was the days we were getting prepared for the big day and then it was turn of the this particular group on stage. During those practices all other participants like me, used to take audience seat and needed to watch it quietly. As the four in that group were practicing their dance steps, suddenly there was a problem in the cassette player and it stopped.

But to our delight their dance did not; because, they were deaf and they had mastered dancing with the beat and rhythm of practice and without much help of the sound of music. If they had not realized this or we even on this matter; then that day it was revealed when the cassettes did not work, but they did not stop dancing. Their trainer and team leader tried their best to stop the dance by making noise and signs but they still did not hear the claps or see those signs they were making from the front. We were laughing like anything on our seats, but our laughter were also useless. When they finally stopped, they were almost at the end of that dance and they looked really puzzled when they saw us laughing in our seats.  

When I look back there are many things in my life that makes me think hard for the things  that have made me laugh then when I was young. But now I don't think its a matter of laugh anymore. That dance, those swift twirls and turns and the perfect steps by those four deaf and mute group was a pure mistake of a record player not working temporarily, but today when that scene reels in my mind, it teach me that if one practice really hard, how the deaf and mute can dance in the tune of music which they actually can't hear; yet they can dance.

If you have not seen that dance you may have believe there might be slightest chance that they do listen the sound of music, on which they were dancing, but; they did not and we presume that they do, if not then how come they can they dance ? we can always ask those question but the truth and assumption are two different things. They danced anyway; regardless of what we presumed. They call it practice and practice and practice make man perfect.

Was that a laughing matter to see that dance without music ? But I always forgive myself for the mistake I have made when I was young and innocent. I was not even in my teen years when I saw this dance so I can still laugh at it and then learn from that incident, Can't I ?

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Why some people are so angry ?

Sunita Giri 11:11 PM |

I was looking at her standing from outside the kitchen, my back resting on the big metal bar railing made at the long corridor that led to kitchen. I was looking at this angry tamang woman and her swollen veins in her neck and in her forehead, due to ‘the talk’ she was doing with so much anger  and frustration with a male staff in the kitchen, who could not be seen from the place where I was standing. ‘The talk’ is wrong word here to use for what she was doing , because she is the only one who was doing most of 'the talk' and the man who was a cook, kept his loud silence, despite she was attacking him loudly and kind of inviting him to take part in that verbal war.

It was the big kitchen,  which had three main door to enter inside it, and I was at the north side of the door. In front of this door, there she was; this middle age woman who to my child eyes she looked bit old then. I can't even remember her name today, but she was not in the staff team. However; used to stay in Bal Mandir anyway. That particular day she was there in the kitchen with a big pan of meat in front of her waiting to be distributed to almost 200 children as well as staff. So, undoubtedly this was a Saturday evening.
Normally, house mother on duty used to do this job, no not the curry distribution just the meat once in every week, but I have no idea; why she was there to do this work that particular day. While she was jabbing her jaw, she was placing one big scoop of soupy meat on the plates of children, who were passing by her in a long row, that went back to the long row of corridor and even that used to go down the small stairs that lead to the front yard. However, she was more engrossed in argument than doing the work fast. We used to wait whole week to have a meat  and enjoy having it more than any tasty curry of the week. So, naturally, children like me were less interested in what she was thinking or feeling and why she was angry like that.

She must have had a small misunderstanding with one of the cook, whom we used to call ‘Baje’ on duty for this unexpected arrangement. That misunderstanding can be regarded very normal as part of the days work, but because she never had the work pressure and to mend ways with other working people so she was making it a huge fuss and behaving as if the sky just fell on her side.

Trust me, I am least interested in her sour mood and  what she was thinking or feeling but   her swollen veins in her aging neck and forehead and angry tone and mood at the most unexpected time and then her never ending jabbing was something I just could not understand, why.

She was challenging the cook repeatedly to, “come, chop off my head , I won't say a word and I won't do anything.” While at the same time, she was doing non stop verbal attack to the man who was not even taking part in this war, was just too much for my young mind to to shake my head off.

She was a tamang woman and I always loved the sound of twang they spoke, but this time it was not the same story anyway.

Why people are so angry like that ? Specially, when they don't have to work hard like others and nothing to lose then what made them angry ?

Here, I am not trying to say that Bal Mandir was peaceful haven and there never used to be any sort of argument, disagreement or quarreling. With so many children at your hand length all that was part of daily life. And if any, they get tangled in lengthy fight or arguments, there always used to be somebody to intervention, either from seniors,  or housemothers to stop such uncivilized behaviors. But, this woman was not the  staff member, so there was no one to stop her and to tell her not to jab her jaw non stop in front of young children, especially, when they were hungry like lava.

When I look back, I wonder why some adult, if not the housemothers, even room nannies who were her age or bit older than her, did not tell her not to over do it. Why none of them told her to step outside the kitchen and then end the verbal attack. What this woman had to make her point clear in that way ? Why she thought of giving a hard time to the man, who had to work hard to make his living, when this woman did nothing for living ? If she had nothing to fear or lose [job] then why she was manifesting that kind of behavior ?  

Just like me you too may have observed incidents like this and there are some incidents, which won't go away from our heads, even if we do not understand why. Is there anything I can learn from this particular incident ? If yes, then what is this, I really don't know that yet.

Just like her, there were two more old woman, who used to stay in Bal Mandir, despite they not being part of staff team. The other two were much older than her, they said they were ‘bubu’ - nannies - of Bhim SJB Rana, who owned that building once. The woman, who yapped like hell was said said to be the mistress of Rana ruler in her youth. They were from the staff team of the man who had left the building perhaps they had no place to go and so they came with the buildings as package deal to take care for them too, just like the building. Because the big palace had plenty of  rooms for couple of those ladies, so maybe it was not much of problem to keep there. However, I have no idea who used to give them the living allowance and how much they used to get it.

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Odd Number Out

Sunita Giri 11:03 PM |

“What have you eaten to upset your stomach”, Shova Didi  asked me when I said that my system has gone out of control.  

“Powder milk” I said honestly, as she was not going to punish me or fill the ear of housemothers about my this honesty. Because, she was the only nice nannies in Bal Mandir with whom sharing something like this was not risky at all. And asked her, why do you think ‘it’ to be blamed for my loose motion ?

She said, “why not, it has to be that food, ‘raw food’, which is the reason to spoil your digestive system.”
“But I did not eat too much to have my system to go wrong like this”, I kind of defended myself.
“You don't have to eat too much poison to see its power”, small portion will do the work.” That logic has real weight in it.

When I was young and growing up in Bal Mandir, I did not have very strong digestive system or maybe immune system. I was  the first one to be prone to food poisoning, or at least I would like to think it that way. It was not that, I was demanding good and hygienic food on my plate every time because that was way too impossible; but my fragile health demanded me to take every precaution with what I eat and what I don't. Even slightest carelessness was sufficient to make me vomit, have loose motion and dust made me sneeze like anything.  How that happened was, something beyond the understanding of my tiny teen brain.

If my stomach got upset after having food from the main kitchen, that is something not much of a problem. Our kitchen was not the dirtiest to be doubted for unhygienic source of illness; because cleanliness was high priority then. Royal way of up bringing was something I came to appreciate, only when I left Bal Mandir. Its not that, I was the only one, who had to face the sever case of diarrhea all the time.

There were others too, who used to go through this phase, but, when we were children carelessness is our birthright, not knowing comes with the tender and innocent age, and ignoring adults for the guidelines they set for us was something  kind of  pride then. Having said all that was one of the reason that used to land me in trouble health wise, specially weak digestion.

However, this small defect of my health, played a huge role in my life to put me in a faraway distance from my own close friends, with whom I shared not only rooms but at times also classrooms and a kitchen to have meals.

But my this weakness was more of a problem, when we used to have small party among our close knit friends. We used to chip some money from each one in the group of about six and seven close friends circle and buy some foods from outside the Bal Mandir which were nearby the Bhagwati temple. Then, we did not knew it was cheap eateries, however food was tasty and it was fun to have Mo.Mo. Chhoyela, potato’s pickle with beaten rice used to be the main item in those fun party.

But, after one such fun party, I fell terribly sick as I had severe diarrhea. But what is interesting to pay attention was no one fell sick like me in the group. So, giving the incident as benefit of doubt, I did joined other fun party also, may be it used to happens every month at the end of it and this time also I fell sick. Now, there was no doubt that the food we had, had something that was not hygienic. But remember it was not hygienic only for me, as it did not make sick others in the group. Needless to mention, I was out from the group due to my princess like health, who could not digest food from cheap eateries. That fun gathering with good food did went on for quite some time but I can't remember how long, as I was  not in anyone of those party. I did went on for couple of years may be during our last years in Bal Mandir because we were big  girls then.

It really makes me smile, when I look back and try to sink the word in my head for that ‘big girls’ part. It was then, when we were in our mid teen years. When I look back now, teenage children are just the growing up child.

However, time spent with my childhood friends were much more fun than the food that made me sick [always], and damn I was not accustomed to have such meal for long, long time until, I could afford to go to decent restaurants, which hygienic priority was equally better than the good tasting food. That happened only after I started working in five star Hotel.

Now, what is most interesting thing to learn is, I am the odd number out in most of my groups, if its not my fragile health then, it my different thinking that separates me from rest of the crowd. I am the square peg who won't fit in a round hole circle. But, I have grown now, and have learned to accept my unique personality; and given up trying hard to fit in any group of so called normal people or society. Now, the word normal has power to bore me to death. I am proud that I am not the carbon copy version of anyone.

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