New Housemother

Sunita Giri 11:26 PM | ,

 When I look back in my childhood, one thing I remember distinctly is that there hardly used to be change of staff in Bal Mandir, not only in junior level but in middle and top level too. At least I grew up seeing the same faces for years. Its not that the Bal Mandir never used to see new staff over the years, but it was rare. We know this that change is life and of course, there used to be occasional changes of staff. One that has power to play huge impact in my life is the position of Housemothers.  

When I was in about seventh grade Sabity Basnyat the most notorious housemother in the history of Bal Mandir moved to her husband’s home. Because she was the second wife and the man was taking her to the same house where he had his first wife. It was what she was avoiding but when she felt she could not do it anymore, [ she was pregnant with her daughter when she was in Bal Mandir ] then she moved in with him. Because, in those days abortion was way too risky and was not available easily.

When she left there was one housemother,  her name may be Rajju Adhikary; I am sure about her first name but not sure about her last name. She did not last that long. She resented job like anything and pretended she is so superior than us. Her behaviour and body language was the mock story for us and sure amused us as long as she lasted.  I don't even remember how many months, she worded. She must have left without completing her probation period.

And then there was another housemother Durga Pokharel, who replaced Rajju Dijju. This new woman was newly divorced and needed a job to wrap ups her dire financial need to support her and her young child, just don't know how many she had.  She wore so rejected, defeated, and desperate look and her eyes always seemed like blood shoot. May be she used to cry a lot in her solitude; but in our teen years we were not wise enough to read minor things like that.

She had trouble adjusting in new environment. Because she was thrown out from her husband [that's what adult used to talk about in muffled tone], that rejection which she carried in her heart is what became so much trouble for her to adjust with children in Bal Mandir who have their set of troubles to live it. Sure the children were not in mood to take the troubled adults rejection anymore.

She was harsh with us and oh, yes ! we sure made her time harder there in Bal Mandir. Did you just read ‘we made’ ? Today, when I look back, my understanding of the situation is, it was involuntary, but strong reaction of the first action only.

There was time when situation got too worse and her patience wore off. She started resorting to physical abuse. But by this time even the courage of girls had swore off high and they got more bolder facing her physical abuse. I do remember once she got tangled with haring pulling with girls. I was just there at the venue when all that had happened. And I too wanted to get physical like hitting her hard and pulling her hair as she did it and like    other girls did it without even thinking for the consequences.

At that very moment, I remember thinking with my eyes still glaring and my brain thumping in so much anger for finding myself in such condition. I was strong physically and was mentally too is something I know now. I could have thwarted her so easily than other girls but I just swallowed my anger and composed myself with whatever my teen brain allowed me not to get tangle in that kind of messy abusive and uncivilized human behavior.

Again, when I look back try to understand, why she resorted to that kind of abusive behavior towards teen girls ? may be she was angry with boys too but sorry I cant remember theirs story ! I may fail to get it completely, but; I still can try to figure it out. She was thrown out of her house by her husband [ that's what adult muffled] with her young child to take care of and teenagers around the world are very troublesome not just in Bal Mandir. They do have their own set of problems, to face, in life, and where on earth careless bunch of teens have brain enough to understand what is going on in the mind of troubled adult or she was going through ?

When adult do have their own set of problem to sort out in their personal life, they do see problem outside, and outside we were there. So many children like me.  Housemother like Durga Pokharel believed children in Bal Mandir are most uncontrollable, untrainable and disobedient. Before that Sabitri Basnyat believed we need to be tamed like wild dog, remember she was employee of Police force before her posting in Bal Mandir. What she saw, what she practiced.

These housemothers and room nannies we had to call them didi always wondered, why we did not give them due respect ? when they were injecting hatred and treating us like less than human, they were expecting respect in return ! Hard to believe !

Little did I knew it then, I what I am writing here with clear conscience. Clarity was never there in my thinking, when I was in my teen years or even in my mid 20s, which comes so naturally now. Everything was so fuzzy and confusing. I thought, we hated them or I hated them, but why would I hate them where there was absence of love and respect ? I know now, I did not hated them, none of them, it was just I just could not give them the respect they expected from us.

In a moment like this, I remember Kalpana [she was mild mentally retard] who used to tell this line again and again to those who treating her like crazy and called her like that also, “if you treat me like one, I behave like one.”

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Was I Facing Bully ?

Sunita Giri 10:16 PM |

She was perhaps one of the woman who wore most invisible look on her face, lets not even talk about her dress here ! Yeah, I know I am the wrong person to say this kind of things about her but this is what I am doing now. Because, she was one of the least attractive didis in Bal Mandir, as compared to the look of other didis. Apart from that she was the darkest one also.

Now, I am fully grown up; therefore I am quite sure about it that the exterior look almost do not have to do anything on anyone liking someone or disliking. Perhaps its not her look that was so unattractive about her, maybe; it was her too much of negative thinking or her dark side. We liking someone based on the exterior is only part of a truth, the whole truth of one's beauty [or ugliness] lies in one's thought and channelizing those thoughts in one’s life.

Understanding this at this age and sharing this with you may sound almost useless, because when I was in my mid teen years growing up in Bal Mandir, I was as average as any other person, not having any wisdom of mine own in most basic understanding like this.

Long before I understood this, liking is the culmination of one’s body and thought, and not picking just one. I was a young girl and Shanti didi hated me like anything. She was very vocal about it, and bad news for her, I was not a weakling either since I was young child.

She hated me was probably an understated, to be honest she could not stand me. Do I remember doing anything bad to her, sorry no such memory in my mind for hurting her, or doing anything with my full conscience to defame her or drag in any nasty mess. Oh, Yes I can sure be honest with you that I was not afraid of her hatred  and those verbal abuse and hide myself behind the curtain whenever she was around. I faced her brutality and abusive nature. I used to retaliate her abusive comments, not exactly as filthy or mud slinging way but with all the courage of my teen brain whatever I had then !

Perhaps, like all the bullies, she too was infuriated with the realization that, she just could not scare me with her dominating character in any way possible. But, she sure had been successful to keep me away from her room for so long; and that was frustrating. For this she had the support of housemother, Kedar Shrestha. It was during my last years in Bal Mandir.

Personally speaking, I did not have any particular interest in being in the room that had tyrant nanny like Shanti Didi, but the problem with this fact was  she was the nanny in big girl’s room and I was not in that room instead sharing room with girls who went to lower grades. I know, there is nothing wrong sharing room with girls who studied in lower grades, but that also meant, I never had any friend of mine in my room, with whom I could talk and chat hours in subjects only we both could be interested. All of them were in her room.

Reality with this bitter truth was my wanting to go in that room, where  my best and close friends used to stay had nothing to do with my simple wish or rule of the Bal Mandir. By rule depending on my age and grade, I should have been in that room like others but I was not was hard truth. I could hang out with them all day, but for those late night talks, all I had was young girls who were least interested in what I talk or discuss about the books I loved reading.

I will never understand why she hated me so much and what was the reason ? But, what I know now is, that there is no reason when someone likes you or dislikes you. Its just like that, without a reason people can give explanation. Okay, this is something I can digest, easily, no particular reason for liking or disliking one, but why she was so vocal about it ?

My understanding was very much clear on this fact then and now also, to raise me or anyone in Bal Mandir, she did not have to spend a penny from her pocket my act did not costed her a penny. Besides there was plenty of works to do or other people to talk to or engage with if she was not comfortable with me. Why she used to carry that kind of grudge against me ?

At this point it is a must for me the share with you that she was called witch by many of her colleagues for her ‘dark side’. In my society, I mean to say not only in Bal Mandir, people who carry too much negativity in their mind and hard to adjust with rest of the crowd are labeled as witch. Many [other nannies] suspected that she knew black magic and practiced it for her own satisfaction. She was the nanny, who used to hurl at us crude and filthy words to rant her frustration which still has power to numb my conscience. That kind of behavior was beyond my understanding. With that knowledge in my hand I used to say things to her most grown people would have bitten their thought until it bleeds ! But I was fearless person.

So when I look back and try to understand, why I resented those harsh behaviors ? Now, I understand why, when the staffs at the Bal Mandir as well as NCO treated us less than humans at every opportunity they got, I resented it. Then; I did not knew that I was sensitive, touchy may fit better to explain my kind of sensitive reaction to those harsh treatments with us and demanded self-respect. Sadly without having any knowledge about those fancy words and expected my elders to treat us with little bit of respect, if not all.

To tell you the truth, I had not heard of the word dignity, self-respect, self-esteem, treating everyone with love and respect during my stay in Bal Mandir. Those were the things of imagination world. Not hearing those words were different thing but expecting to be treated like that without knowing may be was the biggest problem with me and with them too. Now I know this those ‘concept’ were  fancy to my whole country and strange I was expecting it in Bal Mandir ?
However, I must be thankful to her, because of her; now I am not afraid to face any bully and can look straight into their eyes which is glaring with anger, and then say in my calm voice, which has power to back them off to treat me badly. I simply say to them; you can't scare me with your attitude ! Honestly speaking, I can be so brute and crude if need be. I must confess, facing her or anybody like her in Bal Mandir, made me mentally and physically strong !

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Scary Caterpillars

Sunita Giri 11:56 PM |

This year I have to see lots of caterpillars at my small back yard that gives me opportunity to grow my own vegetables, if only I know how to grow them. It seems that I am allergic to all kind of bugs that wriggles in the garden, and most of all its caterpillars. Of course, it has power to scare girls, girls of all kind bold or weak; agreed there will always be some with exception. What's the power with caterpillars, which has such strength to terrorize us with its tiny entity ?

However, this season I found myself facing and getting rid of many sizes of caterpillars  from the green boundary wall of mine, which size otherwise could have frozen me to death. What to do, they were in front of my nose, as my kitchen garden is not so big to ignore them entirely wriggling on any side of small area. This small creature do have full power to make or break small to big tree also. It chews up the new plant long before it can get big and it also can the big tree.

I know how big power caterpillars possess with them to scare us. Honestly speaking terrorize us not scare. Even smallest caterpillar with a couple of millimeter length do have power to send us in frenzy  screaming or freeze our all senses if it happen to be in our body, until someone ‘brave’ comes to rescue us from its scary ‘grip’. It might make some guys laugh but the truth is they are scary with its all size, ask any girls you know the answer. Worse, if you are as sensitive as me the look of it will send you in an allergic reaction, with big rashes.

I think this small creature do have power to scare us with its look with the way it walks, as soon as we enter in the garden to steal this or that. Is caterpillar is natures way to keep children out from the garden ? may be yes ! but sometimes its more than just garden protector; its worse than that !

I do remember one season in Bal Mandir when caterpillar terrorized everyone not just girls of all age. I was too young to remember my age, but one thing is sure that I was under ten years of old at that time.

There was a pear tree just outside the gate of our kitchen garden or we also used to call it statue yard. This gate lead us to the big round lawn that is surrounded by trees from all area. This is a lawn which can be seen just when you enter the main gate. We also used to use this same road to go to school. It was the main entrance to enter inside the main building of Bal Mandir and this was open for children and staff only.

One season caterpillars which color was black and it had some red color also in its body, that  was a little more than an inch long; crawled back-to-back made a long row, two in every row side by side traveling from top-to-bottom of the pear tree. As if that was not enough, it also had made a big round circle nearby the tree again two in each side. Because it have covered the big  area, it came on the road that lead all the children to school. All those tiny creature was slowly chewing up that big tree. Its different that I did not knew about this at that time.

Slowly as the number of caterpillar grew and grew by every passing days, every time somebody crossed that road some of it started falling on the head of children and they started giving them the allergic reaction. We were terrorized by this small creature to the max, ultimately, we started avoiding that road to go to school and used the way normally allotted for office staff of NCO only. If we use the office road to go to school, its would have been really disturbing to the office staff, of course due to the big number of children than any other reason.

I guess only after that they must have ordered the men of Bal Mandir to chop off the tree that was being chewed up by those small creature. It seemed that was the only way to  get rid from those caterpillars, so that we could walk freely, without the fear of those tiny scary creature whenever we go to school.

That season, that fear, that talk of it still do have power to give me a 
goosebumps in my body. I know that was not the biggest size of the caterpillar I have seen yet, as other girls always used to come with a story of seeing a bigger size caterpillar, which gave us more  goosebumps with their life like story telling skill and we screamed on top of our lungs and squirmed with the sight of it seeing it in our mind, which I guess only we girls can understand, we are more sensitive than boys.

Yeah, I know it only makes guys roll their eyes. Its so hard to believe that guys are so cynical about the terror of caterpillars we feel. But hey who needs their approval before we scream ? because the scream is already out !

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Plain Talk or Unchecked Thought ?

Sunita Giri 11:24 PM |

One of the memories which last in my mind is that all the didis [ room nannies ], used to gather after about two hours of morning mill and then used to cut vegetables for the evening curry as well as for the next morning. Because their work schedule did not allow them to do it separately for separate meal time. Not surprisingly, it used to take time to do this work. Getting vegetables was not much of the hard work. All they had to do to was to discuss with housemother, ask them which curry to finish from our vegetable garden and then cut it. Male staff used to  help if the curry happen to be cauliflower or cabbage but if its green vegetables or green beans all these ladies have to do is to go in the kitchen garden and then pluck it, tuck it and then cut it for ready to cook. Cleaning part was left for cooks, which they did before cooking it. They used to do this work in the round shape in front of the store room.

It was a work, every day's work and two male staff also used to help them, mostly by talking interest in what they were talking and nodding with wink. But in my mind its more than work. Its kind of catching up with others after a hectic day's work, which gave them chance to share everything in their mind and chat, which women love when they work.

They used to chat all kind of things, and their talk ran freely like a river but it flowed in any direction. Sometimes they used to talk about just their work, or their taste of color or ornament and sometimes just the  of their choice of curry,  while they clean and cut vegetable. Occasionally chat used to get a good twist and taste too. Sometimes, they loved talking of ghost and some time they did talk about divine power of god and then Karma.

It was then they used to pour their combined knowledge on any topic. I did came to know after hearing those talks, that ghost do not have shadow, lady ghost are always beautiful to resist at night time or the ghost have a feet  backside front only and this is how you can distinguish are you talking to real woman or the ghost if you are accompanied by one of those pitch dark night. But, perhaps my young mind is most occupied by the talk of karma and its impact on our this life or the other life.

Talk of karma and believe in this subject is not bad but the blind belief in karma has a lot to play in my own life and my thinking. They unanimously believed that we landed in Bal Mandir, because of our bad deed in last life.

This is the belief that held many of my roommates for inmates from Bal Mandir at back gear in life despite all the education and training it provided us. Many of my friends are well educated, yet that education really did not help them to be in the right position that the education would have helped them to be in. I bet if I ask them do you believe in karma and its law ? They sure will say yes; but if I ask them why all your educations and training  did not help you to hold the right position [top rank] it should have given them, they won't be able to answer why ?

At this very moment, I would like to say that the belief of unchecked thoughts is what makes us superstitious. Or to be more precise the thought we hear long before we can decide on our own which stamps in our young mind is what makes us superstitious. As we grow old we chose not to check it whether its right or wrong. My understanding for the  meaning of superstition would be this.

I don't have to tell you it took me more than a decade to understand what you are reading it now. It took time for me to understand that the women whose believed blindly about karma were the one who were illiterate and sure enough had very hard time in their life before they entered in Bal Mandir in search of work. More than that they not only were raised by illiterate parents their world were very small and had not seen the life as a whole.  They believe that life they had seen is the whole truth and there is no other truth than that.

I bet I also would have believed those blind faith had I not bumped with people who were not from my society. Who did believe in Karma but not entirely to buy the notion that even the natural calamities are because of a karma rebound, or work of god to punish us.

Most of the times its really easy to nod our head than doing our own thinking. But I love to do my own thinking and not let anyone do my part of thinking. It is one of the most costly affair in life, letting others do the thinking part that affects our life most. Why do I have to blindly believe that my life which I spent is because of Karma ?

Are we brainwashed to believe that its bad ? really from which angle ? My life which I got without asking from god is a gift and the freedom I get a chance to live my life not listening the lecture from the grown ups is the best part of my life. I get a chance to live my life my way not the right way. What is wrong here ? Is this bad to have a freedom or not having parents around to control us ?

Was that bad to listen those unchecked believe  by the women ? That I don't think so because they love to chat when they talk and sometime they do talk only what they were told when they themselves were growing up. Small world do mean small thinking.

I know now, that God do not want to punish anyone !

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Lesson learned after the Accident

Sunita Giri 11:09 PM |

It was afternoon time and the day was Friday. Most of the staff had gathered near the main gate area waiting for others staffs to join them to ride in a bus so that they can leave office for home on that particular day.  But before the bus left with staff that day a horrible accident happened, which shook all the those who witness the scene.

Next day was the Saturday, the big front lawn is opened for us to play all day so when we went out there was big space covered by the blood stains nearby the gate. Of course not blood but may be people who was suppose to clean it was in too much shock to clean it completely. It was only brushed and then tried to cover it up, with some sand that was nearby. Sand or the dusty dry clay had absorbed the blood but not cleaned it entirely at the spot where accident had taken place.

Its not easy for me, today to remember the month or even the season, when that grave accident happened. Forget about that, I don't even know how old I was when this happened. But like it happens in life always, it  happens when one is least prepared.

During that time Bal Mandir had one big bus, which needless to tell you, it got as donation. It used to serve as a shuttle bus to all the staffs of the Nepal Children’s Organisation and may be also to the Social Welfare Council, although I am quite not sure about this part. If I was not mistaken this, it was the biggest bus at that time. Or maybe it was biggest bus because, I had no idea how big bus in time used to roll in the street of Kathmandu during that era. You know, I was kind of jail of Bal Mandir. We were never used to go out but the place was so big in itself that we hardly needed to go out to play with our friends and we had enough friends to spend time with also. However, please don't get me wrong, we not needing to go out was planned as there used to be a 24 hour gatekeeper stationed at the door, who used to sleep in the attached room, who was to make sure that we don't cross that main door.

I really don't know what exactly went wrong that day, was there bus helper missing on that particular day ? No idea. But, as the driver was taking a hard and long turn to steer its wheel heading towards the gate and a slight turn of a wheel, a lady staff came under its merciless powerful wheel, which killed her instantly.

As I am trying to remember the name of the driver and its really not striking in my head. See, I am not known for my good memory power.  It really stuns me to get it that we used to call him with his name thousands of time, when we were young yet I can't remember the very name. Maybe his name was Asta Dai. After that incident he had to face the police case and he was even jailed for the death.

Death of a woman or the jail for the driver of the bus was just the beginning of a story only. But, the story does not end there. Not all the death or the accidental kill by a driver is premeditated, which needs to be punished every time such death happens in ones life. As the lady whose name was Mira, was not married, there was no one who could mourn the death of her for whole year as they do here in Nepal. Anyone can identify those mourners by paying slight observation, because they wear white dress from top to bottom for a whole year. Therefore, Asta Dai did all needed rituals during the months that followed, all the ritual as her son would have done if she was married and have children. By caste they were way different, he was from newar community and she was from bahun community but that accident just eliminated that caste bar for him. He did served certain months maybe in jail; as I am not quite sure about the full term he served then but that accident did gave us a chance to see the other side of him the better side of him, as a good human being and not just as a good worker. And all this came in light because there was a sudden death, a life that was shorted without a warning, an accident which could not be averted.

When I look back and try to understand the lesson this particular incident  left in my mind is this teach me one lesson, distinctly. Accident happens when we least expect it and when we are least prepared. No one can predict it, control it and no one can avert it too, but how we face it define us who we are rather than who we were before the accident. We all used to see him from the different kind of respect even if his slightest mistake cut short a life.

Asta Dai was a good man and one of the best driver but he was a good human being deep in his heart was revealed, only when there was that horrible accident which took one woman's life.

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