A Question

Sunita Giri 11:35 PM |

Back in mid 80 every Sunday there used to be one program on radio Nepal which used to air all pop song and may be on morning time an all pop English songs. Now I know it most of the time it used to songs by Michael Jackson which used to dominate the world chart buster and other western songs. But I did not know even that name when I was in school.

Back In 80s, we did not have anything to entertain us as a good time pass except Radio Nepal. It was the only source of entertainment or news. See, when I was in school, newspaper of any sort did not make any difference to me to get knowledge or news, was in my teen years and careless as this age gave me. But we used to stay around the housemother, Kedar Shrestha room  to listen this Sunday Pop program on Radio.

The host of the program used to speak in fluent English - a quality that had power to make us feel so small then - with a fake name of Michael something and I believed that the host was telling us the truth until, I joined Hotel. My boss happened to be the good friend of this host, who told me that he has a Nepali name and he was not the foreign. This news really shattered my age old belief, or maybe that is the truth I wanted to hold on. But when I saw that truth being fake it make me feel about about the reality. His name is Mukund Chand who changed his name to Michael later on, the man who runs German language institute.

However, the host of the show is not the topic of discussion here, but he sure used to keep us waiting for the whole week to listen his program. Couple of girls from Bal Mandir used to go to famous school like St. Mary’s School, Kanti Ishwory or Martyr Memorial school, which practiced English medium while teaching their student. Coincidentally, they were my friends who used to drag me to listen this program. English songs do have power to pull you towards its mesmerizing rhythm and music and the vast instruments they used when they create a music. It doesn't matter whether you do understand a word of it or not; you still like the songs. In my case I was so hooked to like it until I understand it fully from nothing at all.

But I am not talking about today, my memories has gone down in the memory lane of 80s, when my English was so poor, so poor I was not even ready to admit it. I remember this very vividly, one day as we were listening English songs, Radha did asked housemother Kedar Shrestha, the only adult around us, whose English was better than rest of us “do you understand these songs ?”

Before I go further, I need to tell you this here, Kedar Shrestha was only housemother who could talk English fluently and help any foreigners take a tour around Bal Mandir without a guide. It was not a secret, she had completed her education from Darjeeling, as she used to tell it again and again. Then I thought she was bragging. In my young mind, it was instilled that the darjeeling was the best place for good education, when it comes to English medium education and only handful of people from affluent family background could afford education from that place. 

Sure, the housemother acted superior with her English and education background, and for the kind of school I went, she used to say without blinking of her eyes, “shitty school.” But, Radha didi did not went to the kind of school as I went and was only person out of a dozen or so, who had got the sponsorship seat in the school and had completed her SLC from the St. May’s School. I guess, when this incident happened, she was studying in ninth grade and  I could have been in eighth grade.

In return to her answer the housemother asked her, “do you understand it ?” with a teenage stupidity or innocence and not understanding the adult thinking she replied promptly with some kind of intimidation that English do have power to make us feel, “no”.


The next question from the housemother was “then ?” It really baffled Radha didi, that was not what she had expected. Suddenly, that simple question had pulled the string of thread to so many questions like whose English is better or which school is better or may be more than that, can a teenager growing up in Bal Mandir could have better understanding of English than the staff ?  

Because she was very strict housemother who tolerated no nonsense; no one dared talking with her looking into her eyes; not even for a minor issue. So, Radha Didi did not say a word after that.

Later on, once we were outside of her room, she shared her thoughts with us, she did not wanted to check how good or bad her [house mother's] English was, she just wanted to know and understand the lyrics, to sing, like we do when we like any songs.

When I grew up more and went to college, I came to know that reading and learning English and even going to college with Masters degree has nothing to do with understanding of spoken English by native american or English speaking person, forget about the song they sang !

I just wish, I knew this long time back, when that innocent question was popped and unexpected reaction was exhibited. But, that is why we grow up and know what is right and what is wrong. Confusion and understanding is what life is all about and a major part of our life too.

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