Due Appreciation

Sunita Giri 10:27 PM |

A nicely crafted brick floor on the porch or garden, which is covered by the summer weeds,  look is soo noo, nooooo. We keep seeing such scenes at the places we visit frequently. It clearly tells the story of careless and lazy house owner or the long winter season. At times may be long rainy season also. But we all have our own share of such story.

There was a time when that red crafted brick, a side porch in Bal Mandir used to get covered with long weeds for months. this particular crafted floor that needed cleaning on regular basis was at the statue yard. That Is also the place where they used to grow our  vegetables. Housemother Kedar Shrestha used to take this job in her hand to clean it up. When I say clean it up; she used to tell all the children, big enough to hold a scrapper in our hand to scrap the weeds from the sideways of the bricks that was placed on the ground. About hundreds of children used to scrape it in matter of couple of hours and then it used to look like wearing a new look for couple of months.

I have to be honest here, I don't even know how long she used to wait before she decided to clean it up, how long she waited to see grass growing on to cover brick floored area by summer weeds. During hot summer morning, we were needed to clean it up  on monthly basis. Mostly those were the Saturdays morning, after breakfast on the sunny days. Of course, winter seasons were excused for us as well as rainy days.

The other three housemothers never took initiative to clean it and do anything about it and it was left to the Kedar Shrestha who was the most senior housemother [ by experience not by age] in Bal Mandir.

Just like the cleaning of brick floor, taking care of vegetable garden was also seemed exclusively her department and no other housemother took much interest in this work, definitely not when she was around. She used to stay with the lady who used to work on our kitchen gardens on regular basis. She used to keep close eyes on her every work and stayed with her even in the chilly morning and cold evening. Keeping close eyes on every details was her main work.

Kitchen garden of Bal Mandir used to grow sufficient vegetable not only to 200 children but it also provided many good memories of stealing it and then eating some raw vegetables. I have very vivid memories of stealing, chili, cauliflower and radish and then eating it raw. Today, when  I look back and try to understand the anger they felt and the punishment we got for stealing and messing the kitchen garden. I think it was not the stealing part  housemothers and room nannies were mad about with us then, but it was the misuses of the young vegetables we plucked it and then threw it knowing we can't eat it because it was so young.

Once she died in about 1987, I have no idea when the kitchen garden stopped growing vegetables or the children. I also have no idea how long children in Bal Mandir have been eating the vegetables bought from the market.

Last time when I met Manju Didi, who used to work so hard in the garden to grow vegetables was telling us that she still sees Kedar Shrestha in her dream and and she is asked by the housemother, “why did you stoped working on that garden ? if you would have worked there children would have got a chance to eat fresh vegetables !” It was so obvious to see Manju Didi's eyes getting misty, when she was sharing her dream with us. Its been more than twenty years and she is still seeing her in her dream.

When I have visited Bal Mandir last time I was not allowed to enter in Bal Mandir and the only area I was allowed to see was this place and the area was so brazen and wearing the unkempt look. It seemed to me that there were no one living in this place for very long long time. The truth is this place have always been full of children all the time.

I got to be honest, when I was growing up in Bal Mandir, I was not the one who used to appreciate Kedar Shrestha. Truth be told, it was she who did not like me, perhaps we were much like same in so many ways and they say when you are alike you tend to dislike each other. I was never her favorite child among the group of children and she was very discriminating in her power to keep me away from so many opportunities as much as she could, therefore, I too was not nice to her discriminating behavior.

But when I see the condition of Bal Mandir now, I think maybe I have ignored to see her vision. or if, she had dark side then there was also the side no other housemother in Bal Mandir could replace it. What is harsh reality is, not even in the management to overshadow her presence and importance in the history of Bal Mandir. If only, I could appreciate it long before she died.

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Small things matter

Sunita Giri 9:55 PM |

Last time when I visited Bal Mandir, I was not allowed to enter in the main area where  children lives. Me being product of Bal Mandir and been there so many times without even needing permission of a staff as well as Nepal Children Organization, it was not something I could take it easily. I was never denied to enter in nor was asked why I enter in Bal Mandir. One or the other always knew that we once were one the children. Now after more than 20 years of leaving Bal Mandir and when its management was running by a Mitrataa Foundation, I have heard they are less corrupt and better management. They them self were not satisfied working with the team of NCO for so many reasons, needless to say corruption is one of the main root.

It was beginning of October 2012. I have made something which I wanted to give to Bal Mandir. For this, I have received support from many of my Facebook friends, who have given me some cash so that I could buy wools and then make some woolen caps, two caps for each children that made it 400 woolen caps . Once it was ready, I thought I could go there and then hand over it to all the children in Bal Mandir.

Having been product of Bal Mandir I knew the corruption but more than that I just wanted to be small part of all those years of meekly accepting the stuff from good hearted donors. But, when I wrote Rebecca Bec, Executive Director then, she mailed me there is no need for caps for the children. I wrote her back, I was not giving it with a thinking that they don't have a single cap. I  was fully aware they may be having already 3 sets of it; still I wanted to give it to them. She persisted why not I go to other children home and  give it to them. This kind of mail exchange tested my patience limit. I am nor foreigner not to know that Bal Mandir had several branches across the Kathmandu as well as many around the Nepal. I have my personal attachment to give it to Bal Mandir.

Nine mails exchange between us before I found myself standing in front of the shabby gate of Bal Mandir which could have led me to children room. Just inside the gate there was waiting chair for visitors, which was the picture perfect to scream for donation from all sides. Some children were playing there and now I was seeing them from the same eyes perhaps the others would have seen me decades before during my stay there in Bal Mandir. They were dressed very shabby and they looked dirty to me. I could see their runny nose and dirty faces as well as some legs that was filled with some pus filled small wounds. I thought  it  was not the same when we were there. Or maybe I was not that kind of children who ran with dirty nose or pus filled wounds. I was not that smart also to see myself from the eyes of an adult who has very sharp observation.

More than that the look of brazen kitchen garden and the deserted look it wore made me think hard. It was the place which used to grow vegetables for 200 people throughout the year. Now, it was just play ground  and it really spoke the sorry state of the Bal Mandir and its dire need for financial help.

I was not even allowed to enter in the office to hand over the goods I carried along with me. Rebecca had managed one of her staff to collect the goods from me who was waiting for me just inside the gate and then I have to leave from there. She even had told me in our mails to send me the pictures of children wearing those  lovely,  bright, colorful  woolen caps. Because I have asked some of my friends to help me for this small project of mine so the picture she promised really meant a lot for me. I could post it on my Facebook and thank all my friends who helped me to carry this small charity work.

I have visioned in my mind how happy and lovely those children will look in them, and the twinkle in their eyes will glow more as I myself had those experienced when I was in Bal Mandir receiving one of those goods handed over to us, whether by a staff or from the visitors. I was dead sure I would  get a couple of pictures and there will be 25, or 50 or even 100s of children wearing different designs woolen caps that have power to mock the gloomy look of winter[s].

Lets ignore the fact, that we had nine mails exchange before I was allowed to give small donations, lets try to igonre the fact, she had taken more than three months to send me those pictures as she had excuse that she was sick and had gone to Australia - her native land - for treatment. What was hard to ignore was she gave me the picture of only couple of girls wearing dim colored caps and it was not taken in their rooms. They must have called in the office to take those pictures. Should not she have let the picture speak louder than her sick excuse ? I needed those pictures, not only I was covering an article for my blog  which appeared on November 2012. But I also have some public responsibility, of those people who gave me money to make those caps. But to my surprise, it looked to me, the girls in those pictures were mere used to send message to the donor to ask more caps, than the picture which bore thank you note on it. Besides, she had sent me not the actual picture which I could use for my blog or post it on Facebook but PDF files, which I could not use it in anyway.

When I was in Bal Mandir condition of it was not so bad in so many ways. But lucky me or many like me who were there long before the management of it was even needed to  hand  over to other than a Nepali run charity foundation.  In fact it was managed and operated by Royal family. My small effort to give back something taught me a lot more story than I have asked for and from now on, I will refresh my mind only Nepali are corrupt or have murky conscience.

They say small things matter than big things.

Note : Early 2013 may be around may, I have received a mail from Rebecca, her management team which is [Mitrata Foundation] had handed over the management of Bal Mandir to NCO after completing 5 years contract.
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Young and Wild

Sunita Giri 10:26 PM |

When I watched National Geographic and animal planet  first time, that was somewhere in in 1999, it sent me in deep thought, I was shocked how animals were respected and who their wild behavior was tried to justified, even though they being known for wild. It had power to hammered my memories and made me think hard to find answer. Having been grown up in Bal Mandir it was not the same case, I really don't have much good memories, of one time that any caretaker could have treated us or shown us the understand of the narrator or the program director for us even then we were young yet humans child. For them we are wild and uncontrollable. What is even more hard to believe is, this was not just the conventional thinking of our caretakers as I would like to call them - junior staff of Bal Mandir. We used to call them didi or dai if they, but even the housemothers strongly believed this that we need to be tamed with harsher punishment for childlike stupid mistakes which now I know every child in the world are known for and Bal Mandir was not excluded with Denis the menace type of terror. the only difference in this child like and that too group child mistake was regarded a wild and uncontrollable behavior from our caretakers.

Of course, their work was not easy. They were needed to give us a bath and wash our weakly dresses when we were below 10 years old. If a room nanny has to take care of  20 young children in a room then the male staff has to do even tougher work like, cooks have to prepare meal for all the 200 people morning and evening and other staff has to  wash big vessel that was used to make meal for 200 people.

Sure the work was not easy but, then they knew the work was hard and they must have been briefed before they accepted the job. All that hard work and tight work schedule which was mostly morning and evening always kept them busy. Yet, they had time for oratory service of reminding us, opps ! hammering us constantly that, what was our life before and why we ended there. Of course, they religiously believed, it was our karma and we had done something bad in our previous life before, that's why we did ended in Bal Mandir. To remind us constantly about that was their unwritten duty and responsibility, which they never minded despite their air tight work schedule. It was there that believe was not good for us and our future than what we have done bad in our last life.

I do not remember any good memories I had with diddies nor with any housemother. They were the one who took care of us during our stay in Bal Mandir. Yeah, one can judge me saying I lack the   appreciation for their hard work, but may be I have a bad habit of remember the negative things longer than good work they have done for us. Besides, its my personal belief that, they were paid to do for their work but they were not paid to hammering our young minds constantly that we are not good, sufficient and unlucky. Its not easy to forget in my life the way they treated us and disrespected even though their  body language as well as the harsh words they used for us. It will never be easy to shake my head even today.  

Today, as a grown up, what I know now is majority of the adult hates their work yet they keep doing what they hate. Its still not easy for me to shake my head that may be they hated their work and not us, because I [every child in Bal Mandir] was their work. In my young minds I always thought, they hated us, that's why they disrespected us to that extent.

Needless to mention, I kept a very good distance with staff. Besides I was also the kind who hardly gelled well with even with my own roommates. Ever since I was in my early teen years, I used to bury myself in books and hardly knew what is going on around me. I was always in different world than I was living. Some called this I am in dream world. Most of my inmates in Bal Mandir remember me as a person who was different in so many ways; but in what way, no one could pinpoint it. But its ok, like me they were also young and clueless.

But I do remember Shova didi, who was not bitter about our childlike behavior and she had shown a tremendous patience with us. She was nice with most of us although she had her personal favorite among us. She was the only maid I do remember who had a personal favorite child who was not even in her room or maybe she was in her room before. Just can't remember and everyone knew that Nei was her favorite among the 200 children in Bal Mandir That never bothered me as she liked others too equally, and she was not that harsh and disrespectful in her talking with us. But, it did to some, when she used to spend huge chunk of her salary to pamper her favorite child on regular basis.

She was like a cool breeze in the hot summer noon. Unlike most of the nannies she was warm and caring and we felt cozy with her to share our personal things and ask for some good when she used to resume her work in the kitchen. I doubt we had much age difference. Sure she was not in my room and never was my room nanny. I was mere teenager, when she may have joined Bal Mandir and she was in young children's room. Of course there was another experienced in that room to give her company.

She was not rude or bitter also like most of the nannies. She was not well educated physiologist or the huge fan of animal planet or national geography's young and wild show on animal world. She was more intellect in her behavior than another person around us despite she being an illiterate room nanny.

When I last heard about Shova didi, she was married to a man who was six years younger than her because it was bit late for her to marry by the time she decided to settle down. In her community it was a huge issue. She died with over bleeding when she was giving birth of her second daughter.

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Shades of life

Sunita Giri 10:23 PM |

Rajan Neupane is a pastor of the Greater Grace Church, which is located at Pepsi Cola town planning for more than 12 years. Its been about four years, he also have been running a children home, where about 20 children lives.

I came to know him by fluke, as my niece used to go to his church during her short stay with me. She used to tell me about this pastor, and how she feels good in his company. She used to spent more time there most of the day in all Saturdays. Sometime later I have something to give to this church and I have to look for him to handover the goods I carried with me. Then I came to know that he also runs a children home. Since last two years or so we are in constant touch. Mostly I visit his office to handover some stuff for the childrens in his children home.

Every November around the thanksgiving day, I would like to handover something that can be useful in the Children’s home. Sometimes some goods cannot be used in children home due to size matter handed over to them. Still, those things can be used in church where many people who need help are in constant contact. Its been couple of years I raise some money through the help of my Facebook friends to give to small charity to my personal charity work. This time it was books for 12 children home and I am sorry to admit it I have not been able to give this a full time due to my other engagement.

This Year, when I called him that. “I need to visit you, are you in office now ?” He knew instantly. I have something to handover. And his guess was right also this time I have some winter wears for teenage children along with the books for children s, for which my friend Kiran Khanal from Australia and Suvas Sing from Qatar have also joined hands with me for this good cause. Rajan jee requested me to visit his children home. We scheduled this the very next day in this November and then he and his wife gave me a proper tour of his children home. The place was narrow compared to the Bal Mandir I had grwon up but it was well maintained and looked a lot better place to live than the big palace I spent my life as a child.

The couple not only showed me all the rooms but also showed me some the rooms that was locked up and when I asked them, “is this for [foreign] volunteers ? They replied in unison, “no, we don't keep any volunteers here, if we keep volunteers here at this home we have to face more problems than solutions. Especially from foreign countries, we don't keep them here not even if, they would like to offer us handsome donation to run our charity for long.

From this kind hearted couple, I came to know that monitors from government also will not allow volunteers to spend nights at the children home now a days. Then I shared with them that, I don't know about the dreadful story here in Nepal except there are people who runs children home just to make bread and butter for their family members rather than needy and desperate children but in India some who runs children home do things with cruel intentions in the name of charity for needy children like I posted on my recent post, where power collide with vulnerability. He also shared his personal experience how he have stumble upon with those who runs children home just to collect donations, by providing wrong information to generous donors. People do trust him for his sincerity and honesty, therefore they send him to the children home who are about to get the donation from outside the country and then when he gives his report, the donation stops. He candidly shared his thought with me saying,  “yes its sad the children are in bad conditions in those care homes and need help but needy children should not be used to be the bread and butter for some greedy people. Its good if they don't get any donation and these children be moved to other children home run by good and kind hearted person.”

On the way to the children home he also showed me a small kitchen garden the children home have taken on lease to grow some fresh vegetables. There his wife was working with couple of teenage children. The Neupane couple also saw the opportunity to teach young children the value of hard work and taste of it, in this small effort to grow vegetables for themselves. I myself grew up in Bal Mandir and this is still one of my best memories, so I really like this small effort.

When I saw a sewing machine I could not help but share some of my own ideas regarding the machines and its more use in children home. Why not add more machines and then hire a person to make all the needed dress for the children throughout the year, so that they  can learn also how to make a simple dress along with small contribute in this work at home. And why not hire a teacher who not only can make dress but also can teach these young children how to sew a dress or stitch ?
One thing what Rajan je does not know until now is, I myself grew up in Bal Mandir and was able to finish my school and college just some people like him thought we should get this opportunity in life.

We keep reading and watching some negative news that takes place in children home and those news to grip our mind for so long but the truth is, we also have persons like Neupane couple who do this not for publicity but purely for the the personal satisfaction and helping those who are in need is what satisfy this couple. They say, they are doing this not even fear from God or to book a space in heaven well in advance.

Knowing him and his wife reminds me of Bernhard, a Swiss national  who sent me to college and now he and his team from Switzerland not only runs a children home here in Nepal but also provides education to 76 children and its growing every year.

Children home across the world are the best place where you can see the shades of life. Here you can hear the story of corruption, greedy and needy parents who will leave their child here for no apparent reason like some incurable disease, some staff who do the corruption work and won't even feel guilty of stealing the things which is meant for the desperate children in need. but most of all here is the place you can meet the person like Neupane couple or Bernhard couple who will devote their lives so that hundreds of them will get good opportunity in life to go to school and then lead a decent life later in this society.  

It really feels good to be a small contributor to their bigger vision.

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