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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