Biological Father

Sunita Giri 11:24 PM |

I really find it bit odd to share this part of my life, as it being the harsh truth of my life also. But, by now there is nothing which I have not shared with my readers through my blog. Having said that, this also means there is almost no secret which can be called secret of my life. This is obviously because, I grew up in Bal Mandir, a place where only those are kept who has no parents, so this particular truth never bothered me during my childhood there. Of course, there were children who used to feel sad and bad about the fact; that they did not have parents and that's why they ended up in Bal Mandir, I never understand that feelings and I used to poke fun at them and they used to tell me I was a stone hearted person.

I grew up in Bal Mandir and life was normal without family members around. Even though, just like the other teenagers, I also got curious to know something about my ‘family’ too. So, I started asking this question to the older brothers, who used to visit me whenever they could manage. There was one more confusion, I have many brothers, but when I was young that ‘many’ part always used confuse me a lot. For very long period, I was just not sure, how many brothers I have, five or seven ? It was only during my mid teen years, finally I learned to keep the fact in my mind that, I have five and not seven brothers. I was the youngest one as well as I am the only girl in the family.

I really don't understand why this particular fact should bother me because; I am not a family person and I don't seek peace or anything, whatever its called, in the cozy comfort circle of people called family members. I am quite not sure why we used to get curious to know about the people who were related to us by blood. Could this be the peer pressure or this is the point we start feeling awkward about this part of truth in our life ? I guess we get curious in this matter when we get pressed too much by  those around us, who have not just some but all relatives at home and some of the children in Bal Mandir were there even when they have all, but one of the parents is dead - excuse could be anything in both case. So, at one point of life we were pressured to know more about who are in our ‘family’. Undoubtedly, I also started asking them, do I have parents ?  When I was in about seventh grade, I learned that our mother had died when I was three. And yes, we have father, “but he is crazy”, the oldest two must have said so. When they said crazy, I figured that he was mentally ill. Years later I heard from my youngest brother, he was warned about the crookedness of the oldest two by his father before his death.

Madhavpur, Chitwan is the place my youngest brother have choose to settle down. He lives only about 20 minutes drive from the place, where we were born. He had moved there in 1995. He invited me to visited him and his family in 2000 and it was my first visit there. I do not have that good relationship with my brothers and at times it looks like almost like with strangers. But there is no doubt that, sometimes I get unpaid holidays at his place for about a week or 10 days.

It was at that time, I came to know that I had a father who died just about 5 years ago. He had died after I have completed my college graduation. But the fact remains that I have never ever seen him in my life. At one point of life I also lived with my brothers - in fact they always came to stay with me, the place I rented - for short period of time yet I do not remember the fact that he ever wanted to see me or he ever made any effort to come and see me where I stay. It was, as if; he never wanted to be in touch with me or see me.  

Like I said before because, I grew up in Bal Mandir so that fact  did not bother me or break me in any way. I accepted the fact that I don't have my parents and on top of that I was not even close with my brothers - never grew up in family and no responsibility or respect. I have no problem to say our father or our mother, or father or mother but for some reason I am so uneasy and uncomfortable to use the word ‘my father’ or ‘my mother’.

But sometimes I really wonder why this man, who happened to be my father, was never ever interested to see me; when I was growing ? Was he mad with me ? What could have been the reason he avoided to see me all his life ? I asked this question to Sukdev, which I have heard long time back, “was he crazy” ? This could have been the good excuse for him, not to worry about me or my whereabouts. But the answer surprised me, when my brother-in-law said, “no,  he was very very normal  man and died as a normal man. Instead she asked me, “who told you he was a crazy man ?” It was simple  our brothers !

But not knowing him, bars me not to be angry with him for his explainable behavior or whatever reason he may have remained to choose invisible in my life. Some times I think I should have been mad with him if only I knew his thought or belief about me.  But may be for this very reason, I do not think I belonged to him, just because he was my biological father. I have no feelings for him,  no attachment with him, no respect for him, but at the same time I do not feel any kind of anger with his odd behavior; just like I don't expect anything from a stranger !

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The Social Worker

Sunita Giri 11:12 PM |

There is no doubt that Dil Shova Shrestha is a good social worker. She did open her heart out to help lots of aging and ailing women, mostly abandoned by their own children when they settled down. So many such neglected and destitute ladies from the street have found shelter at her place. And even policemen recommend them to be at her place, rather than they be stranded on the street. She has been running a shelter home, which is called Ama Ko Ghar. For twenty years or so, she had provided them shelter in her own home and shared food with them whatever she could afford. It was not that she had different kitchen and others ate different food. All of them ate in the same kitchen and the same food. For many years, she was doing it all alone, feeding and providing shelter to those abandoned women but in due course of time, more her story got media coverage others started joining her good cause. Due to those media coverage, her work started getting more and more public recognition and her work was appreciated not only by the general public but she had started getting support from Government as well as from INGOs working in Kathmandu. Recently, I have also read in newspapers that one Japanese INGO have been working to construct a new building to accommodate more and more needy people at her shelter home, so that she could continue her generous work without worry.  

But, one news in Nagarik which was published in February this year, dragging her in sexual exploitation case in her Ama Ghar, got all eye in her social work. Although, she was given a clean chit from court this month - May from the sexual exploitation of the the children who stayed in her home but the report from National Human Right committee, did not give her clean chit to run her home for children, because it was confirmed that she used to send many children to the rich people's home, to work as domestic helper. They were needed to work from dusk to dawn at those places. The  rich took work from them until it broke their back and the pay for it was so meager. Besides she also had sent some of them to some of her relatives place which is outside the valley.

Out of 51 registered children who were at her place 36 children were rescued from her shelter home, the very next day when the news made the front page headline creating a huge buzz in the country. They were transferred to another children home called Sano Paila that is located at Lalitpur. Most of the children who lived in her shelter the victims of Maobadi and were from Maobadi hit zone like Kailali and its surrounding area.

Just a couple of days before, there was one more news on national daily, which revealed that the woman who was once was dubbed as the lady with a golden heart, was not that gold hearted at all. Behind all that clean image of golden hearted social worker, there lied a face of a greedy and an opportunist woman, who misused the donation fund by sending it to her daughter who lives in US and making money from those children who took shelter at her place. Some even have regarded her as  national hero But then, when the news hit that she is different behind her that good hearted social worker bigger mass  of the nation were so furious with her.

Needless to mention, this particular news created so much buzz leading to many debate on this matter in all form of media not just mainstream media in the following weeks and.
At this moment, I am reminded of a saying from Warren Buffet, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.” In fact, it took her almost the same years to get public recognition for her generous work but her greed and discriminating nature - that children at her place should feel ok to go and work with the rich peoples for survival - is what hit her hard built reputation.  What is the worse part of all this was, it all happened when she was getting sufficient financial support to run her generous work.

In my last post about this case, I have blindly guessed [ before the news of audit was published in media ] that maybe she was having a dire need of finance to feed and run her shelter but the monitoring team from Social Welfare Council’s audit team found that there was sufficient surplus of fund from the last years donations. The total cost of running her home was a lot less than in her surplus fund. Yet, the condition of her shelter home’s was not up to the standard mentioned by the child welfare council for the healthy environment for the children.

Here, I am not going to make it any issue, which is for some journalist here; that she is a christian and wanted all the children to believe in christianity and pray regularly . Here I will focus only on her decision to send the children to work with others home as a domestic helper, that too without feeling guilty about it. This is what hits me more than anything that she not providing clean environment, decent clothing and healthy food and other issues that put the social work under the heavy microscope.

I am keeping close eye on this news because, I myself grew up in Bal Mandir, so I really can understand the severity of the situation and the action she must face due to the flawed in her thinking and making her decision to send children to work in home.

But, what is really interesting is, there is no doubt that this [children homes or other shelter homes] is the place, where we can find all kind of people; good hearted, generous people, greedy people, corrupted staff and obnoxious authority who would not buzz from their age old traditional believe in the name of pride and prestige and also those who would like to earn bread and butter in the name of social work.

Its generous intention and good work evaporates to many and the most needy and vulnerable suffer most often if not all the time. there is no doubt that this is the place where power always collide with vulnerability. Luckily I think I am among that group of few lucky ones, because I came in touch with good people in life just because once I lived in Bal Mandir. In the cases like this, we only read about the bad people and bad intention but the good people wont go after the publicity with their generous work, nor people in media give their work any importance to create the media coverage like the one Dil Shova Shrestha got. She is now known as bad lady and all her good work in the past is forgotten overnight. Again the line from Warren Buffet is still ringing in my head.

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Why education is not helping to rise from poverty ?

Sunita Giri 10:21 PM |

As a child growing up in Bal Mandir, I have not just seen many types of trainings mainly vocational but also been active participants of many of such trainings; that was targeted towards us hoping such training will help us to be independant. Those training were not just limited to vocational work but we also were given equal opportunities when it comes to creative art or honing talent as of the affluent family member’s children, who used to come in Bal Mandir for after school programs. After school programs used to focused shaping young talents in the area of singing, dancing, drama, paintings and clay sculpture classes. Besides, Bal Mandir was the centre of many other nationwide school competitions such as debate, drawings, musics, singing and dancing.  These also provided us more opportunities to take part in all those competitions.

Later on in life, what really pulled my attention is, that none of the shining stars emerged after all those trainings and pursued their passion and pride as a career. Not even by those young and talented child, who won gold medals in singing, dancing and dramas.

Once, they were grown and out from the children’s home they never pursued their passion, instead they vanished like a smoke and choose invision life rather than shining bright. Bhim Tuladhar from Paropkar singing gold medalist of many times, Tsering Doma Sherpa from SOS who won many gold medals in dance competitions and Moti Didi and other girls and boys from Bal Mandir who kept winning gold medals in so many nationwide competitions that used to take place annually during royal era. Today, I really don't hear any of those names in the creative industry nor in radio or television. Why all those rigorous training and opportunities did not do that good, to those bright child when some others shining brightly without getting such opportunities in life ?

Interestingly, people who paid for those after school classes, made a big name later in their life specially in the creative fields like music and drama [movie]. Music director Shambhujeet Baskota and director Nir Shah was to name few, who shone brightly in the Nepali movie industry.

The question persist in my mind why children from Bal Mandir or other children’s homes did not make significant presence in the respective area, even after winning gold medals continuously for many years and why some others made it big without getting such opportunities in their life ?  

Its not just about good training in vocational art or creative fields to nurture talents,  they did not do much good in life pursuing it as a livelihood.  Even if, they are educated they are not doing that well in the workplace to make it at par with the others who are as qualified as them.

No one can undermine the importance of education but this too do not offer us all the wisdom of life. No doubt, over the years this is the only thing that have been helpful to support our life more than any other trainings [combined] but the truth is most of the educated people from Bal Mandir have not risen to the top post in any office and made a significant presence in the office they work. Most of the people end up in same position for so long becomes frustrated and stays in rented rooms almost all their lives. So if the education is the answer to the question, why then even a good education and school background is not changing the life of poor people in a significant way ?   

One of the student who were the last one to complete a sponsored seat from school like St. Mary’s is now working in nail art in US. The children who rubbed the shoulders with royals children in good schools in their childhood for being a bright students just did not do much good when they grew up bit old and now no one knows which school they went as a young child. The class toppers who never came second in life are living almost invisible staff in their workplace instead of going after coveted positions in office and now only they know once he / she was unbeatable in their own class. Some of my friends from their hold masters degree and yet just working as office assistant and not taking a moment to think, ‘why I am just an office assistant when my boss is as educated I am ?’ Double master degree holders is one of the most  frustrated middle aged father yet working two job at the same time to meet the cost to raise the family whilst he has been working in his office at the same position  for almost 20 years by now.

All this observation made me think hard and forced me to find answer to this question. I am not the kind of person who believes that love has all the answer and it does some magic. Maybe, but this is not the place where I want to stuck up to find my answers. There are so many people who really have worked up before me and come up with  more convincing answer in area.
Low self esteem, inferiority complex and intimidation from those who has and hiding the fact lifelong that once we were in Bal Bal Mandir is a fact you can read easily in the face of many who are facing the boss. Always fearing that our background do have something to play a role in our life, which bars us to move ahead; is what gnaws me more than I really want to be convinced. Is this reality or we are too lazy to work hard, letting the karma rule in our subconscious mind and accepting it; saying it is the reason we are suffering like this. Or the most coveted position are only for those who went to good school or whose parents are rich and affluent.

Frustrations, negativing thinking, nagging, ranting, venting and defeated mentality is not just the exclusive property of ‘ours’ issue but it seems that these are the national problem.   Even then, the question  persist what should be our next step to find the solution ?
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Behind the small River

Sunita Giri 11:36 PM |

It was the year 2000, I had accompanied my youngest brother to see the place where we were born. Our oldest brother still lives there with his family of five. It was my first visit there but, he had already been there many times before. Long time before his father had died. Sukadev lives in Chitwan, our originating city, but; not in the same are that swept the house and all the corps some thirty years ago. He has been living there since 1995, a year after his marriages. Before moving there he had visited many places to search for the place to settle down with his family. That was also the year he had his first child.

Just minutes before we reach my brother's ‘hot’, if that's what we call home. We have to cross a small river that had a crossing made with just wooden slabs, which was strong enough to cross on bike too. I guess the real bridge would mind it seriously, or give me an evil look, if I call that wooden slab crossing a bridge. Just like that, using the word river does not seemed appropriate at all, still its called a river. In fact, its just a little bigger than the irrigation canal people in villages need to water their farm. may be my fault is being a city girl whole my life so, I really have not seen such small water canal called rivers. Whatever, the fact is, it was that very small river which had not just swept our belongings but dispersed the whole family for years which never united later on in life as a family, in real sense.

When we were returning from the place, Sukdev said showing his fake anger, “we need to tie this river, turn it upside down and then beat it, because this is the river that separated our family.” He said his feelings in such a way that feelings really did not   had any emotions attached with it to make its listener feel the said words and believe what he had said.

Looking at that river, it was so hard to believe that it was the river behind the flood that swept the whole village causing troubles for so many family living in that area - Rapti river side may be. But what is very obvious is, that kind of flood do not come easily on the size of river that needs crossing to visit our ‘home’ nor such flood comes every year with ill intention to sweep the whole village with its annual corp.

However, that small river with its big power kept lingering in my mind long time after I saw it and it became hard for me to believe that it was the river and reason behind that landed me and my three brothers in Bal Mandir.

About a couple of years later, I got a chance to go to the Hanglang area. Its just half an hour bus ride towards the east from the place where my brother and his family lives. And after climbing down on Bhandara stop, we have to to go upwards about half an hour to reach the Chepang church there. This place is in slight height despite it being in the in Tarai area. A church from Korea wanted to do some small program and I was on holiday at my brothers place, so I had tailed them just for fun. On the way up to the church at one point, we needed to take a small breathing rest due to the height. Then Rajkumar looked back and said, “Sunita didi, see the river behind, that had caused the flood which swept your home some thirty years ago.”

Although, Rajkumar is a close relative from in laws, I did not knew that, he knew our family story more than me. But, without disclosing my thoughts, I turned back and look down. A huge river was calmly flowing. The dancing winter sun on the river water was adding so much charm on the river. It was the kind of big river, I have never seen before. But, strangely it looked so beautiful from the top. The only thing was it was a flowing calmly, may be it was winter season and not the rainy season when those big river sounds mean and cruel. While watching that river, my mind started forming a concrete conviction, that sure would have been the real reason behind the flood that was so powerful to sweep everything on its way down.

Ever since I have seen that small river on the way to the home that leads to my oldest brother's hot my mind was in denial to believe about what it had caused back in about some thirty years ago. That small river could not have been the sole reason behind the big flood and I was so gnawed with the thought to know more about it. So, when I saw the Manohara River part of a koshi river, if my knowledge about rivers here in Nepal is correct; then I felt I found my answer with more conviction. Without the back support from the big river like that small could never harm anyone. Thus, that small river is the mute storyteller of such believe, so, keep searching your answer; one day you sure will find it when you least expect it. But, for that you must be very curious to find answer.  

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Discrimination made Loud and Clear

Sunita Giri 10:28 PM |

Once when I was talking about the rough and barsh behaviour manifested by many staff  in Bal Mandir, almost unexpectedly Mrs Shrestha asked me, “was ‘she’ used to be that rough in her behaviour, when you were in Bal Mandir ?” When she said ‘she’, she meant the junior Mrs Shrestha, who used to teach us tailoring; who in due course of time became her close and most supportive staff member of senior Mrs. Shrestha. My prompt answer then was, “no” but then my mind started wandering in memory zone, when she had made her point of discrimination loud and clear without using a single word or being abusive at all.

Unlike other who think when the word is not said  to vent one’s anger or frustration then this is the best thing in life and silence is the best way to deal with some people. I don't think words good or bad is the only means of communication to make other understand you  loud and clear; there are many people, who won't speak yet communicate a lot. All we have to do is to pay close attention to those silent gesture or the medium to understand what they mean when they are not using a word. Here is how people made their point clear when I was in Bal Mandir or now outside.

Room nannies, whom we used to call didis used to used to talk with majority of children in such a harsh, disrespectful and derogatory manners. It was not so easy for me to shake my head even after all these years. I still get agitated and irritated when I hear such tone and voice and do my level best to avoid it, because those memories do not carry and good feelings to reminisce, when the memories are so haunting.

But, when it came to housemothers they used disrespectful words as well as physical abuse. I am quite not sure about it; but, it was not nannies were not allowed to beat us, so it was left to housemothers to take actions, if we made any mistakes. Maintaining discipline had only one option back then, and it was beating young children like animals that to in front of all other children. I guess if these people would have been seen beating animals in developed countries they would have land in behind the bars for being so cruel to the young children but damn we were not lucky to have such intellects around us who thought like that. Barbaric beating, verbal abuse and kicking was rights of housemothers. Although not all the housemothers were as cruel as Sabitri Basnyat but still smack of stick or the thud sound was practiced by them when they  got mad of the mistakes children made and it was viewed as intentional not as a mere childish mistake then.

Room nannies and housemothers were the 24/7 staff. With so many children around, lets presume for a second, that it was their rights to be mad with their daily grinding work. Then there were staff at the NCO, who did not have to deal with us on round the clock, yet they used to be impatience with us. Fine, some of the staff were in constant touch with us and they too did felt comfortable to vent their frustrations but they were not as abusive in verbal way as the illiterate nannies. Instead, some of them never said a bad and nasty words, yet they expressed their discriminating behaviour in different way than one could imagine. You can read more about Sabitri Basnyat which I have posted before, The New hair style.

I do remember once an ‘aunty’ opening up with me regarding her frustration with another staff, who used to look after purchase and he also was storekeeper. In one particular year, he was tight on his budget and wanted her to stick on quota of buying clothes. She was our tailoring teacher as well as, she also used to cut the entire dresses our our need and we used to run those dresses under the machine to make it wearable. She found it very intimidating and wanted to teach him a lesson, and she ended up outsmarting her senior buying cheaper quality clothes and submitting the same price tag that he wanted her to stick.

Here, pay the attention to the fact, she was not abusing nor she ever raised her voice to us; whenever she lost her cool but that outsmarting her senior only manifested how discriminating she was without even saying a word. Besides, she never hesitated to steal clothes for her personal use. No wonder she is very secretive and she maintained that always very strictly. You can read more about her in earlier post, I love you just like my daughter.

The purchase officer and storekeeper was no less leech than her; when it comes to corrupt mind and degrading the quality of food we ate in Bal Mandir. I have heard he was a real time thief also, who did not blink eyes before stealing goods specially foods. Oh yes ! he too did it discreetly so, I do not remember this being a talk of the office, ever, as he never lost his job when I was in Bal Mandir.

This particular person used to pass negative comments  but now I really forgot the harsh words he used for us but its not easy for me to forget the low grade food we had to eat when people knew, the kind hearted people used to pour their heart out to give generously, so that we have all that we need to grow up well. You can read about him in, Greed has no limit and God’s Justice on my earlier post.

Then there were teachers who also voiced negatively about the children in Bal Mandir but those voicing was not harsh, irritated but it its tone was very negative and degrading than it should have come from a well educated and intellect persons, who were our teachers. Its not easy to remember all tini tiny things that were said and most of it we have forgotten also but they did discriminated us in their own way, which I did not understood when I was young child and I really have to grow and think hard to get it. Sometimes, its okay to be stupid; otherwise it hurts so much to understand the hidden meaning of those discriminating behavior. You can get the hint of it in my earlier post in the math teacher.

But then if I had thought the words not said are weightless and good for everyone than that of the harsh and derogatory words hurled at us by those illiterate nannies and heart bleeding words by the housemother, which kept hammering us when we were young and innocent. How wrong I was. I have known Mrs Shrestha for very long as she was in middle management in Bal Mandir and now after almost 30 years of her work experience she heads one Children home which is entirely funded by Swiss People. She is well educated, she had completed her masters from US and comes from well to do family.

She is mean, but honestly speaking her voice is more mean sounding than she exactly mean it. She is straight forward rather than harsh but at times she is brutally honest than needed to be specially when she herself was never been the part of fundraising programs to run the charity she has been doing for decades. No, she never use abusive words for us as its more insulting to her position and background than for us to hear that. Definitely not directly. But then how she made her discriminating behavior loud and clear without using a single words.

Its easy, may be for her but to me this is how the educated people make their intention heard heard loud and clear. Two of my inmates from Bal Mandir, Ritu and Bimala, [Ritu is dead now] and Bimala provide her home service to please her because she had approved  the scholarship plan for their children, free education in good English medium school which otherwise they could not have afford in the project she has been working for about two decade. What you need to understand here is they extend their hand for menial household works like cleaning and washing despite both of them had gone to college. Mrs Shrestha permanent helper never gone to school that's why this piece of news has power to nag me most than anything.

It takes lots of people to educate one children in Bal Mandir and then the top executive wont find validity and importance in the education they get in college because anyway they are children from Bal Mandir. One question is in my mind can people like Mrs Shrestha work with children who they train them for better education ? and if they can't work with those whom they put their years to provide good education then they are working for what ? what is so interesting here is whenever any new family member joins her, they will be given the top position in the project she is heading here. Read more about her in my earlier post  In the name of prestige and Single Mother.

Do you think I should cry I was part of that discriminated bunch in my life and treated differently because I was a children from Bal Mandir ? And that I was never loved and respected ? You must be kidding ! but this only makes me more interested in the study of human psychology.

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