Man trapped in boys world

Sunita Giri 9:35 PM |

Whenever I get Dashain break,  I go to my brothers place at Chitwan Madhavpur; even though he and his whole family is christian. This time because, here in the the city we are facing Indian blockade so I have to stay at his home for longer than what I had planned to stay before I left Kathmandu.

Unlike other family we are not much close may be for the obvious reason, I grew up in Bal Mandir and this does not mean I was the only one who had to spend life in Bal Mandir.  My four brothers were also have been sent to Bal Mandir or other shelter homes. Except for the oldest one, who had to stay at home with his father because he was old enough not to keep in any shelter home at that age. The ‘home’ we called was swept away by an angry flood.

They said such angry flow of river happens once in 30 years only. And when it was angry like that my family was dispersed. Sure there must have been many more like us and their story may have been different than mine. The youngest two of us were kept in Bal Mandir. My brother could have been around five at that time and another two was placed in other shelter home which also fell under the Management of Nepal Children's Organisation. Me and my youngest brother have small age gap, so no wonder I am closer with my youngest brother compared to other brothers. During the early years, we both were kept in Bal Mandir but latter on he was transfered to the Shifal branch of Bal Mandir, where only boys are kept.

We both are a reader and talker. He was the brightest child and He always topped the class, and never ever became the second in class in his entire school life. Not just that he also used to take part in debate, poem reciting, took part in singing competition, painting and what not all that was given opportunity as a child by royal family when we were growing up. As for me, I was not even close to the tenth roll call, nah, I was not even near by the 20th roll call or the neighbor of 30th. In those days we  used to have the roll call according to the ranking we got in our exam papers. I was just the average child when I was in school or my entire student life. Still, we can talk and argue on almost anything. However, it seems whenever we catch up, our talk and time flies back in our childhood memories and we talk most about that time.

He keeps telling me even today, it was because the new housemother named Sabitri Basnyat had been transferred in Bal Mandir from the Shifal branch and she just did not like him.  He also remembers why. She may not have liked him. Sukdev, was confident child and so the argumentative nature was part of his personality and the housemother may have thought he was challenging her beliefs with his childish brain. He was not the kind; who backed off easily, once he is convinced of something. It seems to me that there was a case of ego clash. He insist she was narcissistic. She sure had that attitude of : how dare you look into my eyes, talk back to me or retort fast ? even if, was asked in anger.

Being a bright student may be he was curious of many things but what I do remember today that even the naughtiest behavior of children was termed as bad behavior in Bal Mandir. Sabitri Basnyat was mother of this twist of word who never wanted to understand the difference between the two word and it was her choice by default.

It's not a coincidence that, she hated me too for very long time and I do not have much good memories of me liking her as the feelings was so very mutually shared. I have written so much about her rough handling of children when I was young and innocent, and was growing up in Bal Mandir. Thank God, there was much more than Sabitri Basnyat to remember when I look back in my time that I have spent in Bal Mandir as a child. Luckily, it seems it's the same with my brother also.

When I took a stroll at my brother's backyard that immediately sent me back in my memory lane of my childhood time. Because, there was a small piece of kitchen garden with some fruit trees. In that small piece of land he has grown some vegetables, some trees, some herbs some flowers and many fruit trees for that small area. But, more than anything it was that thing in the middle of the kitchen garden there was some sugar cane plant at one line of it. It was that plant that has more power to pull me in my childhood time. Because, when  we were in Bal Mandir it was a kind of Bal Mandir culture to provide some land for boys to take care of it as soon as they were old enough to take care of something. I mean more than a puppy. In that small plot every boys grew sugar cane, along with other things. and they enjoyed it during winter season. Out of curiosity, I even counted it. There was  about 15 -18 less than 20 sugarcane and I know for sure that will not cross the number if I visit him ten years later also. He can't chew it as he has very weak set of teeth in his mouth, and I doubt; anyone at home really want to eat it. Still it was there. It was just there for the sake of his memory of good old time.

Another thing that sent me directly with a short cut ticket to my memory land in Bal Mandir was because, there is so many fruit trees in his small piece of land, where he also grows vegetables for about 20 people each day. Again counted those fruit trees. About ten papaya trees,  three mango trees, two trees of avocado, a litchi trees, a tree of custard apple and a grape vine and a vine of mango also. All those fruit trees have the combination power to send me in my memory lane from where I can never ever delete the trees of mango, litchi, plum, pear, and peaches. There was about six pear trees in one row and he had planted papaya trees just like that, about five in a row and rest scattered around the premises .

I remarked about my observation and he agreed having been so much influence from what he had seen in his childhood time. I have heard in a TV advertisement that we learn most from the observation than going to school or hearing a preaching. His gardens tells me exactly the same thing about that observation that tells a story of his childhood memories. And there is nothing wrong when a man still has that part of his life in him, his sweet memories of childhood.
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I grew up in Bal Mandir

Sunita Giri 8:47 PM |

Bal Mandir is a biggest orphanage here in Nepal. Well, I really have not heard of another orphanage which has more children in one place even today. Of course, there are so many small size children home that have been gaining popularity in society. We keep reading so many corruption story that goes in there but I will not cover that part of my life. I better leave it to whole lot of other people who loves to talk about the dark side of it.

I grew up in orphanage. This line may sound pretty simple and easy to say, read or write  you are reading it. This line, which I say now with so much ease, without inhibition and admit it with so much confidence today as if this is a prize I possess and I am proud of. It was however was not easy for me always. I was not comfortable to muster it, when I was in school, college and after that I was working in many offices. It was indeed not easy to utter even when I was living in Bal Mandir. Much later on in my life, I learned that it was because I was not much aware of the fact, how the people who were raised by parents thought about us. Nah, more than that it was because we were treated in Bal Mandir by the staff as if we were the sin. Now I know what was the sin; sin of being their bread and butter. Adult always hate their job and I was the job.

I have written so much in my earlier post about how fragile our self esteem was, how much we suffer from inferiority complex and we acted as if it was our exclusive property. But, then one day we all grow up. When I say we all grow up one day,  I mean to say that we grow up to find out, our why[s] in life that bugs us whole life. If we try to find the answer we all do sure find out our answers.

Most recently, I read Khushi by Bijay Kumar. He is that few journalist I used to watch, read and believe.  It is however interesting to learn that, after reading his autobiographical book my opinion about him did not change, I mean not even by an inch.  How come it's possible ? There is so much ups and downs of his life in the book. He had poured his soul out and yet no change in my opinion about him ! This book cannot be said bad from any angle, yet; for me, my opinion about the journalist did not change after getting all his inside information.

Why ? This simple question bugged me, I mean seriously bugged me off. But, then in that very perplexed mind of mine is what I have found my profound answers of my life. At times Bijay Kumar is down to earth and suddenly he sounds so arrogant. He is polite and so judgmental at times than he is expected. There are times he is so perplexed and then yet forgiving to people who caused some hindrance in his life. He also forgave those who threw crisscross in his career while they stayed in the dark. This book is all about, how his career was still on track despite his personal and professional struggle in his life. To find an answer of his life, of his emptiness he goes in a journey to find who he really is. He very honestly tells us how helpless he was to help himself in so many situations he finds himself. Mostly, it's our crab’s-leg-pulling mentality in office that grips my society, to be honest with it grips our nation. He is brutally honest to tell us whenever he could not face the sleuth people in his office, he left the job, again that put him in financial pressure.  I did not find any answer there, how to face such situation of our country.

But then at one point he clearly writes he is a brand and he could not pay a loan to his friend. Well; I think he saying that he is a brand and yet not having a clue why the biggest brand of Nepali media had no clue how to pay ten lakh [one million] to his good friends. It really intrigued me. He is indebted to his good friend but, a good brand that is in the market for about 20 years, was not able to make him able to clear his dues. The brand of the media should have been able to help him pay that much money in less than six months, not just get it easily. But, he tells you the truth that, he was not able to pay that in about eight years also. Is he right then, when he says I am the brand. Where he is wrong when he thinks he is the brand ? Being most famous, popular as well as brainy and not knowing how to use that popularity of brand to make more money for him that he can earn sufficiently at the same time pay his dues right on time ? This has been one of my problem also, but somewhat not convincing in his narration.

And suddenly, it hits me that, what is my problem was what is his and what is the entire societies. But, then; may be for this very reason is the problem of most of the people here in Nepal. No answer offered, so no useful for future reading of this book. As for his spiritual journey, I have traveled that path when I was writing my own blog. I have found my own answer.  May be more than that, I have read people who are world famous to help people and guide people in their spiritual journey. Therefore, his book  was not much help for me.

However, reading that book just reminded me that it was in fact a gift of my life to be found in orphanage. Now I have realized, time I have spent there is equal to universe for me as it offers me answers of all the perplexing things of my life.

Well, I have found some of the complex answers in my life when I kept writing my blog. It was a self journey for me. I was writing for me not for anyone, putting it in words was combating fear of my life, finding who I am, where I come from and what I should pretend and what I would not. While I was writing it, I have no pressure to please anyone, no intention to hurt anyone. Sure, some of my post was not liked by the people who were with me when I was growing up in Bal Mandir. Couple of them felt I was after them for this or that reason which I never understand why they felt it that way.  I was even blamed at one point I was so ungrateful to the man who had sent me to college, who was more of my father. His daughters wanted me to delete the post that was about her. They tried to bring their father's influence in me and my life when I was refusing to delete it.

It was hard time when you know how much you love and respect him. It was also the time learning that sure I love me too and I respect me as well. Why will I do anything to harm anyone or show my disrespect to anyone. If I do it, it's for a reason and that reason has no intention to harm anyone for whatsoever. Then, I learned my real worth and value !

When I was reading the book China Harayeko Manchhe by Hari Bansha Acharya, who was suffering from low self esteem like 98.9% of the children in Bal Mandir. That really made me  think hard. But when I saw the same problem in Bijay Kumar I wonder how come ? Because like Hari Bansa he was not literally an orphan boy. As for Bijay Kumar, just his father was not in his life, when he was growing up.

I grew up in Bal Mandir, offers me all the answers to the difficult questions of my life. Now, it's not just the title of my new article or title of the book, I will publish one day. Now, it's my mantra too ! One thing for sure; I am not going to allow anyone to reject me, just because I grew up in Bal Mandir. I now know, I am the luxury, like that glittering diamond, pride and prestige of many big social workers, big projects that runs around us all the time. Some guys who dated me and then walked out, knowing I grew up in Bal Mandir, because I have power to make him feel small but he never came with status  that have power to over shadow my background. Without me [ or the people like me ] so many good big heart social workers can't have the busy life in society. And what about the name and fame they enjoy in their circle ? Reading Khushi tells me inferiority complex is not our exclusive property which I thought it was ours but its national issue. Don't believe me ! then; all you just have to do is read his book and get what is exactly  he was struggling for.
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This is Bal Mandir

Sunita Giri 4:00 AM |

Before this I wrote a post on my blog saying how April 25 earthquake damaged the rana era palace I grew up. But the news of its damaged came as if the palace was not a Bal Mandir but all other office like NAFA art gallery, Sita Mahal or the Love Palace.

Sure, it surprised me. But now I really wonder when it will be reconstructed, it will be reconstructed under which name and who will take initiative to rebuild it ?  Will they put money to save precious arts and NAFA Art gallery will get new face lift or Sita Mahal or love palace. Who will take initiative to reconstruct it ? Who will have to put money to prioritize.

Let me put it straight here, although NAFA art gallery have been in the Bal Mandir premises for very long time almost as long as Bal Mandir still its not the building of NAFA art Gallery. So, I doubt they will take initiation to rebuild it. Lover of the Rana ruler is long dead and Sita Tamang handed it over to the royals log time back - sorry no story behind it can be given but plain truth is, this is Bal Mandir. None of them come forward to rebuild it.

When I was in Bal Mandir, I did not know about how many rooms it has. All I knew is even  after living in this place for 14 years, there may have been many rooms I have yet to enter. But, after I left Bal Mandir, I came to know about it, how many rooms it has. Somebody wanted to acquire Bal Mandir for its vast properties and wanted to use it as hotel, a five star hotel. What was the main attraction to those hotel investors ?  it has 112 rooms. At that time I was fresh out from it so that really stunned me, thinking how they can think of replacing children to other places ? They had simple answer, anywhere. They don't need such big space to live. Because, only about 30 room are being used for children's home purpose and about 10 are for Nepal Children's Organisation Office, which looks after the management of Bal Mandir, as well as other children's homes across the nation.

About 18 - 20 people used to stay in one room. Do you feel sorry for us, thinking we were crammed like cattle in one room like that ? Well save it, don't even think like that. Rooms in Bal Mandir are very big, really big. Nepali middle class family or upper middle class family do not built home with that big room. People really have to be filthy rich to build home like that.

Okay, here I am making a mistake, a serious mistake. There should be no comparison between normal persons house with an aristocratic rana rulers palace. So I leave that topic now have space in their room like we had in Bal Mandir. Even after 20 girls in one room there is always enough space for many to roam around or play  games. But, who needed to play games in rooms; when there is plenty of space when you go outside.

bm2.jpgThere is no doubt the reporter shy away to recognize it as Bal Mandir. May be he is bit show off to his readers that he belongs to some upper class society, who can find enough space in whole of Kathmandu in place like Bal Mandir only. Therefore, when a part of it collapsed he found all the names but rarely Bal Mandir. Undoubtedly, when it comes to rebuild it falls on the head of Nepal Children's Organisation, for Bal Mandir. This place must be reconstructed for the 140 children or more who stays there and then the other offices will be there once the children are safe there.

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Damaged and destroyed

Sunita Giri 11:51 PM |

On April 25, 7.8 magnitude earthquake terribly shook Nepal, which damaged lots of rana era palaces which has a history of almost 100 years. Not surprisingly, it did not spare the palace where I grew up as a child. It may be old palace for some or rana era palace for many, but its place where I spent my early childhood as well as almost all my teen years. I have spent a little more than 14 years of my life in this place. But, when I read the news of its fall down on national daily, the name of Bal Mandir was almost missing. It's so hard to believe our media persons refusal to recognize it as Bal Mandir  Instead, they were using names like NAFA art gallery or Sita Mahal or unknown to me until recently, ‘love palace’ in news reporting or links that was shared on social networking site for viewing. national dailies and ‘A’ grade journalist must have felt uncomfortable of recognizing it as Bal Mandir, even though, it's been standing there since 50 years, with a flag and name written Bal Mandir over its head.

But, for me or many others like me, who grew up there, played all our childhood games, did all the masti as a child, went to school, which is inside this building, this place will always be remembered as Bal Mandir. We have so many memories attached to this building than many we lived and switched over in our lifetime, as a grown ups.

The reporter seemed to be knowing the love story of a polygamous Rana officer who had many wives as well as many mistress to entertain him. However, this palace was made in the name of his last wife, Sita Tamang. When I was in Bal Mandir it was not easy for us to get the glimpse of her as she was very old and fragile [about 82 years]. She used to live in a near by house that was barred with a tall wall. She may have died about 30 years ago.  

I remember that there used be three women who were allowed to stay in Bal Mandir despite, it was exclusively opened for orphan, needy and destitute children. These women  were not on payroll but some meager stipend were provided to them. My wild guess is, they must have come in package deal to get the palace for really good cause. Among these three women two were very old and it was said that they were the caretakers of Bhim Shumsher Rana but one of them was not old enough like other two. She was in her mid forty or in mid fifties.  It was not for us to know it all, but it was talked in hush tone, which always went over my head then, but now, it seems relevant to remember her, whose name was Rose. She was also a Tamang girl, who was all too much tanned tamang and one of very few who are so tanned up like her, compared to the mostly fair skin tamang girls I know. When I was young I failed to see her youthfulness or qualities which could please the rana officer, but her interest in her getup and make up which displayed occasionally only which my young eyes failed to appreciate anyway, spoke much louder. It was said, she was also the mistress of rana officer. Oh yes she was younger than the Sita Maharani the true love of rana officer yet who would not get many one line as mistress to serve him.

This place sure do have many offices other than Bal Mandir - a children home. This name is not well known in Nepal but around the world to those whom it matters. Other offices which are housed in the Bal Mandir are Nepal Children Organisations office, Nutritious Food department, NAFA art gallery. About three school and Indian cultural center. No doubt for many outsiders, who visited this place or went to see only paintings or know a couple of artists who happens to be holding some high position in NAFA or other office may refuse to recognize this palace as Bal Mandir.

But look at this picture carefully, it has fallen down from top to bottom and not the top side that NAFA art gallery where paintings has been kept in exhibition to be worried and talk about in news reports. This particular side is also the main entrance from where children go to school, NCO staff go to their office and this is the same way that leads to the stair which take anyone to the top floor of NAFA art gallery.  At it ground floor there you can find the office of Indian Cultural Center today, so many would like to give it the name only they work in particular office and not necessarily naming Bal Mandir. But those who only recognized it as NAFA art gallery and worried about saving precious art pieces when it fell down, forgot that this building shelters about 140 children even today. Their worry about the art piece and not for the children only scares me to the core, suggesting that the lives of those children are a lot less important than the ‘precious pictures’ they worried about.

During 80s era, it was the most happening place in town. During late 70s and 80s it was also the place where all the after school programs used to take place. Besides that, this was also the place where many nationwide talent competitions used to take place, round the year. The competition used to be dance, singing, painting, sculpture making, debate, poem or you name it. It was the most happening place, before the 1990 political movement in Nepal. Once the multiple political party came in  power, its management became weak.

The hard truth is the bigger part of the palace is being used as a children's home or the office which looks after the management of Bal Mandir as well as about a dozen children homes across the nation. Honestly speaking, it really shocked me as well as made me mad for not being recognized as Bal Mandir in in the news I read in the Himalayan Times recently. As if human lives of poor, needy and destitute children, means nothing or less important than those precious art pieces. Or its something they do not feel comfortable to talk about. So, to cover up their own uneasiness they choose only to talk about arts and how to protect precious arts of yesteryear or the love palace. The news piece did not even think it necessary to report what I get from other sources, that all the children were shifted to Nutritious Food Department for safety reason.

This shows how much our media friends suffer from small syndrome.
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