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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