Saturday, March 24, 2007

MY FIRST STEP!


16th Friday'07, it was a day of excitement, a day of expectations and a day for search of lots of unanswered questions. For a girl that hardly dares to leave the lovingly-protected familiar surroundings - it was a challenge! But, as I am also a lover of challenges I accepted that challenge and kept that part of "ME" tightly locked in the house who always wants to be under the wings of family protection. My family supported my decision as I think they knew I was finally ready to see what life has kept for me. So, that day I prepared myself to take my first step towards my career as a Journalist.

Early morning, around 5:30 my brother Ajay dropped me at Ratnapark where a bus that would take me to Hetauda was waiting. As I was earlier than other participants I got chance to make myself comfortable in a nice seat. While I was sitting there I went through the program schedule of my visit. Program was to attend the Annual Meeting of Nepal Magar Students Association which was starting at 10 am of that day and was supposed to end next day afternoon so that we would be back to Kathmandu by Saturday night. I also had made my own plans about what I will be doing while I was attending the program. To carryout my plans I was fully prepared (really?); a camera to capture the event, a notebook and many pens and pencils to jot down about the program, quotations of speakers and decisions made by organizers; some papers and a book to read on the bus and finally my bag contained something which was not totally a journalistic equipments and that was my Magar dress! I smiled at my preparation and made my mind to make good use of everything that was in my bag.

When bus finally started moving around 7 o'clock I took a deep breath and wondered what experiences I will be gathering in Hetauda. They say journalists have a sense of knowing things before it really happens. Well, to tell you the truth, I couldn't think of anything, my head was totally blank. I had no idea what happens in the annual meetings of students as it was the first time I was participating in such programs. Moreover, it was my first visit to Hetauda which also worked as a banning agent to my assumptions and imaginations. So, what was happening next was a total mystery for me. This heightened the feeling of adventure in me and at the same time made me think if I have enough qualities to be a good journalist. You must be wondering why I am questioning myself on my chosen career. Don't worry, when you finish reading this article you will know why.

It was a big bus and was carrying more than 100 Magar students including me, of course! When I looked around in the seats of a bus I saw some familiar faces in the crowd of total strangers. There were also some girls who were as strangers to me as others were. Though they were total strangers I felt as if I knew them, as if they were close relatives. Here, I need to say one thing, I am not a racist and I can't know what other will think when I say I definitely feel comfortable to be around my community rather than in another community just the way I feel unthreatened when I am with my family from other people. I will never take loving my family more than my neighbor as being racist or indifferent to my neighbor. I take it as a human nature, to want to be in a place where you think you belong. I also take it as a kind of existential crisis. Everyone is in search of owns identity and it is easier to find that in the community which is familiar to you. Wanting to belong somewhere is a social nature of human. And it is undoubtedly easier for the person to have a feeling of belonging in the community which brought him/her up. So, not feeling them as strangers though I had never met them before was not me being racist instead it was a feeling of commonness as we share more or less similar kind of cultural values. So, I don't feel guilty about my feelings of belonging there. I have to respect myself to respect others. Same way, to respect the world I have to respect my country and to respect my country I have to respect my society and my community. If only I can love myself I will be able to love others. And I believe, loving oneself more is not being selfish; we just have to keep in mind that when loving oneself more it doesn’t make us hate others and indifferent to others existence…now, where was I? Ohh…I was in bus introducing myself with other Magar students. After introduction with others, Mahesh dai to whom I have known for about 2 years, who is a singer as well as a poet and song-writer came to sit next to me. He was also going as a journalist/photographer to Hetauda. We updated about ourselves and talked about everything. When we had started talking I had thought we would not be able to discuss lots of things and get chance to ask some of my important questions about the meeting. But, when I had finished my every queries I was surprised to find out after 2 hours of leaving Ratnapark we had not even passed the Thankot. While talking I had not even realized we were in traffic jam! I can't believe myself how I can want and believe to be a future good journalist when I forget to see what's happening around.

As it was also a Shivaratri we were stopped from place to place with rope on road by children and youth to ask for money; a kind of charity. As I recall it, we were at least stopped in 20 places by them which was the reason for us to reach Hetauda around 3 pm. As we were students we didn't give any money to any groups instead I noticed some guys teasing the girls who were stopping us for donation. In the bus I also happen to enjoy the live Dohori competition between girls and boys. They had good voice and their theme of the song was very funny for me as they were flirting with each other through song. It was lots of enjoyment. However, I didn't stay awake enough to enjoy it fully. When bus had started I had felt my stomach not in so jolly mood which of course effected my head and I felt sick as soon as bus started to move in full speed. So, to stop from the churning headache I closed my eyes and tried to sleep which I eventually did. It helped me from stopping to throw-up. When I woke up fully, I was in Hetauda, still feeling sleepy. This sleepiness and sickness habit of me made me miss beautiful sceneries on the way which is another habit I would love to kick out of me!

After everyone got out of bus we prepared for rally and within some time we were marching towards our destiny…the stage where our program was going on. When we entered the gate everyone turned their heads towards us and welcomed us with applause. I smiled and bowed my head before rushing to take pictures of speakers in the program. With other journalists and photographers; I was there standing infront of the people and trying to get the good picture of everyone and everything that I felt would give some news sense. I was clicking pictures when Mahesh dai came to me and said he had not had lunch that day which made me feel very hungry myself as I realized I also had had nothing. So, around 5 o’clock we went outside and had some shale-roti and tea. That was our breakfast, lunch and snacks of that day! When we returned to the program from tea-house it was already dark and program was coming to end. I clicked some pictures and we were led to OM CHALACHITRA GHAR by volunteers where continuation of program was to take place.

Around 7 o’clock, the entertainment program started. Magar dances were performed by the participants and organizers along with songs, jokes and music. It was very enjoyable! After we were fed by fun we were offered food which definitely tasted real good though rice was half-cooked, dal was too salty and curry was too little. After dinner at 12 o’clock our program “Banda-Shatra” started. Central Committee Members along with President Bhojbikram Budha Magar sat on the stage while representatives and participants sat in chair with eyes half closed and yawning at least two times in every five minutes. We; photographers and journalists stood between stage and audience-chair to click pictures of both side easily. There were specially four people to click pictures :- Mahesh dai, Chhabi dai, Padam dai and me. We made plans to check everyone in every corner to click pictures of those who slept most funnily. It was the game to keep ourselves awake. We would click pictures and show each-other and have a great laugh between ourselves. The plan worked well. Our President was in the center of the stage and after 5 minutes of the program had started I noticed something which made me smile. He was dozing and if nothing will be done by nobody I was sure he would find himself flat on floor with his face down. As I saw no one was ready to do anything I went for his rescue. I took my weapon with me: my camera and with sign language told to the person sitting next to him to push him a little so that I could take picture of him. The person understood and did as I had asked so when our President opened his eyes, right at that time my camera flashed…Click! Later when I saw the picture, our president was as confused as a newly baby is when it suddenly sees light for the first time. My group had good laugh and it helped us to stay awake for a minute longer.

The night was so cold, at first taking a nap in the chair was impossible for me. But, around 3:30 in morning when annual report from Central Committee was being presented my leg sent me a secret signal that it can stand no longer so I went to sit next to Mahesh dai who was taking rest for his eyes as well as his legs and camera. After 5 minutes of rest my eyes must have got jealous of my legs as they would not open when I tried to. It was impossible for me to read the report and next thing I realized was my ear also started to send me the sound as if it was from far-far away while the big volume-box was just in front of me. Everything felt useless at that moment so I gave myself to the Goddess of sleep with a big yawn. When I woke up I looked at my watch and found it was already quarter to 4. Stretching myself in chair I looked at the places where my friends were standing to click pictures before I took a nap. I didn’t see them so I turned my head here and there and gave a laugh when I saw them all asleep in chairs next to mine. They were sleeping in such a pathetic and laughable style that I was about to take their pictures but they awoke before I could succeed at my plan. Wide awake we got ready for our job again till the program ended at 7 am. I came out of the cinema hall to wash my face and brush my teeth. As I had no toothpaste I went to buy one and brushed in the water from tank along with some other participants. Still I did not feel fresh…I was drowsy, tired and about to collapse. At this time I understood the meaning of my teachers sentence “Journalist’s life is a life of a dog! 24 hours job and not a career for the house-dolls!” Well said! But hey, I don’t want to be a house-doll and I am not going to be the one!!

As we had finished our program earlier than expected we hit the road around 9 am for Kathmandu after we had our breakfast. Everyone slept in the bus as soon as they were in seat, of course excluding the driver, helper and ME! I really wanted to sleep but due to the girls problem (monthly periods) my stomach and back started paining so hard that I could not breath well. That made me stand mostly the half way home. It was painful and I felt nature has really done injustice to women. But what to do? It is a real problem but then life will lose its value if there is no struggle, no pain and no obstacles in the way. And we need to be prepared to face anything as my brothers tell me. From this time I am going to be ready, prepared for these things so that they won’t make me weak to go for my destiny, my dream and my aim.

So, this was my first visit to Hetauda and to that kind of program. It was one of the great experience of my life. When I came back from the Hetauda I felt I knew more about myself. I got lots of ideas about how my life will be in future. And most of all, I met many people from around the country, listened to their ideas, their opinion, their perspectives of looking at the things and shared mine too. What can I ask for more when I got something that is going to shape my future. These experiences and information have given me a treasure-box where I am going to add more of my coming days experiences to make it full so that I can be what I am planning to be in coming days by utilizing these treasures. I know I don’t have enough qualities of a good journalist right now but this kind of experiences are going to be my base, my root which will give me enough strength in the future to be what I have always dreamed of - a good journalist.

Thanks to those who are helping me to realize my dream, my destiny and are always by my side to support me in every step that I have been taking since I was born!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

WATER: TEARS OF US!


I have to write this. I have to…else there is the chance that I might get mad or even die. There is a heaviness in my whole body specially in my heart and it is tormenting my mind. It seems as if my whole being is questioned. I don't know if I can think properly and live normally when the whole world of mine has turned upside down.

Yesterday, was a day I cried. Cried…you will think women usually CRY! No, not me including many women you have not met yet. We know our tears. It is precious to us! It doesn't only wash our pain in this world which you have so kindly made ONLY Yours, it also makes us strong to live and struggle for life and death.

Drops by drops my tears fell from my eyes. And I let them fall. That was my tribute to those who changed the traditional social evils for us but had to live the life of hell themselves. I saluted their bravery, bowed my head for their determination…their vision and their search for Truth.

I knew it was just a movie. A movie that dealt with problems of widow-system in India during early 19th century. Still, from the starting of the movie I totally forgot it was just a movie. I could not hold myself in one piece. I felt I was the one suffering in that screen. It hit me right in my heart.

The year is 1938. It starts with Chuiya; a young girl of about seven years old who suddenly finds herself a widow. She even doesn't remember she was married and she had a husband, still her hair is shaved and she is given the white clothes to put on. And, as the society demands she is sent to a widow house where she dreams of returning home one day as she truly believes her Ma will come to take her from there. But, then with time she realizes her dream was an illusion. She becomes an old lady in her childhood. She looses her childishness that had brought little bit of colour in the house and becomes used to with the color of black and white. In the house she mainly becomes close to other two widows : a young woman Kalyani (Lisa Ray) and middle aged woman Kaushalyadevi (Sheema). Both of them also don't remember who their husbands were as when they became widow they were of same age as Chuiya. Kalyani is a beautiful woman and she is used as a money maker by house's main widow (Moti-Budhi as Chuiya calls her) by sending her to sleep with high-class people of that place. She is allowed to put long hair and in different room far from other widows. Her revolt starts unknowingly when she keeps a dog without others knowledge. This revolt of hers leads to the decision of her re-marriage with a young man Narayan (John Abraham), student of Law who is though from higher family believes in equality and re-structuring of society. He is one of the follower of Gandhi who fought to bring the changes in the condition of widows as well. But, she is punished for her decision, her hair is chopped and she is locked in the room by the "Moti-budhi" and convinces others that sin will be upon them if Kalyani re-marries.

Devastated with grieve and helplessness of Kalyani, Chuiya kills the Mitthu; a parrot of "Moti-Budhi" while Kaushalyadevi who spends her life in search of salvation (god) by listening to Priest preaching Veda asks priest if widows could re-marry. He says Veda gives widows three options: to go Sati on her husband's pyre, spent whole life as a punishment in search of salvation by ignoring every human desires of happiness and pleasure or to marry with the younger brother of her previous husband. But, he also adds that recently the nation had passed one law that supported widow marriage. This gives her strength to free Kalyani to go to marry Narayan. Kalyani runs to meet Narayan and he takes her to his home to get married. Suddenly, on their half way to his home after knowing the name of his father Kalyani decides against her decision of marriage with Narayan. Later Narayan knows his idle father's true face; the face of hypocrisy; the face of women exploiter.

Kalyani returns to the widow house but she is not allowed to enter by the Moti-budhi. With no where to go she decides to drown herself to death. Her death brings chaos in the life of Chuiya and Kaushalyadevi. Chuiya wants to go home again while Kaushalya tries to find the truth of life. At this time, the incident of Chuiya being sent to the house of high class person as Kalyani was sent to by Moti-budhi changes everything. When Kaushalya finds Chuiya physically abused (raped) she looks after the sick Chuiya. At the same time she hears Gandhi was in their town so carrying Chuiya she goes there to see him. Gandhi before leaving the place by train says, "Brothers and Sisters, before I used to believe God was Truth but now I have come to realize Truth is the God!". Kaushalya runs after train and gives Chuiya to Narayan telling him to give her to Gandhi. She stands in rail-track looking at train then at the place where she came from. This way there is a beginning of their new life; Chuiya is able to leave the society which is so rooted in the mud that would have engulfed her if she had not left while Kaushalya is sure to defy the exploitation done upon widows as she knows what is the Truth of life. This is their new beginning…

The movie is fantastic. Thanks to Deepa Mehta who has been able to show the society of that time through the eyes of three women of different generation. She has given birth to three most amazing women of that time who are within us too.

Apart from the story, cast and the presentation what I appreciate most is the use of symbols in the movie. Everything is presented symbolizing something and yet within this also there is simplicity to understand what it really wants to give. The title of the movie; "WATER" is itself very symbolic. Water…must have been made from the tears of those women who were forced to detach themselves from society, exploited by the higher class people and kept away from their desires. It also could mean the Society where women like Kalyani are drowned to death and like Chuiya will have to struggle to bloom like a lotus flower does in the muddy water.

At last I wonder why Indian Hindu fundamentalist vandalized the filming set of the Oscar nominated movie. People might think it is the movie condemning the Hindu religion. But, I didn't find such thing in the movie. It has certainly condemned the society but not religion. And even if it is to condemn the religion there was that kind of trend during that time, its written in the history so when someone tries to show that part of society why to get so aggressive and violent. Moreover, there is balance in the movie, it is not condemning the religion but to those people who have misread and followed it according to their vested interest in the name of religion. Narayan stands for the person who has understood the true religion. He, playing flute (murali) shows his love towards his religion (Krishna). He and the Priest who reads Veda to widows are standing as an idol Hindu people. They have understood and followed their religion in right way. So, more than saying it against the religion we should say that this movie is against the people who forced the society to become the vase to fulfill their vested interest in the name of religion. It is against the so-called high class, intellectual people who mislead the society.

This movie gave me insight that I was unable to achieve before. My life will never be same from this day. WATER has changed something inside me…it has awakened me for good!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Celebrating my 75th Birthday!


Tomorrow I am going to celebrate my 75th birthday!

I know, my husband is going to celebrate it exactly the way he has been celebrating it every year for 10 years.

Early morning, he will wake up and whisper me a "birthday song" that he wrote it for me when we had celebrated my birthday together for the first time. With a bright smile of his he will then look up at my photo that's hanging on the wall in front of him. With tears in his eyes he will come near and give a kiss to it. Touching his heart then he will go to the park that we had painted with our laughs and shaded with our tears. In that park, there is the old broken wooden bench where we sat every time we visited the park and created our most intimate memories. He will sit on that bench, carefully put a red rose on the right side of bench where I always sat. He will sit there whole day remembering all those vivid memories that made our life so great. During day if he finds some good listener, he will tell the person our simple love story which was great in itself from first meeting to the last goodbye.

Exactly 55 years back I had met him when I was participating in a special program. Umm…I don't know what was the program about but it was a special program. I remember it because I met the most special person of my life there – my life partner- with whom I was to spent my coming 40 golden years.

That day I was sitting with my friends; and attending the program had never been that boring in life. I was about to doze again ignoring my friends' annoyed murmurs about my sleepy-habit when I heard an opening of the door that made my head turn lazily towards it. There…there…my poor sleepyhead! From that moment it hardly got chance to sleep without the dreams of him in it. Because when my eyes set upon him I couldn't stop myself from staring. Like a fool I stared and stared with my mouths open at what I was seeing. I thought he was an apparition of a Cupid himself.

He must have felt something as he slowly turned and looked straight in my eyes. Oh boy! It shook my whole body with awe. I could do nothing, neither stop staring nor give my always ready dazzling-smile nor turn my head towards anything. Oh…yeah…wait, I remember one thing I did…I stopped breathing! What kind of magic or energy was it I have not found answer to it till today. But, I am sure it was a magic. What else could it be because what he could do to me has never been able to do by anybody. He just hold me right there with his eyes and I could do nothing…I mean Nothing! Not even blink my eyes. I felt butterflies in my stomach and so so helpless at my stupid behaviors. With the helpless feeling and frustrated at myself I was trying to come to my terms and do something when the most sweetest thing happened that was better than any chocolates of the whole world I had ever tasted in life – He Smiled! – that was how I fell head over heels in love with him.

Now, as I see him sleeping there the feeling that I feel in my heart is as it was at the first meeting, if not more. He still makes me breathless and restless. Even when I think of him butterflies are always there in my stomach. As I recall our life, from boyfriend and girlfriends we became husband and wife then parents and then grandparents. Everything changed, our responsibilities changed, our status changed, our life changed but what didn't change with changing time and changing circumstances is our love; love that brought power to cross every boundaries, every barriers.

It has been nearly 10 years since we said our last goodbye to each-other. He is in the world of life and I am in the world of death. But, nothing has changed between us. I still feel that magic, that energy of his which gives life to me and I know it is the same with him. He knows I am always around him to support and to love him the way he does to me.

Anyway, tomorrow is my birthday and I am celebrating it with him by sitting next to him on our bench listening him say his part of our-story. Call it a woman nature but I am worried a little as I am going to be 75 years old tomorrow I wonder if I have grown too old. May be he thinks I have grown old and not so beautiful anymore. I am going to ask him the question. If he says I am old and not beautiful then he better watch his mouth. He is gonna regret saying that and might as well have to spent days without me talking to him!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Knocking on Heaven's Door!


Let me tell you a story. A story about a girl. Girl that always wanted to die. Die…why? She herself didn't know the answer. But one thing was for sure there was a time when she would have been shocked if she had thought about killing herself.

When I had met her for the first time she had given me a bright smile with her introduction. Within minutes I had felt I knew her for years. She made me feel as comfortable as I am with myself. I thought I could talk about anything with her, share every dreams, every secrets, every smile and tears. That day she had walked into my heart and had made it her forever.

It seemed to me that she loved everything and almost everyone. Never complained about her life that was very simple when others observed. And, there was something about her that made her special. Special in a way that everyone loved her and appreciated her. Her sweet and all the time ready smile was something worth waiting for her arrival. That beautiful smile of hers was must for lots of people to have a beautiful day.

I had thought she must have never been touched by a wind that carries pain and tears as she was always jolly and always used to find something funny in everything to laugh about. But, if a person laugh, jokes and smiles all the time; it really doesn't mean that the person is happy and doesn't have any problems in life. I knew about it better on that day when I was roaming round SwayembhuNath. I was sitting on a little stone and trying to think about something good when I suddenly saw a familiar figure squatting near a tree which was near enough for me to see what was going on. I smiled when I realized it was her. But, I was surprised to find her so vulnerable. She seemed she was about to collapse. Her whole body seemed to be burning in pain. From where I sat I could see her tears rolling down her face. I could feel her pain right in my heart. I couldn't go to her and console or ask her anything because something made me see that she wanted to be by herself. Must have been her body language. She let those precious tears fall from her eyes for about a hour. Then she stood up, touched a tree with her left hand and said something to it or was it for someone else, God, who knows. She stood there for long time till her tears stopped and dried. And then she left. I just sat there staring at the tree where she had stood there and cried for long time. It felt like though she had left her pain was still there. My heart became heavy and my sight blurred with tears so I left the place as soon as possible without looking back.

Next day she didn't come to college. I had prepared myself to make her feel good and may be help in someway to lessen her pain. So, I waited for another day, another day and another day but she never came.

About a month later, I heard from friends that she was sick, nothing serious, no wounds, no disease, just sick then sometimes later I heard she had died. Died… how? Doctors never knew. They just knew she had nothing wrong with her body but still she died.
I know why…she was in pain, pain of loosing someone she loved more than anything in her life. I had seen it in her eyes. That pain could kill anyone. However, what she lost I also don't know…could be her love or could be her identity, could be anything!

Born in Wild!


I have always felt that I was born in wild. Wild where I grew up, where I bloomed. I loved the way air smelled there, loved being covered with dry leaves. A wild flower, a wild life!

But, one day in the world of well wishers, one of the well-wishers' saw me and thought I was too beautiful to be in wild. He must have thought who would protect me from rain, sunny days, birds or animals. So with every care of the world, he removed me from my ground. He took special care that none of my roots were damaged. I appreciated it!

He brought me to his world; planted me on his beautiful garden where lots of other flowers made of plastics were blooming. It was safe there. I was totally protected from almost everything. Temperature was just perfect for me, neither too cold nor too hot. Fences were around me so there was no fear of animals stamping me under their feet, no fear of heavy rain nor a flood. Everything was there. Soil under me were made nurtures for me. Never had to worry about water, nor food. Everything was provided in certain periods of time. I was fed!

He used to come to see me from time to time. Always looked at me with admiring eyes. It seemed as if I was the most precious thing in the world. I always enjoyed it. It was flattering! Later on he even brought his lots of friends to show me to them. Everyone looked awestruck by the bluish red color of my petals. They couldn't help themselves from touching me and smelling me. It felt good to have so many people interested on me so much. I smiled at them!

However, I always have a great wish to return to my home. I miss the smell of air, miss the damp sweet smelling soil, miss the sound of dry leaves falling around me, miss the music of rain which was always great to dance in. This world of love and protection is not my world. I love the attention, care given by him but this is not my world. I have always felt I don't belong here. Not that I have not tried to adjust in this world but my colors of petals, my whole being is changing, it is fading away… I am about to be just like others…plastic! So, I long for my wild where I was what I was. I didn't had to turn into something else to make someone happy.

Tomorrow, I am moving out of here!