Thursday, 31 July 2014

Aamaa - the Word

My son, Bishrut used to call me "aamaa" when he began speaking. At the age of three we took him to Australia and he was suddenly placed in an English-speaking environment. As a result, he gradually stopped speaking Nepali; and the word 'aamaa' also gave way to 'mum.'

Bishrut had to learn Nepali again when we returned home after about two years in Australia. Actually he had not forgotten the language; it was in his subconsciousness and he only needed to bring it back to his conscious mind. Now he started to ask me to translate his English words into Nepali. In the language learning process he asked me, "Mum, how do you say 'mum' in Nepali?" "Aamaa," I replied. He shifted to aamaa from mum once more.

The same year we went to my hometown, Dhankuta to see our relatives. One day I went to my maternal uncle's house with Bishrut. To hear him addressing me aamaa, my uncle interrupted Bishrut, "Hey! What are you saying? You must call your mother maamu and your grandmother aamaa." This statement made my little boy perplexed; he rushed to me for clarification. He stared at me with suspicious eyes and asked, "Is he right?" I gave him a big hug and tried to console the tiny heart, "No. Not at all. Go tell him we must call our mother aamaa and grandmother hajuraamaa." He smiled at my maternal uncle triumphantly, however, he avoided calling me aamaa as long as we stayed there.

We returned to Kathmandu after spending some days in Dhankuta. As we were passing through the security check at the airport in Biratnagar, a policewoman, who was checking my hand bag, heard my son calling me aamaa. She promptly made her criticism: "Babu, yati ramro manchhele ta mummy po bhannupacchha! Aamaa bhaneko ta hajuri ho" (Such a cute boy must say mummy; aamaa means grandmother). This struck Bishrut once again. On the plane he asked me, "What does hajuri mean, mum? "Grandma," I answered. He asked me a number of questions regarding the word aamaa. I tried my best to satisfy his curiosity.

My eldest sister also faced this problem as my nieces call her aamaa. For instance, she once went to a social gathering with her two daughters. When one of her relatives heard my younger niece calling my sister, "Aamaa...," he sprang up with a great surprise. "Oh my God! Do your daughters call you aamaa? Don't you feel too old...to be addressed by this word?", he tried to discourage my sister. Ha...ha...what a perspective he had!

I suspect, our so-called modern society seems to be devoid of sweetness, tenderness, beauty, love, respect and purity that the word 'aamaa' evokes. It is obvious that a hajuraamaa can also never be replaced by aamaa. People have misinterpreted the real meaning of aamaa. This indicates the eroding value of our cultural identity.

These days Bishrut does not call me aamaa, and I do not want to be coercive as he is too little to understand all these worldly intricacies. Nevertheless, I have been waiting for the day when he realizes and understands the glory of the word aamaa by himself, and starts calling me aamaa spontaneously, instead of mummy.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Monday, October 4, 2004)




Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Home Alone

"Will you not go to your maitighar (parental home) ?" is a question that everyone I know asks me during the Teej (a Hindu festival). I do not have a particular answer, as it is not easy to go to Dhankuta from Kathmandu  just to celebrate Teej. In the mean time I listen to other people who supply answers for not leaving their home for the dear maitighar even if it is at an accessible place.

The parents of a close friend of mine live just a few kilometers away from her house. One day I asked her the reason for not going to her parents' place at Teej. She responded happily. The reason: She cannot trust her husband, even for three days. Last year she had gone to the maitighar but when she came back she found him in a sickly condition with a haggard face, unshaven and lousy. "Oh...that means he was lovesick? I asked amusingly.

"No! He was playing cards and drinking round the clock during my absence," I heard my dear friend's  sad voice. Of late, even if she goes somewhere she keeps ringing him and returns home by evening.

The conversation made me curious enough to learn about my husband's opinion, so I asked him, " Hey, honey! Tell me honestly, how do you feel in my absence when I go to Dhankuta for few days? Will you be able to manage everything?" He sighed as if I was leaving immediately for never to come back, and said yeah, he would manage, though it would be difficult.

"You'd better go and stay there for some more days because you may feel bad seeing others going to their parents for Teej. If you like I'll manage plane tickets," he showed his generosity and love - all at once!

Sharing her experience, one of my relatives stated that last year  her husband insisted her to go to her parents' place for Teej despite her unwillingness. He convinced her that the in-laws would be disappointed if she did not go, and would blame him for that. So she went there but left her little son with her husband. "The lad reports to me everything about his dad, because, you know, no one knows my man better than I do," she said suspiciously.

Even though my case was different, I began to analyze my husband. I pondered over the nature of men. Are they really that much unfaithful? Do they need to be put under surveillance all the time? I threw a question to my hubby, " What do your friends do during the absence of their wives and children at home? Don't they feel lonely?"

As if he was waiting for that moment, he answered excitedly that the married men enjoy Teej more than women. During their wives' and children's absence, they feel so much exulted that they become like a free spirit. No demands, no arguments, no responsibilities, nothing; peace everywhere . They can go back home any time they like. "No phone calls at your office asking you to fetch vegetables for the evening. Drink, enjoy and be happy, at least for three days," he said in a breath.

"So, you want to be free like your friends during Teej this year?" I tried to test him. "No. Not really. Because I'm not that kind of guy," he replied with a grin. Yet, I could not help feeling through his lost voice that he was also tempted to be himself like his friends.

Watch out, ladies. The Teej is at your doorstep! Would love to hear your experience too.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Monday, September 27, 2004)

  


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Teej: Time for Fasting and Feasting

'Teejako rahara ayo barilai, Teejako rahara ayo barilai...,' a special song dedicated to a great Nepali festival 'Teej' can be heard everywhere when the festive season is around the corner. According to the Hindu mythology, Teej is related to the goddess Parvati and the Lord Shiva. It is said that Parvati was in deep love with Shiva but he was not aware of her feelings. To make Shiva her husband at any cost Parvati performed penance on the Himalayas and fasted for many days. Finally, Shiva also got impressed by her devotion and agreed to marry her. Parvati, to express her gratitude, sent her emissary to preach and disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity in their families. Thus was born the festival of Teej. On this day, women go to the temples of God Shiva and worship him asking for their husband's long life and prosperity. They are not supposed to eat and drink anything the whole day. They break their fasting only on the following day.

Most of the married women say that they fast and worship Shiva at Teej wishing for their husband's longevity and welfare even today. They do not bother to think whether their one-day fasting really helps their husbands to gain long life. The majority of the unmarried girls say that they fast on this day to get a 'perfect man' of their choice as Parvati got Shiva. Really? A research study is needed to confirm the statement. In my opinion, Teej should be redefined. It has other importance rather than merely fasting for a husband.

Teej must be observed to to keep the traditions alive for generations, but at the same time the prejudices related to this festival must be abolished. For instance, the false beliefs, such as 'one must not eat or drink on the day, if she does so she is believed to be eating her husband's flesh and drinking his blood,' should not be attached to Teej. Shiva clearly does not want his devotees to suffer from thirst and hunger, instead he would love them to pay their true respect to him, to be honest and not to hurt other beings. Similarly, fasting for Teej must not be imposed. A traditional belief is that the ritual of Teej is obligatory for all Hindu married women and girls, who have reached at the stage of puberty. It is entirely an individual's choice if she fasts. Without fasting also she can enjoy every bit of Teej.

The fasting cannot be taken for granted too. One has to assess her strength and health condition first while fasting. There are hundreds of cases when the women have to be rushed to the hospital because they suffer from severe dehydration while fasting without drinking for hours. From the point of view of health, it is good to fast for a day but scriptures do not suggest to continue fasting until one faints. If you are hungry - eat, if you are thirsty - drink, without waiting for your husband's permission for that.

On the dar khane din, a day before the day of Teej married daughters/sisters are invited to their parents'/brothers' place. They all gather together, enjoy dar - varieties of the delicious food. Then all women in the house fast on the following day. In this way, Teej is a good opportunity to bring family members, relatives and friends together. Basically women are busy and surrounded by many family responsibilities regardless of their urban or rural status. They do not get much spare time to involve in social activities. Teej gives them a great chance of socialization. They sing and dance, exchange their feelings and forget their tensions and pains, at least for a day. Teej is a good democratic practice since the time immemorial.
The day can be considered as an occasion to renew the friendship, not caring about the monotonous and never-ending household work. In this sense, fasting and feasting at

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Thursday, September 16, 2004)





  


Monday, 28 July 2014

Lost in Nostalgia

One day, a question suddenly popped into my mind: "What can be the happiest moment in my life?" Well, I have spent more than thirty years of my life. During this period I have certainly gone through many ups and downs, enjoyed countless joyous moments and passed through some sorrowful too. Among all those moments I needed to explore the happiest one. An excellent opportunity to review one's own life.

I closed my eyes and tried to remember every important and lovely second that I have lived so far. Soon a beautiful imagery of my childhood appeared vividly in front of my eyes. I reached my home with my parents and four siblings. Being the youngest in the family, I was the most pampered one. I used to follow my mother wherever she went - to public gatherings, mamaghar (maternal home), her friend's house and marketplace. Wow! I was a  free bird at that time. I used to eat, play, wander, study and live in a world of colourful dreams. Really, I was in a position of "Hakuna Matata" or no responsibilities, no worries.

I still remember that in winter we would gather around a hearth after dinner. Then our father used to tell us tales of wonders including the one how he left his house at the age of sixteen and went to Benaras  looking for an opportunity of education. We would curiously listen to his struggle stories, hard times and eventually a success he achieved there. Our mother used to report about her fellows at her school, and about some intelligent and some naughty students. We kids used to talk about our friends, teachers and schools.

I used to sing and dance with my second elder sister, Ranjana and of course sometimes I would fight with her over petty things like some sort of dress, toys or food, but we two could not spend a minute without each other's company. Sometimes we, along with our common friends, used to organize marriage ceremonies of our dolls, where Ranjana and I sometimes pretended to be on the bride's side and sometimes on the groom's. There would be parties on these occasions. To tease us our eldest brother would hang one of our dolls on the ceiling and say, "Hey girls! Look! Your doll committed suicide." This would make us upset and we would cry, so we used to call our mother for help. Once, all five kids were playing hide and seek in pitch dark. After finding me my elder brother pushed me hard in his excitement. My little body flew towards a wooden window and smacked against it... very hard!  As I started wailing at the top of my voice, someone switched the light on. As soon as my elder brother saw my temple bleeding, he jumped out yelling, "Muwa...Muwa...! Little sister's broken!" What? It feels hilarious now. Life was super fun with a cozy family of seven.

I do not exactly know when and how each of us grew up and started to chase our own dreams. One by one we left the house and our parents. Gradually, we got married and were surrounded by our own families and responsibilities. After dispersal, the time never came which could bring all seven of us together; each time one or another was missing.

Now if some of us see each other occasionally, the topics of conversation have totally changed. We are bugged by millions of our own family problems and do not have time to ponder on the wonders of the past. The brothers have their wives and children and the sisters have husbands and children to worry about. I am also occupied with the same.

When I am alone, I wish all us siblings could get together with our parents once again and live the same happy life that we had lived long ago. These days when I watch my only son longing to stick around his parents all the time, I can easily realize his passion for the family. History repeats. Now this is his turn to enjoy "Hakuna Matata" moments. Who knows when he will grow up and starts running after his dreams, eventually leaving us behind.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Friday, September 10, 2004) 


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Changing Image of Women

Women from  both urban and rural society are fed up of their stereotyped role of engaging them only in household work. As it never gives them recognition or even a thanking word, they are trying to come out of their cocoon. The Nepali women's vital role to tie up a family is often undermined and the housewives are considered  unproductive in the sense that they do not contribute to earn in the family. Though they keep themselves busy all the time, their hard work is ignored and remains unpaid.

To keep up with the changing times, the modern age women are highly motivated to come out of the confinement of four walls of their houses and involve themselves in different types of work that help them become economically independent. With this, they have clearly realized that the women armed with education and economic independence could carve their niche in the society.

Women empowerment has become a buzzword these days. To empower a woman, the first step is to make her educated and financially independent. It is good that there are many organisations working to support women gain economic independence. Some provide them skill training like sewing, knitting, beautician or bakery whereas others give them some loan to start a small business. However, only some limited fields are identified as suitable for women. It is a need of the time to explore more areas where women can show their talents better. They must be encouraged to opt for innovative fields of their interest where they could get a chance to express themselves fully.

In such a scenario, recruitment of women in the Royal Nepal Army, for the first time in history,  is definitely encouraging on the part of women empowerment. It marks the new dawn towards achieving independence. Opening up new opportunities for women in the security service also shows the equal status of women in the society and it also helps break the age-old image of Nepali women as timid, frail and weak. The women soldiers loaded with courage, enthusiasm, confidence and dedication could stand as role models in the world of women. Otherwise in a normal situation they are ignored and put aside labeling as coward lot.

It is seen that driving is another attraction, especially in the Kathmandu valley, for women to earn their livelihood. We can see many women tempo drivers heading off comfortably and confidently on the roads. It is nice to see them creating their own space in the society.

It is not enough only to enrich their skills. Women must get an opportunity of education so that they can improve their social, economic an well as intellectual status and widen up their world. It ultimately helps them directly participate in the development of the nation.

Women are not less competent than men in any field; it is just a matter of opportunity as well as faith put upon them. There are more opportunities for males comparing to females so people perceive inaccurately that men are more capable and successful than women.

Nevertheless, in relation to the past days, it can be realized that the traditional image of a woman as the body wrapped in a sari, bent head, lowered eyes and shyness all over her face is gradually changing. Now a woman can adorn her body in a proper uniform as a man. She can hold her head high or look directly into people's eyes and talk fearlessly. In the place of  shyness, confidence and determination can be seen.

Women have  proved their capability in every sector they joined. They are successful in the field of education, business, banking, medical science and many more, but the underlying problem is that their number is nominal to represent each area  in comparison to men. There must be more opportunities available for competent an qualified women. They must have easy access to every field they desire to join. They must be trusted and upgraded to the top level as well as to the decision-making level if they are capable. Without giving a chance, how they can be blamed or doubted that they are incapable or disqualified for those posts. Women's power and capabilities must not be questioned if the Nepali society really wants to abolish the existing gender discrimination.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal daily on Friday, 10 September, 2004)   


Friday, 25 July 2014

त्यो रात...

यो घटना आजभन्दा धेरै अगाडिको भए पनि मलाई हिजो अस्ति घटेजस्तो लाग्छ I त्यतिबेला हामी किर्तिपुरको ट्याङ्गलाफाँटमा बस्थिउं I ट्याङ्गलाफाँटको बाटोको कुरा के गर्नु र?  हिउँदमा त ठिकै हो, तर बर्षामा अति बिजोग हुने! सधैं हिलो ग्याज ग्याज ! हिलो बाटो काटेर सुख्खा ठाउँमा पुग्नका लागि मानिसहरु जुत्ता हिलोले नपुरियोस भनेर जुत्ता लगाएको ठाउँदेखि घुंडासम्म टनटनी प्लास्टिक बाँध्थे I

म त्यतिबेला काठमाण्डौ शिक्षा क्याम्पसमा पढाउंथें I त्यहाँ राती पढाई हुन्थ्यो I श्रीमानको राइजिङ्ग नेपालमा काम सकिने समय र मेरो क्लास सकिने समय करिब करिब उस्तै भएकाले हामी उंहाको बाइकमा संगै घर फर्कने गर्थेउँ I त्यो बर्षाको एक रात थियो I श्रीमानलाई हिले बाटो कटाएर घरसम्म बाइक पुरयाउनु, त्यसमाथि मलाई सुरक्षित पछाडी बसाएर, अति नै चुनौतीपूर्ण थियो I एकदमै होशियार भएर उँहा सबभन्दा कम गतिमा बाटाको छेउ छेउबाट बाइक लाँदै हुनुहुन्थ्यो I म "कहिले यो हिलो कट्छ र बाइक बाट वर्लिनु," भन्ने सोच्दै डराएर पछाडी बसेकी थिएँ I

अलि अगाडि बढेपछि, होस् गर्दा गर्दै, बाइकको सन्तुलन बिग्रियो I मैले श्रीमानले "ला... !" भन्नुभएको सुनें I अनायास मेरो मुखबाट, "गइयो ?" भन्ने शब्द निस्कियो I उँहाले पनि, "गइयो...," भन्नुभयो I त्यसपछि मेरो सबै होस् हरायो, म चेतनाशून्य भएँ I जब होस् आयो, तब मैले आफूलाई बाटोभन्दा करिब २० फीट तलको धान खेतमा पसारिएको अबस्थामा पाएँ I चारैतिर अँध्यारो थियो I सबै घटनाक्रम सम्झिनलाई मलाई केहीबेर लाग्यो I आफ्नु चेतना पूर्ण रुपमा फर्केपछि म बिस्तारै उठेर बसें I आँखा च्यातेर वरिपरि हेरें I मभन्दा अलि पर्तिर गोडा पसारेर बसिरहनु श्रीमानजीको छायाँ देखें I उहाँले बिस्तारै हात लम्काएर मलाई छाम्छुम पार्न थाल्नुभयो I त्यस्तो संकटको घडीमा नि मलाई हाँस उठ्यो I मैले हाँस्दै सोधें, "मरी कि ज्यूँदै छ, भनेर छाम्नु भएको?" उहाँले मलीन स्वरमा, "अँ," भन्नुभयो I

केहीबेर त्यत्तिकै बसेपछि श्रीमानलाई बाइकको सम्झना आएछ I "बाइक खोइ त?" भन्दै उहाँले यता उता हेर्नुभयो I त्यतिन्जेलमा हाम्रा आँखा अँध्यारोमा अभ्यस्त भैसकेका थिए I हाम्रो बाइक त बाटोको भित्तामा पलाएको तितेपातीको सानु र कम्जोर झ्यांगमा पो अड्किएको रहेछ ! बाफ रे! त्यो बाइक तितेपातीको झ्यांगमा नथामिई हामी संगसंगै खसेको भए त किचेर ठहरै मार्ने रहेछ नि! त्यो धान खेतमा कुनै चुच्चो ढुंगा, शिशा अथवा किल्ला भएको भए, र मेरो हेल्मेट नलगाएको टाउको त्यहीं जोतिएको भए! यस्ता कल्पनाले मेरो मन सिरिङ्ग सिरिङ्ग हुन थाल्यो! धन्न त्यहाँ हिलो मात्र थियो!

हामीमा त्यहाँबाट उठेर हिंड्ने शक्ति आइसकेको थिएन I कहाँ गएर हो हाम्री भतिजी रिचा पनि अलि ढिलै घर  फर्कदै रहिछ I तितेपातीको झाङ्गमा काकाको बाइक देखेर उसलाई उदेक लागेछ र ऊ निहुरी निहुरी, "काका... काका...," भन्दै बोलौंदी रहिछ I बीस फीट तलबाट मैले "रिचा...!" भनेर बोलाएको सुन्दा एकछिन त उसको हंग्सले पनि ठाउँ छोडेछ I मेरो आवाज पछयाउंदै केहि बेरपछि ऊ  हामी भएको ठाउँमा आइपुगी I दुर्घटनाग्रस्त काका र सानिमाका कुरा सुनीI अनि हामीलाई लिएर घर गई I

घरको उज्यालोमा पो देखियो, म त शिरदेखि पैतालासम्म पुरै हिलै हिलो पोतिएर हिले माछो जस्ती भएकी
रहेछु I त्यसैले त ठुली भतिजी सेवा मलाई देख्नेबित्तिकै, "आमा...! सानिमा, के भयो?" भन्दै अत्ताल्ली I हल्ला र खल्ला सुनेर दिदि भिनाजु पनि बाहिर आउनुभयो I हाम्रा कुरा सुनेर सबैजना डराउनुभयो I

मलाई लाग्छ, त्यो रात मान्छेको कल्पनाभन्दा धेरै बाहिरको कुनै अदृश्य शक्ति आएर हामीलाई बंचाएको थियो I नत्र साधारण अवस्थामा २-३ किलोको तितेपातीको झ्यांगले ८०-९० किलोको मोटरसाइकल थाम्न सक्छ र? अनि त्यत्रो भीरबाट सिधै तल पछारिंदा कतै, केहीमा नठोक्की, कुनै ठुलो चोट पटक नलागी सर्लक्क उम्किने सम्भावना कत्तिको हुन्छा? एकचोटी मेरी माइली दिदीको सानु छोरो ऋषभ खेल्दाखेल्दै  कता हो कारमुनि पसेको थियो अरे I धन्न उसलाई केहि भएनछ! पछि त्यस्तो कुरो सुन्दा मुवांले रिसाउँदै सान्दिदीलाई हकार्नु भएको थियो, "ए रंजी! त्यो छोरोलाई राम्ररी हेर्नु पर्दैन? त्यो बालखलाई कारले किचेको भए तँ के गर्थिस?" सान्दिदिले चाहिं केहि नभए जस्तो गरेर आरामले जवाफ दिनुभएको थियो, "आ... के हुन्छ र? काल नआई केहि हुँदैन! भगवानले हात थापिहाल्नु हुन्छ नि!" सान्दिदिको जस्तो सजिलो तर्कसंग म  पूर्णतः सहमत नभए पनि हाम्रो त्यो दुर्घनाग्रस्त रातमा भने भगवानले पक्कै हात थापिदिएको कुरामा म विश्वस्त छु I





Worship your Profession

"If I were lucky enough, there wouldn't be these nasty pieces of chalk and a duster in my hands," one of my colleagues sadly complained once. Not only my friend, I have found many other teachers who also curse their fate for choosing the teaching profession. They think it is their obligation and a great tragedy to stick to it, as there are no other options to switch to.

My teacher's persona feels hurt every time I hear of teachers expressing negative comments and making fun of this sacred profession. For me, teaching is the most dignified profession. A teacher educates thousands of students during her/his lifetime. Is it really bad to help people come out from dark to light? Teachers are symbols of knowledge and intellect. It is them who produce successful candidates for all other professions.

Sometimes, students make such hearty compliments that teachers can never forget them. For instance, once I told my students unenthusiastically that I was going to leave them to join another institution. This piece of information definitely made them sad as they expressed their views likewise, but what one girl said touched my heart. She said innocently, "Mam, those students are going to be luckier than us, then." There is no reason to be disappointed being a teacher, at least for me.

If teachers themselves disrespect their profession, who on earth cares to respect it? If we are sure of not leaving this job and we know it is only the source of our bread and butter, is it fair to hate own work at all? If we do so it feels like disdaining our mother or God.

It is human nature that we desire for a thing which we do not have an access to. In the same vein, the teachers may  also think all other people, except for them, are entirely satisfied with their jobs, so they wish they could be in other professions but not in teaching. Perhaps, they do not consider it seriously that every field is equally challenging, and is with limitations.

Nevertheless, all teachers are not complaining. There are many gifted teachers who believe they are born to teach. They enter the teaching profession not by compulsion but by choice. They never remorse for being teachers. Instead, they enjoy working with students. Their satisfaction lies on students' success.

Teaching can be taken as one of the most fertile working fields where teachers have to update their knowledge every day. We all know things keep changing in this world, so teachers must always be aware of the changes in their area of teaching. They, otherwise, cannot survive professionally.

If we do not love and respect our profession we cannot work honestly. In this situation professionalism
cannot be developed within us. We can contribute nothing to our working field. There is no shame to be a teacher. Teaching is free from corruption and other dirty tricks. Therefore, teachers must be proud of themselves. In our culture they are compared to gods. Every teacher should realize and reevaluate the meaning of the following mantra:

                                    Gurur Bhramha Gurur Vishnu
                                    Gurur Dewo Maheshwara:
                                    Gurur Sakhaat Param Bhramha
                                    Tasmai Shree Gurawe Nama:

[Literal translation: The meaning of Guru is one who dispels ignorance. "Gu" means " ignorance" and "Ru" means "one who removes the ignorance". In Hinduism, guru resembles the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva or Maheshwara.  As Brahma, the creator of the universe,  guru inculcates knowledge in the minds of the students. Similarly, guru is like Vishnu who maintains the creation; guru helps preserve the knowledge.  Guru is also like Shiva, the god of destruction. Guru helps get rid of the ignorance from the students' minds.]

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Saturday, September 2004)





Thursday, 24 July 2014

Growing Disciplinary Problem

A teacher is teaching in a secondary level classroom. Two boy students are chatting in a corner. When the teacher asks them to be quiet and to pay attention towards the lesson, they just ignore him and continue their prattle. This drives the teacher crazy. He approaches them and slaps hard on one of the students' back. Then suddenly the other stands up and raises his hand furiously to slap back the teacher. These are not the lines of some story. Such incidents usually happen in a real classroom these days.

The modern day students, especially of secondary level, seem to forget how to behave at school and in front of teachers or how to abide by disciplinary rules. 'Discipline' is the practice of making people obey rules or standards of behaviour, and punishing them when they do not - the Collins Cobuild English Dictionary defines. Although discipline is needed in every sphere of human life to be successful, its importance is much higher in student life, which most of our students fail to realize.

At the lower levels, maintaining discipline is not a problem because young children follow all the school rules and obey teachers too. They are afraid of thinking if they do something wrong they will be punished but when they reach upper level they gradually become stubborn and stop obeying teachers. They stop listening to others and do whatever they like.

However, not all students create disciplinary problems. There are a handful of students who are very obedient and well mannered. They concentrate on their studies and follow the school rules sincerely. But there is another terrible lot who are engaged in creating different problems every time when they get a slight chance.

Usually the disciplined students learn the lessons of good manners in their families. The problem creators are generally from the families where there is a perturbed relationship between parents or where the parents do not pay enough attention to care about their offspring.

It can be analyzed that the students who have good upbringing get a chance to learn to respect elders, to love youngsters and to maintain their discipline. These children's parents obviously devote a lot of time to shape them. Such parents are always available with parental guidance and support due to which the children rarely lose their track. They are pretty aware of what kind of behaviour is expected from them in school, and they show it. But those students whose parents' topmost priority is to earn money instead of taking care of their children are mainly found to indulge in the undisciplined activities. However it is seen that, sometimes, good children also get  involved in bad companies and they gradually become the problem creators at school.

The problematic students bunk classes, do not pay attention to study, make a noise in the classroom, use foul language, challenge a teacher's authority, organize gang fights, smoke, use alcohol or drugs, make scandals in love affairs - to name some. It is crystal clear that such activities disturb the whole school system heavily.

We are from that culture where teachers are highly respected and obeyed. There are many amazing stories from old times when students used to sacrifice "anything" for the sake of teachers. Of course, present day students are not expected to be as dedicated as Eklavya, Karna or Aaruni to their teachers. However, they must follow general school rules and do what teachers ask them to do in relation to study or discipline maintenance.

The school life is said to be most valuable to shape one's behaviour and learn good lessons. If students waste such a precious time engaging in mischievous and unacceptable activities, this will affect them throughout their life.

It is needless to say that home is the first school for children. After all it is parents' duty to help kids learn good manners. Usually children are influenced by parents' behaviour so the parents can set an example for their wards by showing what and how to do . Parents must devote sufficient time, guidance and support to help children move on a right track. Simply investing money in their education is not enough.

In the past students were taught moral education. At that time they would rarely create disciplinary problems. It might be an appropriate time to include moral education in secondary level school curriculum again, which could help boost up students' undignified morality. It is possible that they may lack appropriate information and knowledge regarding discipline.

As students of secondary level the students themselves should also be responsible to identify what is right for them. It is less useful on the part of parents or teachers whatever input they give to children to shape their behaviour until children themselves realize the need of such input. They must be aware of the bad impact of their misconduct upon them, their family, school, society or upon the entire nation. They must not waste the invaluable time doing foolish deeds; once this time passes, never comes back - students must internalize this truth.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, August 13, 2004)










Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sex Education

A horrendous tale of two minors who were abused in a children's welfare home in the Kathmandu valley recently must have made all people to think about the need of basic sex education in school level curriculum. The trauma that the minors had undergone through is just an example. Surely, there are similar or worse cases happening around the country every day. This bitter reality makes one feel should we have the trend to discuss about sex in healthy manner perhaps we could save many children from such abuses.

'Sex' is still a taboo word in our society. Talking about sexual matters is considered totally immoral in our culture. However these days the teenagers are not ignorant about sex by an influence of television or the Internet. When a child hears about Dhal (condom) or Gulab ckakki (birth control pills) through radio or television commercials and tries to inquire further, the elders deliberately evade the subject. Even though every grown-up child knows about sex in one or another way, s/he is not allowed to talk about it openly. But keeping mum is also not a solution.

Scanning through the daily newspapers published within a week, one can find a number of news reports about sexual abuses particularly happened to girls. Mainly teachers, friends, relatives, custodians and employers are found to be involved in such assaults. The number of the victims might be higher as many cases are not reported fearing public insult. It is seen that females become the victims of sexual harassment in almost all cases.

Home could be the first school to learn about sex that would eventually help reduce sex-related diseases and crimes as well. Parents can play a vital role to save their children from misleading. The cases of sexual abuses will certainly come down if parents regard it as an important responsibility to discuss about sex and sexuality openly with their children. It is said that the western parents advise their young children to take precautions to be safe from inevitable and unwanted disasters which will certainly be followed by unsafe sexual relationships.

In a country like Nepal, such advice may sound unusual. But it would be more rewarding to give lessons about sex from early ages than to face detrimental results in future. At least mothers and female teachers should specially be supportive to teenage girls to resolve their hidden curiosity. They should tell them what social or religious beliefs we possess regarding sex and the issues related to it. They should encourage the girls to discuss frankly what sexual problems they are facing. Then they should give them suggestions about what to do to get rid of those problems, instead of scolding, threatening or beating them up - the common strategies being used so far. If mothers and teachers are understanding and friendly, they can certainly protect children from various types of sex abuses.

These days AIDS has become an epidemic throughout the world and Nepal is not an exception. HIV infection rate is increasing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that there are about 60,000 HIV positive cases in Nepal. It is needless to say that this is mostly happening because of ignorance and in the lack of correct information. Therefore, there must be an access of sex education to every teenage child.

Sex education in general is a process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. It is a widely accepted view that children have a right to sex education at an appropriate age, partly because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against sexual abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Thus, sex education should not be misinterpreted that it encourages young children to have sex freely. Some people are concerned that providing information about sex and sexuality to adolescent children arouses curiosity in them and this can lead to sexual experimentation. On the contrary, there are many cases that because of too much strictness sometimes immature children make wrong decisions.

If young children know about all pros and cons of sex they will be alert. They will be able to identify what is good or what is bad for them, by themselves. Since they are more intelligent and thoughtful than what adults think of them.

Sex education therefore should be welcomed to our society without any question or doubt. All the concerned people must have positive attitude towards it because it is fruitful to get right information at right time. Effective sex education can help children develop important skills, such as to recognize pressures from the people with ill intention and to resist them strongly. Similarly, they will be capable of dealing with prejudices or even challenging them if they need to. They will not hesitate to seek help from adults when it is necessary. Furthermore, it also helps equip them with the skills to be able to differentiate between accurate and inaccurate information and to discuss a range of moral and social issues or perspectives on sex and sexuality. In addition, sex education serves to promote better sanitation and hygiene and helps generate public awareness associated to lead a healthy life.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Wednesday, July 28, 2004)







Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Narrowing down Gaps

The performance of government school students is deteriorating over the years despite the huge resources and government support those schools receive in comparison to private schools that are solely run and managed by individual investors. The government has invested a lot in government schools, the donor countries pour millions of dollars to support them and the teachers are also provided with more facilities. On the other hand, private schools are purely run by students' fees. The teachers get lesser facilities and they do not have job security either. So, it seems that students' performance in government schools must be better than those students in private schools, but the scenario is always reverse.

A recent research study funded by Danida has shown that the overall national average pass percentage in the SLC examination of government schools is about 30 percent while that of private ones is 70.

The sole success of a private school depends upon its quality that it can offer. The most important fact is that a private school cannot survive with its bad reputation, so the success is gauged by its academic performance.

The ownership factor is an essential part behind prospering private schools. The school management committee pays immediate attention if any problem arises. This will be a concern of all the investors to find out its solution. The responsibilities are shared and clearly defined among the concerned people. Parents have a huge investment to educate their children. So, if they are not satisfied with their children's performance they will promptly demand for its clarification. Teachers must also be dedicated, dutiful and honest towards their profession. If they cannot satisfy the school management committee, parents or students in terms of their competency, they get terminated from the job any time.

In contrast, in government schools, nobody is ready to take responsibilities in the matter of quality improvement. Despite job security and other benefits teachers are reluctant to participate actively in teaching activities. The situation is just like rajako kam kahile jala gham. The permanent teachers are not compelled to abide by the head teacher's leadership. They are sure that nobody can snatch their job. They believe whether they work or not it is their right to hold it. However, there are some good teachers who really want to do something to improve teaching learning situation but they cannot get favourable working environment. If they try anything, other jealous teachers immediately start to throw a satire, "Keep on doing this. You are going to get some gold medals, aren't you?" So, to fit in the crowd of their co-workers the enthusiastic teachers have to strangle their enthusiasm and follow the same line.

This all is happening in government schools due to the lack of effective follow up mechanism. It does not matter if teachers teach or stay outside chatting or knitting sweaters. Even though there is a provision of school supervisors they rarely visit schools to observe how teachers are teaching. Surprisingly, most of the teachers do not know who their supervisor is. Even if some supervisor goes to the assigned school by any chance s/he does not bother to enter the classroom. Parents are also not concerned enough about the school affairs.

Realizing the deteriorating teaching learning situation of government schools, a concept of community schools has emerged recently. It is assumed that if a school management is transferred to a particular community the community will take care of that school and it will be responsible to improve the academic status. However, the performance of community schools is not found as satisfactory as expected. Some education experts analyze that it is the lack of clear government policies that hinder a growth of community schools.

There should not be such a vast performance difference between students of government and private schools. The government schools' teachers themselves do not trust their teaching so they send their children to private schools. This may mean that they accept that they teach worse than their counterparts from private schools. It however does not mean that they are less competent. Instead they do not use their potentials to the fullest.

To improve the teaching learning situation of government schools, the government must take some steps strongly. First of all, there must be reward and punishment system. The teachers who work hard must be rewarded and those who cheat must be punished. For this also, there must be some regular and transparent evaluation and monitoring system; that is, the system must not be based on someone's personal judgment. School supervisors must visit the assigned schools regularly, supervise teachers, provide immediate and constructive feedback and help them solve their problems, if any. Head teachers should be authorized to lead teachers so that some systems could be developed to run schools smoothly.

There must be some sort of fear and motivation among teachers which insist them to work honestly and wholeheartedly. If teachers are committed and sincere the performance level of students will certainly increase. Then without any doubt students of both types of schools - government and private - stand at the same performance level.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, July 16, 2004)     



  


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Hurrah of Fitting Bra

I often used to silently grumble over the misfitting of my bra. I was tired of trying this and that brand but had never reached the comfort level that I imagined an ordinary woman should be, wearing a bra. I know my mother had also suffered the same problem throughout her life.

All thanks to the Australian workmates who would usually discuss on bras super openly. Hearing those women's stories, for the first time in my life I realized that it was not only me and my mother who had struggled to find right sized bra. There are many women in the world like us who had the same difficulty. But the bright side was, according to my co-workers, that in Australia there are certain shops where a team of experts is assigned simply to help women find the perfect-sized bra. I was fascinated by this news but culturally I was not bold enough yet to approach those shops.

I was more encouraged and chuckled inside when I heard them talking like, " Look at the boobs of this girl, they stretch up to the belly like a cow's udder." The conversation made me roll my eyes and think, "Hmm... the booster bras and bras with wires are out there! I'd never known about their existence!"

The most brilliant thing among bra stories was an experience of a giant looking immigrant girl from Cambodia. She said, " The shameless things! When you push them from one side, the bump flows to the other side and starts teasing you. They need to be caged in a wired bra." And everyone laughed their belly out when they heard the story in her heavily accented  English and funny gestures.

However, the idea of getting the right sized bra did not leave me alone. "If only I dare to enter the shop and tell my situation to the staff I would get the comfort that I've always dreamed for," I thought continuously. I mustered my courage for weeks. Eventually one day I requested my husband, "Let's go to the Bras N Things. I want to buy a suitable bra for me."

So we went there. The level of anxiety was high within me, though. I spent a long time outside the shop, again collecting my courage to open up the subject. On the one hand, I wanted to come back dropping the topic then and there. On the other hand, it would be a shame to miss this opportunity. Finally I decided, "Now or never." I went inside and told a sales girl what was eating me at once. The girl took it as easily as anything else and encouraged me, "It's alright. Don't worry. We are here to help you." She assigned a girl to help me. The cheerful girl led me to a fitting room. I could hear, "It's not good...Wow, it's just perfect...Please try this one...It's more comfortable..." from adjacent fitting rooms.  Gradually I started to feel relaxed. The girl took my measurements patiently. She brought different bras in. Under her supervision,  I kept trying them until I was hundred and ten percent satisfied. It took nearly an hour to complete the whole fitting ritual.

Hurrah! After many years of struggle I eventually found the correct sized bra which made me feel the comfort that I had almost given up to achieve in this life time. I thought, "Well, later than never is always good." On a light note, discussing about bras openly in Nepali culture is still considered as a "taboo," at least by the people of my generation. In Australia, it is merely a women's clothing item. What a cultural difference!



Housewife's Agenda

One fine afternoon I was alone at home. Children were at school and my husband was at his office. Hence, the time was absolutely mine. So to kill time I took out a novel and started to read lying down in a relaxed posture. Hardly had I completed three pages, the door bell rang and I rushed to the door angrily. To my great surprise, my husband stood there grinning at me suspiciously. I was puzzled to see him home at this odd hour. When he stepped inside, I could figure out that he was in a good mood. He looked into my eyes lovingly and proposed, "Sweetheart, let's dine out tonight, just you and me." I suddenly remembered the day when he had turned down my proposal to go outside saying, "Oh honey, I'm sorry. I've a lot of work at my office." The pain was still fresh in my heart.

At the very moment an idea flashed into my mind. I knew that my husband needed my company more than anything else that evening. It was a perfect time to take revenge. I decided to teach him a lesson. I quickly made a blueprint of 10-point agenda in my mind. "If political leaders can prepare a road map to improve quality of the political system, educationists can come up with a road map to improve quality of education, then why can't housewives ready a road map to improve quality of the house keeping,?" I thought.

My man was impatient to hear my positive reply. I took the situation under my control and told him boldly that I would go with him if only he agreed on my 10-point agenda. He might have thought I had been kidding, so he blurted out dreamily, "Oh my darling, I can do anything for you; just tell me."

Seizing the moment I began to unfold the agendas. "From today onwards you will (1) clean your study, (2) arrange your books, (3) wash your clothes and arrange them in the cupboard after drying, ironing and folding, (4) polish your shoes, (5) fold the quilt every time after you use it, (6) take care of your shaving tools, (7) help me with the household chores on Saturdays, (8) stop making a mess with your belongings here and there, (9) avoid keeping stinking socks under the sofas and finally (10) pick up the plates after eating and put them in the sink.

His face was worth watching. He stammered, "But you stay home all day. Isn't it your duty to take care of all household chores?"

"Look, I know I'm doing my duty absolutely fine. I'm taking care of the whole house and children myself. All the things that I'm mentioning here are related to you. And it is your responsibility to do them, understand? I've asked you to help me only on Saturdays because it is your day off," I clarified.

My husband was in a complete dilemma. I asked him to either agree to my agendas or cancel the dinner program for I was dead sure that he had no choice other than agreeing with my conditions. Hours later, I could not stop myself from thanking my dear hubby for the wonderful dinner.


(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Thursday, July 1, 2004) 


Friday, 18 July 2014

Irreparable Pain


Every day is turning bleaker for thousands of aspirers in the nation. The ‘indefinite strike’ in the educational sector has been hitting hard all of us indiscriminately. Every evening people’s anxious ears are on the radio and television news. Every morning their eyes are on the newspapers expecting to find good news about the end of ongoing ‘indefinite strike.’ It fact it is terrible to face such a long closure.

Nobody denies that education is light. It is civilization. It is the first and foremost requirement to develop an entire nation. Nepali students, sadly, are deprived of getting such an invaluable treasure these days. It feels like we are breathing in pitch darkness and unknowingly moving to barbarism.

There are volumes of books which mention child rights and human rights. People advocate incessantly that every child has a right to go to school and get educated. Currently, this right has been snatched away from all Nepali children, which sounds disgusting. The colourful dreams of students have been shattered. Their high hopes have been punched down. Neither are they seen playing happily like a child on holiday nor can they smile innocently.

It is not good on the part of the government to ignore such a sensitive issue and to delay in making strong decisions to create a favourable environment to reopen educational institutions. Even though the civic society has taken an initiative to talk with the organizers of this strike, the existing problem cannot be solved unless the government itself comes forward with a sensible solution. The civic committee can only play the role of a mediator or a facilitator.

It is obvious that the educational, financial and mental loss created by the indefinite strike is irreparable. Parents have invested a large amount of income in their children’s education. Whether they go to school or not parents have to pay the full fees. This reality gives them a headache. They are not sure when their children go back to school again. Furthermore, the working parents are facing a big problem of baby-sitting, as it is not a matter of a single day. Because of uncertainty parents are suffering and getting impatient and frustrated on every passing day.

If this chaotic situation continues for a long time it is certain that many financially capable students will be compelled to flee to other countries for their further studies. On the other hand, the financially vulnerable children have to suffer the blows of such closures throughout their life.

Schools have just begun a new session. In some schools even the first lesson has not been completed. Suddenly everything has turned upside down. Presently a great concern for all schools is how to implement the activities mentioned in the academic calendar smoothly.

Since this strike is indefinite, it is difficult to plan anything special. As a result, every day is being wasted in vain. Children are getting bored staying idle at home, and troubling their parents. Teachers are either spending their time sleeping or playing cards or just roaming around aimlessly. To compensate for the present loss of time they have to sacrifice Saturdays and holidays later. Such unnecessary pain may create mental disturbances among students and teachers as well.


These strikes are not only hampering our national development but also spoiling our image in the international arena. As one of the poorest countries in the world we desperately need accord education first priority. There is also a danger that the donor countries may turn their back towards Nepal if the education sector victimized and ignored in this way.

It is natural that sometimes misunderstandings might surface but it is not wise to choose a strike as an ultimate solution each and every time. It is not fair to play foul games over the future of innocent students to fulfill some vested political interests.


(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, June 18, 2004) 


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Most Powerful Weapon

The Nepali media report at least one incident of violence against women each day. We also often come across articles on how females have been suffering for ages. Women are usually victims of domestic violence. A general village woman’s day begins before dawn and ends after every member of her family goes to bed. She only gets an occasional break when she is completely bedridden. She does not even get any credit for her never-ending household work. Instead of a word of thanks, the living machines are always scolded and beaten-up by their in-laws or spouse. A normal woman is sometimes charged of being insane or a sorceress. She cannot do anything except for cursing her fate. She dedicates all her life to serve the family and raise her children only to be rejected by her sons, and sometimes even to be charged with being a “witch” when she is old and feeble.

If we turn our conscience to explore a root cause of all these social evils, we will realize that all this is happening because of the lack of education. Nobody dares to blame an educated woman unnecessarily, at least in front of her, for she can fight back. Education is a powerful weapon that makes one aware, strong, confident, logical and capable of fighting against social injustices. In addition, it helps one gain financial independence, which is regarded as an extremely essential aspect to establish her identity.

If a woman is educated, she can educate the whole family. My mother educated herself after sending all her five children to school. As a result, all these years she has been inspiring us to move on the bright path of knowledge. My cousin sisters are still working in fields, grazing cattle or playing a role of housewives; they are living a dependent life. I sometimes shudder thinking that if our mother had not been so aware of the need for education, my position could also have been the same.

Surely, education can transform a miserable life into a wonderful, conscious and free one. If a mother is educated she can improve her children’s health and nutrition level. She can better advocate her as well as her children’s needs and rights. She can also support the family financially.

The issue of sons’ and daughters’ equal right over parental property has always been a topic for hot discussion among intellectuals. However, women do not and will not understand its significance and use in their lives unless they are educated enough to handle the subject. Expecting wealth or property from somebody does not help one to be independent. Educating women means empowering them, helping them to solve their problems by themselves and making them ready to earn their own bread and butter. Education will help women to come out from a limited home to a wider world.

Mere discussions on women’s emancipation would not bear any fruit unless and until women are educated and gain economic freedom.   

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Tuesday, June 15, 2004)


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Education for All


The Nepal government has set a number of strategies to ensure the access of all children to basic education under ‘Education for All’ program by the year 2015. The program aims to guarantee the right of education to all including those from the ethnic communities, minorities and linguistic groups, and to eliminate gender and social disparity.

Another scenario, particularly noticed in public schools, is that teachers do not go to school regularly, even if they go there, they do not go to their classrooms, if they enter the classrooms, they do not teach. It is also heard that teachers go to school by rotation in most of the villages. Instead of teaching they ask students to do their personal chores. Against this background, it is almost impossible for a child to be educated in a proper way.

There is no doubt that education is a basic foundation for development of all sectors of the country. It is only possible through the means of education to end social, political and economic disparities that exist in a society. Only education prepares skilled and quality human resources, which a nation desperately needs to change its gloomy appearance into brighter one.

The program is concerned to provide primary education through formal education whereas ‘child education’ and ‘adult education’ are given through non-formal education. To cater such services the country does not have enough trained teachers which could be the greatest setback to achieve the goals by stipulated time frame. Presently, the percentage of trained teachers is only about twenty.

An educational survey report shows that the current enrollment rate of primary level students is 81 per cent, and the goal is set to make this rate 100 per cent by 2015. Similarly, the literacy rate is also assumed to increase from 48 per cent to 75 per cent and the rate of trained teachers from 20 per cent to 100 per cent.

The government has introduced a special scholarship scheme from this academic year to encourage children towards education. Particularly children from the families, which have not acquired primary education, will be provided a stipend at the rate of Rs. 500 per student per annum. More than 100,000 children from the target group are estimated to be benefitted through this scheme.

In the same way, provisions have been made for providing a scholarship to girl students from the economically vulnerable families including all children from the dalit community, backward indigenous communities and children from the families living under the absolute poverty line. Along with this, 50 per cent of girl students who are studying in community primary schools throughout the country will also be provided a scholarship of Rs. 250 per student per year.

Decentralization and school-based vocational assistance have been taken as the principal strategies for bringing about improvements in all aspects of quality education. The long term plan aims to increase access to education and to establish special scholarship mechanisms for disabled and students with special education needs. In addition, children’s learning needs are decided to be fulfilled through the adoption of inclusive education.

The local community could play an important role in making the schools autonomous, capable and effective. In this regard, a program has been worked out for consolidating the capacity of local communities for enhancing their efficient management. On the basis of achievements gained by the community-managed schools, the government also has a plan for handing over the management of schools to the community. Two main objectives of this strategy are to strengthen the role of the community and to enhance quality education.
However, it is a great tragedy that Nepal has been suffering a lot due to political instability. And education sector is one which is affected the most by such an unstable situation. The existing schools have been closing down, student dropout rate has been increasing, and teachers have also been quitting their jobs because of insecurity, fear, ongoing conflict and violence. A study report on the other hand indicates that there are still more than 6,00,000 children of 6 to 10 year old age group who are deprived of accessing primary education.

At the planning level everything looks fine, but when a question of implementation is raised many problems appear. An entire success of the “Education for All” program depends on the level of dedication of all stakeholders – the government, all the organizations working in the field of education, parents, teachers and students themselves.

The government must have strong follow up mechanism to achieve the above mentioned goals. The concerned ministry and related offices must be fully aware of what is really happening in schools, if teaching-learning is going on there or something else, if deserving candidates are getting a scholarship or if invested money is being used correctly. The problematic areas can be identified through regular follow-ups. If the problems are detected on time and solutions are provided promptly, then implementation side could be more effective.

In contrast, only introducing different programs and not trying best to implement them efficiently and successfully can be a great waste of money, time and energy. Eventually, “Education for All” may remain just as a slogan instead of this turning into reality.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Sunday, May 30, 2004) 


She is Boss?

Once I had taken my five-year-old son to a neighbouring house that belonged to an educational consultant. There he saw a white lady, and kept staring at her. To satisfy his curiosity the gentleman said, “You know,
Bishu, she is my boss.” At this, Bishu’s words came out like a bullet, “No! Women can’t be a boss!” Everyone of us gaped with this statement. What a remark he made observing his surroundings. I am sure the boss lady might have got a glimpse of a Nepali society; however the child made his comment innocently.

In our society women get merely lip service in general that they are equal to men but in reality they suffer from discriminations. And the discrimination starts right from home. One can easily observe various forms of discriminations that exist even in an educated and urban household. What to say about the poor village women who are far behind to understand what exactly the term gender equality stands for?

Most of the parents themselves discriminate between their sons and daughters. Better food, better education and better facilities are virtually set-aside for male folks. They are privileged by birth so they do not have to involve them in household duties. It is entirely daughters’ responsibility to take care of everything because they have to go to their husbands’ houses sooner or later. Then they will have to prove themselves as the best housewives. It does not matter whether they are highly educated and self-reliant.

There is a belief deep rooted in Nepali culture that daughters are just guests for the time being. In contrast, sons look after their parents, especially at their old age and help them attain salvation after death. Because of this, parents do not want to disappoint their sons. Boys are always free to do anything they like or to go anywhere they want to, whereas girls are obliged to obey countless “dos” and “don’ts.”

Outside the home also, girls experience many forms of discrimination, such as eve teasing, sexual harassments and sometimes even severer case like rapes. In workplace they are usually regarded inferior to their male counterparts. So, all the time they have to be very careful to protect themselves from unwanted and unavoidable troubles.

It is a cliché that husband and wife are two wheels of a cart to run a family and both of them have equal shares in every aspect in the house. Unfortunately, it cannot be felt in practice. There are many couples who are equally educated and who have equal social and economic status. But the responsibilities of housekeeping automatically belong to wives. Both husband and wife go to office and come back home at the same time, feeling deadly tired. It is the wife’s duty to serve her husband with cup of hot tea and some yummy snacks, to look after children, to prepare dinner and to do dishes. A woman’s position is even worse in a joint family where she has to maintain social hierarchy, remaining at the lowest rung.

On the other hand, males dominate all the family decisions and financial management activities. Females are not supposed to oppose males’ decisions. If any courageous woman by any chance dares to do so, there will be an immediate criticism, “Gharma pothi baseko ta suhaudaina hai!” If there are some financial issues then men are qualified to deal with them. All these discriminations are basically the consequences of our patriarchal social structure.

It is obvious that education should bring change. So the educated parents must start to change their mentality and attitudes towards their daughters. They must realize that sons and daughters have equal rights to get what they deserve from their parents. Men must share their workload in the house without any superiority complex or hesitation. Women must be given an opportunity to express their views and to participate in decision making in all family issues.

The crucial steps to end gender disparity must be begun at home. If such a wave of change comes from families, it spreads to the society, and gradually to the nation. Then a situation may not occur where a woman is compelled to keep destroying female foetuses in her womb until she conceives a male child.  

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Sunday, June 13, 2004)