It is Sunday evening. I have returned from a hiking trip that began from Mata Tirtha and ended at Pharping after six straight hours of enjoyable walking. I was hiking with my colleagues from D2 Nepal. During the hike, we talked about many things ranging from politics to dating. Many of my colleagues at D2 are still bachelors, and spending time with them makes me feel 25 years old again. They are amazingly smart and friendly. They have great sense of humor, and I find myself laughing all the time when I am with them. I have immense respect for them.
Walking through the hills can often make you contemplative. As I was hiking, I had the opportunity to think about my past. I am really proud of my past. I had the opportunity to experience both village and city life. I was born and grew up in a lower middle class family (which, according to the UN definition of poverty, would be a poor family). Growing up like that, I did not know what to dream of. My elders never taught me how to dream and what to dream for. I was totally empty.
My father passed away when I was four years old. I vividly remember that dreadful day as if it were yesterday – the whole family crying in deep shock, my father’s still body lying on the verandah. He was only 35 when he died. He was the star of our family, the ray of hope for all of us. My grandfather was 66 then, and was left with a broken heart due to the loss of his son. From what I heard from my grandfather, my father was a true entrepreneur. He was a successful businessman as well as a farmer. But I just remember him as my loving dad and still miss him. One can tolerate being poor but losing one’s father at a tender age is beyond endurance.
I had four siblings – a sister and three brothers, me being the second youngest. My mother could barely read Nepali and was left utterly helpless at the age of 31. Everything fell apart for her and for all of us. We were left with innumerable sorrows, grievances and crippling poverty. But at that crucial time, my grandfather, despite his age, stepped up and played an active role. He gave us courage and reason to be optimistic. I remember hugging him and crying for hours even years after my father’s death. He had seen the world and was able to overcome his own sorrow to give us hope for the future. He had a tremendous influence on me. He taught me to be strong, to be respectful to others, and to develop a keen sense of humor.
Every evening after dinner, my grandfather used to tell me about his own childhood and the struggle he had to undergo after his father’s death. He had started from scratch and had raised his family to a respectable status, all because of his hard work, determination, and dedication. He always reminded me – “Do not worry about other people’s business. You do your Karma first. Talking does not matter, actions do. So prove yourself by your actions; keep your word and never lie.” These words of ancient wisdom I learnt from him and they continue to resound in my ears.
I remember coming to my grandfather after being hit or insulted by one of the bully kids in my village one day. My grandfather, instead of scolding the kid, smiled and told me – “Always remember that 100 years from today everybody who are alive today will be dead. Whenever you get hurt or someone insults you, remember this reality, and you will laugh at the folly of those people.” It did not mean much to me when I was little, but now I understand and it is an advice that helps me everyday. Death is the ultimate truth and we tend to ignore that and try to harm others for our benefit.
My grandfather was famous for being an accomplished astrologer. People would pour in for nearby villages to know about their fortune. He could do a lot of math and could predict the future by reading the Janma Kundali. He would look at mine and proudly announce that I would be the one who would fight all the way and eventually be a winner. I still remember him proudly telling others in the village about me. He loved me. I sort of feel that I was his favorite and that he loved me more than his other grandchildren. Or may be he made others feel the same way.
I do not know how much of his astrological predictions were right. But as much as is in my capacity, I want to actualize his predictions because I want to win. I want to win everyday, and every minute, and not just for me but for my team. I will never cheat my team and will always be fair and open with them. I will try to do my karma no matter what as I know this is what my grandfather always wanted.
I was not exposed to any schooling till I was seven. I had started working in our family farm from the age of six. My grandfather had acquainted me with some Nepali alphabets. He sent me to Kathmandu when I was eight. At that age, I joined grade one barely able to read even basic Nepali words, an age at which kids these days can write entire essays. I was living with my aunt (phupu) then. I missed my village a lot. I hated Kathmandu. It smelled too bad. I missed my mother and my grandfather. I used to cry every night and I my aunt never noticed. And even if she did, I doubt she would feel any sympathy for me for she did not have a child of her own. Every single day seemed like a year to me.
Of course there were some good parts about being in Kathmandu, especially if I thought about it in a materialistic way. I owned my first pairs of shoes, my first pair of trousers and I was going to school. I attended the first two grades of my life in Padma Kanya School, Dilli Bazaar. Back in the days, the school used to be a co-ed in the morning session. I passed both the grades from that school. I was never first or second in the class, and I did not care. I hated going to school. I dreaded seeing the teacher’s face. They were cruel and did not know how much I had learned from my grandfather. Even at the age of eight, I was as mature as a 15 year old kid. They did not know that, they did not care to know about that. Each day in school was like a punishment to me – going to morning school, coming home at 11, and after lunch staying at home. Being a naturally active kid, I felt suffocated having nothing to do all day. My brain would go crazy. My aunt’s home was like a jail for me. She used to take a nap after lunch and did not want any noise in the house. I felt miserable for hour every day. I missed going to the farm and playing with my friends and cousins in my village. In those idle moments I would find myself in deep thought. I used to remember my dad and would wonder why he had to die. I missed his love, his hug every second of my life.
This is how I passed my second grade. The teachers only cared about addition, multiplication, and division, whereas I had experienced things much bigger than that starting from the premature death of my father to the transition from village to Kathmandu. I felt there was no value of what I learnt in school. I was older than my classmates by two years in age and maybe 10 by the ups and downs I had to go through. Education at school seemed very superficial to me. What was much more important to me were my grandfather’s teachings which did not require me to read and write but was much more practical and heart touching.