Thursday, July 16, 2009

Keeping hope alive in storm of adversities

BHAWANA TAMANG
KATHMANDU, July 13: After finding that I had scored distinction marks in SLC, I rushed to tell my mother the good news. She was cooking in the kitchen.

"So you passed," was all she said. She then embraced me and started weeping. Those were rare tears of joy that have trickled down our cheeks in our arduous lives. We celebrated the news by weeping till deep into the night.

Mother was happy that I had passed the exams. She didn´t understand the meaning of distinction grades. Were she able to understand it, her happiness would have known no bounds, for she has struggled hard to pay for my education. Only I know of her hard, unpleasant, and solitary struggle.



Bhawana Tamang in her rented room.Bijay Gajmer
I hate recalling my past. I fear my past. A mere flashback sends shivers down my spine.


Mother is from Dablyang village in Sindhupalchowk. She does odd jobs in Kathmandu - dishwashing, laundry, cleaning up houses. What else can the uneducated do? These days, she makes between Rs 50 and Rs 100 a day.

I am told my father is from Charikot, Dolakha. I have never been there. I don´t even know whether we have a house there.

We now live in a rented room near Bahundhara in Jorpati. The room is narrow, dark and cold. That room is home to me, my mother, and my younger sisters Mamata and Shanti. There is a cot in the room. At night, some sleep on that cot and others manage on the floor.

My school, Samata Shiksha Niketan, is a 10-minute walk from the room. I studied there from the second grade. That wouldn´t have been possible without the help of sir Uttam Sanjel, or the school. Where would I have been now without them?

Before getting enrolled in the school, I was studying in another school in Mahankal.

But then someone probably told my father that daughters shouldn´t receive schooling. He suddenly barred me from going to the school and sent me to a house to work as help. I worked there for a year. Then my mother took me to Samata Niketan.

My mother bore three daughters and no son. This was perhaps the reason for my father´s fits of temper. There was a quarrel everyday at home. Father never cared whether there was enough food at home. He always came home heavily drunk. A quarrel would start as soon as he stepped in. When mother shouted, father would get furious. When father yelled, mother would lose her cool. Father would beat mother up. The three of us would huddle together, scared.

Sometimes, father would pick us up and slam us on the floor saying he would kill all of us. Shanti, the youngest, always rush towards mother, scared. After the quarrels, mother would caress us, weeping. We wept too, while father slept like a log.

One night, mother returned exhausted by the day´s work. Sisters rushed to her expecting food.

Indeed, mother had brought chapatis from the house where she washed clothes. Hungry as we were, we ate the chapatis with delight. But the delight was short-lived. Father came at night, drunk as always. And what we had feared happened.

Father accused mother of ´going places´. I was telling mother to keep her cool. But who could control father. He started beating her. Our course books were thrown on the floor. Mother was wailing, sisters were sobbing. I tried to stop father, but he slapped me and I crashed against the wall.

That wasn´t enough. Father brandished a khukuri knife threatening to kill mother. I was quivering with fear. Fearing for our own lives, we ran on to the street. We spent that night weeping under the open sky.

That was our only response - weeping. What else could we do? Amid the sobs, mother would console me, "Chhori, you must study and become a thulo manchhe (successful person). All of you must escape this fate."

By the time I reached the seventh grade, the situation at home had started affecting my studies. That´s why I and Mamata started living in the school hostel. But that didn´t help drive out my worries. I was always worried about mother and Shanti. I worried whether they managed to have a meal. I worried how my father was treating them.

One night, I heard mother call my name from behind the hostel building. We unlocked the hostel gate without informing anyone. Mother had come with Shanti. Father had beaten her up and chased them away.

It was midnight. We hid mother and Shanti in the hostel room where they spent the night with us. Had the teachers found out about this, they wouldn´t have been pleased.

But from grade eight, I have been living with mother. I couldn´t live in a hostel while she fought for life everyday!

But then, living with father was proving impossible. There were quarrels and fights everyday. We eventually left him. After we left, he remarried.

But the days after leaving him were difficult. We had no money to buy food and no shelter. With me were textbooks that I needed to conquer. Eventually, we found a room. It was an empty room. We had nothing to cover the floor to lie down on. We didn´t have kitchenware to cook. Mother used to bring food wrapped in plastic from places she worked. We slept on a straw mat.

A Tibetan family for whom mother worked took pity on her and started giving her things they no longer needed. We used to be overjoyed when mother brought old clothes, kitchenware and cot. Slowly, the empty room got furnished. Eventually, we started sleeping on a carpet instead of on a straw mat.

By the time I reached the tenth grade, mother was working every day. She had lost a lot of weight. Seeing the state she was in, I tried to assist her more. I helped her wash dishes, clothes and do other chores in the houses of her employers.

There were days when I worked until midnight.

But the work was telling on my studies. I lost rank in the pre-SLC exam. That worried me. Mother told me to stop assisting her and to focus on studies. But there was another problem. Our landlord was upset that I was using too much electricity by lighting the room to study at night. I explained to him that the "big exam" was nearing. He understood.

I studied hard, sometimes until the roosters crowed. I was often gripped by fear that father might come back. I evaded notice when I encountered him a few times in public places.

Studying with a half-empty stomach is hard. My body often grew lethargic in lack of proper nutrition. I even felt nauseated at times. But there was no use complaining. I attended classes regularly, tight-lipped about my physical condition. During my SLC preparation, I understood how badly an empty stomach can hurt.

I had studied hard. But I had never expected 88.75 percent marks. Looking back, I think I could have done better had my preparations been smoother, and hassles-free. But the results I got would not have been possible without my mother´s hard toil.

There are many challenges awaiting me. I have dreams and responsibilities. I have dreams of becoming a pediatrician and bringing happiness in my mother´s life. I have the responsibility of supporting the education of my younger sisters, and rescuing my family from the dark room and an equally dark life.

I stand amid these dreams and responsibilities. I haven´t yet seen a path that could lead me to the realization of these drams and the fulfillment of these responsibilities. And I don´t know how to tread on such path if there is any.

I don´t know many things. But I know I can earn some money by taking up a teaching job in some school. But that will only provide small and temporary relief to my family. I believe the poor should complete studies even with a meal a day so as to be able to later afford four meals a day.

"Chhori, you must study and become a thulo manchhe (successful person). All of you must escape this fate."

This statement made by my mother during one of our innumerable nights of horror continues to inspire me. It inspires me to pursue further studies.

(As told to Bhawasagar Ghimire of Nagarik daily.)


Published on 2009-07-13 01:00:31
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ALL COMMENTS
This is an inspirational story.

Can someone please advice how to be in touch with Bhawana Tamang?
- smriti aryal
I was speechless after bhawana´s struggle so far. She must be a very very good talent and the hardwork done by her mother and herself have paid now. She has to achieve so many things in her coming years. The main thing is will she get help she needs now to continue her journey towards her main goal. I hope she gets the needed help.
Once again Hats Off to her mother and bhawana.
- Deepesh Khatri
Bhawana Tamang is indeed a remarkable example of hard work, dedication and courage whom we need in every aspect of our society. She really deserves a scholarship for Higher Education along with Financial Assistance for livelihood from Government. The Government along with civil society really have the strong responsibility to assist them to have better life condition and opportunity to upgrade their living standard. I would also suggest to open charity to sponsor the education for Bhawana and other children like Bhawan.
- Roshan Bajracharya
A heart touches struggle story of the talented lady Ms Bhawana Tamang.She has just passed the SLC from the Samata Niketan,Jorpati, ktm.She has passed her SLC getting 88.75%.Now she has a problem to upgrade her study.really a bad news for nepalese,here is a lots of NGO and INGO which were established for the purpose of the poor people education and right.what they are doing?even the government speaks for the poor people education but nothing they have done.the new budget of the government is coming soon.so, the government should give the special budget for those poor students, who have no any accessible in the higher education.The government always give the speech for the poor people education but they forget to purchage on their higher education.its� a bad system of nepal....but hope in the coming budget.as well as bhawana tamang will get the higher education.
- dipak titung tamang
A heart-touching story. Well done, Bhawana, wishes for you to prove a worthy daughter to your mother and your motherland.
Meanwhile, a lot of praise should also go to Samata Shiksha Sadan and all Nepalis should think to support the institution. Maybe we all can donate a little bit of our earning to them.
- Krishna Karki
Well done Bhawana! Its the Hope that keeps our dreams alive.
- Amit
My eyes couldn´t remain dry after going through the story.
Hats off to you Bhawana!!!
May all your dreams come true. May we get to read the news about your becoming a paedatrician with a smily face of your mother to be with you that moment!!!!
I really do appreciate your endurance and your mother´s courage!!!
- Sajan Subedi
Dear Bhawana,
I read with tears running down; and only wish that you indomitalbe spirit will keep holding to those dreams. I know you deserve respect, not pity, and wish that a helping hand come your way to see your dreams and responsibilities fullfilled.
- Binod
This is journalism. Keep it up, guys!
- sagar sharma
It is a great article.I was so touched by it.I am absolutely stunned by the young girl´s bravery, intellect , perserverance and determination.I salute her.
- satish
All the best!! If you are aspiring to become a pediatrician,the coming days is going to be challenging!But I am sure,your expertise in facing the long spells of hardships has provided you with necessary skills to fight the adversities.All I can say is "All the Very Best".
One thing is for sure, that your thinking will definitely benefit the nepalese patients,who think the doctors these days are too rude.
- Avyudaya
All the very best for your upcoming days.I am really impressed by your passion towards your studies despite uncountable problems and hurdles in your daily life.I salute your patience and being so assiduous.May god be always with you.I pray for your bright future and may all your dreams come true.
- Grishma
Kudos to Ms. Bhawana Tamang! You are an inspiration to all of us.

I was so moved by the article, `Keeping hopes alive amid adversities', in Republica that for hours after I read the article I could not wrap my head around anything and it was through this piece of writing that I finally resorted to vent my emotions and connect with the tribulations and the eventual triumph of this courageous soul. My deepest love and respect to that heavenly mother who protected her child at such extreme circumstances and made this day come true. You have indeed brought into life, the lines of Irving, "If all the world beside cast him/her (child) off, she (mother) will be all the world to him/her".

During frustrating times, I have more often than not, turned to few self-help books to draw solace for myself but I should confess that the lines that she told to the Nagarik Daily - "I believe the poor should complete studies even with a meal a day so as to be able to later afford four meals a day", is the most optimistic expression I have ever come across in the 20 year span of my life. It should only remind us of the power of self-determination infused with the courage under desperation shown by the disregarded talents who still have not forgotten how to dream. For me, with 88.75% in SLC, which is already a remarkable performance, Ms. Bhawana Tamang is the SLC Board Topper of 2009 (without offending the endeavor of the actual Board Topper, but I would not be surprised if he/she conforms to my view after being aware about what Ms. Tamang has been through).

But this story should not end here. It should only progress with more privileges and support hailing from all sides imaginable so that she can realize her dream of being a pediatrician. I urge all the top-colleges of Nepal to take this opportunity to draw a deserving student like Ms. Tamang into their institution by offering her a full scholarship in tuition and lodging with stipend. It is indeed at moments like this when we ought to keep aside the commercial aspect of a decision and show some more humanity. And drawing such genuine students will just as well speak volumes about the ethics and the principles of the institution as attracting the Board Toppers will display the academic vigor. Moreover, this is also an opportunity for all the colleges to prove that the catchy lines about "We value students more than anything" that frequently find its place highlighted in their prospectus is something that is meant to be practiced rather than being limited to a mere lip-service.

I am a student myself and do not have much resources to help improve Ms. Tamang's situation (directly). How I wished that day comes soon when I will be able to establish myself in my field so that I can support such deserving individuals financially and materially. But for those who have resources, please, I beg you; do not let anything restrain you from showing humanity.

Finally, Thanks to Republica for bringing into light the heroes of our daily lives.
- Shamir Amir Kansakar
Reading this story reminds me of my own story and indeed many young people in my own country Zambia. It is an inspiring story that give hope to many struggling young people that with determination nothing is impossible.
- Charles Mafa

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