I Shall Not Wish You A Happy New Year

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Photo by Youbesh Dhaubhadel

Its 2077, the Nepali New Year. Yesterday was New Year’s Eve. The city that wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the lights, music, and people are devoid of the very thing. The wind growled a little louder through the empty streets. The asphalt wasn’t made for silence, but it might be a good listener after all.

The dates have been slowly erased from my memory. It’s as though we are living one week to another. It’s just yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s all it seems to matter. But the calendars are changing. A new date has come as we watch the sun rays enter through our window panes — locked down.

The question I have is: how shall we greet each other this new year? When I dial the number of my friends, what shall I tell them? When I type messages across the screen, what shall I tell the recipient? The wishes seem to be sucked out, empty like the streets we look upon.

H-A-P-P-Y seems the last word on our lists. Then what shall I fill the void with? Adjectives have run dry as I read news across the world. It started during one Lunar New Year and ravaged the world in 100 days. We have reached another year elsewhere, but the war doesn’t seem to stop. The roads aren’t easy, neither are they defined.

Prized inventory systems have broken down, forecasting has been challenged to it’s bones, political systems are at their brink.

What if, what if, are two words that hit like a hammer. But there are no what ifs. It is just what it is, and what remains is human resilience ricocheting off the walls of history.

What we do know is this will be over. And then what we do know is we must change; what we do know is we cannot forget. We pray to come out not just alive, but also more accountable, understanding, and respectful of the world we must create. The virus has exposed our current world with its demonic fangs ready to pierce through the already thinned skin of humanity.

But demons can be beaten. And we try. Warriors worldwide are armed as we place our faith over science.

Together we try; together we pray; together we survive.

I shall, therefore, not wish you a happy new year, I shall wish you a stronger new year, a wiser new year, a fighter’s new year, a believer’s new year, a knowledgeable new year, a just new year, a more equal new year, a safer new year. A new year we will never again take for granted. And maybe somewhere down the line if we did all these and more, we’d one day again have a happier new year.

Till then, stay safe.

The Festival of Reminiscence

“What does a rhombus look like?” the teacher asked. 

“A Kite!” the students replied unanimously. 

A rhombus in our heads was always represented by a kite. And a kite, was and will always be about Dashain, one of the most important festivals of Nepal and Hindu devotees around the world.

I have been trying to remember what is it about this festival that I absolutely adored as a kid.

Perhaps it was the month long holiday (which is now only being cut shorter and shorter as we step into adulthood!), or perhaps about the cramped shopping with my mother and aunts. May be it was about meeting my cousins after a long summer at school, flaunting our new dresses and making plans weeks before on what we would do the day we finally meet. May be it was the kite flying tradition at the last moment that we always lost, because some other neighbor always had sharper and stronger thread. Or perhaps it was the amusing game of cards that the adults played as we counted the number of years when we would be able to join along.

We learnt about cards in probability or probability in cards. Whatever it was, it was certainly worth the wait.

A big part of the festival was always about my cousins. Some of us have moved abroad, some of us in the city are studying and busy chasing our respective lives, others- the younger ones, the new generation is growing up and living the times we once lived. Some of us have joined the cards table, borrowing a couple of hundreds from our parents to marvel at the game while it lasts. The younger ones are demanding kite traditions and traditional clothes, moving their tiny heads away from their iPads and tablets.

Lately I have been talking about how Dashain is no longer the same. But may be I’ve forgotten that it was not supposed to stay the same. Or perhaps it has remained the same and I have changed, as I was supposed to.

As I returned back home a single kite flew past the crescent moon. The air does not feel like it used to, and the skies are not that colorful anymore. 

As I watch from the observer’s seat, the child like excitement may have faded away, but a new set of perspectives are on the rise. For each year, it means a different thing. For each set of transitionary period, it represents a new angle of life. The memories that were still remain. And they are not essentially just about the time that was, but also for the time that is and that will be.

As Corrie Ten Boom would say:

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.

It was simple. And it still is.

Behold the time has come and gone in a flash, what have you seen? What you have seen is all that counts.

Wishing everyone celebrating a prosperous, lively and meaningful Vijaya Dashami. May this festival bring you closer to what you’ve been looking for.

Best Wishes,

Alfa

Why Teaching is one of the most Incredible Jobs on Planet Earth or even in Mars!

No, I am not kidding. Sure I didn’t do the finances and while teachers may not appear much on Forbes list, they undoubtedly had hands in getting the names on top.

No sugar, no chocolates. No butter. Only what I’ve felt for a few years, not because I teach, but because I had the opportunity to step into some classrooms I wish I could replay time and again. And with the belief that so many more are yet to come. 

Let us begin.

First thing first. It’s Guru Purnima in Nepal, our Teachers’ Day. Yeah! Wishes to all my beloved teachers!

Let us begin again.

A few months back, one of my high school teacher put up a Facebook status that read something like this: My students think that teaching is a boring profession, but I love it anyway. (Great!)

Can’t say I wasn’t that student once. But I no longer am. If you still do feel that way, here’s an invitation to swap your eyes!

Let us really begin now.

Here’s why Teaching is one of the most incredible jobs on planet Earth (if you could find one in Mars, it would still be equally spectacular!):

LEVEL: DIFFICULT

You think it’s easy to have 80 eyes staring through you throughout 90 minutes, watching every tiny little detail of you, noting down every word you say? If you think conquering kingdoms in Age of Empires was hard, think again! Our teachers would not even need extra alliances to get through all this and win! You are victorious!

VORACIOUS LEARNERS

The one that cracked the most witty jokes in class, the one who taught without teaching at all, the one you learned to truly respect, have worked REALLY REALLY hard. It certainly didn’t happen one fine day. They are the absolute voracious learners.

INDIVIDUAL MARKETEERS

Well, this one is my favorite (one of my favorite!).

Each year a new set of students arrive in class, with freshly pressed uniforms that are smeared with mud and sand by the end of the day. Each child is different, each class is different. Some classes are noisy (I’d have to admit ours is!), some are too quiet. It’s different everyday. (We are quiet sometimes!). Teachers are the best individual marketeers in the world. She remembers what will make Sanima happy and what will irritate Rahul, which toy is Raj’s favorite and why Rima won’t do her grade two homework.

YOUR FIRST MARKET

If some of my best teachers wrote books, I’d stand in line to buy them, get them signed, not because “they are my teachers and the need to buy their stuffs”, but because they are so great that anything they touch is going to be golden. (Did it get a bit cheesy there? If it did, enjoy the free cheese. If it didn’t wait for the next cheesy line.) (While I hope they’d buy mine too! *cough*)

CHANCE TO INSPIRE THE WORLD

Loaded with cheese.

 All of our superhuman teachers are just normal people. They have crazy dreams (like owing an original Rolex Constellation, opps! its Omega Constellation! Hope you get it soon!) and they feel the pains of the world just like we do (taking about the tragedy of the commons and politics, and just plain rain pain on a motorbike). Amidst all these, they teach not just calculus and the Allegory of the Cave, but also speak of dreams, fears and courage.

गुरु ब्रम्हा गुरु विष्णू

गुरुः देवो महेश्वरा

गुरु शाक्षात परब्रम्हा

तस्मै श्री गुरुवे नमः

(The Sanskrit Mantra that says teacher is the equivalent to god and the universe.)

Bonus Point

ANYONE CAN BE A TEACHER

三人行,必有我师

(Confucius’s saying that if there are three people walking, one of them must be my teacher.)

Applying some partial rule of logic, if we can learn from anyone, then someone must be able to learn from us too.

To all my teachers out there, from the ones at home, to elementary school, high school, university and beyond. Each one of us must be honored to walk down this path of yours, to have met in this path.

P.S. Teachers have access to some best libraries around.


Wishes on Guru Purnima again! While my words will never do justice to the wonderful people and their profession, it was worth giving a try.

Til’ the next post

A student who asked too many questions in an attempt to ask the good ones,

Alfa

30 Minutes of Traveling: Stories from the Streets of Kathmandu #3

1993: 2003

1993

Rushing to college, every morning Monday through Friday, walking fast towards the slightly moving bus at Patan Dhoka. The closer I get, the faster it moves. Finally the conductor makes this unique bang at the door and sends signal to the driver to stop.
I get on the bus, no signs of seat so I stand holding on to the top metal bar with approximately six inches of gap with people next to me.I try my best not to be sandwiched between the crowd during the stop-motion jerk. Somehow the conductor manages to slither through the crowd. I hear the clickety-clack noise coming from the coins. The conductor’s hand is full of coins and ticket. He is moving his hand in a unique way to produce that noise which is a signal to pay the fare.

I tell him, ‘Not right now, let me find a seat or I will pay you when I get off.’

2003

On my way to my first job, Mundelein Bus stop, Chicago, IL. I get to the bus stop 10 minutes early, the bus arrives with the display of routes in the front. Automatic door opens, I get on the bus with no struggle. After climbing two steps, I exchange greetings with the driver while I slide a dollar bill into the machine next to the driver’s seat.
Then in an air conditioned bus, I see the privileged handicapped seating. I walked little further and get a seat near the window. I admire the view outside while I hear the automatic announcement of next stop.

Memories went flooding back 10 years, Oh where is the clickety- clack music and the Big Bang signal on the door? Where is that stop-motion jerk that alerted me from being sandwiched? Oh it’s only in my memories now. My stop arrives and I pull the string above my seat which signals the driver to stop. I get off the bus.

What a transition of transportation!

-Sarana Shrestha Parajuli


एकजना आमाले भन्नु भयो- “बाबु, यस्तो च्यातेको पाइन्ट किन लगा’को?”

अनि खलासी दाईको गुनासो- “मैले यो च्यातेको पाइन्ट लाउँदा ट्यापे भन्छन्,यहि पाइन्ट केटीले लायो भने हट भन्छन्। केटा हुन नि सार्‍है गार्‍हो छ।”

-Rojina Shrestha


Bhada Vs. Bhada

A curious little girl along with her father got inside the bus. They sat behind me. Her innocence stole my heart. She became a reason for my smile. Her fascination towards the things happening around left me dumbstruck. She gazed around and bombarded her farther with questions. She sang all the rhymes her teacher had taught her. Her mother tried hard to make her daughter stop talking, to keep her little girl from being the center of attention. But the girl didn’t fail to clear all her doubts.

As their stop arrived the conductor asked her farther for money ‘Bhada’(bus fare).

She immediately said, ‘Baba bhada ta kotha ma huncha yo dai lae kina mangi ra ko?

As they got down her farther answered her question and handed over the bus fare. The little girl proved to be different from all of us inside. She ignited enthusiasm to keep learning.

-Sefali Agrawal


Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s 31st May and the last chapters for 30 Minutes of Traveling (for now of course!) has arrived. Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude towards everyone who read, followed and put their time to write and share their travel stories. 

I hope you enjoyed reading, reflected your good and bad times on the road inside the people packed buses. May be you got lucky with the window seat, may be you offered your seat for the elderly, and may be sometimes felt like the tuna inside the sandwich! 

They are but memories now, once the moment goes by, even after a fraction of time. 

Till then keep traveling, keep living, keep giving, keep writing, keep sharing the stories ignited inside the flames of your hearts!

Alfa