Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Catcher in the Rye

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
J.D Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye-First edition cover (image courtesy:wikipedia)

I recently finished reading this amazing book “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D Salinger. The book is a masterpiece. It is simplicity at its best. It is written in what is called a subjective style from the point of view of its main character, Holden Caulfield (ref:wiki). It is a narration of this teenage boy who struggles with his identity and like every teenager struggles to discover his true potential. The book is about this boy who represents the youth and portraits the struggle of a teenager to be accepted in the society especially when he is different from others yet not any less special than anyone else. There are times in the story where it reminds me of my own identity crisis and my own struggle with being able to relate to what is accepted in societal standards and what we really want to do. I can totally relate to Holden’s dissatisfaction of every school he attends. It reminds me how poor our education system is that judges us only on the basis of marks obtained rather than letting us explore our true capabilities. Although, I never really rebelled against the education system in my country, I can relate to the disciplinary systems mentioned in the book. Back at the time, I wasn’t smart enough to identify that getting good scores and doing the expected is not the only way of “being a good student/child” and I was not mature enough to differentiate that being ordinary in terms of scores and extra-ordinary in terms of imagination/creativity and mere silliness can also be considered as “being a good student/child”.

The paragraph I stated especially made me proud that I read this book. When I first bought the book, I didn’t have any idea what the title meant and as I read the book, the title didn’t ring a bell either. But as the chapters unfolded, I came across this wonderful paragraph where the protagonist talks about what he wants to be and this was the wow moment in the book for me. Throughout the book, it is revealed that the protagonist is not doing well in his school and is a teenage rebel who struggles to be accepted in the society, struggles to make his family proud, loves his siblings and secretly admires a girl. The protagonist does very well in English, the only subject he likes and does good in. The book throws hints that the protagonist has an ability to become a good writer. And as the chapters unfold, it reveals the character of the protagonist to be gentle, kind hearted, family loving kid who wants to be accepted at his school by his friends and wants to appear cool but at the same time he cannot not be himself and not do things that he does, which leads to his dropout from every school he attends. It would have been expected and normal yet a good writing for the writer to talk about the protagonist in the way he revealed the story and end it like the way it did. But what made the book extraordinary and the writer a genius for me is the mention of this paragraph where he reveals an entire new aspect of the protagonist who aspires to become a good human being first and who wants to simply do good and not be noticed. The protagonist is not depicted as some troubled kid who struggles with the education system and wants to read and write literature but as a philanthropist who wants to do what he loves to do and live his dream.

All in all, the book nails it in terms of simplicity and honest portrayal of the protagonist. I am very impressed by this particular paragraph and I wish all the kids of all generations to be encouraged by the society to let them do what they love to do.

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Dashain is around the corner

Dashain is the biggest festival in Nepal. It holds a special place in our hearts. I once quit a job just to be home for Dashain. So, you can guess that Dashain is a big deal in Nepal. This festival holds a special significance. It signifies unity, defeat of good over evil, respect towards our elders, lots of food, new clothes, a big family event and long holidays. When I was in school, we had a full months holiday during Dashain, ahhhh those blissful days.

Dashain is a 15 day event and Ghatasthapana marks the beginning of Dashain or start of Navaratri. After 7 days of Ghatasthapana starts an array of a week long festivities with each day holding some religious significance. The first sign that Dashain is around the corner is the weather. In Kathmandu, the weather is just perfect during Dashain, it is the end of summer and its cool and pleasant. All us of can relate to the special bright sunshine and how the sun is warm with cool breeze during Dashain, this kind of sunshine is called “pareelo gham” in Nepali. But staying far away from home, the clues of Dashain are status updates in Facebook and fellow bloggers writing about the festival, which is not bad either :).

When my grandfather and grandmother still lived in the village, we all would go to the village to get blessings from them on the final day of Dashain, which is called Tika. There are a lot of things about Dashain and I can go on and on talking about my fondness for it. But today I will focus on how my childhood Dashain used to be, when we went back to the place Bua(dad) was born and when I was about 6 or 7 years old.

The place my Bua was born is Bhorle, Dhading. It is not so far from the capital city but it didn’t mean it was easy to get there. Going to Bhorle used to be an adventurous trip for us. I think Mom and Bua had discussions whether or not we should go to Bhorle this year. To go to Bhorle, we had to take a bus from Kathmandu and get down at Adamghat, which took around 3-4 hours during those days. After getting down at Adamghat was a steep trek of about 8-9 hours!! My dad was born somewhere in the remote hills of Dhading district and until few years back there was no means of transportation that would take us there. The only option was either to walk or be carried on a Nepali basket made of bamboo called “Doko”. So Mom and Bua had a hard time deciding whether or not to take the kids to Bhorle for Dashain(which of course I found out later from mom). I have faint memories of my Bhorle trek. We have the pictures at home, which reminds me of Dashain in Bhorle. My Mom looks extremely pretty in her red sari and red pote(necklace for married women in Nepal). Trip to Bhorle used to be a lot of fun for us kids. Me, my brother, my uncles and cousins had our little gang. Our uncles were the guide and leaders as they had travelled the trail quite often and were experienced. So me and my brother had a lot of fun as city kids going to the village. We used to be amazed by the nature, the insects we saw on the way and the cows, buffaloes, goats, hens we saw in the village and if we were lucky we could sight deers and how our uncles always warned us of Jackals or “Bwasoo”. We also got to enjoy the wild berries and wild fruits on the way to Bhorle. Everyone would take special care of us since we were small kids and from the city :). I can recall that everywhere we rested, we were offered with “Mahi”(homemade yoghurt smoothy?) and “bhuteko makai”(roasted corn kernels). And we had someone my Bua or Hajurbuwa(grandfather) knew on the way top and they would make remarks like, “Ohh so you are the son of so and so and the grandson of so and so”. And when we would be too tired after few hours of walk, there would be potters and sometimes our relatives or uncles who would carry us in Doko. The way to Bhorle used to be beautiful with green trees, far away view of himalayas, open grasslands and the endless hills. I wonder how it is now. And since it was Dashain, there were Bamboo swings at every small village we passed and it was a lot of fun to play in those swings. But we could never match up with the village kids who played wild and looked like they had far more fun than us.

Photo Credit-http://www.nepal-pictures.com: A swing similar to the numerous swings or “Ping” that we encountered on our way to Bhorle.

So Bua always made remarks to us saying how we were the broiler chicken and the village kids were the local chicken. After crossing every hill, we used to ask our uncles how much farther it is and they used to show us a nearest hill and say behind that big hill is our home or “Tyo dada ko pachadi hamro ghar cha” but once we crossed that hill they used to again point us to another nearest hill and say the same thing!! I do not precisely remember other details from the trip and how we finally reached home. The next thing I remember is the tika day or the day when the elders in the family put tika on foreheads of youngers as a blessing. For the boys it was all about goat meat; which part of goat they wanted to eat and flying kites. For girls it was about the money they were going to earn after tika which is called dakshina and new clothes they were going to wear on tika day. I think during those days we got 25 paisa, 50 paisa as dakshina. I have a colourful picture that we took at Bhorle after tika which is in Kathmandu and too bad I cannot post it right now.

So this was Dashain all about when I was a little kid, one of my first memories of Dashain. Today Dashain is still about going back home, being together with mom and Bua and receiving tika from them. It makes me a little sad that I cannot be home for Dashain this year too. So, my wish for Dashain this year is may my Mom and Bua have a wonderful health, may goddess Durga bless my home and make it harmonious, may Mom and Bua be happy and healthy all year around and may I be able to serve my parents in every possible way. Happy Dashain Mommy and Bua. I am sad that I cannot be home to share Bua’s enthusiasm of goat meat and Mom’s excitement of navaratri puja. But I will definitely Skype and receive blessings over the internet!!

And Happy Dashain in advance to my readers as well!
P.S: Ghatasthapa falls on 16th October this year and Tika falls on 24th October.

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What do you do when you are not quite satisfied with your job?

Have you had those days when you feel like you are lucky to be where you are right now? Especially, coming from an underdeveloped country, having limited opportunities and resources? If you think about it, as an outsider, you’ve come a long way to be where you are right now. But there is a “but”. There has to be. No life is perfect; no path of work is perfect.

Are there times when you have felt that maybe you would have been better off without this current job? Maybe the thought crossed your mind that you could have discovered your passion, pursued it and lived by it everyday, yet chose to earn a living for you and your family.

I have always wondered about this. Looking back at what lead me to where I am today, I have very few explanations about the path of career I chose for myself. I passed SLC with a decent grade, which at that time meant I was eligible to study science. I once asked my father about the possibility of studying arts; he simply dismissed it saying, “You should study science for two years, if you don’t like it by then we will discuss it further at that time.”

So i studied science. I wasn’t quite a rebel. For one, because I had no strong feelings or opinion about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. Second, it was an easy and convenient choice. Later, I could just put all the blame on my father saying, “I wanted to study arts, but my father suggested not to so…” When I look back now and really think about what brought me here, my answer is, I chose an easy way out, a safe option on the grounds of being a good girl and doing what my father asked y to do.

After studying two years of science, my scores dropped significantly compared to what I had scored at SLC. Nevertheless, I chose Computer Engineering as my next chosen field of study. Now listen to the explanation I have for this one.

At that time, my tiny brain did the thinking. My thinking was, if I had worked so hard for two years to study and get acceptable scores in the field of science despite I not being a great fan of it, what would be the point of quitting now? I got convinced by this argument and declared to my father that I wanted to be an engineer. He was happy, however he asked me one question, why don’t you want to study medicine and become a doctor someday? I simply hated biology, so I told him that I had not taken biology as a major subject during my two years of post SLC, so I am not qualified to study medicine. My father nodded and was happy with whatever he could get out of his daughter.

There is a whole another story behind why my father wanted both of his children to study science. My father had himself wanted to study science. He did his early years of schooling from the only school present at his village. He studied hard but he was never fond of math. After his second attempt, he passed his SLC examinations, left his village and came to Kathmandu to study. He had wanted to study science and dreamt of being a doctor one day. He was a good student but not outstanding enough to earn himself a scholarship to study further. So he joined the government university and studied arts with economics as a major. The story does not end here.

Two years ago, as I finished my masters and came back home with an offer letter in hand, everyone was so proud of me, especially my father and my grand father. One day, my grandfather invited me to his room for a special chitchat. I had no idea what he wanted to share. He asked me to sit down close to him and told me his side of story. He said, “I wanted your father to study medicine. He was bright and my eldest son. He came to Kathmandu to study further. Upon inquiry, your father discovered that the fee to get admitted in a medical college in Lucknow, India was Rs.1,400. I could not give him 1,400 rupees to study medicine. I had no money.”

Saying this, my grand father’s eyes were filled with tears and he paused for a while, then he continued. “But today I am very proud of your father that he provided good education to both of his children with a degree in science.” He continued, “I am very proud of your father and I am very proud of you and your brother, but I could not provide my son with the opportunity to study science”. It was a very emotional statement and conversation with my grandfather that day. I held his hand and told him, “Hajurbuwa (Grandpa), even if my father is not a doctor now, he is what he is because you sent him to Kathmandu city to stay at your sister’s for his further study and you should be proud of yourself as well.”

That same day, to change the topic of conversation, I looked around my grandfather’s room. He had few books on the table; some were gifts and others he bought it himself. I picked one about hindu religion and asked him, 

”Do you like reading books?”

He said, “Yes I read occasionally, but my eyes are weak now and I cannot read for a long time.”

“Hajurbuwa, I like reading too, in fact sometimes I write as well. Once I wrote a story, submitted to The Himalayan Times and it got published.

At that moment, he beamed with joy and uttered in disbelief , “Ho ra!!” (Really?)

“Yes Hajurbuwa, I like reading and writing, I have even written few poems, but now I don’t write as often. I have no one to review my work”. Then he advised me to keep writing as sahitya (literature) is a very prestigious field and you have to continue your creativity along with your career.

Looking back at my engineering days, I did not excel, neither was I bad at it. I didn’t score quite as well in my first few semesters. I never liked the idea of routine study, routine work and assignments. Nevertheless after two years at university, I realized, if I have to do it, I have to at least try to give my best. I never really enjoyed studying about chemicals, programming languages, conductors, semiconductors, logical circuits, signal processing and so on. But I studied it as my duty. I was not a remarkable student but I survived.

After finishing my bachelors in computer science, I went to Chennai, India to work for a technical solutions company. It was a mere coincidence that I was selected for the job in the very first job interview I gave. I came home one day with an offer letter and handed it to my father. Both my father and brother were surprised, but they encouraged me to go if this was what I really wanted to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time, but I loved the idea of traveling and living all by myself.

Soon after I reached India, I realized this wasn’t the job for me. I was very dissatisfied at that time. I terribly missed home, being the spoiled brat that I was. I worked in India for eight or nine months and headed back home. By this time, all my friends had definite goals in life. Some were working in Kathmandu and some wanted to go abroad for higher studies. At first, I decided to look for a job in Kathmandu. I even got selected for a pretty good company and the offer was lucrative, but they dumped me at the last minute without even informing me. Later,I found out that someone else got the job since he/she was referred by someone important in that office.

Disappointed by this incidence, I decided to study GRE and go to the US to study masters. I did so because one of my very close friend was studying GRE as well. I had decided to go for higher studies. My option was: If I continue engineering, I would go to the US or the other way around, if I go to the US I will study engineering and if I study somewhere in Asia, I would do an MBA. This was because MBA is very expensive in the US and students seldom get scholarships. I applied to a few universities in US and got accepted in all. I had never liked the idea of going to the US for further studies and doing the extreme hard work of work/study at the same time. I had heard pretty depressing stories and I got cold feet to go to the US. Then one of my best friends called me and asked if I wanted to study at AIT (Asian Instititute of Technology) in Bangkok. I thought it was a pretty good idea. It was in Asia, but not in India or Nepal. So at that moment we both decided we would study at AIT. She said she wanted to study computer science. I didn’t know what I wanted to study, I had earlier thought I would study management if I were to study in Asia.

I went to my father and announced that I wanted to study at AIT. He asked me what happened to my US applications. I told him that I want to go to AIT because my friend is also going to AIT. He was calm but he said one thing clearly. “Tomorrow if your friend does not want to go to AIT, you cannot opt out along with her. So tell me clearly where do you want to go?” At that time, I don’t exactly know why but I cried and told him I would go to AIT and not change my decision. So, I had an application form to fill out. As I was browsing through the offered courses, I was still indecisive in what field of study I wanted to study. I decided to apply for an MBA. As I was filling out the application form, I discovered I had to submit two essays, but I had prepared only one essay. Then I went on and filled the application for information management, which required only one essay. So, I applied for information management and did my masters in it. It was not an easy ride though. I cried, showed dissatisfaction, but had no choice. At that time I was determined to continue it and finish it with good scores. I worked hard and finished my masters on time with decent scores. I was satisfied with what I had in my hand—the lucrative Master’s Degree.

Then just cruising along, I went for an intensive job interview, got selected and had a job offer in hand. And today I am sitting at the same office, working under the people who selected me to work here. What are my ideas about the job? Well, I do what I am told to do and try to give my best. But I know that this is not what I am born to do. I dream and think of the blissful days when I will be doing something I love and at the same time earning a living. After all, dreams don’t have any boundaries and they sail along the sea, where the wind takes them, don’t they?

*This post originally appeared in an online magazine operated in Nepal.

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