Life of a 24 Year Old Day Labour: What Make Her Life Interesting

Shall we begin? Year 2005, November 2, let’s start from this day. That is today. This is the day remember most vividly because the day is with me. I still have half of the day to live and I have the night to recollect whatever happened or did not happen during the day. Unlike the days of the past I can make this day go the way I want. I can skip my work, which I hate anyway. I can work on the essay which I have always wanted to write but never started. All this thoughts about today gives me a sense of power, sense of control. I feel secure, but when I think about the past I don’t feel the same way. I feel as if I have lost those days. I cannot change them; I can make them the way I want. They have escaped from me. A day after Laxmi Puja, the day we Hindus worship goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, I am staring at my bank statement which say $10.00 only and credit card bill which says $2,000 (only, forgot to mention that). Obviously the goddess is not very happy with me. I have never had enough money in these 24 years, where I could just forget about the bills and due date and enjoy life. Money and I have been kind of foes, we don’t like each other. I am weary about money because even after having a MBA with honors I have not had a decent job. All I got was a failing retail place where I break my back and get $7.00 an hour. Student loans, credit card debts all stay as they are as I try to make through the month will $300. Yesterday I spent around 20 dollars to celebrate the festival, hoping that I will get some kind of favor from the goddess. But I know that it’s not going to happen because I do not have a good vibe with the Brahma too. The god who created this world and me. He gave this life to me which is messed up in every way, so even if Laxmi decides to favor me she is out of luck.

So much for complaining about Laxmi and Brahma, I think they are puppets in the hands of the stars. They cannot do anything on their own, the stars control them too. Not the usual Aries, Virgo and others of the English system. The Nepali stars Mul, Mangalik and the others are more powerful than them. The day I was born my stars were bad, I am a Mul. It brought all the bad lucks in my life which my English star Virgo cannot take away. I remember my mom shouting at me “you Mul girl your mother in law will be so bad that she will make you work all day”, when I didn’t listen to her or when I would refuse to clean my room. My mom was the only one who would refer to me being a mul when she had to say something negative about me, others in my family never discussed it. I used to live with four uncles, their wives and kids, grandparents and my family in the same house. In that is ordinary, I never saw anything different around so I never complained about not having a room for myself or having to share all my stuff. We lived like this until I was in eighth grade. Then things started changing, around the house, in school and also in my mind.

Being first child in family everyone used to love me dearly but then the high expectations they had from me, to be perfect daughter and a perfect student started taking toll once I moved to high school. I would constantly argue my grandmother about the curry she made, with my dad on bad grades and yes, with my mom on keeping my room clean. In the meantime, my brothers and sisters were growing up perfectly. Every one used to rave about their manners, how they take care of their stuff and yes how happy they are with the curry grandma serves them. I seemed like a total misfit in the family of perfects, so my parents decided to save their pride by moving to a small village near the city.

School wasn’t perfect either. I was terrible in math, not terrible as in getting a B or C, I used to fail. Yes, once I secured only 7 out a 100 mark exam. And I wasn’t popular either. In which high school around the world is a girl with big glasses, failing grades and face like a eternal mourner popular? So here I am, black sheep of the family and school, trying to survive high school. To escape all the taunts my uncles had for my failing grades, I used to act really rude to them. They took that one or twice then we just stopped communicating. Same with my mom and dad. With my mom sometimes I would not talk for months. I made a shell for myself, where I was good, where I was perfect. I felt happy within the shell. As days grew near for me to appear for my 10 grade final exams, I had moved far away from people around me, deep into my shell.

Hiding inside my shell, I taught myself to believe in destiny, I used to tell myself that I am destined to be someone great someday. Even when I had to face D grades and nearly failed in ninth grade, my heart used to remind me of the bigger things that will happen in my life. That belief kept me going. When I secured over 60% marks in 10 grade finals, I was the happiest person in the world. Like all good stories, this story had to end, and it did within a week. My parents wanted me to study science but with only 60% marks no college would admit me. Every day I would go to different colleges and fill out the application form, sit for qualifying exams but nothing. I was rejected every where. In some places they would not even allow me to sit for qualifying exams because my marks in tenth grade were so low. For first few days I kept myself together, hoping that some college will be there in Kathmandu which will admit me, but my hope faded as days went by filled with rejection. Finally, I decided that I will not study science and seek admission in management stream so that it would be easy for me to get admission.

Same day one of my friend who was also facing the same situation of low marks and high dreams called me. She was planning on going to and studying science, she had found a college which would admit her to study science. She asked me if I want to do the same. For a second I thought the idea is too far fetched. Going to to study when no one in your country wants you in their college. Still, I told my parents about this and they agreed, they said yes to me going to to study. But they had some conditions, like meet her parents before I am allowed to make the journey, and yes talk with the people at the college so that they can be sure that things are going to be ok.

In second things started looking better for me. I will be first daughter from my family to venture out of the country on my own at 16!!It was exciting. It actually gave me a sense of achievement. It was hard for some digest the fact that my parents are sending their unmarried, 16 year old daughter to a far away place to study. For a male dominated society like ours it was something dramatic, something you won’t do unless you had followed the same path .Both parents were educated in Nepal, they were the first ones in their family to go to college, in fact my mom is the only daughter in here family who has a college degree. Cousins and relatives, who would normally stay away from us because, were not up to their standard, starting giving suggestions to my parents that they were making a mistake. Yes right!! a mistake!! Because for them it was hard to digest the fact that we were doing something which they had not dared doing. They had sent their sons away to , for higher education and kept their daughters are home. For the sake of preserving family honour. They had allowed all privileges to their sons, and taught the daughters that they don’t need quality education like their brothers because their only role in life is going to be that of a house wife and mother. They were afraid that they were no longer the leaders.

Growing up I was no Angel. I don’t know why I had this feeling that I am alone, no one loves me and I have to do everything on my own. No one will ever help me. I always felt distant from everyone, mom, dad, and friends. Even to this day, I have that feeling of distance. What I am trying to say here is that it is because of this feeling of distance; I could never be this little Angel my parents wanted me to be. I was not friendly to my cousins, in fact I used to hate when they came to visit us. I was bad to my little brother who used to dread being with me. So on and on goes the list. Now that I have grown up, being mean is not looked upon as a little child’s innocent behavior but a vicious attack, planned and detailed. So the little devil has now become a big, mean devil. I would not use the “b” word to describe myself because I find it hard to insult myself such poor manner. I can however insult myself with little funny bits like I am a girl who works as a day labor when her MBA is sitting at home gathering dust.

I must note hear that Little Angel is the name of my primary school; I was there until second grade. It was a big school with lots of students and big play grounds. Something different from other schools in Kathmandu, which were often run in a two storied house with no play ground and capacity students? I remember being in ballet class and my dad had to run around the city to find me a ballet dress. Kathmandu at that time was not that advanced with stores carrying ballet dress but yes there were liquor stores which sold French wines in every corner of the city. And anyone could buy, you didn’t need to be of certain age or show an ID to prove your age. Liquor was open for all. After finishing second grade I was moved to a new boarding school. So here I am at third grade living away from family, among total strangers. Not much of a difference though, I was kind of a stranger among my family. Boarding School became my home. There is a smile on face while I am writing about my days there. I used to run away from school practically every Friday and then my mom would take me back on Sunday with strong warning that if I come back home again I will never be allowed to come back home in my life. I never listened, the hostel warden was so fed up with me that once she dragged me to the principle’s office and said to him that she is through with me and only he can fix my running habit. Principal, a chubby guy with sparse hair on his face, looked at me and gave a long lecture on the hard time my parents have gone through to put me in this expensive boarding school etc. I listened, or I pretended to listen. But I was back as my regular self on Friday evenings.

Things went on like this for a year and next year. When I was in fifth grade, finally the day of liberation came and I was sent home for good. I cannot express the joy and feeling of freedom once I reached home. I felt as if I had been released from a prison and set free to live as I want without anyone’s directions. I felt as if a bad recurring dream had ended. I cannot express because the feeling did not last long, liberation from boarding school meant be prisoner at home. True liberation never came.

At home, there were 9 people ordering me what to do and what not. They were 1) Mom 2) Dad 3) Grandmother 4) Grandfather 6) First uncle 7) First Aunt 8) Second Uncle 9) Second aunty 9) Third Uncle. And yes all the cousins from mom’s side would also drop in with comments and suggestions once in a while; I was moved to one prison from another. In the new prison I could go outside on set days and hours and that’s where all the difference ends.

During the time I was yearning for my freedom, was also going through the same process. People were in a struggle to restore multi-party democracy, constitutional monarchy. The year was 1990; I had just started my life as a boarding school inmate. Right in front of my school was the police headquarters, prime target of the protestors. So evenings were filled with listening to the protestor’s slogans and watching them beaten up by the police.

Not a fun thing, but very powerful, especially the images. People running away from water cannons, tear gas shells. For a kid all of this was like watching a movie in real time, I was very much shaken and touched deep within. The incident sparked a life long interest in politics. I heard stories about the excesses committed by the royal family and those in power. They were very strong and disturbing, I believe it was this whole exposure to the freedom struggle that chipped away parts of my childhood innocence and made me a girl from a kid. Now when I look at my cousins who are in third grade, I am surprised. I cannot put me as a 3 grade student into the place where they are. They seem much too kid like and innocent, remembering the things that came into my mind then and hearing what girls talk about nowadays, makes me feel that I aged far too early. Keeping up the aging pace, I should be 80 right now.

Luckily my aging process slowed down after I turned 20.I think I slowed it down, realizing that I am far behind the teen girls in achievement and experience. I saw all these girls barely 16 17 working on TV shows, newspapers, getting all the media attention. People praising them for doing so much so young. Then looking at myself I saw a woman with nothing. I actually felt old at 20!! So I decided I am not going beyond 20 unless I do something great, something big.

I dress like a teen, talk like teen and thanks to my genes, still manage to look like teen. So all the age questions, I deflect by saying “How old do I look”? And give my best smile when they say 19 or 20.But then I did confess that I am 24 at the beginning? I did not break my promise of not aging unless I do something great. Now don’t give me that look, you are probably thinking what did I do..? No one has heard of me?

Unfortunately that is right. I am a nobody. A 24 year old day labor with $5,000 student loan, who has a family to look after. Making just $600 a month, barely surviving, I thank the exchange rate every day. One dollar is 70 Nepali rupees, so I am still hopeful of being able to support my family. But that does not make me great; there are thousands of people who do the same, and without complaining, unlike me. What makes me great, at least of myself, is the fact that I have realized my short comings and I am willing to start fresh and still have positive hopes for future. I have faced all the problems in the past with positive attitude, keeping up my hopes for future. For a girl who was an academic disaster, I have a MBA with honors. So yes, I have achieved something. I have reached some where; I am no more ashamed with my age. From now on whoever asks me; I give them the real number.

Copyright:Bhumika Ghimire, 2006

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