The journey begins with a lot to ponder about…

I hadn’t been to the airport before either. I have a faint memory that I have a long time back but I don’t know when. Just a blurred memory. It was a normal goodbye (no reason to be anything else either). Still there was drama going on there with a few teary eyed relatives (not our gang’s but that of strangers) sticking their faces to the glass door to look at their loved ones behind that.

We were filling up the Departure form, an woman to my right was doing the same. Most probably in her late twenties or early thirties the woman wore a kurti and jeans and had a little child at her feet. “Kati gate?” she asked.
“Its July 29, I only know the English date.” I replied. Then someone told me Shrawan 13. She heard it too.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Japan.” I replied.
“Are you friends?” she asked looking around.
“Yah, they are. We are going as a group.” And though I didn’t really care where she was headed to I asked to be polite. “USA” she replied smiling a little too broad and a hint of pride in her voice. That’s a very common syndrome I tell you.
“Oh” I replied casually.
“Dependent visa ho” she continued. “Sriman utai hunuhuncha tesaile jana ateko”( My husband’s there so I am going).”
“Oh” I had nothing to say.

But the word Dependent Visa struck me. I didn’t like the way it sounded at all. And promised to myself that I wouldn’t be going anywhere on such a Dependent Visa. Though most times I am uncertain about what I want, the conversation showed me What Exactly I didn’t Want. It felt good, like having a purpose.

Another thing that struck me was the huge machine called aero plane we were to fly in. The moment I saw it I thought “Wow, the wonders of Human mind. There’s no where we can’t go, from the depths of the sea to the heights of the sky.” I know it sounds silly but I developed a deep sense of respect for the pilots who would be flying us, I mean the wonders of Physics. That’s undoubtedly the real science, as they call it.

I didn’t get the window seat. I was stuck in the centre. To my left was a guy in a white hat and a light blue shirt buttoned up to the neck. Age :21, home place: Sindhupalchowk, education: Six Class Pass and a father of two daughters this guy was flying to Malaysia to work as a waiter. But when I asked him how he was going to Kualalumpur from Bangkok he didn’t have any idea. All he had to say was he was with other four friends. Have you taken any training for your work? I asked and then he got confused once again.

One row back Shristi was seated beside Manjushree Thapa. Wow! I couldn’t believe that so I stood up to look at her. She was reading a book and I recognized another journalist beside her to be Daniel Lak. She was going to Bangkok as Shristi reported. And it’s amazing how one can understand the country even when flying abroad. There we were, six students, same age as the guy beside me, living in the same country but with such different realities. We had been invited to go abroad while circumstances had forced him to go abroad. That’s Contemporary Nepal: With a Lot of Disparities.

The plane landed. And I had no idea where my plane partner vanished. Suvarnabhumi airport: Its exactly what Vir Sanghvi writes in his Bangkok Diary (Hindustan Times, Sunday magazine Feb 25 edition):” The new airport is a vast soulless structure with areas that resemble a high security prison in a space station.” Well, had read this a long time back but then what did I know of Suvarnabhumi?I had just skimmed through whatever he had to say of Bangkok, but when I got back I enjoyed reading the piece. I think you ought to travel first to a place to appreciate writings related to it! Well, that’s my experience.

airprt

Samudra Manthan In Suvarnabhumi Airport

Then came another encounter with a Nepalese woman. A Thai Airways staff brought her to us as she didn’t understand English. Clad in a bright yellow kurta and sandals that hurt her as she told me, the lady was headed to Copenhagen, where her husband was (yes dependent visa again). He had obtained a scholarship there, doing Masters. He’d told her she would have no problem traveling she said but then she was absolutely lost. Well, I volunteered to take her to the place she had to wait so the titbits here. She’d passed SLC she told me or IA I forgot exactly. I had wanted to jot down the details she gave me (about herself as it interested me) but that would be psycho I concluded. She was having trouble with her uncomfortable sandals so I asked “Why didn’t you wear something comfortable, like jeans instead of this Kurta as the shawl keeps falling and you have this luggage too?” She said she couldn’t in front of her father in law. I showed her the place she was to stay and yes, she was extremely thankful to me. I felt good to be of some use too.

airport

Its Us Playing Hopscotch for fun!

Our flight was before hers so I left her to join my gang. Having heard of Dependent Visa twice, I was sick of it! It always amazes me how these supposedly smart Nepali men( with foreign scholarships) don’t help their innocent wives see the light! They are deemed intellectuals among everyone while the women folks are still wearing uncomfortable sandals, scared to do what they know will make them feel good. Ah, dependent visas. Why don’t women have ambitions and they rather go abroad on their own with their scholarships and Get A Life! What’s the joy in being a Doctor ko Srimati and the goddamn Srimati Sangh member??!!

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Women in Godawari, Lalitpur showing us the way Bio-briquettes are made

It just irks me that whatever we babble about women empowerment etc the reality is still the same. For most Nepalese women the only thing that matters is still only their “Pariwarko khusi”, “Pati ko khusi, success” …why be so selfless?? I mean should we be saying Hail the Selfless Ladies or what? It’s so frustrating. Let me relate an event here. The last time I was in Pokhara, it was for a consultation meeting for making the Social Inclusion Youth Chapter in the Interim constitution. So, we consulted the men and the women separately first then together. The men came with all sorts of ideas: from needing an Agricultural university to what not! The ladies who were silent most of the time, other than a visually impaired lady there we getting no where. Finally R Dai asked them “What do you think is the need of women? Is it that you need trainings for “Dhoop n agarbati” (incense)? What do you think is the need?” The incense had come up in the conversation earlier but I was absolutely SHOCKED when a young woman said ” Yes, what we need is training to make incense.” I was taking down notes and it made me feel so bad that I literally stopped doing it out of utter frustration. I mean, look at where we women stand: Dhoop Agarbati Training is the need. What limited vision?

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a generation of women

After the meeting I had a discussion with a friend and he said “well, you don’t fall into their category. You have every privilege, every freedom a man in our society has.” No reason to disagree but that’s the point. The disparity. The realization that I don’t represent the women in my country, I represent nothing. I don’t even represent college going women here or private college going women or not even the women in my own class. It’s just me if I think a certain way about women issues. So if anyone asks me what is needed for women empowerment (the vaaaaaast term) I would answer the only problem is educated women don’t practice what they debate. My issues are different; my world is so different from the “Incense” making ladies. And I feel I have an obligation to do something for them. Help them explore the whole world of possibilities beyond the “Dhoop”! What are these women related NGOs doing anyways? Who doesn’t know that keeping a short hair (the NGO ladies style) isn’t empowerment??

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4 comments

  1. its amazing … how could women still be in need of incense training… reading your story makes me feel that i have every privilige , every freedom a man in a society has ….
    well teyi ho bidambana hamro desh ka cheli beti ko … kunai na kunai din ujyalo ko kiran awasya pani dekhine cha bhanne asha ma chu ….

    kali

  2. after reading about your frustrations re: Nepali women, i am thinking of writing about rural women here in Ghana…the issues are similar in many ways, yet a lot different on others…may be we can collaborate 🙂

    anyway, great to read about your experiences as usual…

    by the way, i’ve seen quite a few husbands on dependent visa too, but i too don’t like that phrase a bit…no matter which half is going abroad to be a “dependent”!

    ps. thanks a lot for your comment on “Rafeeq’s eye”…Rafeeq is a boy but like many Nepali kids, Ghanaian kids also have gazal around their eyes!

  3. Great to see you write and speak about women empowerment again. Sometimes beauty magazines do make a point: Like a suggestion to have atleast six stamps on your visa before getting married. Women should be rulers and rockers. The obvious irony is that we chew our own words. But there are people like you who claim to be true to their words and many others who make a stand because they can honestly abide by it. Hail ! to this spirit…………

  4. most of the people I think are satisfied with what they have in life…and they don’t want many changes (for some they can’t).
    They have lived a certain way and they believe that that same way of living will work on the future generation thus teaching them the same things to their kids and so on. This is why most of the people are still following the same thing over and over. In nepal, from what little time I went to schools there…what I noticed the most from teachers was that…they were never willing to teach students to be better than them. They always were afraid to see the students know and learn more. I hated that, I always believed that being a teacher was the most wonderful thing because you get to teach others what you know and make them prepared to know more.

    There was no freedom to think differently and explore more than one way of doing things. Unless you are a rebel going against your parents, teachers and elders…I think most people try and stay within their boundaries…hence making it hard to develop their thinking style

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