Memories

I have lost hundreds of photos and documents due to hard drive crashes and memory card failures. Crashes are inevitable. Electronic devices can fail anytime without any symptom. I backup some of my important data online but I don’t backup everything. Over years, hard drives turn into parts of my own memories, and they even represent my personality. I feel I lose myself every time a crash occurs. Sudden crashes have hurt me at least five times now, the recent one occurring on February 14, and I have not been able to recover everything yet.

Our brain captures our sensory perceptions and makes memories. The brain also erases the ones that are less significant. It is so spontaneous that we don’t care how the construction and deconstruction of memories occur. I have come to realize that when we actively interact with the environment, we make sharper memories compared to times when we are passive. Undivided attention helps produces better memories than when my mind is divided. My memory becomes the weakest during the times I have to multi-task. As I am writing this, my mind is trying to run quickly, but it is also interrupted by the talks of my sister and mother, and the loud TV. I am trying to understand what they are talking about but my mind processes only bits and pieces. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be able to remember anything of this evening except that I was typing something on my laptop.

This lack of proper memory construction a frightening situation for me. It was not always this way. I used to do home-works while watching TV in the past. My brain might not be as effective as it was 10-12 years ago; I don’t know. I might not have been able to grasp information from different senses at the same time. I can’t say for sure. Did my brain change the way it worked as I grew into an adult? I can’t say for sure. What I know for sure is that the volume of information my brain has to process is huge, and it has tired. All the things from trivial to complex calculations have affected it for a few years. The fatigue has lingered for a long time as I have not been able to give it a proper rest.

Unrested mind is unstable. It fears more, lacks confidence, and kills enthusiasm. It has so much to do but does not want to do anything. Moments of laughter decrease as worry grips every thought. Such a mind does not make good memories. It takes one deeper into abyss. Images of Riley from the movie “Inside Out” run in my mind as I write these lines. Sometimes, I see myself in her place, trying to keep myself happy against all conditions and making myself sadder as time passes.

The TV is making me listen to Yog Gurus who are focusing on happiness and Pranayam (breathing techniques) that help in the removal of all thoughts. After that, they say, we can enforce happy thoughts. I have not tried them yet, but as I look the paragraph above I become doubtful. Are we composed only of happy thought? We definitely are not. We are made up of several different kinds of emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on that have roles in defining our personalities. And as the movie “Inside Out” showed, these feelings are ingrained in our memories.

Do memories make us human? Do they drive humanity? As long as I know, we learn a lot of things from the individual experiences of our parents, teachers, friends, and our own. We also have collective memories in the forms of communities, societies, rituals, libraries of books, and archives of different forms of media. Humanity relies on these things so that we don’t have to start from the beginning of the civilization. Humans are in a sort of relay race where the older generation passes the baton of memories to the younger generation can continue from what they have. A new generation always more privileged. Look at the progress in technology, for example.

Progress in technology means that we are relying more and more on it to keep our memories. Will a time come when the machines understand the meanings of our memories? That they will empathise with us? We are already astonished by the answers given by Siri and Sofia, aren’t we? Will they be more human than we ever are? “Blade Runner 2049”, the sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” movie triggered the question within me. Both the movies focus on memories implanted in factory-made humans; the sequel on the memories of automated programs as well. I don’t have the answers to the questions but the possibility of the machines becoming more intelligent or more human could be possible. For now, I am happy with the machines helping me put a part of me into them. It’s a risk as they may crash any time and I might lose those bits of my memories again. It’s okay because, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”[1]


[1] Quote from Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in Blade Runner (1982)

A review of the Year 2075

The year 2075 B.S. is coming to an end as I am writing this article. The year has been tough but felt like it fluttered away in no time. Time management has been a big deal throughout the year and it’s stressing me a bit. So, here are the things I would like to remember from 2075.

1. At the University

By the end of 2074, I had already admitted in the Masters’ Degree Programme on Engineering Geology at the Central Department of Geology, Tribhuvan University. The classes began from the 9th of Baishakh and assignments began haunting. That week I was excited and completed them long before the submission deadline. However, as time passed, assignments became more than enough and the excitement died. I still completed them but only because I had to. The trend continued in the Second Semester and I regret doing them for the sake of doing.

University has mostly been a frustrating experience. The fees are high but the way we study is not different from what I had experienced at schools and Bachelors’ programme. “It’s like school,” is what I had concluded three months ago. Teachers come and give lectures, we jot them down. But a class is 3 hours long. By the time the class ends, notebooks are filled with incoherent sentences, easily forgettable shorthand, and loads of confusion.

The confusion, as I evaluated a few days back, is because I can’t get through the lessons beforehand. The books are way too technical and the meanings, vague. A lot of terms are defined in similar manner and there is very little time to dissect them. To my own surprise, I have been completely dependent on what my teachers say and I don’t want to revise anything soon because everything felt like heavily into my mind.

Whatever the situation be, it is fun to have people sharing the experience. My 23 friends have been a revelation. You guys are the best thing I got at the university!

You guys make my every day. What else should I say?

2. Poetry and Stories

The frustration wanted to vent out and the best way I discovered was through poems. Short, symbolic and satirical. I had begun to think in poems one time during the first semester. Then I went through the Mahabharat in Nepali and it helped me understand the rhythm in poems.

Though I was writing my frustrations through poetry, it felt insufficient. Also, the environment in the university became hostile to free, direct expression. So, I didn’t write articles, nor did I write anything on my diary. Whatever I am writing here is because I am leaving those things behind. No, I am not going to be frustrated nor sad for not expressing myself.

That’s why, during the second semester, I began writing short stories and continued on my novel. The basic idea was to complete the novel before I complete my four semesters. But I found a plot hole and had to stop. Then I wrote two short stories, one each in English and Nepali. The story in English got into the Top 25 and the latter, I sent to a nation-wise contest. The results will be announced, most probably, within this week.

3. Battle Royale

Before I was writing stories, I got involved in video games FIFA 15 and PUBG (recently banned – will conjure an article on it soon). The game gave me a brilliant idea, which had already become a controversial book and movie some 20 years back. Still, I was awed. I wrote a series of essays on the topic in October-November. Here they are:

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/battle-royale-pubg-the-movie-the-novel/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/battle-royale-themes-in-movies-and-books/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/why-kazuo-kiriyama-did-not-win-the-battle/

4. A Week in Japan

Though the university lacks the infrastructure and teaching methodology I had expected, it still provides opportunities to learn and I was lucky to be selected in the Sakura Science Exchange Programme (Feb 28-March 7) between TU (my university) and Shimane University, Japan. I am grateful to the both the universities for making the programme informative as well as fun.

I have a lot to say on the stuffs related to the tour but I couldn’t because the exams knocked on the day we returned back. I will be sharing my experiences there in due course of time.

5. Cats

So, after the tragedy with the kitten towards the end of 2074, I thought cats would leave us. But one of her siblings found ways into our house, and with his sneaky ways, he has been protecting himself and his another brother. He is not as close the deceased kitten but he has a cute way of asking what he wants. We brought the dead kitten’s cardboard house and so, he has been a happy guest for about six months now.

The grey male cat here helped me understand new things on parental behaviour in cats

A Wedding: The Feast of Love

I am thrifty. I think thirty times (ok, that was an exaggeration to relate thrifty and thirty) a lot before I spend a hundred rupees. When my expenditure increases, I get worried. Therefore, I say to my parents often, “My wedding will sure be expensive for sure. How can we cut expenses?”

“By not including alcohol in your feast,” Dad says.

I like the idea for I am a teetotaller but I offer a radical solution. “Let’s not have the feast at all.”

“Don’t say that,” Mom disagrees. “We have attended weddings of hundreds of couples. We can’t exclude them.”

I shut my mouth and start thinking the solution. The thriftiest solution would be a temple wedding and no party hence. But my parents disagree to that. Society has an more important role in helping me and my parents the mode of the feast.

Society criticizes someone who does not conduct a feast. Some complaints are:
“Falana* did not call us in his wedding.” (*Falano is a word used to indicate someone without mentioning their names. Falana is masculine. Falani is feminine.)
“Falani bosated her son earns crores. She did not give a party on his wedding!”
“Can’t they spend a little of what they earn to feed their neighbours?”

But people complain everytime. They make a fuss if they are not called. The invited ones complain about the variety and quality of the food. If you don’t include alcoholic beverages, they say, “That was like a Pooja, not a wedding Bhoj.” If somebody pukes because of excessive drinking, others holler about the inclusion of “hard” drinks. You can’t satisfy everybody.

But there might be more to to the feast. Jantis plus the relatives, neighbours and friends who could not attend the main ceremony are yet to celebrate the union of the two families. The groom and his family invites them before the actual ceremony on a feast called the Preetibhoj. The compound word is derived by combining Preeti (love) and Bhoj (feast). An English term “Reception” has become popular but I like the translation of Preetibhoj, “Feast of Love”, more.

The Feast of Love is the first formal gathering for the couple. Where a guy and a girl walking together in the street can be a taboo, the Bhoj helps people identity the groom and the bride as a couple.

Dowry, huge feasts and high expense make me feel that appeasement of the society is more important than the real status of the community. So, people fall in debt to try making others happy, who unfortunately are never going to be satisfied.

***

The Feast of Love of my neighbours is held at a party palace not too far from my home. Therefore, there won’t be much problem when we return. My family goes with many of other neighbours. Once we reach the party palace at about six in the evening, one aunty says, “People around here must be happy. Music and feast everyday!”

We have an excellent proverb: “गुण पनि धेरै खायो भने तितो हुन्छ ।” (Translation: If you eat too much sugar, it gets bitter.) Too much music and partying is hated by the people of the surrounding. They shut their doors and windows, shut their ears and mutter curses! Some curses come up on Twitter. Most get welled-up.

Another aunty says what I had in mind. We enter the one storeyed, zinc plate covered party “palace” which has been divided into two sections. A second wedding feast is taking place on the other side. The feast has begun, people are clicking photos with the bride and the groom, eating, drinking, dancing and are everywhere!

Children are running. No parents can control them. Forming suitable groups, they go here and there. They sometimes knock upon elders, sometimes upon waitiers and sometimes break glasses spiling cold drinks to the floor. While the owner is earning, the workers are burning!

In almost every wedding I have attended, I get to see unhappy faces of the waiters and helpers. While the host and the guest are enjoying, they are in grief that they have to work.
It’s natural to be sad that you can enjoy, it’s human to be jealous. Even anger can be justified because of the activities of people and their children. The food might be good, the drink might be excellent, the music may be loud, but the owners and managers have failed in making their employees smile.

Had they been in the West, their Party Palaces may not run for long with unhappy workers. Because we only care about the food and the behaviour of the owner(s), they’re still doing good. However, in long run, they must pay attention to keep their employees happy. They must sort out the problems.

But still I feel bad for people who are sad. Will they ever be happy?

***

The food items that are used as starters are good but heavy. They fill my stomach even before I reach the dining hall for the main course. I don’t feel like eating but I’m attracted by chicken and fish, which I don’t usually get to eat at home.

I make my stomach believe that it can accommodate more. I take about half an hour before I eat everything except a few bones. Will my stomach digest it? I doubt. So, I decide to boost digestion by chewing up antacid tablets as soon as I reach home.
I get a remedy in the form of yogurt. It’s cold but refreshing. My stomach already feels better.

Meanwhile, people take more than they require and leave food on their tables. Just as at bride’s during the wedding ceremony, a lot of food fills the trash. My parents taught me never to throw food. Maybe their parents did not teach them, maybe they forgot or maybe they chose not to follow their parents’ advice.

***

The dance never attracts me. I shy away from the crowd listening to songs now dominated by Nepali over Hindi. “We now have a lot of “party” songs,” my sister says.

They are not Western-style Bollywood party songs, they are Nepali folk style party songs. (Sometimes, they are remixed, which I don’t like.) I agree with my sister and we make a list of songs that are being played. We can count them on our fingers but it’s okay to have something than to have nothing.

The bride and the groom, their parents and relatives, neighbours and friends all dance together. I wish everyone stayed as happy as they are. I also wish they didn’t need a stimulant (alcohol) to make them happy.

At 9 o’clock, the music stops, the party palace prepares to close and we all prepare to leave. Kathmandu has no night life except at a few places. I sleeps after ten. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. As a tourist city, it’s bad but as we are a bunch of free and happy people who must sleep in time, I think it’s okay. We don’t want to be zombies!

A Wedding (Part 3/4): The Ceremony

Birth, wedding and death are the three most important ceremonies in the life of a human. One does not know what happens at birth and what happens after death but they can witness their wedding. While birth is a ceremony of joy and death that of distress, a wedding is an affair that mixes both joy and distress. I’m going to see this just as the bride prepares to arrive at the groom’s house. Before that, I must attend the ceremony with the groom and and his family.

***

Nepali Panche Baja that also make the Naumati. The combination here is Naumati. Source: Wikimedia

The music of Panche Baja wakes up the neighbourhood. Panche baja is a set of five instruments: Narsingha, Damaha, Tyamko, Sahanai, and Karnal (often replaced by Madal). These instruments are traditionally played by Damai men. Wedding processions are led by these men and are called auspicious. However, they are also called “lower” caste and are “untouchables”. How hypocritic!
Anyway, the Mangal Dhun (auspcious music) has begun the beautiful day. The sun is shining but its not hot. The groom and his parents are in their house making final preparations before the Janta or Bariyat (wedding procession).

Janti (Bariyati), the participants of the Janta (Bariyat), have begun gathering. The number is increasing every minute. Soon, there are around a hundred men, women and children.
The musicians are encouraged. They begin playing some old folk tunes and some Lok dohori (folk song sung by two groups, one of boys and another of girls) tunes. This genre of Nepali music. During the latter part of the decade modernization shot down the folk part and reduced it to Dohori. Folk instruments are now replaced by computers and auto-tuning has been creating robotic voices.

But folk tunes that use folk instruments have become popular again. And these are the tunes the musicians of the wedding procession are playing. The crowd gets excited, gets to its feet and starts dancing.
The groom’s brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and even some neighbours are dancing on the last available piece of land in the neighbourhood. Had it been covered by a house already, the dancers would be on the streets. They are, but no vehicle or pedestrian is disturbed.

The way the Janti is dancing without the groom, I feel they are happier than the groom himself. They seem more excited than the groom. Why? I don’t know. If you analyse happiness, the remainder can not make you happy.

The Janti is tired but the groom has not come out. Questions are increasing: “Where is he? Isn’t this the time for Bariyat Prasthan (the beginning of the procession)? Why are they doing it late?”

Its midweek and not a public holiday. Most of the Janti will have to go to their jobs. They look at their wrist watch and then the people who are still dancing. They look at their wrist watch and then at the groom’s house.
Dad is not worried. “Have you taken a leave?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “You must attend your neighbours weddings. Janti is a proof that the groom’s family is not alone. The bride’s parents will feel secured that the neighborhood will support the groom’s family when they are in trouble and they also feel safe because there is a society that will secure the bride in case the groom’s family tries to hurt her.”

“That’s beautiful!” I exclaim. Before this, I thought wedding procession was just a medium to show off and that it was something that added woes to the bride’s parents. Sure, it increases their expenses but happiness and security are far greater than money.

And if groom and his family beat up the girl and neighbours interfere, they cannot say, “Get out off it. It’s our family matter.” The neighbours have the right to say, “You brought this girl here with promises of happiness in our presence. We are the witnesses of your oaths.”

***

The priests and the groom’s father put Teeka on each of Janti’s forehead including the musicians. The groom comes out. He is greeted with smiles, laughter and hootings. He then revolves clockwise round a decorated car, hired for the day, thrice. The musicians lead. A column of women carrying Kalash and other items follow. The groom’s car then sets off. The road gets blocked for a quarter of an hour. Other people who are passing by get irritated. Some don’t hesitate to curse!

A bus can easily come to the street but the groom’s family wants us to walk to the Chowk. We don’t mind. Elders say, “A Bariyat without a walk is boring.”

***

Wedding at the bride’s home or Tole (community) in Kathmandu is rare these days. Party palaces have the catering, ample space and wedding ground. They may be expensive, but are more convenient.

The bride’s family, relatives and neighbours (Ghargaule) greet the Janti. As I am distracted looking at the people, the groom disappers. About fifteen minutes later, I find him seated on a chair with the bride. The bride’s relatives are washing both of their feet. Her parents have done the “Kanyadan”, i.e. they have given their daughter to the groom.

Janti is sent to the “Dining Hall”. They gobble up food quickly. Those who have their office duties rush. Some people have taken, on their plates, more food than they can eat. People waste a lot of food in weddings. It’s beyond my understanding how they don’t know what and how much they want.

Ghargaunle eat next along with the bride and the groom. More food reaches the trash!

***

The sound of Panche Baja comes up again. Everyone rejoices. The use of Panche Baja in weddings has increased again in recent times. There was a time when playing folk Panche Baja was looked down upon. Band Baja (a Band with European instruments) was considered “modern” and better than the traditional folk music.

The dresses too have changed. I hear an elder saying, “When we were young, wearing Daura Suruwal meant you were going to be teased at. You would be a cartoon because no young people wore it. Time has changed. Young people have begun taking care of their culture again.”

Yes, young people don’t wear Daura Suruwal everyday but we have at least adopted it as a formal wear. I believe the youth of other religions and castes too are now taking care of their culture. I am not sure but I believe this is a result of the socio-political changes in this decade.

***

While the music has woken up people, the bride and the groom come to the Yagya. There are several rituals before and after the groom puts sindoor (vermillion) on the bride’s head. I don’t remember all. What I notice is that the bride is to the groom’s left in the beginning. At one point, I’m not sure when, the groom lifts the bride and puts her to his right. She will always be at her right in Yagyas since.
In Hindu tradition, before his marriage, a man conducts Yagyas all by himself. He alone makes all the things necessary. He alone pours ghee to the sacrificial fire. It’s the same for the girl. After the first Yagya with his wife, they’ll always perform the Yagya together. Both of them sacrifice their solitude in the fire and unite for life.
We have rituals that can go for hours.

Some people find these useless. I too thought so before I saw American weddings. Christians have short weddings. Father reads something and asks the man’s promise to take care of his wife. If he replies “Yes”, he asks the lady if she will take care of husband. If she too says yes, they become “Man and Wife”. Our Priests too read out something and asks for promises–all in Sanskrit. Most of us do not understand.

When the short wedding ends, bride and the groom play different games, sing and dance. Now, our rituals already have games like tug of war, gambling and so on. I feel its alright.

***

As the rituals are coming to an end, I see a plethora of emotions. The bride and her parents look sad, the groom and the Janti look happy. The Ghargaule are happy as well as sad. These play of emotions makes the wedding ceremony special.

The bride has lived her life with her parents until that day. After the ceremony ends, she will move to a new place, surrounded by new people. She is full of emotions. Sadness of leaving her parents, joy of ending society’s questions like “Why aren’t you married yet”, fear of not being accepted by her husband and his society. I am not a girl but I can feel her pain.

Parents are the saddest when their children leave them. I know this. I had a kitten. I loved her like a child. When she died, I could not control my emotions. Daughters are more than cats. Daughters are more livelier than sons. They laugh, dance and sing. They help parents in chores more than sons do. They heal their parents’ griefs more effectively than sons can. Without their daughter, her parents will lose the home she had created.

Relatives, neighbours, all cry. They have special bond with the girl. Friends cry seeing their friend in tears.

The groom and his family are happy because she will make a new home, similar to what she had built, in their house. Their happiness does not touch me much and despite being a Janti, I get emotional.

***

Sadness is not going to stop the custom. She must leave her parents. Before leaving, she cries and along with her cry all her family members, friends, relatives and neighbours. By the time she reaches at groom’s, she does not look too sad. Some brides cry for hours. She does not. The groom and the Janti have done a magic. May the charm stay forever!

Personal Achievements in 2074

Some months ago I had decided that at the end of the year 2074 B.S., I would make a list of some of the achievements I can boast upon. I discovered 8 points.

1. Edited and Published a College Journal

Publication of the Journal

On Falgun 2073, just before the end of the academic session, Prof. Dr Tara Nidhi Bhattarai had announced that the final year had to publish a scientific journal. I had been nominated the Editor-in-chief of the journal unanimously by my friends. I had added four friends and had completed the Editorial Board.

The real job began in 2074. After a week since the end of our final exams, I called for the articles via our Facebook group. By the end of the month, we had very few articles. I had to ask for them again with a stricter deadline.

The Editorial Board initially received 15-16 articles. We worked with what we had and then making sure that very few percentages of students had submitted, we asked again.

The other board members got extremely busy. I took the help of Grammarly to edit the grammar and spelling. It took more than a month to compile all the 29 articles. Then we had to prepare cover pages, and print the file out. We published Geology, Vol. 8 just before the Dashain. I was the happiest man that day because I had spent almost 5 months of my year for the

2. Photoshop Basics and Inkscape

The tools of Adobe Photoshop always scared me. Because of that, I could never go through its basics even though it was installed on my computer for years.

This year, a fortnight before the publication of the Geoworld Journal, I decided to learn GIS on my own. I downloaded QGIS and completed a tutorial I obtained at a website. After that, when I looked at Photoshop, it did not become as challenging as it used to be.

I learnt to select, crop, change image size, resolution, use brush, paint and so on. I never completed other tutorials on QGIS (must learn it completely by the end of 2075), but I learnt how to manipulate images and now I am able to use another application Inkscape to produce vector images. My current Gravatar is one of my earliest works on Inkscape.

3. Got the Bachelor’s Degree

A day before the publication of Geoworld, the results of the final year was published. And obviously, I got the Bachelor’s Degree. I took the certificates much later. I was happy but not as much as I wanted to be because I am not earning anything.

4. Gardening

In the month of Bhadau, I was writing a chapter for a novel. The garden in the setting was beautiful. Small trees lined it and beautiful flowers bloomed. As soon as I wrote that scene, I went up to our terrace and saw plants basking. The soil had dried and the plants did not look good. That day onwards, I made a routine of watering them every evening. It soon turned into a habit and now, whenever I don’t have to water them, I feel like I have missed something.

My parents, too, are happy that I have been at least watering plants every day. That their terrace garden is not dried up.

5. Learnt to ride two-wheelers

I had a fear of riding bikes. I still do. But I had to overcome my fear after Tihar (in November) to learn to ride motorbikes. It was extremely difficult and tiring in the first week. I was just catching up in the second week when the course ended. Nevertheless, I could ride a scooter. Riding a two-wheeler requires your mind working in several directions at a time. To bring balance to a vehicle that is clearly imbalanced was a difficult achievement.

6. Learnt a lot about life from a little kitten

Just at the end of the first week of my motorbike training, I found two kittens crying inside a drum under the stairs. The mother left the kittens and we adopted them. One month later, the male was taken by the mother. We see them running sometimes on the terraces of our neighbours.

The female, however, refused to go with the mother cat and stayed with us. She was growing well and just as we thought everything was fine, she went downstairs and got caught by dogs.

Her life and the grief she gave me at death made me understand that nature and life were cruel. I also learnt a great deal about cats and other animals, their behaviours and the problems they face because of us.

7. Tribhuvan University (TU)

The day I went the Office of the Controller of the Examinations (OCE) was the day I stepped into the TU premises for the first time. It was quite depressing because of the unmanaged system and earthquake-affected buildings.

However, when I entered the Tribhuvan University Campus area, I felt a magical calmness in the surrounding. It was so influential that I forgot the chaos of the world outside.

Last week, I got admitted for the M.Sc. The classes will begin from the second week of the New Year.

8. Quora

Quora happened to me all through the year 2074. In Baishakh, after the final exams, I got back to the website because of some of my friend’s posts on Facebook. I realized that I had answered a few questions in the past and they were still generating some views. So, I got excited and began answering questions on Geology and Nepal.

On the second week of March, I was provided a “Top Writer 2018” badge. I have about 300 followers and my answers don’t have much views compared to so many popular users but obtaining the badge felt great. I reserved the celebration for New Year, though!

Who teaches her?

I am astounded every time I look at her. She moves with grace and agility, plays with the table tennis ball as she should play with a mouse (and like a pro footballer), and jumps like an athlete. She grabs a piece of rag and drags it around. She smells the ground and discovers every corner of the house. She covers up her liquid and solid excreta. When she is hungry, she looks up, her eyebrows narrow, and cries, “Myau Myau”. Except during such hunger and times she’s irritated, this little tabby kitten understands the instructions we give her. Who teaches her to do all these things she does?

IMG_20171228_150218.jpg
Billy on the stack of chairs

I met her first the first time in November with her twin. Their mother had left them after keeping them in a drum under the stairs. They were crying. We waited for their mother’s return but that cat did not return. We kept them in a box and started feeding them with milk in a bottle. The nutrition in the dairy milk we get is non-existent. The twins survived but were malnourished. We named them Lily and Billy.

Even when they were malnourished, Billy was the smarter among the two. She had figured out how to jump out of the box, how to play with her sibling and how to irritate her. Life was going on pretty good for them until two weeks later when their mother came back with two other kittens. Would she recognize and accept Lily and Billy and take them away? We thought it would be good if she did and at that, we made the mistake we should never have.

We showed the cat Lily and Billy on our roof. They were smaller than the other kittens she had brought but she seemed to recognize them from their scent. She wanted to take Billy first but the kitten was too stubborn and reluctant. She did not let the cat carry her. Lily too resisted but she was not as smart as her twin. The cat caught her scruff and took her away.

IMG_1313.JPG
Lily and Billy the day before they were separated

The mother cat came back again. We decided to give up Billy as well. We did not know whether Lily-Billy could survive. Even if they died, it would be nice if they died together, we thought. After an effort of more than half an hour, the cat took Billy away. A little farther, she could not carry Billy. She was still struggling to get away. The cat tried her best to take her away but when she could not, left her. Billy cried alone on that balcony for more than an hour in front of our sight before we decided we would now adopt her as long as she wants to stay with us.

Meanwhile, the cat took away the fourth kitten and never returned for the kitten. She came back a few times to steal milk and we haven’t seen her for more than a fortnight now.

Now Billy is with us on her own. And she has learnt everything her instinct allows her. When she was with her twin, we thought they learnt together but even when this tabby is alone, she has learnt everything on her own. Who teaches her? I tried to know the answer. I discussed with my parents and my sister.

Does Nature teach her? How, though? Could Billy’s genes have carried her natural instincts and behaviours? Does the DNA carry all the things she needs for survival?

It’s strange to note that humans have very few individual survival instincts. We are not as agile as the cat, we don’t have the physical strength they have. We don’t even cover up our excreta as a natural instinct. It’s a learned social behaviour. Why does a cat have more survival instincts and more unique natural behaviours than a human? Aren’t we vain in saying that we are the smartest or the most intelligent creature on the planet? I have seen the kitten picking up our language before we picked up hers. How are we the only sapient beings? And finally, I came to the question that has intrigued people for ages: why are we here thriving (not just surviving) against all odds?

Humans are physically weak. We don’t have strong legs like that of the felines and canines. We don’t have strong teeth and claws to hunt. We don’t have a thick hide to protect us from cold. We don’t even have furs. The only strength we have is our large head (more than 2 kgs), which is also an evolutionary liability.

Yet, it is in our head the brain lies and it has the ability to analyze the world like no other creature in the world. We are the only creatures that can understand the secret of this world and that of the universe. Only we can alter our natural instinct of fear to compassion.

Are we really thriving to understand the real secrets of our lives, how we originated and to care for the lives around us, to coexist with every living being in harmony? Eastern philosophers and poets of my own country have answered “Yes” to the question.

But is there any force or energy that compels us to survive, to contemplate and to understand? Why is the Nature the way it is? Why is the cat the way she is? What is the source of the chaotic order that rules the Earth? I have come to believe in the existence of that energy that has created this chaotic order. I have now come to believe this energy is the God–the Creator, the Caretaker and the Destroyer.

In these two months, the cats have taught me a lot of things about life and the way we behave and feel. And we can’t always control everything that happens. We make mistakes we can’t amend. We don’t know what happened to Lily but Billy continues to grow and to impress. She is here in my house with a purpose–to teach me about other living beings, including humans.

When Quora Users Gathered in Kathmandu

On July 22, 2017, Quora users of Nepal met for the first time at Taragaon Museum. John Shrestha (Yaatri) and Swapna Bizness had organized the programme on a very short prior notice via Quora and Facebook.

Participants of the 1st Quora Meetup

Until I reached Taragaon Museum that day and met Mahesh and John, I was dubious there was any programme. During the introduction session that day, John said how he conceived the idea for a Meetup in Nepal.

One day, he stumbled upon an answer in Quora which described a Meetup in a city of India. John was baffled. “Can we organize such a programme in Nepal?” He thought and found out how he could gather people.

“We had not expected more than eight participants,” he said. “But the overwhelming number of people interested in the event stumped me.” The number of interested people had reached over 200 within the few hours. It was unexpected because the number of active Quora users was very few. Probably, the phrase “first ever” had attracted people.

“I had thought of calling some people to a public park like Ratna Park but for 200 people, it would not work. The 1st Quora Meetup had to be exciting.” 

He sought for sponsors, found Swapna Bizness. He looked for an interesting place and found Taragaon Museum. It is an art museum ran by Taragaon Hotel (Hyatt Regency). Despite that many interested people, only 39 gathered. John was relieved.

That day, all of them were strangers to me but strangely, everyone seemed familiar. We immediately bonded. That was the first time I had such an experience.

I was waiting for another Meetup to occur soon and the date had been decided but was cancelled because Quora announced the first ever official Quora World Meetup. 

So, on November 11, 2017, the first Quora World Meetup was held in King’s College, Kathmandu. The original location was the Taragaon Museum but unfortunately it had been booked.

It took me no time to find King’s College. I could see it in front of my eyes, but the road I took never ended. I was walking along the left bank of Dhobi Khola. I had to return back, cross the bridge at Bijulibazaar and take the road on the right bank. I nearly missed the introduction session.

The second session was the Question/Answer session that was in spirit of Quora. Some of the questions were:

1. Who was the most influential teacher in your school?

2. What incident in life has affected you the most?

3. Do you think we dream what we desire? (The discussion for this went for almost an hour. There were many different perspectives and knowledge. I learnt for the first time that dream interpretations were subjective.)

After a short break, the programme recommenced. During the break, I saw that Quorans have mutual respect for each other and yeah, Sulav Karki, who answers a lot of questions about Nepal is largely popular. 

The final session included debates on two subjects:

1. Should Kathmandu still remain the capital of Nepal?

2. Should Diversity Visa (DV) be stopped for Nepal?

Two groups were divided. We had a fewer number of people in our group but luck favoured us on both occasions as we won the toss and got to choose. We chose to support Kathmandu being the capital in the former and DV should be stopped.

Discussion before the debate

In the first debate, when Sulav presented the points for Kathmandu remaining the capital of Nepal, Sushovan remarked, “Ten wickets in the power play.” Meaning, we had won the debate because they could not be negated by the opposition. And they really could not.

Sulav presenting the points we discussed for the first debate. Noticed the smiles?

The second debate was more balanced. Several interesting points came up. It also took us to another question: Which is more important–an individual or his nationality? 

At the end, there were no personal grudges, no fights, no accusations. The debate session ended as it should have. The Quora users of Nepal surprised me once again.

Participants of the 1st Official Quora World Meetup in Kathmandu.

When I died

I had been sick for some time. My parents, wife and children were sitting around me with grim faces. I had already lived more than twenty five years of my years and I felt like I was going to die. However, I did not want to die young. So I remembered my parents, my wife, my children and everyone who had been dear to me. All of a sudden, I lost consciousness. I stopped remembering anything.

When I regained consciousness, a man dressed in black was standing before me. He had a pale face with a big mustache and huge beard. His eyes were hollow. He looked at me as if he was disgusted with me. He produced a whip from the thin air and lashed hard at me. Before I could cry, the whip had tightened around my throat. I struggled but in vain. He was too strong.

He rose above in the air and I was dragged behind him. I tried to free myself again but I feared that I would fall down. He dragged me up to the clouds. He stopped and looked at me with disdain. He said, “Do you want to see your world before I take you to mine?” His voice was deep and sounded like he was speaking through a hollow bamboo. That moment I knew that he was death. I nodded slowly in affirmation to his question. He then told me to look down and that I did.

The world looked tiny from that height but Death mystically zoomed it for me. He said, “Look at your family for the last time.” And my children were in front of my eyes.

They were crying. My body lay amongst them. I called them out. But they could not listen to me. I tried to touch them but could not. I could do nothing to console them. Sometimes later, they carried my body to the crematorium and it was cremated. The existence of my body had come to an end.

Death did something and the time ran pretty quickly. My family was not sad. My children were playing. My wife looked a little weak but she was smiling. “They have learnt to live without you now,” Death said. He then showed me images from all around the world. Poor and rich, happy and sad, stupids and geniuses, religious and non-religious, rulers and the ruled, he showed me all sorts of people. “Why do you think I showed you all these?”

I noticed that the whip had gone away from my throat but still I could not speak. He said, “Everyone I have showed you and every life in this world, everything in this universe will die one day. They can’t escape death.”

“You know you must die. Yet you are scared of Death. You never lived life to their fullest because of the fear. You were also more concerned about afterlife than the life you lived. You donated to the poor to make your afterlife better, so that you can rest in heaven and avoid hell after death. That was very selfish of you. You followed religions in the hope that the door to the heaven will be opened. You looked after your parents because the scriptures said you will be in heaven after your death.

“You have not done anything that will make other people’s lives better. Give to the poor to see their smiles. Take care of your parents with all your heart. Start thinking that good things you do will make someone happy, that those acts will create heaven in your life. Stop thinking that your good deeds will land you to heaven only after your death. Stop fearing hell. Understand that your bad deeds will create hell around you. You don’t need to die to see the hell. Stop fearing death. Death will come to you for sure.”

I opened my eyes. The sun had risen up high. I was neither sick, nor dead. I recalled everything the man in black robes said in the dream. I smiled, got off from my bed and went to meet my life. It was grinning ear to ear.

बहत्तर सालको भुकम्प

गड्गड गड्गड गड्गडाउँदै

थर्थर थर्थर थर्थराउँदै

घरगोठ ढाल्दै, मान्छे मार्दै

मनहरूलाई कायल पार्दै

आयो

भोकमाथि शोक थपेर

शोकमाथि शोक थपेर
त्यो आएको दुई पल

कालको भोज थियो

प्रत्येक निमेषमा ऊ

अघाएको थियो

हरेकले उसलाई आँखाअघि

देखेको थियो

मान्छे कति निर्बल छ भन्दै

खित्का छाडेर हासेको थियो
पहाड बगे, फाँट फुटे

मन फाटे, आँसु बगे

उसले दिएको पीडाले

सबै निराश भए
भत्किए संरचना, भत्किए मन

राज्य निरीह देखियो

योजना लागू भएनन् 

एक जोडी कलाकारले

दिनरात जोडे केही मन

मनहरू बन्न अझै बाँकी नै छ

घरहरू बन्न अझै बाँकी नै छ

शिर सगरमाथाझैँ हुन अझै बाँकी छ

The Mathematics of Love and Depression

Love: exciting, interesting. Synonymous to happiness. A feeling everyone wants to embrace.

Depression: dull, gloomy. Antonymous to happiness. A feeling everyone wants to aver.
How are they related? I’ll try doing so using three expressions.

1. Love = Depression

Presenting love and lost love as a cause of depression is popular in literature, movies and music. Is love really a cause of depression?
About three months ago, I read ‘Monsoon’ by Subin Bhattarai. In the novel, Subhan falls in love with Monsoon and falls into depression (twice) when she goes away from her. Lost love is a cause of depression in the novel.
I remember reading Chetan Bhagat’s “2 States” about two years ago. The male character, Krish falls into depression when his lover Ananya leaves him. A depressed character, whose girlfriend has left him, also appears in Bhagat’s another novel “Revolution 2020”.
“Ghumti ma na aau hai” is a popular Nepali song from the movie “Kumari”. It is a song sung by a boy who is in love with a girl who had been made Kumari (living goddess) but can not express his feelings because of the society. He asks her not to come to meet him as they might be bound by ties of love and they may have to cry alone when separated.
A lot of people write poems (Ghazals, Muktaks, etc.) mostly saying that love is something that gives tears. They say, “If you can, avoid loving anyone.”

With this we come to our second expression:

2. Love < Depression

When depression takes over someone, love dies slowly. The feeling of “one-sided love” may not die. People may not be able to forget their lovers who left them. But should love be restricted between two people?

Movies and literature have popularized the concept of love between two people, mostly a young man and a young woman. And that’s where the problem arises. Two people think they are the only people who love each other. That’s why when one leaves, the other feels that love has ended.
Whenever love ends, depression overcomes.

Subhan in ‘Monsoon’ has a family and decent friends. When Monsoon leaves, he is depressed. He detaches himself from his family and friends. He does not talk to his parents, and not even to his grandfather with him he is closer. He is not happy with his friends.
In his depression, he kills his love towards his friends and family.

Now, it’s time I discuss the third expression.

3. Love > Depression

Can love overcome depression?
I believe that only love can overcome depression. If you understand that there are a lot of people who love you, depression can be overcome. Sometimes the love of a single person can make a difference. (Euta manchhe ko mayale kati farak pardachha jindagima.)

When Subhan’s grandfather and friends realize that he is depressed the first time, they pull him out of his dark shell. It takes long, but he is able to overcome depression. And this is the only portion I liked about the novel.

“Love all, serve all,” is one thing preached by Eastern philosophers. I believe it is the key to happiness.