Poems · Volunteering Diaries

Run.

On 12th November 2017, I was in Hetauda for the mid-phase review. There was excitement in the air. Everyone was going to meet everyone and share stories. We had access to cafes and wi-fi for 3 whole days. We had a soft bed to sleep in and warm showers. I should have been happy but I was not. The second day hit me like a wild-fire and the anxiety and un-certainty about the future creeped in. It is still there. I don’t know if it will ever go away. The fear of the un-known and a million questions that start with, “What if?” What if I always feel like this? What if it never stops?

 

And your body just goes limp

when you look into the future

because there is nothing that you can see

that fits that clicks that smiles and winks

And all you see is pitfalls

darkness engulfing,

fires rising, dividing your heart,

And you ask her ‘Why?’

Why can’t you choose or compromise?

Why can’t you stay and be content?

Why do you have to wander and search?

What are you searching for?

Until she crumbles into pieces,

cries,

shouts,

and answers back in raging sadness

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

And your body goes limp again.

Your throat is dry now

there’s a little lump in it you cannot swallow

there’s bitterness to it

And your brain knows they are the fears and inhibitions seeking shelter

They are refugees fleeing away from the battleground

Hiding from barrels of guns

They are prisoners of war,

PTSD injected into them,

They need help or they’ll burst into anxiety bombs

destroying your Hiroshima body

And you will go numb again

You will go limp again

And while you are un-crumbling your dying heart

While you are picking pieces of yourself scattered in the ground

Jolts of sadness keep engulfing your soul

Pathetic but you feel apathy to everything around you

And it is a lie,

You do not want to be this person

You do not want to run away

But you always find a reason

Run until you are far away from home

Or the idea of home

Run.

Until you stop breathing

Stop thinking

STOP THINKING.

 

(The picture is sketched by my friend Christina. She’s amazing!)

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Odes to people I know and don't know · Poems · Volunteering Diaries

Monkey Nose

This was our first prompt. On 17th November, right after the phase review we decided to have daily poetry prompts. There was going to be a training session on Natural Resource Management and Climate Change. The villagers were gathering and we were waiting for the trainer to arrive. I had an amazing time at the phase review but the fact that there was internet made me anxious. I felt like every one of my friends were moving on and I was stuck somewhere I wasn’t even needed. They had new dreams now. They had new stories to tell and I was not part of it. It was selfish of me to think like that but I still did. Human minds!

This prompt came about when we made two of the volunteers say a word. One said “Monkey!” and the other said, “Nose!” I had no intention of making up the poem the way it is. The major difference I found while writing it was that I was not scared of any judgment because it was merely in the paper. And I had so much freedom in the paper, in the middle of nowhere that I was. I felt like I could write anything I wanted to write. I have never felt that kind of independence before.

Words have magic in them. The way they stir your memories like ashes in fire. And I remembered her getting in the micro-bus everyday in front of my school.

 

She was an epitome of beauty,

Her eyes stared into your very soul

The soft curves of her body

Walked fearlessly in days that needed her to be fearless

Walked home in the rain

In days that she needed to wash away her pain

 

She was an epitome of beauty

Except in the mirrors that she looked into

They told her a different story

To her,  they were less kind

More rude, cruel, angry

They sang the songs of crooked eyes,

Exhausted tired face

They sang the songs of imperfection

How her nose looked inhumane,

Acidic.

 

They called her “monkey nose”

Her mirrors were not mirrors

They were the world staring at her

While she walked fearlessly

Fighting for her rights,

For her freedom

When people who were scared of her blissful soul

Sprinkled showers of sulphuric acid

Raining down

Her skin screamed and melted into the ground.

“Monkey nosed” they still called her

Her mirrors.

But she never believed them.

Letters and Letters · Places · Stories · The Paths Travelled · Uncategorized · Volunteering Diaries

A Plan at Action

This year I volunteered for 6 months in ICS program for Raleigh International Nepal. I went on from being In-Country Volunteer (ICV) to In-Country Team Leader (ICTL). Both my experiences were vastly different from each other but in them I found people who profoundly influenced me and gave me so much warmth and love. I learned about rural Nepal that was hidden from me by rings of hills I was surrounded with. I learned so much about the people of my own country who toiled all day long and were still so happy and kind. I learned about people of the UK with different cultural values but similar souls.

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This is how it started!! Prats and I were put into different teams.

There are a lot of things to share: mountains of triumphs, valleys of despair, barriers and confusions, self-awareness, DMCs underneath the stars, art of eating porridge, saga of a broken kettle, 9 and 27, firefly in the millet fields and in the room, goals in a purse, mentorship and sisterhood, open kimonos, doctor with a camera, sound of goats and chickens,  5 AM demands, spider webs, long walk uphill, silence in the bridge, pink clouds, schizophrenia and parallel universe, the laws of attraction, cultural history and many many more. There are a lot of things to think about too: the future, universities to apply and get in, courses to take,  places to travel. I don’t know how to fit all these things in 24 hour-ed days where half of the time, I stare at the wall and miss all the treasures I’ve lost and rivers I’ve seen. I feel overwhelmed and restless. So I keep pacing in the corridor avoiding my cold room.

However, today I am following the doctor (with a camera)’s advice. In his own words he said, “go back to the reality of the experience. Sometimes, we need to see experience in its objective form to understand it. Write about the simple experiences, the simple moments of belonging and being which we all felt. Keep it simple! The pebbles under your feet, the sun in your eyes, the green fields and cable lines winding their way out of view like thoughts and ideas we can never possess.”

I am starting with the crazy poetry prompts Francis and I used to come up with during the placement. She is 18 years old with a beautiful heart. Emotional and dreamy, I found a little sister in her. Our prompts consisted of random words ( the first one was: Monkey Nose) and we tried to make sense out of them in the random world of Golping where haunted places and haunted stories ruled the minds of people who were haunted by obscure life. Francis’s words flowed and with her beautiful accent and voice, she could make the images dance in cold evenings. I miss her! She’ll have her own blog soon along with Hannah (the funniest and the coolest 18 year old I’ve met). And hopefully, they’ll share their own stories and poems with you.

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With Hannah and Francis

So from today, I’ll be posting  those prompts and poems and small stories behind them just to make a sense to myself about where I was and where I am. It will be my tiny project along with all the bigger projects I still have to plan and accomplish.

Stay tuned! 

-Vi

Places · The Paths Travelled · Volunteering Diaries

The Struggles of ICS Journey

 

We often choose to forget the struggles we face during our journeys once we have reached our destination because those struggles remind us how feeble we were at that point and how we were close to breaking down or broken down already in pieces we would never imagine we had. We often only remember the triumphs we had after we overcame them. The rush of endorphin, dopamine and serotonin climb up making us feel like we are invincible superheroes. However, imagine a world where superheroes were just superheroes who won their battles and had no stories of loss or failure. Imagine a world where they were only triumphant and successful. Imagine a world without the downfalls and dilemma. What kind of world would be built if struggles were entrapped, encaged and thrown in the attic as useless piece of machinery? Would we still be left behind with same joy of success? Most probably not. And ICS experience comes along with the struggles that put you into strangest situations: situations that you never thought you would come across in life.

First, the commitment of three months for volunteering is extreme. In a place like Nepal, where people are not even sure about this concept, ICVs and ICTLs like us find it very difficult to get it across the family. ‘Of course, it is a great learning experience’, they say happily going about in their daily lives but then they also ask, ‘but so is the job you can get from 9 to 5 in so and so bank or lab or school, that is a great experience too, is it not?’ The generation gap between working full time continuously for years to raise a family and the era of finding a purpose in unconventional passion or experience has given rise to tectonic plates in the family life that often shakes and vibrates during discussions, gatherings and parties.

Second, the experience of being an ICS volunteer is rewarding but it is not necessarily easy. We go through the hills of happiness and valleys of despair and sometimes we are stuck in the middle. There are many things to deal with that have nothing to do with changing the world. Sometimes you must wait for hours for people to show up in meetings. There are times when they never show up and you go back full of frustrations because you had worked hard to plan the event.

Third, the views are breathtaking from the villages but sadly some days go by without appreciating them because you are dead tired and ready to crash in the bed. However, the work is never over here even at the end of the day because there’ll be people knocking on your doors in the stark dark evenings and mornings asking about something or the other. You will sometimes pray for privacy to the gods that you believe in; pray for the silence in the mornings and sleep without the radio blasting at about 4 am. And the greatest thing that you will experience is no matter how hard you try to make a river out of people, some are strictly constricted to be just a bowl of water and they do not try to expand themselves and you have no power to change it. ‘Challenge yourself to change your world’ begins to have an existential crisis at some point because your world now is a top of the hill where the demands are high, and supply is low. That’s when you have to rescue yourself and take a breather. Run uphill until your lungs burst and contemplate what your definition of change is.

Change takes time. In a country where development has always progressed at a slow rate and tired, retired hopes, dreams and failures of ancestors have accumulated over years, change will not easily crack the back and relieve the people who live here. We live in the age of frustrated shoulder pains and back aches. And we will continue to live like that for years to come. But it does not mean that we are not trying to massage the pain away. Painlessness comes from accepting the pain first. Before we sow the seeds of change and development, we must accept that it will take a lag phase first and then we can expect it to take a log phase just like how bacteria grow. We need to change the way we look at development. Constructing a polytunnel or a trench or a reservoir will not necessarily mean that we have developed a village. Yes, it will be a start. But what if we cannot build anything? We build relationships. We make people capable of developing their own village themselves. That’s where sustainability comes from. And that is difficult to achieve too. However, it is not impossible. Nothing is.

 

Letters and Letters · Places · The Paths Travelled · Volunteering Diaries

Learn. Unlearn. Repeat.

Dear Lieblingsmenschen,

It has just been a week that I got back home. And as soon as I put down my bags and looked around the room, I understood that home held an entirely new meaning. Do not get me wrong. I still love my bed and my room. My study table and yellow daisies above it are still the places where my soul wanders. Nothing has changed but the feeling of home. I am home and I am home-sick.

I remember writing about this in my journal (which has been confiscated by a Pride and Prejudice loving freak) few weeks ago when I was still in the village. I wrote how “I” was home. I felt like I could be my own home and that way I could never ever be home-sick. It turns out that it is kind of hard to knock on my doors to let me in sometimes. I keep losing my key! And it is not a bad thing. At least, I know I have lost my key. Anyway, this letter is not about that. I will find home again. This time at a new place with new people. I will survive.

Survival is the key word here. In past two months, I’ve learned that you can learn anything if you have to learn it. I’ve learned to survive. I’ve learned to push myself so hard because there was nobody else to do that for me. I’ve learned to be brave enough to smile even when I wanted to cry. I’ve learned that love flies like soul and touches the clouds around you. And even when those clouds burst out storming water and thunder, it is okay to be outside smelling the earth. And rocks crumble like sugar but they also rip your trousers if you slide in them for too long. I’ve learned that under the river there’s something more than sand and rocks because why would I still feel them underneath my feet after all these days that I’ve been away from it? I’ve learned to stay in the ground even when my pride flees in the jungle of praises. I’ve learned life in ways that I never could learn before.

In contrast, I’ve unlearned things too. I think I forgot how to stay. And I’ve found new ways to escape. Remember how I used to run off into fantasies and have my mind in the clouds all the time? I still do that. However, the clouds are new and real. They are so approachable that I can taste them and hug them. I can be among them. I am on the edge of something and I can either fall or fly. I do not know which will be true. If I fall I get to be on a rock bottom where I can build a new foundation. But I am scared what life will mean when I am there. Will I still be this positive? Will I still have the strength to stand up? Or will I wither away like leaves in autumn?

All these questions lead me to the fact that I am still unknown to far too many things. For instance, I do not know how strong I am. I do not know how to say no; how not to be too generous. I still cannot control my tears. I wonder if I will ever learn to do that. But then I know that I don’t know all these things. Yusra used to demonstrate how we don’t even know what we don’t know. She tells it in a better way. Someday I’ll ask her to make an inspirational video out of it.

And then there are things that haven’t changed. I am still a worrier gently trying to fold into worrying warrior. Trying without succeeding. I aim to change in this cycle by trying to let the air into my lungs until it displaces the worry which, leads me to the information that I will be leaving again. Very soon. In another village. And I do not know how it will be like. It will be much different and more challenging because this time I am going as a Team Leader. That would mean a lot of responsibility, patience and resilience. I am still to conquer all those things. However, I know that nobody is born a leader, they become one. So I am going to try to be a good one.  Wish me luck!

Until then!

P.S. I promise I will try to sneak in more blog posts. Please don’t give up on me!!

Places · The Paths Travelled

Glance of our home away from home: Meet our family!

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Our Family!!

Home was a family.  We were a family of ten. A mom and a dad. Six sisters. And two of us. Yusra and I. Our family woke up early. As soon as the sun touched the sky, we heard Aama and buwa’s phone conversation. Buwa works in Gorkha and Aama calls him every morning. Most mornings, I sat down in a muda overlooking floating clouds and green leafy hills with my silver diary in which, I wrote pages and pages of memories. Kalpana is same as my age and is the eldest daughter who sings in the voice of an angel. Samjhana is married and has a son. She visits regularly. Sabina is Yusra’s Taekwondo guru as Yusra is her Yoga guru. In evenings, they practiced their yoga and Taekwondo. Sajina is a genius and she is an amazing dancer too.  Kareena is a star and does amazing splits. She also never stops talking. In the last few days, she would not leave me alone in the room. She insisted on watching me sleep and I let her.  Kabina is the youngest. She is our tinker bell. She danced and she sang with her little lips curled up in a smile so endearing that we fell in love with her every day.

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Kareena the star!
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Sajina the Genius
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Kabina the Tinkerbell

Ours was a pastel pink house on top of the hill. The window of our room faced the maize field and the dried leaves rustled every time breeze touched them. It felt like music. The attic was house to magic: Dry garlic and dry corn lined up in rows and columns. I never found spaces to walk across it, so I walked barefoot on piles of stalks that felt like uncomfortable roller-skates. At night, stars appeared and we hugged them from afar noticing how close they were and how beautiful than the stars back in the city. Sometimes, there would be fireflies in our room and it looked like moving stars. It was delightful to see stars fly in the room like that. I felt blessed every day.

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Our Pastel Pink Paradise.
Places · Poems · Stories · The Paths Travelled

Cravings

I crave the river bank

where lying upside down

I forgot my doubts and fears

grasses smelled of rain

and so did the mud

but they were always quite about it,

like

sophisticated angel eyed butterflies

that flew, flew, flew

befriending dragonflies that had rainbow hues

in their wings

as they went up, up, up

around a farm with pearl teethed buffalo

who lost her pearls

but still gave milk,

still chewed the dried maize plants,

still breathed out aggressive carbon dioxide

as she saw us climbing down a small narrow path

where the pink pastel house waited

like

a tree that waits for her birds to show up at night

I crave the river

under the bridge

that brought clouds right next to my nose

making me sneeze but smile

I was one among the clouds

and I had no full stops

only semi colons

of days that went

by bye bye

in blink of an eye

there was a hill with two rainbows,

one moon and one woman

who had lived a drought in a forest with no water

she was washed into a village

with no blue water bins and

 she talked, talked, talked

but did nothing to change the dresses

that marked the up and down

of that village and town

I crave the banana groves

gated greens of mulberry trees,

a mustache man with strong hands

whistling tunes into basuri

and his family in the rice fields

digging beneath the earthy soil

growing soul in rocky hills

DMCs in a room with fireflies

tinkerbell’s knock, knock, knock

and smile that opened all the locks

windows facing happiness

night prowl of brown-white cat

gazing stars and planets

that blinked, blinked, blinked

stretching in a yoga mat

I crave all those things

that made me breathe the misty mists

I believed in the mysteries

the calling of never-ending melody

and I crave all those things