My response to the year as a whole

Our academic year is coming to its end. Throughout the year we have read many articles, fiction and non-fiction journals, plays, and poems. All of them were really fascinating as our teacher has chosen them very carefully for us. We did various activities like plays, gender bending day, mixed group discussions, writing blogs and so on. Basically, our readings were based on different themes such as gender, religion, family, dreams, hopes, imaginations and so on.

I learned a lot this whole year. Among all the themes, gender was the one that I enjoyed the most. Under that theme, I learned the things I had known in the past but not have realized it carefully. Now that I have learned a lot about it, I can see the clear discrimination among male and female in the society. In the past I just had accepted the rules and followed them as the society wants. However, now I am able to question the conventional rules and regulations that the society imposes on us for being a woman. Furthermore, our critical thinking practices have also helped us to analyze the matters carefully and think it through all the aspects as much as possible.

Overall, the theme of gender was applied to all the readings that we did this year. We started the course learning about this topic and ended the course learning more about this topic. Most of the readings and novels associated with the class throughout the year were somehow explaining the gender roles in the society and depicting the gender discrimination in our society. I also got to apply the things that I have learned in this class in other classes, especially about gender issues.

To sum up, the academic reading and writing class was very interesting and informative. I learned many new things about anthropology, gender, sociology, politics, and history. The most important of all of these is that I started noticing things such as gender discrimination, parents’ love towards their children, importance of family, and variations in our cultures in the society that have existed in this world but was not much noticed. I also realized that the small things we learn in every moments of our life make a big difference. Heartily thanks to our respected teacher for teaching us such great lessons which we would remember throughout our life.

Digya Shrestha

Gender discrimination in religion

While discussing about “Narrating Location: Space, Age and Gender among Bengali Elders in East London” by Katy Gardner in class, we talked about the space in Mosques for women in Muslim community. I wonder about why women are not allowed in Mosques or why there is separate section for women or men. We talked about different reasons such as because of menstruation cycle, because of household chores, because it is comfortable for women to pray in their house and so on. No matter what the reason is women have been and are always discriminated against men in every aspect. Though, today, the level of discrimination has reduced, in some cases such as in religious purposes they are still highly discriminated.

In our Hindu religion, women have high position in religious matters. There are many female goddesses who are considered superior than male gods. Furthermore, in Nepalese culture, we have a living goddess called Kumari. She is a small child and is worshiped as goddess until her menstruation cycle starts. When the cycle starts, the goddess in replaced by another child. From the history, Nepalese people have been worshiping her as Goddess. Moreover, there are no such restrictions for women to go temples. In fact, the number of women going temple to worship god is more than the number of men in our community. However, despite the fact that women are worshiped as goddesses, they are still discriminated against men. Similarly to Muslim religion, women are not allowed to go temples and pray during their menstruation cycle. They are considered impure during this period and are refrained from any kind of religious events. In Nepal, there are few temples where women cannot go to worship after their menstruation cycle starts. Although a female goddess is worshiped in those temples, women whose menstruation cycle has started cannot enter the temple. Moreover, until now I have not seen or heard about of any women priests in any temples.

Therefore, not only in Muslim community, women are discriminated against in Hindu community as well. The reasons may be the same or different but they are discriminated. Thus, women have to aware of this discrimination and have to stand up for their rights by their own.

Digya Shrestha

Symbolism of food

In the article “Symbolic Systems and Meanings,” we learnt about the symbols of different things in different cultures. As culture varies from one another, the symbol of same things varies as well. We learnt about the symbolism of food, symbolic and social meaning of space, and the symbols of politics and authority in various cultures.

In the article, it is said that the consumption of food is determined by the culture. In our culture, food plays an important role. The way we eat, we serve and the food itself has its own significance. Especially in Newari culture, which I belong to, each festival contains its own food items. The food items symbolize the festival; for instance, a food called Quati, made of different types of beans, symbolizes the festival Janai Purnima. Moreover, the food cooked in festivals, in rituals, during mourning and in usual days represents their meaning and significance. In addition, the way of eating together, as described in the article, symbolizes the unity of the family. However, in my family, the person who cooks is the one who eats at last when everybody else is finished. When guests are invited, the children and the male people eat first. Then, the female guests are served followed by the other female members. I have a small family. The eldest member of my family is my grandfather, and he usually eats first. It symbolizes our respect towards our elders and guests. Furthermore, often we eat sitting on the dining table, but in festivals we eat sitting on the floor, especially during Dahsain and Tihar. While serving food, we serve the food items in different plates and bowls made of leaf. The plate made of leaf symbolizes purity and is considered the purest one to eat. Similarly in some homes, leaf of banana tree is used while eating during festivals. Similarly, in our culture food is also the symbol of God. We worship food, especially rice during the festivals. That is why, throwing and wasting food is considered to be immoral.

While the culture of eating and serving food may differ from one culture to another culture, these small symbols of practicing things adds significance in all culture. Every culture has its own importance. We should follow and respect our culture while at the same time should not undermine other’s culture. In fact, we must respect them as much as we do ours because their culture is also the part of human culture.

Digya Shrestha

Manners

“The Anthropology of Manners” by Edward T. Hall, a renowned anthropologist, is an interesting and meaningful article. He has clearly explained the variations of manners in different cultures and how it plays an important role in creating misunderstanding between the people from different cultural background.

In the article, Hall describes about the different way of serving food in different cultures. For instance, in Arab the person being served has to refuse the offered food many times while the serving person has prompt to take more again and again. Similarly, in American culture the person being served is only asked once and if he or she says no, they are not asked again and again. Due to this, according to the Hill, American people end up eating more in Arabian community and Arabian people end up starving in
American community (252). Furthermore, sometimes it can also be a serious issue of disrespect.

While reading the article, I remembered about the discussion I had with my family when one of my best friend was invited to have lunch in my house. My parents have always taught me to stay quite while eating. Furthermore, we are not supposed to get up early after finishing our meal, if any other person is eating with us. They say that it is the matter of respecting the person who is having meal with you. Once, one of my friends was invited to have dinner in my house. She did not know about this and she got up early after finishing her meal while my grandfather and my brother had not finished their meal. She was not aware of how offensive it was.  After she left, my grandfather criticized her saying that she did not have good manners, so do not spend time with her. At that time, I had a serious argument with my grandfather. From that day, whenever any of my friends come to my house, I say them earlier to wait until everyone finishes their meal.

Thus, the way of practicing things varies from one culture to another culture. Not being aware of these things can sometimes have bad effect on people. However, it is not always possible to know everyone’s way of practicing things until we spend time in their environment. Thus, sometimes we should be lenient in this matter.

Digya Shrestha

Was Willy really a coward?

“Death of the Salesman” by Arthur Miller is really a heart touching play that describes the traumatic situation of a salesman named Willy Loman while struggling to fulfill his family’s needs during the great depression in America. The author has successfully described how the economic condition of the people declined during the depression. In the play, Willy Loman endeavors hard to earn for his family and fulfill their dreams until the end of his life.

 

While discussing about the play in the class, some of my classmates referred Willy Loman as insane and coward person. According to them, he did not have enough courage to fight for his rights and overcome his problems. However, I believe that he was really a strong person. He tried his best to solve his problem. Till the end, he was planting the new seeds in his backyard as new hopes which show that he never lost his hope. The reason behind his committing suicide was to help his family to get insurance in order to overcome their financial crisis and start new business. He had dreams for his family and especially, for his son, Biff. He also realized his mistake of having an extra-marital affair with the woman in Boston, and he is guilty for it. Moreover, he blamed himself for Biff not becoming a football player and destroying his life. While trying to fulfill his family’s needs, he certainly forgot about himself. He had many hidden secrets in his heart due to which he used to talk to himself. It does not necessarily mean that he was a lunatic or a coward. Actually, he was so frustrated of not being able to fulfill his family’s needs. All the situations stood against his expectations. It was just his misfortune for which he cannot be blamed.

 

The strong determination of Willy reminded me of my mother.  My mother tried her best for the treatment of my father when he was ill.  At the same time my father also had desired to get well. Despite all the efforts made by my parents as well as doctors, he could not get well and retrieve back to his normal life. Sometimes in life no matter how hard we try, we cannot gain what we want. It is not anyone’s fault and any one can be blamed for it. It is just a phase of our life or somehow our misfortune that we cannot succeed and get what we want. We have to accept the truth and move on in our life.

 

Digya Shrestha

“Untouchability” in Nepal

The novel, Growing Up as Untouchables in India by Vacant Moon, describes about the untouchability custom practiced in India during the British Invasion. In the novel, Moon has described about how people in Hindu Religion are divided according to their castes and ethnicities. The Brahmins are considered to be the highest caste and the dalits are considered as the lowest caste. Their castes are divided according to their occupations that are the kind of work they perform for survival. Similarly, their rights and the opportunities are also divided according to their castes.

It would probably not be any surprise to know that this kind of caste system exists in Nepal as well. As Hinduism is the predominant religion in Nepal, the caste system is still practiced in a larger extent. In Nepal, Brahmins are the ones who read the Vedas, the holy book of Hinduism and are considered the purest people. Similarly, the Dalits are the lowest castes. Moreover, there is hierarchical caste system which defines the people’s identity and the limitations of their rights. In the cases of Dalits, they are not supposed to enter the temples and other religious places. In the past, people do not even used to drink the water touched by them. They were not allowed to go to the schools in which the higher castes people used to study. People used to call them “Achut Jat” and were considered third class citizens.

Nevertheless, the Nepalese Government has been trying to alleviate the practice of untouchability in much larger extent. They have implemented rules and regulations against these practices. Nowadays, the practices have become illegal. However, in some remote places it is still practiced. The Government has provided many extra opportunities for the so-called untouchables. They can get several incentives provided by the government these days. People are now becoming educated; as a result, these practices have been decreasing. It is a bad custom that has to be completely eradicated from the society.

As this novel is based in the untouchability practices and the reforms that have been made in India to eradicate it, I am looking forward to reading it further. While reading it I can compare how it has been similar and how it has been different from Nepal.

Digya Shrestha

My response to “The Road Not Taken”

 “The Road Not Taken” is a poem written by Robert Frost in which he symbolizes his life as a road.  He encounters a road that is divided like a fork while walking in a forest during the fall. Moreover, he is in dilemma of choosing which way to travel.  He examines one of those as far as possible and chooses the next one. The road he chooses is full of challenges and needs to be explored. In the beginning he thinks he would choose the next one some other day, but the road never seemed to end.  He could never return back at the same point and again choose the next one. However, someday in life he also knows he would be relieved of choosing the right path which would make the difference in his life. This poem teaches us to be observant and to choose the correct path among the various paths life sets in our way.

The poem felt very connected to me as I have also had some difficult times choosing the correct way or option in my life. One of those decisions was to come to AUW which I am sure I will never regret. Before coming to this university I had been doing Bachelors second year in my own hometown. When I got selected, many of my relatives and friends suggested me not to come here as I was already going to finish my bachelors in next few years. However, I chose to come here although I knew that this way would be full of challenges. Now, I am also sure like the poet that the new challenges and struggles I will have to face here will make my life different.

Thus, there are many options in our life and it is obvious to be confused. We should be able to choose the correct one and move forward. Once we choose to travel in one way, we cannot return back and again choose the next one. So, we should be careful and observant while taking decisions and choose the way which we will not regret in future.

Digya Shrestha

My response to The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is a motivating novel written with the perspective of both Chinese mothers and American daughters. The relationship between mothers and daughters is portrayed very truly in this novel. Problems and conflicts in relationship can occur due to the generation gap in families. The author has successfully described the universal themes such as, migration issues, daily household problems, relationship between husband and wife, and relationship between mother and daughters in the novel. The idea of Chinese culture is predominating in the novel but at the same time American culture is also reflected. Furthermore, the organization of the novel is fabulous and the coherent presentation of events made me feel connected with the characters. The author has well described the life of immigrant families and the problems they face due to the difference in culture. Moreover, the struggle they face in adapting in the new culture with new generations is also clearly shown in the novel.

While reading through this novel, I reminisced about the days I had spent with my mom. The secrets we have shared with each other have made us more connected. Though we do not have the migrant experience like the mothers in the novel but the idea of generation gap was also one of the problems in our life. The beliefs that my mother had about me and our family was somehow different than mine. She had some beliefs like Ying-ying has in the novel. She also used to predict my future through my actions as well as appearance. When I as a child I also used to think her beliefs were irrational like Lena in the novel. However, I cannot ignore the fact that she has always guided me to the right directions and has always supported me when I am in need. Despite the fact that the way of perceiving things were different, the purpose and the result was the same. As time elapsed and I grew old, I realized that there is no one in the world who can know me better that she does. I am a part of her gradually inheriting her traits and accepting them like the daughters does in the end of the novel.

Thus, my identity is totally connected with my mother and I am proud of how I am because of her.

Digya Shrestha

Double Face

The chapter “Double Face” in the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Lindo describes how she looked similar to her mother and how her daughter looks to her. The physical traits that she had shared with her mother and what her daughter shares with her are the same and so are their fortunes. She thinks that her daughter is ashamed of what her appearance look like. So, her daughter is ashamed of her appearance too. But when her daughter says, “We are for one side and also the other. We mean what we say, but our intentions are different (304),” she realizes the wisdom of her daughter and finds out that her daughter is not ashamed of looking like her.

In the story, when Lindo remembers what her mother had said about her appearance, I remembered of my mother too. She also believes our physical traits describe our behavior and fortune. Lindo’s mother had said that she had a good fortune because she had lots of meats at the bottom of her ears. Similarly, my mother also believes that if someone has thick flesh in the bottoms of the ear, his or her future is bright. Furthermore, in our culture also it is believed that the size of our ears shows how long will we live like in Chinese culture. Moreover, if someone has big and wide forehead, he or she will be fortunate. In addition, if the tika, which our elders put in our forehead, stays for a long time, it is believed that the blessings given during that time will come true.  Similarly, the gaps between our fingers while joining them together will determine how much money we will waste and how much we will save.

Furthermore, Lindo can see her reflection in her daughter. In the same way, my grandmother often used to say that I am the reflection of my mother. She used to look like exactly the same as I look now when she was of my age. Not only my grandmother, but also my mother’s friends also used to tell the same thing. At the same time, the person who knew my father used to say that I look like my father. I used to become confused whom I exactly looked like.  Later, when I grew up, I realized that with the traits of my parents I have received their attributes as well.  The traits describe my fortune and I am glad to have it.

Digya Shrestha

Education

This week  we are learning  about  “Education”. As we all know, education is one of the basic needs of the human beings. However, there are many children who do not have access to education. In the transcript of Wide Angle, we learnt a lot about the barriers of education from many countries like India, Kenya, Romania and Brazil. The problems shown  in the transcript are just some of the examples of the barriers to education. This is not only the problem of one community or one country. Many children all around the world are facing such obstacles in their way of education. Some of them are being successful to overcome those obstacles and some are not. As we read in the transcript, there are lots of reasons why children cannot get proper education. For instance, early marriage, poverty, war, child labor, lack of accessibility, death of parents, bad company and so on.  

In Nepal, not only in the remote areas but also in urban areas such obstacles are restraining children from going school. In remote areas, the main problem is gender discrimination. People often think that there is no use of educating their daughters. While at the same time, parents are sending their sons to get proper education to cities and towns. Another problem in remote areas is lack of high schools with proper education. This also inhibits many children from getting education. On the other hand, in urban areas, where parents are educated enough to send their children for proper education, the number of children completing their higher level is still few. Children often get distracted from many things and leave their studies in the middle. Some of them get involved in bad company and leave studies. Some of them get involved in premarital pregnancy and early marriage without completing their studies.

In addition, the education system in Nepal is also not supportive. Although there are many government schools and boarding schools, the way of educating students is completely different. Most of the government schools have low quality education as compared to boarding schools. The parents who cannot afford the fees of boarding schools are coerced to send their children in government schools.  The Government has many policies to improve the education system and literacy rate, but the policies are not being implemented.

These problems are the barriers to educations in many countries of the world. We are lucky enough to get proper education in such a nice environment. So, we need to think about those children who are not as fortunate as us and take correct step to solve these problems.  

Digya Shrestha