Similarities between Moon’s Childhood and My Childhood

       When I was a child, my life was a little bit similar to Vasant Moon’s childhood. Consequently, while I was reading the chapter “Heat and Rain,” I was reminiscing about my village and my village life.

       Similar to Vasant Moon, I also used to sleep outside in the veranda with my grandmother where stars were clearly visible. Around ten pm, my mother would come and take me inside the house. While I was sleeping with my grandmother, she would tell me the story of Dhruv tara, the North Star. The story is that Dhruv’s father, Uttanpad, was a king, who had two wives. One was Suniti and the other was suruchi. The king loved Suruchi more than Suniti. Once, Suruchi’s son was sitting on the lap of the king then suniti’s son, Dhruv, came there and began insisting to sit in his father’s lap. By seeing this, Suruchi ridiculed Dhruv. Therefore, to sit in God’s lap, Dhruv prayed to God for many years. Lastly, the God became happy with his prayer, and gave him the highest seat in the heaven where everyone in the world can see him. Since then the North Star, Dhruv, is located in the north side of the sky.

       However, as I am a girl, my childhood was not exactly the same as Moon’s childhood. I had some restriction; for example, as the classes finished, I would have to come to home directly from the school. However, the boys of my village were the same as Vasant Moon. In the summer, they spent their evenings beside mango trees. They threw stones on mangoes to get them. If someone saw them, they started to run away from there. Sometimes, some boys used to come to my garden to steal mangoes.

       In addition, similar to Moon’s village, some monkeys used to enter in our village. They damaged our tiled roofs, so we had to change our tiles to prevent the house from monsoon rain water. These monkeys often ate the mangoes from our mango trees, which annoyed me a lot. Furthermore, similar to Moon’s village, people of our village used to keep water in earthen pots to keep it cold for a long time. The water of those pots was very tasty. Moreover, some people had earthen houses which were cold in summer and hot in winter. However, in these days, everything in my village has changed, and natural beauty has vanished. Moreover, earthen houses are replaced by buildings; earthen pots are replaced by refrigerators.

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An Experience Being In a Locality Of Untouchables

        Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India is about the lives of untouchables in the 1940s where they were not tortured and humiliated as they are in today’s world. Vasant Moon has clearly expressed his experience enabling a reader to know a life of an untouchable.  I enjoyed reading about the warmth during summer, the rain and the places he has described explicitly. He described a neighborhood which was inhabited by untouchables only. I have experienced walking in the lanes of an untouchable locality. I went there as a health facilitator in order to share some of my knowledge regarding personal hygiene and diseases.

Those lanes of untouchable’s locality which I walked through were different from as well as similar to the neighborhood explained by Moon. Moon described the trees from which he used to eat fruits and enjoy spending time with his friends under its shade. Conversely, there weren’t any trees in that locality and every inch of land was occupied by small huts made of plastics. In addition, Moon’s neighborhood was close to other neighborhoods, whereas the untouchable locality was far away from people’s settlement near the bank of the Bagmati River. Furthermore, in Moon’s neighborhood, his grandfather Sadashiv was highly respected by all the people. Likewise, there was a man, Manoj Musahar, in the locality who was treated as an important person among untouchables. He was a learned young man working as a teacher in a local school of untouchables. In order to make our health campaign successful, he played an important role. The untouchables of that locality do not let people of other castes enter the locality, and even if they did, they would be chased away. It would have been impossible to make them aware about health issues if Manoj Musahar hadn’t co-operated with us, due to the fact that his words were prioritized in the locality. On the other hand, people of any caste were allowed to enter the neighborhood of Moon. When Moon was sick all his friends including Brahmans came to visit him despite the fact that the place was occupied by untouchables. The untouchables of Moon’s neighborhood ate snakes, and the untouchables of the locality I visited ate rats. This is some information I gathered about untouchables. It is interesting to compare an untouchable neighborhood of the 1960s of India and an untouchable locality of the present time of Nepal.

The Faked Flag

In the first chapter of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Vasant Moon describes the neighborhood, a slum area, he grew up in. Among the people he points at, there is a woman, Ragho’s wife, who took advantage of uneducated women’s faith in gods by taking them to the temple in the time of epidemic of diseases like cholera, diarrhea, or smallpox.  The women would go to temple, where Ragho’s wife pretended she is hosting the goddess’s sprit and demanded women for sacrifices such as goats and chickens.

When I read this part of the book, I was reminded of a similar situation in Afghanistan.  Last year, when I was in Kabul, I heard everyday many Shea residents of Kabul rushed to visit a holly flag installed near a mosque in Barchi district of Kabul.  There was rumor a man has brought this flag from holly shrine of Imam Husain located in Karbala, Iraq. Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, has a very high place and value in Shea people’s heart. They all love him so deeply for the way he has sacrificed his family and his own life for the sake of God. Shea people celebrate his birthday every year and moan for his death in a special ceremony on Ashura Day, when all Shea people were black and cry for his loss. So you can imagine how passionately people welcome a flag from his grave and rush to visit it. I heard many people, most of whom were women, offered nazri, money or jewelry given in order to receive blessing from God or a holly character, to the boxes that were placed beside the flag by the man who claim he had brought it from Karbala. They also brought sick people with the hope Imam Husain’s love and spiritual power would cure them.  Among the sick people, I heard there has been a girl who was told her disease couldn’t be cured in Afghanistan and she needed to go immediately to a neighboring country for treatment. The girl’s father had booked a fight to Pakistan to take his daughter there for treatment. However, he had changed his mind and had brought her daughter beside this flag to be cured. Two days later the girl had died.

I remember how indignant I felt about the owner of the flag and how cruelly he had taken advantage of the innocent love and faith of some naïve and uneducated people when I heard the news about the death of the girl. I imagined in my mind how he collected the moneys and jewelries from the box every night and laughed, a sinister laughter, at the people he had cheated.