A Protest in My Previous School

          The last few chapters of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India talks about the violence and protests that happened in India. In those chapters, Moon described about the movements and fights between Hindus and Mahars. He also said that many houses were destroyed due to the riot. Moreover, very few students went to schools, so some schools were closed. While reading these chapters, I remembered a protest that happened in my previous school. The protest was very violent, and many things were destroyed. Our schools also closed in the protest. I want to share that incident with you.

          I was studying in a governmental residential school, and I was in ninth standard. At that time all senior boys of the school wanted to make some changes in the school policy. For example, they didn’t like food of dining hall, so they want better food etc. However, the changes could not happen because of some reasons and teachers’ ignorance. Therefore, in the month of August in 2007, all boys started to make plans for the strike. On an evening, few of the radical boys threw stones in windows of teacher’s residence, and broke some benches of the classrooms. As time elapsed, the number of protesters increased. Around ten p.m. at night, they all assemble at the boys’ basket ball ground and started to scream and throw stone on windows. Because my house was situated in the second floor, so they couldn’t able to do harm to the windows of that house. Still, we were really scared. At that night, not any girls went to take dinner in the dining hall; however, at midnight, our house mistress took us to dining hall. When we were going to take food, some boys tried to throw stones on us, but, fortunately, no one of us got injured. After a while, when situation reached into an absolutely unbearable condition, our principal sir called to the police. Around 400 military officers came to protect the school and to alleviate the anger of the boys. However, they couldn’t make them quiet, so one of the members of the police fired three times in air. We are watching everything from the windows. By hearing the sound of bullet, some girls of standard six started to cry, so we make them understand that nothing was going to happen. However, the boys were really very adamant, and the firing in the air didn’t work on them. Laslty, somehow, they went to their house. In the morning, media people also came to our school along with some civil officers. At that time, the school was not look like a school. A number of police and media people were roaming around the campus. Those days are really very critical days for the school. It destroyed the environment of study because all teachers were very furious and didn’t want to take classes.

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On Community

In the last chapter of Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Moon gives his last note about his beloved Vasti, neighborhood, or community. From his language readers can easily understand that he has a strong feeling about his community. He misses the days he spent there as well as the good atmosphere he experienced when he was young. At the mean time, Moon says that “the community has not remained a community” (176), which implies that most of the things in his community have been changed, including the good atmosphere and the unique spirit.

In fact, when I read this autobiography, I often unintentionally focus my attention on the community Moon describes instead of the situation of untouchables or the praise for Dr. Ambedkar. It is interesting to find that people are likely to stay together when they are in difficult situations. For example, the people in Moon’s community always share things and solve problems together when the discrimination against them existed. However, after they gained their rights and had a better life, the cohesion of this community curtailed gradually. When I rethink the things I have seen and heard in my life, I find that it is a common problem in many communities. In the past, when people had very low living standard, especially when there was a war, they were highly likely to help each other, so the relationships among people were easily formed. On the other hand, in today’s society, many people don’t need to worry about hunger or warmth anymore, so they pay more intention to competitions with each other and are busy with their own business. Before helping others, they would ask themselves that “is it beneficial for me?” or “what does it mean for me if I help you?” that kind of questions. Today’s people are independent, so the things they consider are usually associated with I instead of they. Can you believe that some people even don’t know who their neighbors are after living in the same community for a long time? But it happens in reality.

On mentioning community and neighborhood, I remember a story that gives the definition of “neighborhood” from my Composition class: a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and another man who lives in the neighborhood walks by without helping. Finally, the man is helped by a stranger. This story tells us that the real meaning of “neighborhood” is not confined to the physical area but the actions of helping and caring about each other. If everyone can do like the stranger described above, the world will become a big community. However, to achieve this dream, people may have to know the people who live next door first. It is ironic that someone asks a thief who is trying to open his or her neighbor’s door, “Have you lost your keys?” isn’t it?

Reading between the Lines in the Chapter “Religious Hymns”

I have noticed that many religious terms in the chapter “Religious Hymns” are implicitly written by the author. The reason behind this is that the writer assumes readers know about those festivals and cultures. However, this is not true for foreign readers as they are not acquainted with the Indian festivals. Consequently, they have difficulty understanding those terms. As an Indian, I tried to read between the lines, and I understand some of the terms. Therefore, I want to share them with you.

Janmashtami — It is a festival for lord Krishna. Janma means to take birth, and ashtami means eighth day of a fortnight. This festival is celebrated every year in the eighth day of a fortnight in the month of August. On this day, lord Krishna was born in a prison. His maternal uncle put his mother, Devaki, and father, Vasudev, in the prison because once, he heard that Devaki and Vasudev’s son would kill him. Therefore, he kept them in the jail and killed every child of them. However, when their eighth son, lord Krishna, was born in the midnight, his father replaced him with one of his friends’ new born daughter. Lord Krishna lived in the home of his father’s friend and treated him as father. Later, when he grew up, he killed his maternal uncle and took his parents out from the jail. Lord Krishna had many qualities of god because he was one of the forms of god Vishnu. Therefore, many people treat him as a god and worship him. Some people also do fasting in Janmashtami. They keep idols of Krishna in their home and worship it in the midnight. After their fast ended, they put the idol of him in a river.

The second thing is that the author has written, “Vitthal and Rukmini were in the inside room, and outside was a linga of Shiva and a stone of Nandi. The linga required leaves of bel, so outside the temple a bel tree had been planted” (Moon 41). Here, God Vitthal is one of the forms of lord Krishna, and Rukmini is Vitthal’s wife. The linga was a symbol for lord Shiva, and Nandi is name of a Bull, who was vehicle for lord Shiva. Whenever, he went anywhere, he used to sit in the back of Nandi. Therefore, Nandi is also worshipped with lord Shiva. In addition, bel is a very sacred tree in the Hindu religion. Therefore, people put leaves of bel on Shivalinga. Some people also eat it to cure many diseases.

Image of lord Vitthal and Rukmini

Lord Krishna

The Nandi and Shivalinga

The Blue Flag – A Tangible Symbol of the Dalits

As Vasant Moon mentions in “Growing Up Untouchable in India,” Wamanrao Godbole did a very praiseworthy and exemplary job by making a flag – a tangible representation of the Dalits. The flag was the integrated symbol of the Scheduled Caste Federation and the Samata Sainik Dal. It is said that a tangible symbol adds one’s passion and devotion up for respective issues, events, and people’s rapport. For example, substantial gifts foster relationship between two friends. When there is an exchange of presents between friends, they try their best to save the gifts from being destroyed or lost. They feel very close bond between them as the presents symbolize their devotion to maintain their friendship.

 

Previously, the Dalits were struggling for their right and equality, but they did not have any concrete idol representing them. Nevertheless, they were dedicated to their goal of achieving right and equality. In addition to that devotion, the flag supplemented more stamina among the Dalits for the struggle. The flag prompted them feel pride on being Dalits and dedicate their lives for the protection and existence of the flag. As the flag was a common symbol representing the entire Dalits, a feeling of unity and strength grew among them. Moreover, then popular poets wrote songs about the blue flag with incredible motivation and dedication. They wrote that the Dalits were even ready to sacrifice their lives – flow rivers of their blood for the sustainability of the flag.

 

Furthermore, keeping the flag in front of them, the Dalits used to pay respect and loyalty to the flag. Usually, Bhanudas Varade sang the flag song in a very charismatic voice. The song was an assemblage of all the feelings and aspirations the Dalits had for the flag and themselves. Some of the feelings expressed in the song are: “You are our beloved flag of liberty. You are a source of inspiration for us and for our struggle. You are the one which remind us about our past miserable suppressed lives, thereby urging us to fight for our freedom and independent lives under the leadership of our valiant leaders. We are ready to give our lives up for your existence.”

 

Thus, the flag supplemented the Dalits’ endeavor for freedom and equality.

Necessity Knows No Law

              In the chapter “Holy Victory” of the autobiography Growing up Untouchables in India by Vasant Moon, Moon narrates their poor condition when his mother doesn’t have any work. He says how intolerable the attack of hunger can be, which demolishes one’s spirit as well as one’s honesty. He describes how he is compelled to steal the old lady’s bananas after starvation of two days. After stealing her bananas, he doesn’t feel any guilt for stealing, but in the chapter “Dev Master’s Curse Fails,” he feels guilt after stealing his friend’s painting brush. He is again and again asking himself, “Why did I steal?”(Moon 35). The next day, he returns the brush to his friend because his bad spirit cannot cope up with his good spirit. However, I am surprised why he doesn’t feel any remorse after stealing the bananas. He just says, “Many thoughts started running through my mind. I felt pride in my mother’s honesty” (Moon 75). What about his dishonesty? Why doesn’t he utter a single word about his evil deed? One of my friends asked this question during our class discussion. I have a rationale for these two circumstances.

            When he steals the brush, he feels guilty because that is not his fundamental need, and he can survive without the painting brush. However, when he steals the bananas to satisfy his hunger, he doesn’t have any sense of right or wrong as he has been starving for two days at a time. At that time, he just needs something to fortify his stomach. Moon describes the situation very poignantly, “Hunger slowly begins to die. With it, the flowing spirit begins to dry up, free laughter vanishes” (ibid.). Poverty is such an evil thing that sometimes destroys all good qualities. Reading Moon’s experience, I am thinking myself, what would I do if I were in Moon’s position? I don’t find the answer from myself. Even I can’t imagine the situation of starving for two days at a stretch, so I don’t blame him for stealing in this situation. Moon is facing a critical situation when the dirty hand of poverty snatches away all good spirits. However, his mother’s honesty is admirable. She can starve for a long period, but Moon and his sister are still children. How can these little children starve so long?

 In conclusion, I think that without expressing any guilt himself for his misdeed, Moon has just let the readers to judge him. However, it is very hard to judge this situation. Is it unethical to steal in this situation, or can I punish a child for stealing food who has been starving for two days at a time? What do you think, friends?

What to do?

At the end of the chapter 8 of the book Growing up Untouchables in India, Vasant Moon talks about his concern about his action and the decision he made to stop the marriage of a teenage girl to a 45-year-old man. He managed to threaten the 45-year-old man to change his mind about marrying a teenage girl. However, later he is questioned about stopping the marriage. For many days since then, Moon thinks about the complexity of social issues and the girl’s future, and wonders if his decision has been a right one.

Facing dilemmas in decision making seems more important when the decision we make will affect other people’s lives. I used to ask myself how leaders, people in authority, or anyone who is in a position to make decisions about other people’s lives can cope with the pressure of making important or life-lasting decisions, while I had hard time making simple decisions that only affected my own life. I knew it needed a lot of courage to make crucial decisions, but what was more difficult was to face the consequences of making decisions, especially if it is wrong.

I learned the answer of my question from two serials: All Saints and 24. All Saints was an Australian serial about nurses and doctors who worked in a government hospital with the same name. Some of the nurses were dispatched for rescue team missions. In several cases, doctors or nurses faced a situation when that they were not determined what was the right thing to do. The life of the patient was in their hands, and they had to make a final decision how to save their lives. They did, but if they lost the patient or caused more damage, they tried not to blame themselves and accepted the fact that they were human beings and liable to make mistakes.

In 24, Jack Bauer and his team worked for Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) and detected and stopped terrorist attacks on America’s soil. One of the important characteristics of Jack was his strong determination. He didn’t show any doubt while making decisions so that his team would believe in him and follow him. He taught his colleagues to make their mind thinking about the priorities; for them it was national security. In most of their missions, each second’s worth was very high, and they shouldn’t waste it by pausing and pondering what to do next. Sometimes, they made mistakes, and people were killed. However, many times they saved people’s lives too. If they thought only about the negative parts they would go crazy, and end up in an asylum. But Jack and his team would continue to serve their people.

The important thing was that they all had a good intention, used all their skills and human knowledge, and did the best they could.

Good Models

To show what we have learnt from our “Critical Thinking” book, it would be good to apply them in our daily readings. In this book, the readers are requested to dare themselves and criticize others even if they are important persons. Consequently, I want to criticize Vasant Moon’s autobiography, Growing Up Untouchable in India. In this autobiography, the author seems to have the inclination to explain everything as much as he wants. Frankly speaking, sometimes you find yourself reading the things that are almost similar to each other and unnecessary. For example, in the chapter, “Heat and Rain,” Moon keeps telling about how he and his friends used to hang around, pick fruit, and eat them, or how the weather was. While reading the first pages you might enjoy because you can imagine boys, the weather and the neighborhood but little by little the story gets boring and you might feel tired since the whole pages are just describing the weather and children. In other chapters, you face the same problem too. While you expect to get to know about some serious matters, he starts talking about his mother’s memories, his neighbors, and some people that he had seen before, the girl who knew swimming and some unnecessary things. He includes these stories, while you can hardly find any link between them and the main point that he is talking about. This characteristic or fault leads the mind toward one conclusion: Although the author may have a lot to say, he or she should not forget the readers capacity and patience. A pattern or story can be effective when readers’ time, need, capacity and necessity of contexts are considered. Putting aside all of these negative comments and ideas I must confess that, his autobiography is so touching and informative. Moreover, sometimes the usage of Hindi words takes you closer to the community and neighborhood that he used to live in. To sum it up all, it would be appreciated to mention that all of the subjects that we study not only can be a good source of information but also they are good models for our writings. These models can teach us how to write.

A Little Help – A Turning Point

In Growing up Untouchables in India, Vasant Moon writes, “Even a little help can transform life so much.” To support this argument, he mentions a story of his grandfather’s friend, Gopal Phuljhele’s children. After the demise of Phuljhele, his family had to overcome with economic downfall, so it became very difficult for his children to continue their education. In fact, they were expelled from school due to overdue fee. Therefore, Vasant Moon, with the help of Changdev Vasnik, helped those children readmitted to their school. Unfortunately, Phuljhele’s younger son, Chagan, died at an early age because of cancer. Nevertheless, Phuljhele’s daughter, Lila, continued her education and became a doctor. Thus, it seems like Moon helped Lila in a trifle circumstance, but it became the turning point of her life.

 

The similar event took place in my life too. Actually, I even today do not understand if it was my good fortune to have an encounter with Mr. Madhav Lal Maharjan, a selflessly benevolent social worker. Actually, I met him in an Interschool Oratory Competition entitled “Child Labor and My Role to Alleviate it,” in which I secured second position. I guess my encounter with him has become a turning point in my life.

 

Since I met Mr. Maharjan, he has been the one who supported and fostered me to live an independent life. For example, he was the one who informed me about Asian University for Women. I am much impressed by his ideology of making me independent. He just told the name of the organization, PAHAL, in Nepal having an affiliation with AUW. However, he did not tell me where the organization was and how to get there. He just told me the name and told me to find it out by myself by the evening of that day. First of all, I did not have any idea how to find the address; I asked my some elders, but they had no idea. Later, I thought of surfing it in the Internet, and finally I got the address and went to PAHAL for some inquiries.

 

Hence, only because he gave me information about this university, I came to know about it and became a student. After coming here, I feel like I am independent like a bird in the sky away from any control. In brief, Mr. Maharjan’s single information brought a drastic change in my life.

Napanchmi

Vasant Moon, in Growing
up Untouchables in India
, talks about the festival of snakes or Nagpanchmi
as he reminisces about his childhood celebrating the festival. According to
him, it is celebrated by every house, and the commemoration starts with the
sweeping and the sprinkling of fresh and pure water everywhere. People prepare
various kinds of typical dishes, like muthe,
chapattis, and pahile or khis
; however, people do not eat food cooked in
oil at mealtimes. Moreover, children enjoy the festival by playing games like
competition to get lemons or coconuts thrown at certain distance. Furthermore,
they also entertain themselves by seeing magic shows, which are mainly
affiliated to snakes.

Nagpanchmi may be very unfamiliar to many friends in
my class as they do not belong to Hindu families, so I hope you will get a bit
of ideas from this blog entry in addition to what Moon has written in his
autobiography. A majority of people are Hindus in Nepal, so a significant
number of people celebrate Nagpanchmi, which lies mainly on the month of
August. It is believed that serpents are very perilous and poisonous animals,
and if people worship them, they will never get bitten by snakes. Moreover,
people also believe that serpents are sources of water. Since more than 70% of
the total Nepalese population work in farms, they need water. Therefore, they
worship snakes for water. Besides, Purans say that the entire earth is lifted
by a serpent named Shesh Nag on his head, and Lord Vishnu sits on the coil of
the serpent. Hence, people worship Nags in regard to Lord Vishnu also.

Like Moon has described in the autobiography, in
Nepal also, the celebration of Nagpanchmi begins with the sweeping and the
sprinkling of pure water everywhere in houses, and people prepare and eat
various special dishes like samay bazi,
bara, chhwela, and chhyala. Nevertheless, other parts of
celebration do not match with what Moon has described. In Nepal, people put
serpents’ pictures above the main entrance door of their houses and worship them
by offering cow’s milk; rice grains, flowers, and other oblations. Cow’s milk
is an indispensable item to worship the Nags. Moreover, there are holy ponds
named Nagpokhari at Naxal, Taudaha pokhari at Kirtipur, and Naagdaha at
Dhapakhel, where people take bath and worship the snake god.

It may sound very absurd to many people, but it is
one of the most important festivals in Hinduism.

Poverty is Stealing

When I read the lines dealing with the act of stealing brush by Vasant Moon in the chapter, “Dev Master’s Curse Fails”, the first thing that came into my mind was, Poverty is Stealing. Moon’s poverty coerced him to pick up Tambe’s brush since he did not own one. Though he had Hari Patil, his benefactor, who was more than happy to help him, he was much embarrassed to vomit out his poverty for a brush.

Moon was involved in the act of stealing time and again. He, along with Sukhya, Gangya, and Bala, stole fruits  to satisfy their hunger. They even offered the left over to younger children and sometimes to their families as well. It seemed to be a normal act to steal fruits to Vasant and his friends, and they were not punished for that. A different fear ran inside me when I pictured these acts of stealing while reading, “Heat and Rain”. I thought what if they turn to develop this habit into a means to run their livelihood. The stealing of fruits can serve as foundation for severe forms of stealing in the future. My fear somewhat came true when I encountered Moon picking up the fallen brush of Tambe and putting it inside his bag. Although my fear slightly went away with the guilty feeling of Moon, I could not resist thinking about other boys, Moon’s friends, who did not go to school. There were chances for some of them to turn into infamous thieves in the future.

When I reached to the part where Moon drank cold water to comfort his empty stomach at night, I thought he had no choice than to steal fruits from the neighborhood and surrounding area to satisfy his hunger. After reading these acts of stealing and the remorse of Moon, I became quite sympathetic towards thieves. On the other hand, I got the point that there is always some social factors responsible for crimes and anarchisms in the society.

While I was picturing and reasoning the situation as described by Moon, I could not resist myself thinking about the speaker’s tragedy in “What is Poverty?” by Jo Goodwin Parker. I tried to compare Moon’s family and the speaker of Parker’s essay’s family and come to the conclusion whose life was more miserable; I could not. In fact, both the families were the victims of severe forms of poverty.