The Community Where I Grew Up

I grew up in a small community of my hometown, Dharan. Dharan is divided into 18 wards irrespective of any religious or social biases. I belong to ward no.1, which is also called Purano-bazzar or Prithivi-path. Many years ago, our ancestors had settled down here; since then, my family has become a part of this community. Some people living around us are our relatives because we share a common background. There are no concrete walls or boundaries to divide the different wards, but the cooperation and involvement of the families organize to form our own community.

Most people, including my family, inherited our land from our ancestors; therefore, we have our own houses and do not need to rent. There is a long, pitched road ranging from north to south that separates the two rows of houses on the left and right. Besides the main road, there are two alleys which lead to other parts of the town. Some of the houses are rather old and made up of wood and mud; however, there are two to three storied concrete buildings behind these wooden houses where people actually live in. The old, mud houses are still strong enough to reside on; that is why it is rented for cheap cost. Most of these houses are attached in such a way that their rooftops and backyards are very close.

Talking about the people living in my community – mostly Newars and Brahmins are the inhabitants of the society, while there are also some Chettries and Rais, two of the warrior castes in Nepalese history, residing in the same community. All these people follow the same religion; therefore, they celebrate common festivals and occasions. The community’s people come from a middleclass background, so they are service holders. Generally, adults are breadwinners of the family, so they go to work in offices, hospitals, schools, and factories. Not only adult men but also women work outside to add income to the family. They leave their children home with the older adults, who are unable to earn money for the family, but a reliable support for teaching good morals to the kids, and guarding the house.

Small children are the heart of any community. They bring life to the silent locality; similarly, the children in my community form their own friends groups and play on the streets. They climb on bhogate and mango trees on the front yards and play hide and seek on the straw huts. Usually, they get scolded by the elders for making a lot of noise and are chased away from the houses. There is a school named Holy Garden Academy, which has become a family school because almost all the children from Purano-bazzar go to that school.

Unlike children, youths hesitate to roam around the houses. They stick to one place and gather together to have fun. In fact, there is a flat, yellow colored building, with steps in front of the main gate, between the rows of houses, where these boys often meet. These boys are cooperative and socially active. They have their own club, which organizes entertainment programmes in the community during the festivals of Dashain and Tihar. If any problems arise in the community, these youths come together and help the people in need. For example, if a woman in a family gets pregnant and she has to be taken to the hospital for delivery, these boys help the family in making arrangements for admitting the woman to the hospital. Moreover, they stay in the hospital during late nights in order to provide food and medicine for the patient in case of an emergency. In addition, these youths are altruistic enough to assist the needy people, whose belongings have been stolen or houses have been caught on fire.

Besides Nepali people, a large portion of the inhabitants are the Indian migrants referred as “Madhesis”. These people had migrated to Nepal for work and settlement many ages ago. Madhesi people rent the houses’ of the local people and have begun to settle down in the community as the members of the society. They usually earn their living working on shops or selling fruits, sweets, and chatpates on the streets. Since they are poor, they are often treated as the minority. Mostly they are called as Chatpate Bhaiyas, chatpate selling brothers. Especially, Ashok Bhaiya’s chatpate is famous in our town. It is so delicious that almost everyone from the community likes to taste it once a day. Due to the growing popularity, he increased his rates from Rs. 5 per plate to Rs.20. Other Madhesi people also began to raise their standard of living by continuously working hard. Once these people did not have enough money to afford two rooms for their family, but now they have earned enough to rent three extra rooms for their work supplies.

During Saturdays and public holidays, people are free and are mostly engaged in household chores. In late mornings, we can hear Biru bhaiya’s wife yelling at her crying son, who refused to take a bath. People of the community utilize their holiday for cleaning up their houses, so leaves and dirt in the backyards are burnt. Women on their rooftops guard the grains and vegetables kept for drying in the sun from the monkeys. Monkeys are the mess of the society; they destroy the garden flowers and eat away anything kept outside. Therefore, monkeys are also a factor of torture to the community. Jipu dai (brother) belongs to a low caste family and is a drunkard, so he is often asked by the community to help them in taking the sacks of rice to the mill and paint the houses, for which he gets money to buy alcohol.

On hot summer nights, elders gather outside to feel the cool breeze and spend ample time talking about politics and society matters. On the other hand, women, during the day ask their daughters or daughter-in-laws to dye their hair and use free time to gossip with other women. Moreover, visiting temples are common on the holidays when women get up early in the morning, prepare the puja materials, dress up in red attire, and go to the nearby Lord Shiva’s and Lord Krishna’s temples.

Hence, there are different kinds of people residing in my community who have unique attributes. They all share a common place, yet have varied tastes and inclinations. However, all of them have been living together for ages and are familiar with one another’s background and status. As a whole, my community is a great example of cooperation and harmony.

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My Beloved Neighborhood

My community is divided into four small villages according to their directions. My village is adhered to the name “WestVillage,” and its people are called “Western villagers” because it lies in the west of the community. Besides, it has the nickname “Pig” because almost all of the villagers earned money from raising pigs. The villagers usually heard pigs’ cries at meals’ times or at periods when old pigs were sold and new babies were bought. As a result, many people formed the habit to predict meals’ time according to pig’s cries. Nobody can say who were the first ancestors of this village, but since the first day of my life, I have heard many stories about the neighbors who connected their lives with this village tens of years ago. In fact, I absorbed their stories so deeply that I learnt their family trees by heart.

Needless to say, Miss Hoa’s house was conspicuous in my village because it had a large garden in front where children used to gather there and play games. Moreover, because of its location—at the end of the village, Miss. Hoa’s house functioned like a brick connecting my village with the South one. Every night, the villagers would gather in her garden to tell stories. While the eldest woman murmured the stories about old days when her peers and she took care of buffaloes in muddy fields, took baths in large, green rivers, and fried fish in big fields, the others listened carefully and sometimes moved their legs to avoid mosquitoes. After her childhood’s stories, the stories about her girlhood sustained being told. She was always proud of her prosperous girlhood when she had been chased by both “Western boys” and boys in adjacent villages. She wouldn’t stop saying until her face was hurt by mosquitoes’ bites, and her throat was dry. In my village, houses shared walls with houses, so nothing could happen without the notice of the villagers; therefore, parents felt safe enough to allow their children to stay up late to hear stories providing that they weren’t tardy for class the next day.

My village was so close that information was transmitted quickly without the help of the Internet. Understanding that sooner or later, every secret would be disclosed although they were kept tightly, the villagers chose to share their secrets publicly. One day, Mrs. Binh, who was notable for her fertility; indeed she gave birth to 11 kids, would cry, “My daughter gave birth with a boy in the near village.” Immediately, all the women stopped doing their household chores, ran to Mrs. Binh’s house and quested about the baby’s father. Such the curiosity was so effective that some minutes later, Mrs. Binh’s cries would change into laughter.

However, from time to time, such the reliability to share secrets would change into competitions and even revulsion. Whenever a child got good marks, his or her friendship with the friend next to the door was liable to be shaky because the parents somehow put the definition of arrogance and shame in their children’s heads. They taught the children the lesson of the winners, who were wise, and the losers, who were stupid; therefore, the children were in fond of showing their talents off and were ashamed of not being perfect.

In the middle of the village, there was a mango tree, which was a cradle of horror tales; in fact, the adults usually told stories about huge ghosts with long hair, tongue, and fingernails, who would cannibalize disobedient kids. Consequently, in the evening, many mothers fed their children in the tree’s roots.

Opposite to the tree, in the right hand, there was the house of an old widow, who rarely lived in peace. Every day, from day to night, the villagers heard her complaints and reprimands. I felt as if she preferred to die than to keep silent. However, everyone ignored her complaints; they even sometimes took time to visit this lenient widow. After I many times insisted, one day, I was told the story about this miserable woman. She had had a fantastic life of which many women had been jealous: an affluent family with kind husband and cute children. However, when waking up one day, her life was reversed: her husband and son were informed to be killed in the American-Vietnamese war; her only daughter eloped with an American soldier and was killed on her way to America. The widow decided to move to another village to escape from the memories of a miserable past, but she returned soon with the reason that she couldn’t live away from the land of her ancestors. One month later, she sold her house, which was near the entrance of the village, and bought her current house.

Mr. Sy, who was the head of the village, became the owner of her house. Next to his house, in the left hand, there was an empty field that was used to park tractors and cars. Now and then, this field was used for celebrating parties to welcome officials who came to investigate the environment, the population, and living standards of the villagers. This field was named “Mr. Duc’s diaper,” and everyone, from a kid to an old man, knew the origin of this name. One day, in a party that was held in this field, Mr. Duc drank so much that he seemed unconscious, and no one could bring him to home. When he woke up, his pants were filled with his urine. After that accident, people called him “Baby,” and this field became “Duc’s diaper.”

My Village

Some people, who give more importance to their health, consider my village as one of the best places to settle in. It’s because Paro Hospital, one of the biggest hospital in the western part of Bhutan, is located near my village. Others say that since it is located near Paro International Airport, the only airport in the landlocked country, and Paro Dzong, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, it’s best site for constructing hotels and shopping malls. Old people say that no matter whether your village is under a bridge or not, it will be the best place for you to live in. My village is famously known as geptay, land of happiness. It is located in the western part of Bhutan, and it falls under Paro district. It covers a hundred acres of land, and approximately 2,000 people live and work in it.

The houses are not crowded; instead, they are built away from each other. If a person walks on foot from his or her own house, he or she will take minimum three minutes to reach his or her nearest neighbor.  In the past, when I was a kid, I used to hear one neighbor calling another neighbor from their windows. I used to hear a community messenger shouting and conveying the message, sent by community heads, from door to door. However, nowadays, due to an increase in the number of people using cell phones and telephones, I don’t see or hear anyone shouting from outside.

Most of the houses are two- storied Bhutanese style houses. They are mostly constructed by local carpenters. The upper story is used for people and the lower story is mostly used for storing grains and crops. Most of the house owners own their own play ground in front of their houses.  They use it for different purposes such as to let their children play, to take rest, to dry their crops, and to park their cars.

Most of the people living in Geptay are farmers, and they mainly depend on their farmlands for their income. Their farmlands are located half miles away from their houses. Since the village is located in quite a hilly area, the houses are located on hills, and the farmlands are located on the lower planes. Although they used domestic animals such as oxen to plough their land, and horses to carry their goods, today, they use tractors and new advanced farm machines to do farm work, and vehicles to carry their goods.

In the middle of the village, there is a big oak tree, where all the children gather together to play games and sports. Children from rich families come with their expensive toys and bicycles. They bully the poor small kids while playing games such as hide and seek or touch and run. They always coerce the poor kids from poor backgrounds to either chase them or search them. Although, parents are not near to their children, they can easily keep eyes on their children when their children are playing under the oak tree. Since the oak tree is in the middle of the village, they can easily see their children from all the directions. Therefore, the parents dispatch their children to play under the oak tree.

Since the village is located near Paro Hospital, it has many shops and hotels. There are two main roads, a road that leads to the hospital and another one to Olathang Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Paro. The roads are always busy with different types of vehicles passing by.  Besides the roads, early in the morning and in the evening, farmers come to sell their fresh vegetables and homemade products. Government servants and tourist usually buy their goods there. Young beautiful village girls also come to sell their dairy products, and hot tasty boiled corns. Students are their daily customers.

Just one kilometer away, above the village in the hilly area, a small temple was constructed in 1940s by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Tibetan monk, in order to protect the villagers from harmful devils and demons. Women from each household always go once a week to the temple to pay respect and worship our local deities. They offer a bottle of fresh milk, a bowl of red rice, and a hand of banana or other fruits. Nearby the temple, there is a stupa constructed by the affluent people to help all the living beings to purify their mind, and to terminate their sins. It’s a place where we can see a larger number of old people chanting prayers, and narrating their past stories to each other.

Almost all the people living in my village are Buddhist; therefore, early in the morning, when the village seems as fresh as cucumber, we can smell the smell of butter lamp and hear people reciting Buddha’s doctrine from almost every household. Then, until the night falls, we can see the villagers busily working as bees. When night falls, at around 6:00pm, the caretaker of the temple blows a shell trumpet which stops the people in the village from continuing their work. They, then, call it a day and go back to their respective houses. The next day, the same routine begins again, and it remains the same except during special occasions.

Red rice, hot dry red chillis, green vegetables, potatoes, pork, beef, and dry yak meat are the daily diets eaten by the people in my village, and it is considered tastier when it’s cooked by the mothers. Most of the children and adults love to have red rice, hot chillis mixed with cheese, dry yak meat, and suja, butter tea, as their lunch. It’s mandatory for all the family members to be on time for breakfast and dinner. Family members make a big circle with father, head of the family, sitting near the windows.

Although the village seems small, people inside the village are living comfortable lives. There is no severe gender or racial discrimination. Every individual is given their rights to express their thought and ideas. The unity among the villagers, grassy hills in and around the village, colorful prayer flags flattering on the top of the hills, green farmlands on the lower planes, and uniformly constructed traditional Bhutanese houses on hills always make the village more attractive and beautiful place to live in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polashi Moholla

 I had spent only the first eight years of my life there, but the place was the world to me from when I was able to memorize things. I was merely an eight-year-old kid when I left that place, but still I can visualize it clearly in my mind whenever I close my eyes. The name of the locality, or moholla, was Polashi. This is the place where I was born; this is the place I feel very connected to even now.

The moholla was in the centre point of the capital, Dhaka. It was surrounded by some of the best educational institutions, historical monuments, mosques and temples. It does not mean that the dwellers of the moholla were mostly scholars or religious personalities. Almost all of them were businessmen, who were not that educated. The young generation was not educated much as well. Most of them were high school dropouts. After dropping out, boys used to lead a vagabond life for a while and then join their fathers’ business, and girls were married off immediately.

For eight-year-old me, the moholla was oriented around the two side of a street because my home was situated beside the street. On both sides of the street, there was footpath, and along with the footpath there were buildings, one-storied tin-shaded houses, and business centers. The moholla was the world to me because I could find everything around there. There were grocery shops, kitchen markets, factories, bakeries, a mosque, a school, hardware shops, stationary shops, a club, a dustbin and a playing field. The street was linked with a wide road which went to somewhere I did not know. The street ended with a wall, where we had to stop while playing chhowa-chhui. To me, the world used to end there.

Basically, the moholla was always noisy more or less. The azan from the mosque in the early morning used to wake everyone up. The morning used to be busy for the children and their mother as they have to go to school and their mothers had to make them ready. Around 8.00 am in the morning, boys and girls were seen walking to their school carrying a schoolbag on their back. After a couple of hours, the street again became busy with the opening of the shops. Only during the midday, the street would be a little bit quiet because at that time everyone used to take a nap at home after taking lunch. Shops also remained closed then. The street became full of life again when the sun was about to set. Boys and girls used to play in the playground. Sometimes they used to occupy even the street to play cricket. This was the only time when the housewives could take a break from their household chores. They used to visit the neighborhood and gossip with their peers beside the footpath, but never in front of the highest building of the street because the mother of its owner had died for being pushed from its terrace. People said that the lady was pushed by her daughter-in-law. That’s why, a hatred used to work inside everyone for the building. The whole street used to get captured with mouth-watering scent of fried snacks and cakes that were sold beneath a tree by an old man. On the opposite of him, someone used to sell spicy muri-vorta, a dish made of puffed rice and spices. It was so tasty that I can feel it’s taste even now. After the sunset, some children used to continue to play, while some children were ready finish their daily homework. They used to shout so loudly while memorizing their lessons that one could hear them standing far away from their house. As night became darker, men only were seen on the street. Those few people who were service-holders used to gossip and have tea in the club right after returning from office, instead of going home. The street remained noisy till midnight. After that, it was only a security guard in the street who used to blow his whistle and make sure that everything was alright. Sometimes, loud honk of trucks used to wake us up from sleep when they passed through the wide road linked with the street.

Beside all this, the moholla used to observe everything whole-heartedly, no matter it was a religious festival or a strike called by the opposition party. Sometime people had to hide beneath their bed to save themselves from the attack of the strikers. Youths of the moholla used to play music loudly over sound boxes during Eid and Puja. The moholla could be used to as model of brotherhood because Hindus and Muslims used to stay and observe their festivals together. I don’t know how, but everyone was known to everyone. That’s why, the whole street seemed like a family to me. Everyone cheered at everyone’s joy and mourned at sorrow. It was my birthday when we had to leave the moholla. For this reason, the celebration of my birthday was held five days before it. It was more like a farewell party than a birthday party. While leaving the moholla, I felt like something was getting torn out from me for which I was getting disconnected. For several years, it seemed to me like I was living out of the world. Till now, whenever I visit the moholla, I feel like I have returned to my home. This was the place where I had started my life, my education, which makes me so attached with it. This was my neighborhood, about which I cannot stop talking. The people and the infrastructure of the moholla can change, but the memories and my feelings are unchangeable.