Education is Most Essential to Understand the World- Education to Sustain- My Education Journey- First Part

Prof. Medani P. Bhandari, PhD.

Let me begin with how I become equally interested towards the environmental protection / climate change and sustainable development.

In my childhood togetherness with nature and (internally) domesticated plants (agricultural products) and animal including, goats, cows and oxen, buffaloes, pigeon, parrots and (externally) like monkeys, langur, jackal, fox, snake, etc. were also important part of the life. I feel those external wild animals also part of day to day lives of subsistence farmers. Inherited in farm environment, I learn a dedication, love, respect and the importance of labor (physical and mental). I saw many farmers failing several times due to unavoidable causes (flood, landslides, drought and invasion of wild animal), losing all wealth they had, but never shown failureness in the society. Those rural illiterate, poor subsistence farmers always gave me a massage of, “if you keep on trying no one can stop you to reach your destiny”. Their mantra was “Failing is the opportunity for better option”.     

The understanding of without education there was no life and no future- Education to sustain

In my family, without education there was no proper life and future, however, schooling was not accessible. There was a pre-primary school (up to three grades) in walking distance, though there were no any high schools within. The nearest High School was in half day walk. My maternal uncle did his schooling in Taplejung (Mountain district of eastern Nepal), a full day walk far from house. There was no option for higher education, so he went Varanasi India for his intermediate in Sanskrit language (kind of mandatory to our family male members). He was my first teacher who taught me the alphabets, and the numbers, linking interrelationship with animals and plants of our surroundings. I follow his footpaths in the educational journey. Actually, my young brain was tuned with nature in way that I was and still enjoy the soil smell, mountains rivers music, the vibration of tree leaves, birds’ songs and at night jackal’s crying. The subsistence farmers society taught me, why harmony with nature is essential and how nature is nurturing us without discrimination. Formally, my first school was Bijaure, Hwaku, where I complete grade three. My uncle got a teaching position at the same school where he had completed his high School “Balsubodhini Sanskrit High School, Phungling-2 Medibung Taplejung”. He took me with him, where I joined in fourth grade.  It was the first time; I was away from my grandparent. At the age of nine, I had to stay alone at the hostel, collect the firewood, cook own food, clean pots, wash own cloths. I enjoyed that environment, enjoyed the company of future priests, whose first task was to learn the path of togetherness, tolerance and harmony with nature. However, my uncle transferred from that School to another. So, I had three options, stay alone to that school, go to the same school where my uncle was transferred or quit the school and stay with grandparent. I wanted to go to the new place with my uncle, though due to the security cause my grandparent kept me with them but continued teaching the Sanskrit rituals books, Like Durga Saptasati (The praise of Goddess), The Gita and some books on daily rituals. In practical I was out of school for three years or so, until I reached to thirteen. However, those years were most affectionate timing with nature. 

Turning point: The new move – compromise with the situation- adaptation

It was January 19XX, my father Lok Nath Bhandari, came to take me with him. I knew very little about him. He was highly respected person in the society. The distance between my father’s house and my grandparents’ house was a full day walk. For my father my grandparent’s place was like his own neighborhood. Everybody knew him as their own family member, because of his involvement on social empowerment through education. Whenever, he used to visit his father in laws place, he was always welcomed by the community. 

Through the conversation between my father and my grandfather, I learned that, I was not going to my birth place, but to the new location, to Tarai (plain, a flat land of no mountains). Actually, by then, my mother, grandmother (father side) and my brothers and sisters were already moved to the Tarai. The distance between my grandparents’ house to the motorable place was four days walk (there were no other means of transportations).

It was one of the most difficult time of my life. I was leaving the lap of my grandfather and grandmother and the surrounding, friends, animals, the trees like bamboos, banana and mango and many more. While I was with my grandparent my resting place in the day was a place made in the densely canopy tree branch. I did not agree to go with father in the beginning, however, my father and grandparents convinced me, so I agree to go with my father wherever he takes me. Within two days, I had to leave the place where I grew up. Finally, the day came, and we get ready for the new journey. Before, we departed from my grandparents’ house, I went to that big mango three, hugged and cry almost an hour. I also talk with all animals (cattle and felt that they all were crying and sending a massage that we will not see each other again). Particularly, a dog (Rede) who was sensing something different. I had so much love and affection with the place, people, animals and plants. I had a feeling and trust that their love was even more than I loved them. I used to think that the surrounding is always worried about me and they always bless me. Finally, I had to follow my father. We left my grandparents’ house early in the morning; because there was a certain distance to walk to reach a place where we can spend a night for next day journey. After four days of walk, we reached to Dharan, a business hub for the mountain of the Eastern Nepal.

Source: Wikipedia 2016 -Dharan from hill sides

Before, reaching to Dharan (situated on the foothills of the Mahabharat Range in the north with its southern tip touching the edge of the Tarai region at an altitude of 1148 ft, It serves as a trading post between the hilly region and the plains of Tarai region) from the top of the Saguri Bhanjyang (last mountain between Mahabharat range and Tarai), which touches plain area, I saw a never ending flat. It was so amazing unbelievable -scene beauty. From Saguri Bhanjyang- One can see the Saptakoshi Rivers (the largest River in Nepal, flowing in Tarai), Dharan City, the forestry of surrounding mountains and the remote glimpse of Tarai Forest. To reach to Dharan from Saguri Bhanjyang, it was three hours steep walk (now no one walks that way, because of the Motorable road to Dhankuta). The scene beauty of the mountain was common for me, but I have never seen the never-ending plain area before. After three hours walk we reached to Dharan gateway of Tarai and mountain, where I saw different world which I have never seen and thought before. There were wide roads, bus, trucks, car, motorcycle etc. However, I had no idea about that those automatic moving various shaped things.     

Real for me but joke for other- life without wheel and with wheel

When I saw a bus for the first time in my life, I ask my father “what is it” and “how it works”. He told me “it is like a moving home”, “it keeps people inside and runs”. I did not see any long legs to run, so asked my father about the legs. He pointed black wheels and said to me “these are the wheels, operated by a machine, they roll”. I asked him how they can move, he told “they need energy to run as we need food and drink”. “Their food is oil (petrol), water to cool its body”. While we were talking, people were glaring and laughing at me. I asked my father about this odd behave. He simply, laughed and told me, “you will know by yourself, after a while”.   

In the meantime, I saw another huge wheel standing machine, rolling with very loud noise, discharging black smoke from its bottom. I asked about this and my father simply told me, “it is kind of male machine which carries goods from one place to another as mule or horses do in the mountain”.

I was very amazed and also shocked in this new world. On the roadside, there were very high poles, each of them was connected with wires. White ball like pots were hanging in those poles. I had no clue about those, poles, wire, hanging pots etc. Most surprisingly, those wires were also connected with houses. I asked about those connections through the wires (between poles and houses) and my father simply told me that “these wires circulate Bijuli (electricity), which provide light at night”. So many new structures, some of the house’s roofs were flat, could not imagined how rainwater could be drained from etc. So, crowded, noisy; cows, dogs, pigs, people, a “movinghouse” like things all in one place; I felt nothing is organized here. People were cooking in the open field, eating, drinking and even some of them were singing. I had no clue how they were such undisciplined.

Father- mother unconditional love- no way to pay back to them, but efforts can make them happy

My young brain was very tired. Whenever, I asked any question to my father, he always gave me static but duel meaning answers. I was happy with the answers, however, very upset with the people around us. Any question, I asked, the people around us, either glared or laugh at me. I felt bitter with these people and also got very nervous. I had many questions to ask, however, also feeling some very strange atmosphere. In my grandparents’ house and neighborhood, I was considered as disciplined, lovely, helpful boy, where everyone was willing to help, response my questions and show the path. My feeling was that even tree love me, wind blows to cool me, and soil has smell to fresh my mind and have love with me. Here, I did not feel the love and encouragement and willingness to help each other. I felt I do not belong to this world, or they do not belong to me. I was kind of restless, paranoid and panic. I begin to cry and asked my father to take back to my grandparents’ house.  My father was kind of worry, I guess. He was telling me do not worry, this is a new environment but the same world. He was convincing me, “I will see soon my mother brothers and sister and grandmother”. Though, I was little consoled, but I had no connections and affection with them.

A noise, new movements and move- on the wheel- mechanical world

While I was crying, with a loud noise, a bell rang. Everybody gets up and begin to move close to the moving machine (Arathan Bus). With my father for the first time; at the age of 13; January 24, 19xx; I ride the bus from Dharan to Biratnagar. There were about sixty people in the bus. I sat at the window side. I saw several such buses and also small moving houses (cars) with the mouth like features in both. I asked about them, my father simply said, “consider them as baby buses, for now, though you will know everything in few days” (my father was just consoling me with all possible ways).

The move on the wheel was amazing experience. Bus stopped in several places, many people got in, got out. First, bus crossed the Dharan city, inter to the forest for 15 to 20 minutes, reached to Tarahara, a flat agriculture land, Itahari, a small town, Duhabi another town and cross a large gate written Welcome to Biratnagar. In two hours, ride, I felt, that I travelled the world reached to another world. I like the ride, I felt like flying on air. Finally, we reached to Biratnagar at 7.00PM, the birthplace of industry in Nepal, a district headquarters of Morang district, an attractive dream city for the residents of rural villages. I had no idea, where I will spend my most productive youth, in future.

Once we reached to Biratnagar, I realized that the poles and wires connected with each other was standing and hanging with the purpose. The hanging white round pots (bulbs) were producing light, very bright. Roads have streetlights. Houses were connected to each other. In the mountain where I grew, the difference between one house to another were about 15 to 20 minutes’ walk. It was cold night, so I did not saw many people walking in the streets.

First time, I saw Rickshaw (three-wheeled passenger cart, called a pulled rickshaw), we sat on it and man drive it through it pedal. Still it is a convenient transportation in Asia. We reached to one of our relatives’ house, Narayan Prasad Khanal (a well-known educator). He was also moved from the Mountain to Tarai. He was one of the most influential persons in my life.

The life in the flat, Tarai (Mountain boy in the flat landscape)- wheel-wheel, wheel- no life without wheel

Next morning, we left Biratnagar for our house to the rural village called Babiya Birta (still my two brother’s family, my sister and my mother staying in the same house). We ride a minibus for half an hour. When we got off at the bank of Lohadra River, we were almost buried by dust. There was no bridge on the river. So, we crossed it by walking (water was up to my neck in the river, but no current). There was no road, no walking tracks, we had to follow an imagery path. We also crossed several other small rivers on the way. We cross about 15 KM recently harvested paddy field. Throughout this walk, I saw many tall trees (Soria Robosta), mango, Guava, Litchi, Bamboo and Banana plantation and many varieties of tree, I was not familiar with. After three hours walk, we reached to the bank of another small river. The riverbanks were all covered by big or small tres, shrubs and bushes. From the bank of river (KUTKHOLA), my father pointed me few houses on the other side and told me that one of them is ours. Finally, we reached home. The house was totally different than my grandparent’s house in mountain. The mountain house was built by stone and mud, very nice, with while paint on the wall and red in the windows and doors, covered by the stone wall. Here, house was standing on the wooden pillar. The ground surface was for cattle and first and second floor for us. Wooden, wall wooden floor and wooden balcony with rice hays roof. When we reached home, no one was there. My father loudly called to my grandmother and informed her that we are at home.

First time with the family- pain and joy travel together- in fact there is no pain and joy- it is kind of state of mind

After a while, grandmother arrived with the bundle of green grass on her back, followed by other family members. I saw grandmother, mother and uncle and auntie (I have seen them before) and my brothers and sisters for the first time. The new rural village house was nice, no electricity no paved road, (but with a wide mud road), though there was an animal pull cart. The new house, new environment, even sisters and brothers were new to me. All of them were looking to me as an unknown person. However, one of my sisters, who is dumb (unable to speak), was behaving as close friend and had a lot to tell and show. She symbolically asked me to follow her. She took me to the ground floor where cattle were kept. She showed me how she feeds them, how she cleans the dung, how she orders to goat and so on. There was another member of the family, the Dog, Gole, who immediately accepted me as his friend and began to follow me.

Sustainability-idea flourished with real work as subsistence farmers son

I began new life as a son of subsisting farmer. The life as a grandson of a priest was already a past. I was a new person. First task was to get to know to family members and follow what they are doing. The foremost thing, I learn was to take care of the domestic animal (take them for grazing, collecting grass, feeding them, cleaning dung). I had to get up at 4.30 AM, ride the buffaloes (with my 9 years old brother), and take them to graze in the morning dews. I like sleeping on the buffaloes back. Quickly I learn to plough field, harvest the crops and operate the cart pulled by male buffaloes, which was only the way of means of transportation in the rural village. In the mountain, all man and women were kind of porters, here potters were either oxen or buffaloes and frequently man and women for daily requirements.

School in new environment- situational problems can be guiding principles for perseverance person

Locally, my father’s name was Master Baje (teacher). He had no official job as teacher; however, his motto was to educate locals (children and adult). He had opened a primary school- named Dhule School (dust school). The dust school mean, teaching and writing in using dust. There were no board, chucks, duster, pens, pencils, copies or books to use in teaching. The children had to gather under the trees or on the open space. So, called literate people used to teach them how read and write using dust floor. I never saw my father teaching in those places but learn that he had made a mandatory where everyone who know to read and write had to contribute their time to teach kids on rotation basis. I had no idea about his educational background, though he was considered a literate person in the society. I asked my grandmother and mother about my father’s qualification, but they said it was not my business. I also asked an oldest member of our neighborhood, “why they called my father Master Baje”?. How one can be Master Baje?, even he was not teaching in School? He told me that to be a Master Baje (baje means like an old man-like grandfather, my father was not old) you do not need to teach in School, but you can make whole community as learning ground. According to him, my father was trying to empower society through education, cooperation, dialogue and social empowerment. Whatever was the cause, I wanted to be like my father “Master Baje”.

Continuing School was only the way to be a master Baje – following the route- saves identity

I learned from my family and friends that, to be a teacher (master), I need to go to school and complete (minimum) 10th grade and pass the School Leaving Certificate, taken by the Government. I asked to my parent about the school’s where about. I learned that there was a primary school (up to sixth grade) in walking distance “at Ranjani”. I went to Ranjani Primary School for the admission in sixth grade. They asked me for the certificate of five grade completion. I had nothing to prove that, so the school administration did not admit me in the first attempt. I cried, tried to convince them and told them that I will prove, but they did not listen. I went again next day with the same request, but again they ignored. I did not give up; I began reach school exact time at 9.00AM and stay at the ground until 4.00PM (up to the close) for a week or so. Even I used to line up as other students used to do for the morning prayers, take part for the morning parade and physical exercise with them, though still I was not allowed to get into the class room. About 15 days or so, I was regularly reaching to school on time, staying outside until the close.      

The dream come true- the lucky day- nothing is impossible for dedicated and decided person

It was Sunday morning; as usual, I reached to school around 8.45 AM. Classrooms were opened, but only few students and teachers were arrived. One of the teachers, who was noticing me since last 2 weeks, asked me to follow him. He took me to the headmaster’s office. Headmaster told me, that they can arrange a qualifying exam for me. He told “if I pass, they will admit me in grade six and if I fail than they will admit me in grade five”. I said yes, appeared in the exams. According to them, “I was very poor in the exams, could not even write ABCD up to Z and also 1, 2, 3 up to 100”. I was supposed to learn ABCD and 1, 2, 3, (English), in grade five. However, my Nepali reading and writing was good. I was even able to write and read Sanskrit rhymes. So, they admitted me with condition. I had to improve my English skill as other students in the quarterly exam. If, remain weak they would place me in grade five, if I perform well than remain is the sixth grade. It was the first challenge, though in the quarterly exam I top the class in English and Math. At that time- Bhakti Ram Timsina, Dambar Pokhrel, Kabiraj Pokhrel, Chatrapati Poudel, Kuma Dhakal etc. were teachers in Ranjani School.

Sleeping on the water buffalos back was heavenly – anything can be excited and pleasurable, just need to be with the reality and rational

As Normal school boy, my daily routine was to get up at 4.30AM, take male buffaloes to graze in the morning dews, bring them home by six, plough land about one and half hours, eat whatever is at home and run to the school. One aspect, I never forget, while running to school, I had always severe stomach pain. Most probably it was due to the actual run after food. Do not remember why but I never walk slowly (always run). There were several my aged boys and girls in our neighborhood, however, I was only one going to school. I tried to convince them, but no success. Basically, they did not want to take risk of crossing Koceni River and other rivers of our neighborhood on the way to Ranjani. They told me that they do not have time, and also their parent will not allow them. In fact, even to me, no one asked me to take risk, however, my parents were happy with my decision. They never said me do or don’t do. Even, the work I used to do at home was my own choice. The school year for grade six passed so quickly. I passed six grades with good marks. I had another challenge now. There were no high schools within normal walking distance. The wealthy families of our surroundings used send their children to Biratnagar for high school, however, my parent had no means for that.

In any case I wanted to continue my study. I was very panic, though trying to find a way to continue. I shared my situation and willingness to continue school to my friends who just completed the six grades with me. Mostly the girls of the class were ready to quit the school, however, four boys were planning to go to Rangeli (Public Secondary High School), in three hours (one way) walking distance from Ranjani. It was kind of great relieve for me. I realized that, to somehow, doors are not closed, path might be difficult, but nothing is impossible for risk taker.

Six hours (two-way) walk for school – hardships can be joyful

There were two choices with me, quit the school and work as farmer boy, or join the walking group for school. Joining walker was very risky, because before I could reach to their place Ranjani, I had to walk alone about an hour, need to cross several water bodies and a river Koceni. Even more, after meeting friends in Ranjani; together we had to cross two major rivers, Cisang and Lohadra on the way to Rangeli. I decided to take a risk and asked for my father’s opinion. He knew my feeling and willingness to continue the school. He just said, be very careful and brave and do what your heart and mind guides. I got a feeling of affirmation and thought that if my parent’s blessing is with me, I can easily continue my school. I had some fear with Cobra (Snake very common), crossing several water bodies and rivers, however, I always try to remember JO DARA WO MARA (one who feels fear he is dead). I was only one Rangeli school going boy, however from Ranjani there were about 25 boys and girls- Bishnu Wagle, Gopal Basnet, Pralad Khatiwada, Ambika Basnet, Upreti Kancha, Dev kumar Prasai, Jhalak Prasai, Narayani Dahal, Gopal Dahal, Puspa Basnet, Bhoj Raj Koirala, Jivan Bhandari, Bhawani Adhikari, Abbika Karki, Laya Sangrula, Shiva Basnet, Badri Bhattarai, Hari Magar, Durga Chudal, Keshv Ghimire, Dinesh Paudel, Kuber Pokhrel, Daya Bhattarai, Rabindra Poudel, Jodhe Satar, Bishnu Siwakoti, Devi Panta etc.

The memorable other students in rangeli were, Ganesh Rai, Munarlal Yadav, Somnath Bhattarai, Ramdayal Rajbansi, Medini Bhanttarai, Devi Niraula, Rajesh Limbu, Binod Limbu, Mani Bhattarai, Bishnu Baniya, ashok Raj gadiya, Raju Agrawal, Madan Bagadiya, Suresh Dhadewal, Dinesh Dhadewal, Kamal kumar more, etc.

Every one of listed friends were so close to me. I stayed in their houses multiple time, eat there and enjoyed the friendship in full phase. I am indebted with all of my friends, and I missing them so much, I have no contact with most of them. Among them Bishnu Wagle was very close. I never forget, the hospitality at their house. Bishnu brother Shekhar, sister Geeta, Brother Sagar, sister Srada, Durga, Khageswari, Santiram, Sita all were like my brothers and sisters. Bishnu was good in study, so he passed SLC easily and went to Hetauda for forestry studies, I was still struggling for SLC. I learned that; he got the Government job. I had a dream to join forest conservation job, but it never happened. However, I fulfilled that dream by working voluntarily for conservation of nature and natural resources, which I am still doing one way or another. These all listed friends are my real gurus, so I always remember them, wherever they are or whatever they are doing.  

Finally, I got admission at the Public Secondary High School, Rangeli. Quickly, walking six hours every day for school, including crossing three rivers by swimming became normal life. I was happy, enjoying the new way of adventurous life. However, in the mid-term exam (half-yearly), I rarely pass any subject. My all teachers who have strong sympathy and love to me, were upset.

I never forget the sentence of Deputy Head Master called Baccha Babu “Bahun Baje (in Hindu caste system to say Baje to Brahmin boy was common), you are one of the best students in our school, we see your willingness to learn, take a risk; however, time is not supporting you. You need to challenge the time and learn to swim anti stream.” He further said, “swimming against the current is not possible to everyone, but I feel you can do it”. He also gave an example of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Sastri who had to cross Ganges River, for his advance study.

My Gurus Umapati lal Das’s love, Shyamlal Daraphdar, Bacca Mishra’s love is still with me. Umapati Lal Das Guru jee is still teaching me about eastern mythology and how to be happy. He loves me beyond limitation. I am always proud of him.

Dhoulai Mandal had different love to me. He feed me several times, when I was really very hungry. I had rarely any money in my pocket, I wanted to have catpati when other students used to have in break time. When I used feel kind of greedy for any food, I used to run to the water tube well and drink water as much as I can. I it is today, my physical body was very weak, tiny body and bad clothing and bare foot. However, my friends and Gurus did not make any comments on my physical body. They always appreciated for my labor and dedication to education.   

No idea, why, I got the feeling “I will make it” but how? I had no answer: when there is question there is answer- just needs more digging

In reality, I had no time to do any reading at home, and I was not able to focus in the classes. When we reached to school walking three hours, actually, we all used to get very tired. Even fall asleep during the classes.

Normal School day, (School hours 10.00AM-4.00PM) the a daily routine was, leave bed at 4.00AM, graze buffaloes for an hour or so, eat leftover food, get ready and start for school at 6.00AM, reach school about 9.30AM, attend school parade and prayers, attend class form 10.00AM to 4.00PM (half hour lunch break); leave school at 4.15PM, reach home around 7.00 to 7.30PM, depending on the weather condition. Once reached home, I had to do help my mother and my sister (dumb) to feed the animal and clean the dung.

Summer school day, (School hours 7.00AM-1.00PM April, May and June) the daily routine in the summer time, was even difficult; 3.00 AM leave the bed and 4.00AM leave for school, reach school around 6.30AM and leave school about 1.15PM. Because of the trees canopy the path used be still dark in 4.00AM. During this time March to June, the weather in Tarai remains very harsh, hot, and humid about 33 to 35 Celsius (relative humidity 99%). The thunderstorm, heavy rain, fast flood, heavy wind, if not raining than fire is the common problem during this period. So, there was no guaranteed time for reaching home. I remember, several times, we were even not able to return home from Rangeli and spend nights in the local Dharmasala (religious rest house), without food.

No time to focus on study- alternative is always there- if one door is closed another will be opened, if not one can make her or his own door- pathway

Actually, we had no time for study and only attending school was not sufficient to pass the classes. I was very upset (actually all of us), but we were not sharing our weaknesses to each other. I was kind of restless. One of my friends noticed my unusual behave and asked the cause. I told the truth, “I could not pass even a single subject in the half-yearly exam”. His situation was not different than mine. We shared our problem among the walker. This discussion broke the silence among us, and we learn that almost everyone had the same problem. In our walker group we were 10 students; 2, 10th grader, 3, 9th grader, 2, 8th graders and three of us seven graders.

Once we all shared our poor performance in the classes, it created a different but very friendly environment among us. We all did the brain storming to find the way to improve our performance in the classes. There were only few options (1) find a teacher for tuition- but it required the money and time (2) devote more time in studying at home, we had no time and no one was able to help us (3) get help from each other within the walker group. We all agreed on the third choice. The senior 10th graders agreed to help us as much as they can, during the walk and extra three hours on Friday after school (school hours in Friday was 10.00AM to 1.00PM).

Walking as tutorial time-when there is will there is a way

Our walking time turned as tutorial time (teaching verbally). As soon as we gathered in Ranjani on the way to Rangeli (school), our first task was to share the privies days’ class topic and the assigned homework. We used share what we know and what we do not know. By sharing this, half of the problem used to solve within us. For the difficult questions we had 10th and 9th graders to help us. Walking tutorials gave us a new energy. We learn trust, willingness to contribute, belonging and love within us. We had only one goal to learn and grow. We establish a routine for laud readers. The funny part was if one of us was reading, one of us has to hold his hand to guide him to walk. The readers normally acted as a blind person, because he or she could not see the path while reading and walking. It created very close relationship among us (which is still alive among that batch). The laud walk reader was considered as a blind person, and a person who was holding his hand was the eyes for him or her. This was also great lesson of coordination, cooperation. Through this exercise we not only improved our performance in the classes but also learn to admire, thrust, forgive, love and depend with each other.

This walking and reading tutorial system gave us a different way in our thinking pattern “the feelings of togetherness”. We all were equal beneficiaries, the blind readers, listeners, the guide, the seniors and we juniors. In addition to focus on study, we also discussed how this long walking together can be memorable for all of us.

Walking six hours for school, with bare feet-with heavy book load- and swim crossing three rivers was normal- mission guided mind always empowers physically and mentally

During six hours walk for four years (grade seven to ten), we had to cross three major rivers, several small water strips, a bit of forest and scrub, elephant grass (tall grass), sand dome, mud land and in the rivers banks, wetlands and mostly the agricultural lands. On the way to school and home, we had also to cross several farm villages. All people on the way knew us by names and if one of us were missing in a particular day, they used to ask his or her whereabouts. In reality, the entire pathway’s neighborhood became our well-wisher community. The family members of our pathways were fully aware of our arrival time to their neighborhood. They knew that, we were young poor sons and daughters like they had. They knew how challenging and risky long walk to school was. Due to the Cobra abundance on the path, walking bare feet and legs [mostly we used to wear half-pants (some of us had sleepers to wear, was easy to walk bare feet)], was very risky particularly during hot season. During four years of school we lost about five friends due to Cobra bite and fast flood. It was also very risky to walk on the wetlands; one never knows the depth of water in the marsh. The local people were always ready to help us on the way to school or home. In several incidences, during the storm or flood, they gave us food and shelter. They loved us without expectations, and they loved us unconditionally. During our walk, we ate their fruits (Mango, Banana, Custard Apple, Gooseberry, Lemon, Lime, Lychee, Musk-Melon, Papaya, Peach, Plum, Pomegranate, Tamarind and Guava or whatever was available) and raw vegetables (Carrot, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Green Gram, Radish, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Turnip, Lack-eyed pea etc.). It was not a moral deed, though teens are teens. Of course, they were not happy with these unwanted behave, though they never took our act seriously. We just ate, on the way whatever we found, but never, took any fruits or vegetables with us. In fact, they tolerate us like their own kids. They were very kind to us all the time.

Giving whatever, one possesses without expectation gives heavenly pleasure- way of sustainable living

We knew that, always wanted to do something for them to please them. Occasionally, we used to give our 10 to 15 minutes of time, particularly during our return to home, by helping to collect the rice hay, riding trees to pick the fruits, or picking the ripe vegetables. It was small deed, but it gave us great pleasure.   

There is always variation between rich and poor, (strong and weak) in most of the society- which hatred, satire, bullying, dedicated one does not care what other people say

In the school, we were three types of students. The first type, the sons and daughters of rich farmers or business holders, who had houses within the Rangeli city area; second type, mostly boys of rich families, who could keep them in School hostel or in a rented apartment and third type- who come from far / or near by walking.  Within walkers there were two types; first whose walking distance was within an hour; second whose walking distance was more than an hour and had to cross the rivers. We belong to the second category. The hostel boys, and the girls and boys of within Rangeli had nice clothing, shoes or sleepers. Walkers had different outlook; mostly dirty and wet clothing, no shoes and sleepers. We long walkers were even worse, normally our clothing used to be dusty or muddy, with bare feet. The good outfit students did not like to sit in the same bench with us. They used to say us that we walkers smell like dog urine, or donkey urine (that might be true). There was kind of unseen tension between us. Many times, they (the clean clothing friends of ours), misbehaved with us, but we never confronted. We walkers knew that we can’t compete with them in clothing, though we can win them in studies, grades and games. There was ranking system in the class, like first in the class, second in the class, third, fourth………..and so forth. We always obtain better position in class ranking, extra curricula, and in school games. Though there were unseen competitions within. In my batch (7th to 10th) as far as I remember only three students from the clean group managed to reach to the university level of study. However, from the walkers’ group about 75 percent complete graduate studies and are in the senior positions in their professional lives. To be in scarcity is terribly difficult, however, if one has perseverance, trust and wiliness, it will not stop to move ahead. Both pain and pleasures are temporary for the dedicated individuals.

Though, we were dirty; badly smelly; unorganized; frequently late in the classes; even fall asleep during the classes; our teachers always admired and encouraged us. Teachers were aware that “the teaching is the most important contribution” to the society and the world. They always used to say your physical appearance matters a lot in the school environment; however, your mental strength matters to the society, country and the globe. Physically, six hours walk to the school was very difficult, very risky, but was one of the best times of our life “we learned to live in hardship” in fact that is not over yet.

The four years of high school ended after the district level 10th grade exam. It was a getaway for the final School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam conducted by the government. There used to be only few locations for the SLC exam (centers). Our school’s center was in Biratnagar. I appeared at the SLC, however, I could not pass in first attempt. The countrywide passing ratio was only 10%. From my school only two of my friends passed. I was very disappointed. However, I knew it was not the end of life (though two girls from our school commit suicide, due to SLC fail). I began to prepare for another attempt. In the meantime, I also begin to look for a job (for the junior level clerk 10th grade was minimum qualification). I appeared job exam as well as second time for the SLC exam. I passed both written and oral exams for job but again failed the SLC. I join job as junior clerk at the Agriculture Input Corporation (government own office), in Itahari, half hour bus ride from Biratnagar. I rented a room in Biratnagar and compute by bus. In the meantime, I also continued preparing SLC for third attempt and pass with the lowest grades (the SLC- the iron gate of Nepal Education system).        To be continued in Part 2.

 

Dr. Medani P. Bhandari is Editor in Chief of the Global Journal – the Strategic Planning for Energy and the environment and Prof. at Akamai University, Hilo, Hawaii, USA and Sumy State University, Ukraine. Prof. Bhandari is a well-known social scientist and humanitarian; have published hundreds of scientific papers on international journals mainly within the domain of climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and roles of international organization. He has published four books on climate change, role of International organization, Inequality and Sustainability respectively as well as few volumes of poetry with Prajita Bhandari.  Copyright @medani bhandari