At the midnight of Friday, October 10, 2008 my nephew Nava Raj phoned me to tell that my niece Gita had passed away and our relatives were converging to Pokhara. The jolt of bad news came only three hours before my planned trip to the USA to submit a proposal concerning Nepal. I entered into a state of confusion and dismay. I phoned my nephew Balakrishna but found that he was not the strong person I knew; he cried and difficultly conveyed that my brother was close to unconscious, unable to witness the passing away of his young daughter in front of his eyes. They were preparing to give her last rites at Ram Ghat in a few hours time. By the time all this happened, it was an hour before my departure time and I began to think about what I was to do. My mind was long busy running through the stored images of my memory, unsettled thoughts, and repeatedly flashing the way she had greeted me the last time saying “Kanchha Ba”. A little one year old daughter besides her, she had a gaze and smile that lacked happiness. My bothered senses could not corner her for inquiry then but the wished future opportunity was not to come true. Running across my mind now were the images of her dead body in the hospital bed and an oblivious two years old daughter roaming in the Angan (patio) at her village. The ethicality and appropriateness of my journey emerged tall as my niece’s dead body was lying on a hospital bed waiting to be taken away.
Gita was due to deliver a child but complication developed. When the family took courage to take her to a far away hospital in Pokhara, it was already too late. The child came lifeless on the way and mother passed away in the intensive care unit of the hospital despite the best of efforts from doctors and medical staff. But the dead are dead and I imagine them in a state free of all sufferings. What I am fixated with are the images of the living left behind. Some obscure image flash in my mind of that little girl of Gita, playing innocently amidst an impending storm closing on her. Despite having a whole world to think about, my thoughts keep on passing among the three children left by my oldest brother and then the two left by his son, the dozen left by my three sisters, and, the most of all, this little girl Susmita. So much already but sufferings do not end.
In the process of scrutinizing it, I traced the culminating factors for my journey back in time to discover that the root of this journey was planted on death itself! My mother had died due to excessive bleeding caused by a farm accident. All the outpouring of goodwill from everyone we know of could not save her. I had soon learned that she could have been saved if there was a way for transfusion of blood, or saline water. I was angry that we did not even have a know-how and technology for simple things like that. I used to be angry about tiniest of things that displeased me and was a true rebel of the left. But slowly I had determined that some day we will change the future of our people through the use of science and technology. And that determination was a turning point of my life, although other incidences also played role. Gradually, I became intent on science and technology and wanted to learn anything and everything possible. I had bought every electrical engineering book that I saw in the bookstores of Roorkee and New Delhi while doing my Bachelor of Engineering. Thanks to UN scholarship! I was driven not by my duties but by a quest for understandings and achievements. If there were other motivators, they would be a pride of Nepal and a love for its downtrodden people. Thanks to blind nationalism and youthful activism!
That this journey was associated with the pursuit of science and technology, I was at ease when I finally came to a firm decision to go. And, shortly after, the car rolled from my parking lot, passed through the city streets, and entered the pitch dark highway lit only by the headlights. As the journey went, the train of thoughts continued on rolling in my mind until being briefly broken by interruptions at the USA-Canada border. As I passed the toll-booth, the brightly lit suspension bridge over the St. Lawrence River, known for its height and engineering, looked majestic against all the darkness that surrounded it. I now was southbound on a highway in New York State while the evening was fast approaching in Nepal. I assumed that Gita’s body might be at Ram Ghat by now for the last rites. Here, the spell of darkness was being broken by the red hue of dawn in the east. This familiar corridor in which I frequent was presenting views unlike any other time as I drove along. All over the valley mist was lying low and covering the landscape like a blanket of fluffed cotton, leaving a clear sky above. A few traces of cloud were lining on the east horizon that was turning golden. A flock of Canada Geese was flying on my left against a slowly rising mist over a lake. The flying silhouette of the birds against the red eastern sky gave me a sense that this is a birth of a new beginning. While Gita’s body was being cremated in Nepal, this completely inspiring scene was coincidentally unfolding in front of my eyes.
The timing happened to be such that this was the most colorful time of the year in this part of the world. As the sun rose across the eastern sky, the strong red colors of maples and sumac that dominate this landscape gained prominence. Spectrums of colors were being exuded by yet other varieties of maples and species of trees that turn yellow and red in this time of the year. It seemed as if the dark greens of pine and spruce were especially placed there to give importance to those bright colors. The majestic Oak trees seemed still waiting to change their colors. As the sun gained its height and brightness, the mist over the majestic Oneida Lake seemed excited and rising fast, aiming the eastern sky. Slowly, however, all those spectacle of nature were overwhelmed by the now dominant sun. What was left there was a still landscape that was filled with brilliant colors. I felt that my relatives must be in search of refuse after the whirlwind of storm they withered through.
Arrived in Baltimore in the early afternoon, I coincidentally ended up attending a Dashain program being held that evening. There was a low turnout of adult franchise but young faces seemed to be in abundance. Those brilliant and aspiring artists on the stage were also young. Unexpectedly invited to the stage, I spoke a few words with a message of unity, persistence, and inevitable success to the organizers but my mind was scrutinizing the crowd. The youth in the crowd went wild when Mr. Anand Bajracharya sang “Jun Dekhe Junai Ramro”. I felt that a new form of unity and optimism was taking root among the youth while the old generation was fragmenting itself through disunity. The exuberance of the young gave me a sense that a new Nepal is being born.
Some may view the exuberance of those youth as an immature whim but it reminded me of a time in the village when I was able to sneak out of my strict household to participate in Jhyaure. My father and brothers had gone to another village in a marriage procession and women had gone to Ratyauli. I was happy to be included by my adventurous but older friends to sneak out and enjoy a night of songs and dance. I must have been the only inexperienced and the clumsiest of all there but it did not matter to me. I had a real fun, a special kind of fun. However, I was caught by the Ratyauli goers that evening and punished harshly by my brother the next day. Considering that my pro-friends did not gain much education and are roaming the streets of India today while the sense of fun of that day lingers in my mind, I neither regret going to Jhyaure nor do I regret being punished. May be we need a little dose of many things in life. The extremists of either kind may disagree with me but that is alright with me. No matter what, I saw myself of two decades ago in those youth singers, DJs, and dancers. One young lady performing a superb dance said that she was studying communication engineering. I left the program with a sense of pride and happiness.
As I was driving back from the program, the sadness of the previous night flashed back. I was running through mixed feelings and ended up locking the keys inside the car in the end. However, my quest for bringing positive change to our people that began from the death of my mother was being reinforced in me through all those contemplations. Having seen already enough deaths in the family, I said, “Did I need this reminder today? Are not I already in pursuit of liberation of our people? What a wasted dose of reminder!” But then again I felt that this journey was unlike any others and may be it is the last reminder before I act. After all exhaustions, I dedicated that journey to those little Susmita that have been left behind by those mothers that have died from preventable causes. I hope that little Susmita grows up to inspire others who lost their mothers before they could express their gratification for being endeared. Most importantly, I hope a new generation emerges in pursuit of knowledge and science and gives rise to a new Nepal where no one has to die in Akal and that our people could enjoy lives of confidence and hope.