The Tales of Maya&Mina

Maya’s 9th birthday was 2 weeks away. She had started the countdown 2 weeks prior, anticipating the fun she would be having on the day when all her family and friends would be hovering around her. Each one of them wishing her a “Very Happy Happy Birthday!” A unified song would be the grand finale where all attendees circled around her and the birthday cake with 9 candles.

She was so anxious for the day’s arrival that it felt like every moment that wasn’t her birthday was an agonizing pain. All she could talk about was her upcoming birthday. Unfortunately for Mina, her maid, she had no choice but listen to Maya whimper about the dull days leading to her party.

Maya: “Mina. Mina. Mina. Ughhh…I don’t know what to doooooo?! I just want it to be my birthday already. Do you remember how much fun we had last year?? The delicious cake, the giggles, the balloons, and the pink Cinderella dress? Everyone said I looked like a princess! Oh Mina, I know you will never understand but the wait is killing me.”

“Yes, Maya!” Mina thought to herself. “I wouldn’t understand what it would be like to have people hover around me and make me life of the party. I was literally in the middle of your party last year holding the birthday cake and no one even noticed my existence until they needed my assistance to fetch them water, whiskey on the rocks, and rags for the spilled drinks. Yes, I wouldn’t know your pain for I have never felt the love and admiration god has blessed you with. But god do I want to? If only you knew how badly I want to feel your pain.”

Instead, Mina turned to Maya and said, “It will be okay. Your birthday is not even 2 weeks away. It will be there before you know it.”

Maya hesitantly snapped out from her whining and replied. “I guess you are right. Want to go outside and play?

Mina: “I really want to but can’t right now. I have to chop onions and tomatoes for the curry your mother is about to make.”

Maya: “You are so good with the kitchen stuff. Mom is always telling me to be more like you and asking me why I can’t be as diligent when it comes to household chores. Maybe one day I will learn the proper ways of chopping onions from you, without making a huge mess and crying my eyes out that is. Remember last week’s fiasco?”

Maya giggled at the image of her crying while chopping onions last week when Mina was busy sweeping the kitchen. Although Maya had promised to help out with the chore, she fled the job unfinished because her eyes could not take any more sting. She was filled with admiration for Mina that day as Mina finished the job without a single tear.

“I do remember it very well.”  Mina chuckled as she excused herself and made way to the kitchen while Maya playfully skipped her way to the playground.

Mina started chopping the onion and felt the sting in her eyes; she let the tears roll down her cheeks.

Creativenessfest Nepal 2016

I’m feeling so shaky and overwhelmed from my speech. My hands are trembling; my chest feels like it’s going to explode. But I can’t stop writing because I’m making everyone write for the next 10 minutes. There are 100 of us under this tent enduring the muggy summer air with resilience. Just like in school, we’re all seated on our chairs; every head glued to the page in their notebooks, scribbling ceaseless, witnessing our hands catch a momentum. As if my whole life I was preparing for this moment, joining forces with the masses that share my passion for using creativity to build a more conscious world. Like me, they are attending the first Creativenessfest Nepal in hopes of creating a new Nepal. One filled with infinite possibilities for a better future.

“Words have the power to empower or to dehumanize you. Choose them wisely.” These simple yet profound words from the founder of Life in 10 minutes, Valley Haggard, really struck a cord in me. Writing for 10 minutes at a time became a revival outlet like meditation to help me recognize and take charge of my inner voice. Although I started with the prompt right now I am and begin with the most recent chain of events, emotions evoked in the present somehow tied into a story of the forgotten past. It seemed like my life was coming in full circle on a piece of paper. Then there were times when it was simply a word vomit reflecting back at me. Nonetheless it was empowering to give the voices in my head a home.

Now here I am. Trying to pay it forward. Thankfully I’ve been greeted with nothing but warm smiles and gratitude for hosting this workshop. Everyone here is so humble and compassionate. Maybe it’s due to the fact that we’re in a country that is so deeply rooted in spirituality or maybe because I’m back post the catastrophic earthquake last April. For the first time in my life yesterday, I heard my maiju (aunt) say, “Now, I believe in Dharti Mata (Goddess of Earth). This came about as she was telling me her experience of the devastating earthquake and how she started with chanting Lord Shiva’s name, the Hindu God who is also known as the destroyer or transformer. “Hai Shiva ji, Malai raksha gara” (Dear lord Shiva, please protect me). The earth shook even more violently after her pled. Shutting her eyes in disbelief, she ran down the entire Gods and Goddesses names she could recall and called them for protection. Lord Bishnu, Lord Bramha, Godess Laxmi, Godess Baglamukhi, Lord Ganesh, to name a few.

In the midst of her chanting and shaking of the ground, she had a moment of awareness as she opened her eyes and saw a car jumping on the street. The car was bouncing as if all the Gods and Goddesses were collectively pushing the ground underneath, trying to emerge out of the surface. She then concluded the chant with one God’s name throughout, “Hai Dharti Mata, malai raksha gara! (Oh Mother Earth, please protect me!)

This was music to my ears especially after the recent hectic trip to Baglamukhi Temple, one of the most ancient temples of Devi in Nepal. Like every Thursday, worshippers were standing in a 2-hour queue to get a glimpse of Devi’s statue. To the contrary of how you would expect everyone to be, in a state of complete bliss and enchantment, most people were yelling and shoving each other to get ahead of the line.

I was baffled at the scene. Doesn’t that derail the whole purpose of their visit? Aren’t the temples and the statues merely a representation of the eternal god inside us that never leaves our sight? I hope like my maiju everyone realizes that the biggest god we need to worship is the one inside our hearts and the mother earth that sustains it.

My Grandmother’s Advice on Marriage

Ever since I can remember, the topic of marriage has been and remains to be the most discussed and heated one. “No matter what, you have to get married to a Nepali guy. Very important to preserve our tradition and culture especially in a foreign country.” Although in my teenage years these words would go in one and out the other ear, they lingered in my head as I hit my 20’s. And now at the age of 27 it seems to be the most prominent predicament.

I moved to the states at the age of 12 from my motherland Nepal and landed in the most diverse city in America—Queens. As diverse as it was, the amount of Nepali and especially Nepali cute teenage boys were slim to none picking. Forget about marriage or dating we couldn’t find any boys to simply hang out with. So me and the other Nepali girls I knew made best of options that was available to us. It felt rebellious and selfish at first, dating outside the boundaries set by your parents’, but as we got older we realized it was equally selfish of them to confine our dating pool.

Ironically, I didn’t recall any marriage advice from my hajurama grandmother up until a recent phone conversation few days ago. My mother’s mother got married at a very young age and has 7 kids. When I asked how old she was when she had her first kid, she replied with a laugh, “I feel very ashamed even saying it. Don’t even ask me such questions.”

Upon my insisting she hesitantly blurted out, “I was 16.”

It wasn’t a conventional conversation between a Nepali grandmother and granddaughter but it was a pivotal one. It stemmed from my annoyance as to why my mother was stressing the importance of getting married soon and having kids so she could take breath of relief knowing I have “settled down.”

Not sure what changed her mind but hajurama started spilling the beans and sharing her true feelings about marriage and kids. “Back in our days ti paapi those sinners would get girls married right after they had their first period. Hitting puberty was a sign of womanhood. Aba chadai bihe garena bhane pariwar lai sharap lagcha. If not married soon, the gods will curse your family with bad omen.”

She didn’t go in details as to who “ti paapi” “those sinners” were but I knew she was referring to the enforcers of a patriarchal society. They might have had different faces—priest, community leader, neighbor, mother, father—but they were all sinners nonetheless. “I used to call them sinners! When giving blessings they would loudly preach, hope god gifts you with 5 sons and 3 daughters. May your offspring take over and cover the mountains and the lands.”

Contrary to what I’ve been hearing, my grandmother had no angst about her grandchildren getting married. Since her marriage and pregnancy was bestowed at such an early age, understandably she didn’t want to wish that burden on anyone. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that my marriage was not a cause of stress in her life.

She then concluded her story with the following words that will forever linger in my head. “I suffered a lot. That’s why I wish I only had 2 of my eldest so I could’ve been a better mother and that is why I’m telling you don’t worry about getting married and having kids right now. Do well, focus on yourself, your work, make a name for yourself, and be satisfied with what you’ve got.”

Although she is content with her life now, I could hear the longing for a change of fate in hajurama’s voice. Curious as to what that would look like, I created a mental image of her celebrating sweet 16 in a pink princess dress—fussing over the heaviness of her skirt’s frills.

Birthday

It’s weird to see the date 6/23 first thing in the morning on your phone. I wake up feeling pretty good; as good as I can feel. I’m at peace with myself in compare to the previous years’ 6/23 when I would be so anxious on the day-my birthday. I would wake up with this excitement and over enthusiasm on how the day would be that no one could relate to or keep up with. In the end, I went to bed unhappy and unsatisfied on how it panned out, as it would hardly measure up to my expectations.

But then again, there were some birthdays that turned out to be even better than expected. Everyone I know and love miraculously gathered under the same roof, laughing and dancing. Those were the days I guess. Just like this one. This too is a day. Unique. Like no other days before or after because there will only be one 6/23/2016.

I haven’t even started the day but I feel as if it’s already a successful one. I woke up alive, breathing, feeling grateful.

The mantras on turning 27-

  1. Take it one-step and day at a time.
  2. Let go of everyone’s expectations from you.
  3. Don’t lose faith in yourself since only you can validate your self-worth.

Lastly, Happy Birthday love! You deserve every bit of happiness, peace, and success.

 

Homecoming

Right now I’m preparing for the writing workshop I’m hosting in Nepal next week. Everything is going pretty seamlessly so far. All things are in order as much as they can be. Except for the visa, which I can also get in Nepal apparently. My dad, however, doesn’t want us to deal with the long line at the airport and the questioning harassment, “What is the purpose of your travel?” But I will have my cousin, Suchita, in this mayhem with me. At least we will have an interesting memory to share upon the embarking of our adventure. We’re probably going to have so many memories to follow that will reside only among each other.

I really don’t know what to expect at this point. Will it be everything we dreamed of? Will it be the craziest and the biggest adventure of our lives so far? Seems like it is.I guess the uncertainty is the only certain part about this trip. No one knows what will happen. No one can tell. But everyone keeps saying that it will be a great one including me. I have these waves of feelings, sometimes good, sometimes bad, a euphoric kind of feeling, emerging as if I can foresee a glimpse of what is ahead.

Some memories are probably waiting for my arrival as if they have not been able to live fully in my absence of 14 years, while others that never felt my absence to begin with. A bittersweet reunion. Memories of the subliminal come alive to remind me of the forgotten. Not to taunt me but to teach me; to show me that I have been blessed.How I have been blessed my whole life. How my life, my god, and my soul never cheated me. I was aware of all my blessings then yet it’s not until now that I’m able to fully embrace my past and find myself through it all.

Dancing in the Moonlight

Right now I’m sitting on the bank of James River by the Bells Isle trail. It’s truly beautiful here; both the scenery and the way it makes you feel so eternal. The crisp breeze telling you that it’s the first morning batch of fresh air, unpolluted.

I like the isolation of being the only one here at this early hour. Not that I would mind or be bothered if there were others around but I guess it’s human nature to long for a blissful solitude.

A place where you are content with yourself and all the choices you have made since there is no one to tell you good from bad or right from wrong. You’re carefree to think and feel what and how you want. Do as you please without being analyzed, misinterpreted, or misjudged.

This probably is the biggest dichotomy of human existence; you crave companionship but equally long for your solitude.Safety versus adventure.Attachment or detachment.

It’s definitely my biggest dilemma. I long to be with someone and have a life long companionship but also yearn for my solitude. To feel independent, claim my success as my own, and pay tribute to no one.

After all it is me who got myself to where I’m. How far I have come.Granted I have had amazing people encourage me, inspire me to push further. However, it’s me who has to cross the finish line.

Then again, what would that success look like without crowd of people cheering your name at the finish line? Excited, anticipation a victory hug and a big celebration.Followed by an after party where everybody is dancing in the moonlight.