Archana's will to study again on the contrary to her hard life
Archana Shrestha, 20, an honest calm-natured girl whom I have known for the past couple of months. The reason I decided to interview her was the absence of education in her life. According to her, she had to quit school from 8th grade. Due to the long gap in her studies, she is incapable to read and write properly now. She currently wants to further her studies but she is having difficulties understanding even the simplest terms. She wants to pass out of SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam, which is the 10th grade, taken as the most valued qualification in Nepal for every job holder and if she can, she says she wants to study further. Her desire for taking every opportunity she is fortunate to have now is so positive and pleased to know. Her will to accept the harsh situations and grow out of them is something to be admired for. She poured out her life story without any hesitation because she was not ashamed of what had happened to her and her family. In fact she doesn’t blame her family at all and she says the sacrifice she has made was all worth it. Now her siblings are well educated and she wishes that they should slowly start to understand the love and care she has given to them. When I asked her why she quit, she said she did it out of love.
Her mother was only 11 and her father, 15, when they fled from their homes and got married. They were naïve to know why it was wrong to marry at such young age. They didn’t know any better. At those times, child marriage didn’t count as an illegal act, especially in villages. Point to be noted that in some parts of Nepal, this custom still applies and many young girls are forced to marry. It was taken as a common practice and her father’s family accepted her. They both were minors and they were both stupid, stupidly in love. But little that her mother knew, being the inter caste bride in the house was the last thing she would want to be. Her mother had to face constant dominance from every member of her husband’s family. It was hard for her husband’s family as well to have a bride, who didn’t know anything about their tradition and religion. Nepal is the place where religion plays a vital role in a family. Though caste system is slowly diminishing, it is still encouraged that you marry a person of your own religion and caste. There are these certain traditions that members of the family are taught at the young age. Some of the practices are kept private not only because it varies completely from another caste but also some are taken as a symbol of being who you are. Such traditions are laid down by our ancestors and it is taken as an inevitable part of our life spiritually. It is said that we should part from this world the way our ancestors have and when a different member in the family enters that circle, it is taken as a disgrace to the ones who have left. According to Archana, her parents suffered a difficult young life. Slowly out of frustration, her father sought a wrong solution, alcohol. Archana said it was not his fault; it was the situation that brought him to it. Everyone in his village pointed fingers at him, for inviting such trouble in their community. Though his family never out casted him but they talked about his failure behind his back. They showed disappointment openly, instead of the encouragement, which he must have craved for at least from them. Archana remembers every fight they had with his father. She knew it was not his father who was actually fighting, that it was the alcohol. It became an addiction. At that time, her father never tried to be sober because he couldn’t take the pain and there was no one at least matured enough to tell him to stop. She says he is still struggling with his addiction. She has begged many times to her father to try to quit drinking. He has applied many solutions but the problem for him seems greater.
She had to quit school at the young age because it was hard for her mother to run the family by herself. Hardship devoured their lifestyle and the destitution finally arrived in her home. She and her mother worked as hard as they could. She said they even started a small business near their home, which sold warm cups of tea to people who travelled on the road. There was no doubt that her father strived very hard to make everything better as well. Because of his low self esteem he must have caught with all those backbiting and finger pointing, he couldn’t commit to a proper work and for the same reason, his elders found ways to make him feel defeated. She said it’s been only two years since her mother left them out of prolonged unending frustration. She must have fought hard but when everything seemed impossible to mend, she found no other solution. With no surprise, the humiliation was the talk of the village for a long time. Her family accused her mother of running away with another man. Along with such disgraceful accusations, they also blamed her for selling family’s fortune and such. There was only Archana who had the utmost trust in her mother and did not give in to those meaningless rumors. She still believes that her mother can never leave her children for another man. After her mother left, her life turned a different road. Her father started drinking more out of depression. She became the heart of the family. The great responsibility of keeping the family together fell on her delicate shoulders. Nevertheless, not only did she bravely carry out this responsibility but she strived to make it better. Ironically, other villagers; the ones who discarded them at their darkest hours, talk about her courage and praise her for her bravery and the life she leads now for her family and for herself. They feel astounded to acknowledge that she has built up a good life for her siblings to grow up in. She is making sure that her siblings are on the right track of their lives. She is as supportive to them as a mother should be. Her father also loves her and appreciates her effort. Her mother is now a devotee of her religion for which one is called as ‘Brahma Kumari’. Her religion believes in looking after the children, who are taken as their living deities. She currently lives in India and still keeps in contact with her children and sends money frequently. Her father’s family in spite of everything else talks about them behind their backs. She knows that they are cruel to her but she doesn’t care until and unless her family is safe and sound. Whenever she would take out her own expenses; her long time savings to help her brother, they would tell her that she was doing it so that her brother would look after her when she is old. Despite all the accusations, she refuses to give in to such gibberish. She asks me why they would doubt the love for my family when I have done so much for them in return.
Archana, although her life may seem like a whirlpool of misfortunes and unfortunate events, she is an optimistic girl and her hard working and cool persona quite frankly amazes me. She does have her concerns over her life filled with such hard times but she doesn’t let it rule over her present and hence keeps her future safe from harm. She understands that the past is a past and one can do nothing but learn from it.
I can tell that she is a social fighter as well. There are instances that she has told me when she has spoken her mind aloud in situations where she shouldn’t have. She further confesses that she can’t help herself when she encounters injustice happening to others. She is smart but due to the lack of education, she is unable to grasp certain matters that need thorough reasoning. We speak to each other on a daily basis at the place where we meet. Truthfully, I have never seen a single sign of distress on her face because she is so excellent in hiding it. It’s not in her nature to make others feel bad because she knows what problem may mean to each person. She has the delightful urge to learn more. She often asks for my help to learn the basic mathematics and English and when she asks, my friends and I delightfully accept her request and teach her whatever she wants to know. Despite the instability in her family, she has the full support from her parents on pursuing her studies. I always encourage her that there’s no such thing as late education and that one can begin at any time and shouldn’t care about what other’s might think. I carry immense hope for her future. If women of this country can have courage like hers, then I needn’t worry about our country’s future so much.