The two stories given below are written during a photo-writing workshop 'Picture This' organized by Photo Circle in June 17-19 at Bookworm, Gyan Mandal.
It was a wonderful experience of my life when I presented and shared my family-story using old photos among public in a rainy evening of June 27, 2011.
It was probably late 70s, when my late grandfather bought a piece of land in Kuleshwore, Kathmandu. At that time, his friends and relatives made fun of his decision. They used to pass comments such as, "What an insane decision? You would have been better off not buying land than buying a jungle of bushes and narket. The land is useless. Only an idiot would build a house at such a slope. Wolves and wild cats live there, why did you not buy land in a well settled area?" The remarks were totally based on fact. During that time, Kuleshwore was in fact a barren field with wild grasses. There were only a handful of houses there. The land was mainly used for agricultural purposes.
My grandfather started construction despite unenthusiastic remarks. Before constructing, he had to flatten the land in order to build a solid foundation. In this process, very fine black mud 'kalimati' came out of the earth. Following the suggestion of well-wishers, he decided to make bricks out of the accumulated 'kalimati' mud.My grandfather and other family members actively participated in the brick-making process.
The picture was taken during the time of construction. I am sure the photograph was taken by my father, Tej Prakash Shrestha with a Russian camera gifted by his elder brother living in the USSR. The young lady, carrying bricks in the picture, is my cousin aunt (Tara Badan Shrestha, fupu) and the other young lady is my sister (Sabitri Shrestha, didi). The boy standing next to them is my elder brother (Deepak Kiran Shrestha, dai).
Tara fupu was carrying some pieces of soggy mud, moulded in brick shape by a wooden frame 'sancho'. She was piling up raw bricks to dry, as shown in the picture. When the raw bricks got dry and hardened, they were baked and paddy husk helped to make it solid red brick.
I was told that these home-made bricks were used to construct the foundation and the ground floor. Today my grandfather's house stands as a three-story building. It, however, took more than 20 years to complete, as my grandfather and father were not too rich. They were simple and sincere government officials who were happy within the means of their monthly salary, which was hardly enough to feed their children and pay their tuition fee. It took 6-7 years to save enough money to build the second storey. That’s how it took more than 20 years to complete the building.
One of the happiest things in my grandfather's life was that he lived the rest of his life in this house with his children and grandchildren. I do not know how many grandparents are lucky enough to live with their children and grandchildren today. My aunt and sister, as shown in the photograph, lived in this house for years until they happily got married. Now they live in their respective homes with their families. My elder brother lives with his small and happy family in Naikap.
Currently my wife and I live in this house. My entire childhood was spent here. I can remember very few houses being built around that time. My childhood friends could spot me on my roof from their homes at Naya Basti that was half a kilometer away . Time has changed; there are many houses here now, sprouting like mushrooms in the rainy season. Even taller buildings have been erected in front of it. Now, my friends cannot locate me from their homes even though I sit on my roof, trying to enjoy an obstructed full view of the sunset behind the hill, towards the west.
If you visit this home, you will neither find a single wolf or wild cat nearby, nor a jungle of Narket. You will find only a jungle of concrete. And my grandfather's house is in it.
It was 1974 when my uncle, my dad's youngest brother, Tripur Sundar Shrestha (21 year) posed for this picture. This picture was taken in a dormitory at Keiv, the capital city of Ukraine. At that time, Ukraine was under the Republic of Soviet Union. He had a dream to be an actor; a film hero. However, Nepal at that time had not developed as today, especially in the field of art, media and cinema. He had got opportunity to pursue his further education in USSR. He wished to study in the related field of film making but his elder brother, Krishna Prakash Shrestha, did not find any scope in the film arena, and thus suggested him to pursue further education in Law.
The picture had captured a moment of his student life. The rack full of books and documents is a proof that he loves book. Or, at least he loves to collect books. The glasses he was wearing also shows how studious he was. But…hold on a second…here! I have never seen him wearing a study glass here in Nepal. So I doubt, he might have put on those glasses merely to pose a photo; because he loves acting. An interesting thing is that while taking this picture, he was inspired by a Hindi actor Rishi Kapor (he had watched the movie 'Bobby' in Russian language in Ukraine).
Anyway, do you recognize the poster he had fixed in a wall? Is that the Mt. Everest? In fact, I have chosen this picture for the poster reading 'Visit Nepal'. My uncle had fixed the poster almost 4 decades back in Ukriane; far from Nepal. I do not know why he had chosen that poster. May be he wanted his foreigner frienda to visit Nepal or he wanted to promote Tourism in Nepal. May be he simply loves Nepal.
Today, Republic of Soviet Union has become a chapter of History book. During those decades, communism has been collapsed in Republic of Soviet Union, it has been dissolved, and Ukraine has become an independent country in 1991. Likewise, Nepal has also gone through various political changes from Panchayat system to Multi-party, Monarchy system to Federal Republican Democratic system.
History suggests that change is inevitable. But it also shows history repeats itself. Today or I can say this year; we are celebrating Tourism Year 2011. I do not know how much the Tourism year is successful, but one thing is sure that there could be many people like my uncle, who are right now living in foreign countries and fixing the similar kind of poster reading "Visit Nepal : 2011' in their wall. Despite the truth that things change, the love for the nation remains unchanged in the heart of Nepali people.
After my uncle returned from Ukraine, he had joined Gorkhapatra Corporation- a field that was not compatible to his interest or his academic qualification. It is a field of print media, different than a field of cinema or law. However, he worked in the cooperation for years. Today, he is a retiree from his job. Though, his dream to be an actor is not fulfilled, William Shakespeare says life is a drama and world is a stage, in the real world-stage he is a leading actor performing his part of life-script.
Saurav Kiran Shrestha