Better than The Kite Runner

Salaam Alaykum!

A lot of thoughts got implanted in my head after reading The Kite Runner. I don’t know when was the first time I heard about the book and how I heard about it. The book was written in 2003 A.D. when I was about just 10 years old. It had been a long time I wanted to read it but hadn’t found it in my college library [ I don’t buy books as long as I can find it in a library or with a friend 🙂 ]

There was a book exhibition in the exhibition ground, Bhrikutimandap in Kathmandu. I had gone to spend my free time around there as I was free after completing my final year at the college. I saw the book again. The desire to read it surged again. I flipped through the book, looked the price, and began reading the author’s foreword, praises for the book and the highlights/description of the book which I usually do before reading a new book. When I came to know that the novel is about childhood and friendship, I could not stop myself to begin reading the first chapter. I read some of the pages standing in front of the stall. Then I decided to BUY THE FIRST NOVEL 🙂 

I was so attracted by the first novel [The Kite Runner] that I could not stop myself from reading the author’s second work; A Thousand Splendid Suns. Though this novel has portrayed the male characters [Baba as well as Rasheed] as evils, I loved the second novel [ A Thousand Splendid Suns] more than the The Kite Runner. But yes, one book cannot be compared with another; each has a different purpose/theme. It’d be better to say I loved the story of the second novel than that of the first one. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a melange of conspiracies, love, war and at last patriotism. It shows how war has shattered Afghanistan and how people become bound to the circumstances they don’t even want to imagine. The following lines from the novel describe how it is the melange of conspiracies, love, war and patriotism. 

#conspiracies: 

• Her (Mariam’s) gaze skimmed over all of these things before they found a face, across the garden, in an upstairs window. The face was there for only an instant, a flash, but long enough. Long enough for Mariam to see the eyes widen, the mouth open. Then it snapped away from the view. A hand appeared & frantically pulled at a cord. The curtain fell shut.
• “Yes. But I’ve seen nine-year-old girls given to men twenty years older than your suitor, Mariam. We all have. What are you, fifteen? That’s a good, solid marrying age.” … It didn’t escape Mariam that no mention was made of her half sisters Saideh or Naheed, both her own age, both students in the Mehri School in Herat, both with plans to enroll in Kabul University. Fifteen evidently, was not a good, solid marrying age for them.

#war:

• “They have food here (orphanage)”, Laila (mother) said shakily. She was glad for the burqa, glad that Aziza(daughter) couldn’t see how she was falling apart inside it.

#love

• In the middle of the night when Laila woke up thirsty, she found their(Laila & her second husband, Tariq) hands still clamped together, in the white knuckle, anxious way of children clutching balloon strings.
• “Me?”, he (Tariq) says, “I will follow you to the end of the world, Laila.”

#patriotism

• A year ago, she (Laila) would have gladly given an arm to get out of Kabul. But in the last few months, she has found herself missing the city of her childhood. She misses the bustle of Shor Bazaar, the Gardens of Babur, the call of the water carriers lugging their goatskin bags.

If you read The Kite Runner and liked it, I think you will like A Thousand Splendid Suns more.

Happy reading !! 

मुक्तक

फूटपाथका जीवनहरु पढ्नमै अभ्यस्त छ 

सधैँ यसैगरी चल्दैन भन्नेमा पनि बिस्वस्त छ 

प्राथमिकताहरुको एउटा निर्वाचन गर्न नसकेर 

आफैँ चाहिँ आजकल पूरै अस्तव्यस्त छ ।।  #माई_डियर_जिन्दगी 🙂

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Is accustomed to reading the footpath lives

Is sure, just this way, it never survives !

Being unable to conduct an election of priorities

Itself’s a mess now! Still, there’s something for which it strives !!  #My_dear_jindagi 🙂

Collage

Shall I Breathe?

Shall I breathe!

Even masks are terrified with pollution in #Kathmandu #Dustmandu

What do you think is the easiest task? Breathing? That is what I find the most difficult one in Kathmandu. Locality matters!

Air pollution is a major environmental and ultimately a health problem in developed as well as developing cities. Kathmandu is not an exception. Instead, Kathmandu has gotten some new names because of dust and air pollution. Dustmandu and Maskmandu are the commonest ones. A recent analysis of air pollution in Kathmandu for the period of one month, Magh, showed that, the 24-hour daily averages of the PM2.5 (Particulate Matter of less than 2.5 micrometre diameter) concentration in Kathmandu atmosphere were beyond the government standard of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, forget about the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

At first, what is very difficult for me to understand is how the government standard becomes 60 per cent higher than the WHO standard. Is it because Gorkhalis are brave enough to tolerate higher levels of pollution than the WHO standard? If so, I am not a Gorkhali. Or I am an exceptional one!

The current analyses on air pollution are being done only on the PM2.5 concentration basis. What about other pollutants such as ground-level ozone, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Carbon monoxide (CO)? Are these pollutants within the recommended standard? What would be the quality of air if the impact of these pollutants is also included in determining the air quality of Kathmandu Valley? A recent WHO report states that, of the 1.7 million child deaths every year, five hundred seventy thousand children under five year of age die from respiratory infections attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Though exact figure of such death is not available for Kathmandu, we can easily assume that such death is high here as Kathmandu has been ranked as the seventh worst polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality recently. How can we expect a high number of children to survive who get born in the seventh worst polluted city in the world and inhale the poisonous air since their first breathe?

Suggestions you will get to avoid the pollution in Kathmandu are so ridiculous – avoid all sports activities, do physical activities only after noon, don’t go for a morning or evening walk as air pollution is higher in the morning and in the evening! Are these pragmatic suggestions? We have to wait till noon for any physical activities? Sounds like there will be suggestions like “Don’t breathe wherever and whenever you like!” in the near future. What I have understood is that the static blanket of polluted air near the earth’s surface in the morning gets dispersed as a result of human and vehicular movements. To some extent, the solar radiation helps. But if nobody comes out of their house till noon, does the air quality automatically improve as such? I don’t think so. And is it ‘ethical’ to prevent children from going outside and playing? Can we expect them to be healthy that way? I am quite confused if these suggestions are intended to prepare healthy or ailing citizens. Is it practicable to put a mask on a two-year child while carrying him out of the house? According to news reports, the ordinary, cheap cloth masks that people generally put on in Kathmandu are also ineffective against the pollutant particles. According to researches, the oldest and the youngest are the most affected people due to air pollution. We can somehow accuse the oldest generation for not acting to curb pollution earlier. But what crime has a newborn done to inhale poisonous air since his/her first breath? The pollution levels are recorded and published; not forecasted so that we can avoid the peak hours of pollution every day.

The only panacea is – cleaning the atmosphere. The recent move to ban the twenty-year-old vehicles is a good one. According to a BBC report, the brick kilns of the valley destroyed by the 2015 earthquake are being rebuilt using new technology that emits less polluting soot and smoke. For widening the road, the government cut so many green trees in many parts of the ring road some years ago, but when it comes to curbing pollution it does not plant trees. Trees are reported to have a significant impact in reducing the atmospheric pollution. What is preventing the government for large roadside plantations? Are we only focusing on development with no concerns about the environment? Can such development be sustainable? What is the use of a city with roads of multiple lanes and skyscrapers where you have to fear for ‘breathing’? 

Twitter: @AacharyaAaditya

Amplifying happiness

Also in this link: http://www.voicesofyouth.org/en/posts/amplifying-happiness

Happiness

How would you feel if you found five bucks while walking on a roadside? Happy? Extremely happy? Maybe that depends on the amount of money you find.

Same happened to me some weeks ago. I found five rupees (Nepali currency) while walking on a roadside. I felt very happy. Five rupees is not that great amount of money, but I had found it without any effort. The bank note was right in front of me and I just had to bend down to pick it up. That was all.

Without thinking anything, I picked up the note. Holding it in my hand I continued my regular move.

After walking for a few minutes, I just remembered some beggars asking for money while I was coming from my room in the morning. I had to pass across a hospital daily and there used to be so many ailing people in the road in front of the hospital asking for money or food or something else.

To be honest, I hadn’t given them (those in front of the hospital) anything till that day. I don’t know what prompted me but I thought of giving the five rupees I found just before, to one of them while returning back to the room.

In the evening, on my way back to the room, I did as planned. There was a guy with no legs. I didn’t throw the note into the begging bowl. Instead, I put it in his hand and asked what had happened to his legs. He told me that he was born like that. He was so grateful for that small amount of money – I cannot describe it here by writing.

Now I know how to amplify happiness. If I find hundred rupees, I will be extremely happy. But if I distribute it to ten destitute people, ten rupees each, ten more people will be happy and I can feel the happiness eleven times – once because of finding the money and ten times because of sharing it. What I think I discovered is, one sorrow (of the person who lost the money) can be changed into lots of happiness. The one thing we have to learn is to find happiness in sharing and seeing other people happy.

No, I am not bragging but just wanted to share how my little happiness, on finding a small bank note, got amplified.

My dear friends, what will you do if you find a hundred bucks? I know you will be happy. And hope you will amplify it too!

 

Towards The 2030 Agenda with Community Forestry

Also in this link: http://www.voicesofyouth.org/en/posts/towards-the-2030-agenda-with-community-forestry

After the termination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 AD, the world is now heading towards The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Prepared by the United Nations (UN), the agenda constitutes 17 goals with 169 targets envisioning a more peaceful, just, sustainable and inclusive world by 2030 AD. The goals, termed as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), address the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

According to the UN, Nepal has already prepared the preliminary national report on the implementation of the SDGs but the comprehensive plan on how to act upon these goals is yet to be prepared. That is to say, Nepal now has to put forward its plan on how the national priorities will be set, how institutional and financial arrangements will be made, how the indicators will be developed for the timely assessment of the achievement of the goals and so on. The goals are quite ambitious and there will be a lot of things to do for the achievement. This article discusses how Nepal’s community forestry sector can contribute to the achievement of these goals.

The program that began after the handling of a patch of forest to the local villagers of Thokarpa Village, Sindhupalchowk district for the management and utilisation in 1973 AD, by the then forest officer, has now become the world renowned “Community Forest” model. Community Forest (CF), as stated by the Forest Act 1993 AD, is that part of national forest which is handed over to the local people, forming a group known as Community Forest User Group (CFUG), for the management and utilization of the forest and its resources provided that they are able and willing to manage it. And now, there are about 20,000 CFs in the country with an equal number of CFUGs.

Poverty and hunger reduction had been the very first goal in the MDGs too. The first and the second goals of the SDGs also aim to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere and end hunger and achieve food security by 2030 AD. The Community Forest Development Program Guideline 2071 BS, clearly states that 35 per cent of the total income of the CFUG should be invested on pro-poor targeted programs within the group. The annual income of Nepal’s CFs is over $10 million and the figure is yet increasing as the number of CFs being handed to the user groups is increasing. That way, community forestry sector contributes roughly $4 million annually (35 per cent of over $10 million) in the pro-poor targeted programs. Though there are accusations that the community forestry is under elite domination, it is not that poor are not getting any benefits. What is true is community forestry has the potential; the problem is of effective governance and law enforcement only.

The guideline also stipulates that among the two tiers of the organizational structure of CFUG, i.e. General Assembly (GA) and Executive Committee (EC), either chairperson or the secretary of the later one must be a woman. For maintaining a bank account of the group, there must be the joint signature one of which must be of woman. These provisions help in the empowerment of women and girls in decision making in public life and provide equal opportunities for leadership which are envisioned in the fifth goal of the SDGs. Similarly, there must be 50 per cent women participation in the EC with proportionate representation of Dalits, Jananatis, indigenous and marginalised people. This helps in reducing inequalities within the country, achieving inclusive and just societies and also in ensuring inclusive participation in public decision making. There are so many women-only run CFUGs that are reported to be even better than the generic ones. The provisions of annual public hearing and internal and public auditing help develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions ; CFUGs in this case.

The 25 per cent of the income from the CF, which is mandatory to be spent in forest management, development and protection activities helps minimise adverse effects of climate change, combat desertification, halt and reverse desertification and halt biodiversity loss.

The CFUGs have been doing other various activities like providing scholarships for the deserving students from their groups, constructing gobar-gas plants, constructing and/or maintaining physical infrastructures like roads, schools, hospital buildings and toilets to name a few. These all activities help accomplish the targets in one way or the other. The scholarships help in ensuring quality education, constructing toilets and hospitals helps in ensuring sanitation and healthy lives, constructing gobar-gas ensures access to affordable and sustainable energy and so on.

But it is neither the provisions nor the goals themselves that make difference. We have to act upon them to make the desired differences. The UN itself states that the SDGs are not stand-alone goals as were the MDGs. So it is not that wise to assert this sector/activity helps achieve this goal and that sector/activity helps achieve that goal. Achievement (or underachievement) of one goal has the impact on the achievement of other goals too. For example, eradicating poverty, ensuring sustainable consumption and production helps in reducing hunger, managing forests sustainably and scientifically helps in mitigating negative impacts of climate change, ensuring inclusive and quality education helps in creating peaceful, just and inclusive societies and so on. Evidence also show that families with educated mothers are healthier. So, either directly or indirectly, the forestry sector, particularly the community forestry has great impacts on the achievement of the global goals. Hence more budget needs to be allocated to the forestry sector and more work needs to be done for augmented benefits and its greater contribution towards the sustainable agenda.

And thankfully, it is not the politicians who run the Community Forest User Groups but the local people themselves who work for their own benefits. Hence the guidelines are also less likely to be infringed.

Research Finalized – Forschung beendet

[ Blog by Anja Schmidt, a masters student from University of Copenhagen, Denmark who was in Nepal for her research. We (me, Muna Sharma and Kripa Pokhrel) had assisted her for the research as well for the language. I have translated her German language blog with the help of Google Translate and posted here. You can find the original version here: https://anjanepal.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/research-finalized-forschung-beendet/ ]

Hello dear friends, 

After 3 weeks of hard research, I am back from Pokhara. Even if I had in the time access to the net, it has not yet submitted to upload pictures or blog posts. But for now 🙂

On April 18, we are re-started, in a jeep, which has cost us a fortune. The ride was the same rafting experience as before, with the exception of one thing! The road was built, so we were (naturally without signage only by grapevine) redirected through the river basin and uh yes the river just 😉I’ve never been so happy with four-wheel drive, which I can tell you. So we did not get stuck, the driver was so chilled that he joked one joke after another and just before the huge storm and thunderstorm we landed in Baluwa.We have thankfully also found a good homestay and ate again with the old woman, who has already hosted us on our last trip. “Ama, tharkari Denus na 🙂ra torre daal!” 😀My Nepali enough now so far that I can order food without problems (vegetables and some daal). When I talk about vegetables, it is not like tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, etc., it consists almost 80% potatoes and then either peas or spinach (chick peas, green peas) and if you are lucky, Okra, green Beans, cabbage or cauliflower. But since the season is not the best, it was mostly the first.

imageIn Baluwa, we were able to quickly dig the few households and get all the data so that we are back up to Jhawa after 4 days. On the way, we met a few guys we already knew from previous interviews. They have played in the mountain river and have climbed a cherry tree up and down to get the cherries from the top branches. Man, man, because I have become a bit nostalgic, with the exception that they were 200x better climber than I did 😀A boy has then also gedrück me a handful of cherries in the hand! Yes, fruits for eating!

In Jhawa everything has remained so far, except that Aunti has her daughter with baby there. The little one is so sweet-naturally I can not remember the name, so it was great again that all of them just called Nani! Little Nani was the sweetest girl ever, screamed at the oil massage, and slept otherwise;) On one of our days off, Aunti took the chance to put me in a sari, give me a tika, put on her jewelery and so on Neighbors! The white girl in a sari! It was pretty funny, Praerana attracted me and it had to of course the pictures are taken 🙂Tadaaa I in Sari:

image  And then it went on up and down the mountain, the households with children, which we had in the database. Can be funny, but is usually exhausting, especially if one must realize that felt half of the people have moved away. The earthquake has left a serious mark. The beautiful houses were all made of the earthquake, and the higher we got, the worse it became. Therefore, most of the people live in zinc bins without electricity (only a few solar cells on the roof for light in the evening and mobile phone charging) and really only inadequate water. As already mentioned in the morning and evening max 2 h. And we had sometimes really bad luck that the water was less than an hour on. The drought at the time is really bad, affects the harvest and indeed extremely on the water supply. There was hardly any rain in the time we were there, and the midday heat had half killed us. (Try to be in a corrugated hut at over 30 degrees. This is like a sauna gang only without cooling possibility)😉

For those who can not imagine really what we do all day because there, here’s a sample daily schedule:
5:00 rising and morning rituals
6-6: 30 Breakfast (mostly Roti – fried flatbread with vegetables) 6:30 To our households with children: we have questionnaires for the children between 8-14 years and also for a family member (mostly the mother), in addition we measure the children (weight, size, mittoberarm circumference), because I make statements about the nutritional state would like. The balance was there mostly the big highlight for almost any … When can one here otherwise times its weight measure 🙂
11:00 Lunch (exception Daal Bhat: Lentil soup with felt a kilo of rice 😉and vegetables and sometimes Achar – pickled vegetables or leafy vegetables (horseradish, spinach, Gandruk, tomatoes)
11: 30-15: 00 recess, it’s very hot and there are no children at home now, during the holidays because they are in the woods, or help in the field and are in school just in school
15 : 00-19: to make 00 again from to households and try interviews
19:30 dinner (exception Daal Bhat said I night no more rice eaten have, so to speak Daal and vegetables for me)
21:00 bedtime

image

We did not only do interviews / surveys, but also focus group discussions or with the children. In contrast to Praerana, unfortunately, I could not conduct informal conversations. So, unfortunately, if you do not speak the language. But then I concentrated more on the observation. 2 interviews I could lead and I hope that still some follow with NGOs.

In the evenings it was not boring, because a few others were also there. Researchers and Ingeneers. With which I’ve then in the evening times local alcohol approves 😀rice uh well I do not know exactly. Neither proper wine, nor clear! The whole cup full, over 30% … wuhu I would not have watched, then it would have quickly turned 3. If they drink, then right! Well, was not quite my taste, but at least tried😉

image

Unfortunately this time the disease did not spoil us. First, it caught Muna and was so bad that she had to go back to Popkhara. Typhoid as a diagnosis, but thank God she is now well again. A new interpreter could come to thank God, Kripa, and we were all happy, otherwise we would have had to spend much longer in the field. Unfortunately Praerana was afterwards with illness and also that was no better and she is to Kathmandu to her family. And there it was only 3. Aditya, Kripa and I – last men standing.
Haha, we thought at least … .the day we were at 3000m altitude, I’ve got a fever attack, of course, and my runny nose has not made breathing easier. It was pretty cold up there and a shack made of corrugated iron and the toilet outside, making the location not really a health environment 😉well, the next day after Lame for 4 hours (with paracetamol is everything) and back to Jhawa 2h. One of the Homestay owners has pressed me a plant to help to Aryuveda. All right, bring it on, so can not hurt 😉what can I say, I was dead after the trip and really had to stay in bed. My two assistants have done great work in the time and have continued without me. Without the two I would probably not yet down.
The health post in Jhawa gave me then still offered blood to take off, but when I saw the room, which is about as clean as a workshop, I have rejected and that now in Pokhara afterwards fetched. Apart from a bad cold and a parasite I’m getting a rough ride 😉So all again OK and I could for the first time today again go jogging.

The farewell to Aunti, the neighbors and children was sad despite everything. Aunti has every vice depends on us a prayer shawl and Tika added, symbolizing luck on our way 🙂group picture, press and then off you go to Pokhara!

imageSo here I am, enjoying the diverse food – by 95% Daal Bhat and 5% Roti – I could not wait to eat a few fruits and to polish off some spaghetti 😀Next, the data is sorted and some pre-analyzed before I 10 days disappear to yoga and then (FINALLY) Anne comes 🙂
I hope you are all well and the sun and heat has now arrived in Europe! Take care of yourselves!

See you soon, Your Anja