As we wear the crown of dreams- Humla Diaries

SSMK Humla Diaries

They look at me and whisper in each others ears, followed by a merry laugh. I ask them if they could share the joke with me. Sabita, aged 13 looks at me with curiosity, as if to scan what is in my mind and shares "We were laughing because your hairstyle is very funny" to which both the sisters burst out laughing. I smiled as they tell me that my Mohawk hairstyle looked like a cock whose feathers were ruffled in a cock fight. I inquired whether they would talk to me and informed them that their voices would be aired in the radio. "Are you from the radio?" Namita, Sabitas younger sister inquires "Yes I am from the radio - Have you heard of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura?" I ask "Yes, we have" they both chime in excitement and continue "Its a program which is very useful for growing up teenagers" Namita states with confidence. Sabita and Namita both study in grade 5 in Shree Kailash School, Dadafaya, Humla. They might look like mere school going kids but believe me, you will be overwhelmed to witness the celebrity status that these girls have in their village, as both the sisters are popularly known as the 'Nightingales'. I asked them about their celebrity status in their village, to which Namita shyly answers "We both sing Deuda songs and whenever there is a function at school or the village- people invite us to sing". "So, what are the themes of your Deuda Song ?" I inquire, "Its usually about going to school, songs about the hardship that we have to face as girls and early marriage" Sabita answers.

They both sing a deuda song for me which depicted the pain of a girl child and the various barriers she had to overcome to get education. Elaborating on the theme of the song Namita states "For girls, it’s a challenge to get good education, as many parents believe that girls should work at home and get married, but I disagree – I love to study and whenever I come to school I learn so many new things which I would never have known at home", adding on to the various barriers that they have to face Sabita points "Our school does not have proper toilets and sometimes the teachers beat us up, which discourages us from coming to school – But again, its better to come to school than to stay at home as an illiterate person, because we know that education will help us be happy in our future". Both Sabita and Namita want to come to Kathmandu, the capital city to continue their studies. When inquired what they wanted to become when they grew up, both the singing stars enthusiastically state "Nurse!". Despite their enthusiasm to continue their studies and to get a good job, they still have doubts concerning the materialization of their dreams "Our family is very poor and sometimes we wonder If they would really support us for our higher studies. But we have not given up hope, we still believe that if we study real hard our parents will also support our dreams of completing our education" opines the diplomatic Sabita. They bid me farewell with another Deuda song which portrayed the importance of remaining hopeful, as according to the song- every dark cloud always had a silver lining and dreams – however uncertain they might seem to be, will one day be fulfilled.

As I huff and puff my way, challenging myself to walk the steep hills, I couldn't help but notice a young boy who casually walked the gruesome steep roads with a heavy wood log on his back, waltzing his way stretching his leg from one rock to another with so much ease which made the treacherous route to the city area seem like cake walk.  All of a sudden my journalist persona jolted wide awake and within a blink of a second I was interviewing  Bhim Raj Shahi, aged 16- both a student and the proud bread winner of his family. I invite him to join me for a cup of tea, as he unloads the wood that he was carrying on his back and sits besides me wiping the sweat off his forehead. "So, do you usually walk this far to sell wood?" I ask, He smiles at me and states "I don't have a problem walking – as everyone in Humla walks – not because we love to, but because we have to". With no proper roads and with just horses and donkeys as means of transportation, young people in Humla have to walk for hours to reach their destination- the highs and lows and the uneven geography of Humla poses as a major barrier for people to even fulfill their basic needs, but still young people in Humla do not complain "What's the use of complaining?" Bhim Raj Shahi states "We understand that we are deprived of many things, but still life has to go on. We have embraced this life of hardship but we know that things will change- we are hopeful". I ask him whether he ever thought that nature was also against the people of Humla, citing the geographical hardships that nature has bestowed upon them, to which he smiles and answers "I used to think like that before but now when I think of it, I feel its because of nature that we survive. So, I am grateful that Humla has been gifted with so many natural resources, but it’s a pity that we haven't been able to promote it". Bhim Raj, plans to work in the tourism field and promote his homeland in the international arena. The 16 years old lad is confident that the beauty of Humla cannot be compared to any other place in the world, as according to him- "The silent Himalayas of Humla has the power to make people realize peace and serenity that lies inside them making them feel close to god!".

Impressed by his profound thoughts and views on change and responsibility, I inquire whether he feels that mainstream politics was unperturbed towards the suffering of the people in Humla, to which he smiles and answers "I believe that we should not totally depend on a few leaders to solve our problems, because we know our problems and we also know the solution, so we have to take responsibility for ourselves. As for politicians- they have too much in their plate. I just wish that they don't waste their time fighting with each other; but work in harmony for the best interest of the Nepali people".

Young people in Humla might be silenced by nature, but their aspirations and dreams of a better future cannot be silenced; as even amidst towering problems they still haven't given up hope for a better tomorrow; hope which dwells in the eyes of every young person and children who believe that change will only grace one's threshold if one learns to remain positive. Humla- may represent a dire picture of poverty but Humla also teaches us the importance of being proud of who you are and believing in one's strength and intuition. Young people in Humla make you realize the power of a dream- which not only motivates you, but also shields you from negativity even in times of utter chaos, as their dreams are flanked in selfless layers of hope, determination, perseverance and a strong sense of individual responsibility.

Ayush Joshi is a radio producer and presenter for radio program 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura'

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