Nostalgia: A Son Misses His Father

>> Saturday, August 30, 2008

I wrote this exactly one month ago today. Today is Father's Day in Nepal. I rededicate this in memory of my beloved father.
- Ajay (August 30, 2008)

By AJAY PRADHAN | July 30, 2008

The stream of consciousness that we call mind is often dominated by one of its strongest manifestations--memory. And when you add longing to it, it becomes nostalgia. Yes, I am nostalgic today. I wish I had a time machine so that I could not only go back down the memory lane, but also live the life as it was many years ago. Today, my nostalgia takes me back to the earliest years of schooling that I can still remember... life of a little boy outside the secured confines of his home.

I think I was not even 5 years old at that time, probably just 4. I went to Montessori School in Kathmandu. Montessory system is a method of pre-schooling based on overall child development. The emphasis is on self-directed activities. Children are encouraged to be driven by curiosities, engage in self-directed activities, but still under the supervision of teachers. It is the teachers' responsibility to make sure that the learning environment is adapted to the child's learning level. The system was started by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian teacher, in the late 19th Century.

Many years have passed since my Montessori days, but I still remember some of the things from those days. There are certain things I vividly remember about those pre-school days, particularly one "traumatic" experience... "traumatic" for a child of about 4 years in age. Some memories are just hazy.

I remember that we had a security guard whose job was to ensure the security of our residence. It was his duty to take me to school and bring back home everyday. I remeber he often carried me on his shoulders. To the best of my recollection, the school was located at the northwest corner of Rani Pokhari.

I remember one activity in particular. We were given wooden blocks and puzzles to play with, the kind where small blocks have to be placed in the appropriate holes in a larger block or nested in multiple levels in the appropriate order. Quite a feat for 4 year-olds.

Curiosities picked my mind from the childhood. One day, during lunch time, all the children sat in rows, to be served cookies and milk. We each got an empty glass and some thin arrowroot cookies and then we waited for the milk to arrive. I looked at my round cookies and then at the empty glass. I got curious and wanted to see how the cookies would fit into the glass. Well, they fit right in, midway down the glass. At the same time, the milk lady came and started pouring milk in children's glasses. She stood before me, almost starting to pour milk in my glass and when she spotted cookies in the glass, she stopped and without a single word she passed me by.

I frantically tried to remove the cookies from the glass. The milk lady turned her head, saw my predicament, but moved right on ahead. When it became obvious to me that I wasn't going to be able to remove my cookies from the glass and that she wouldn't give me my milk, I became overcome with emotion. As I was the only boy that didn't get milk I felt that even though the cookies fit in, even though the small blocks fit in, I didn't fit in. I felt traumatized and I started crying.

My little mind had a question when I came home. I asked my dad, "Buwa, why'd the milk lady not give me my milk? All I wanted to do was to see if the cookies would fit in the glass." Dad said, "I appreciate your curiosity. It's good to be curious. That's how we learn. And today's experience should teach you one other thing. Be prepared to deal with or live with the answers your curiosities bring." A father was helping his son to tread his paths of life. That lesson has never been lost on me ever since.

I miss my dad. He sends little blessings to me from his place in heaven every single day of my life.


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