How was he to answer?Ganesh’s father had threatened to send him to khaadi to earn money if he didn’t pass the upcoming scholarship exams.
The sky was overcast with clouds, and it was likely to rain soon. In the dusty roads of Kathmandu Valley, Ganesh returned home from taking his bridge course classes. It was a CMAT course as he wanted to enrol for a BBA at a TU-affiliated university. His father had threatened to send him to khaadi (the Gulf) to earn money if he didn’t pass the scholarship exams. It didn’t matter what they taught in the institution, be it CMAT, CTEVT or simply tuition. They were all alike, and he found it useless.
As he walks along the roads to his old and rusty home, he is perturbed by the thoughts of his soon-to-be-published board exam. He once dreamed of becoming a doctor and tending to patients. But his family’s weak financial condition pulled him back to reality; his mother was bedridden, and his father was already a lean man with financial and emotional baggage that was becoming difficult to carry with each passing day. The smiling contours of his sister’s face when she saw the raindrops seeping through the ceiling on their bed every time it rained—as if it was the magic of her fairy godmother in her dreams—was tragic to him, as she didn’t know the bitter reality.
He was soon going to be the man of the house and had to bear the responsibility that every Nepali household expects from the eldest child. How was he to fulfil that role when his inner light was dimming? How was he to act all cold and ruthless with the supposed loan sharks when he became somebody?
Whenever he walked towards his class, clouds of thoughts seized his moment; he was waiting for the results of plus-two, which he knew he had screwed up, and he couldn’t put his mind to anything useful no matter how hard he tried. He partly blamed his college, too, for his academics. Why are well-off kids always preferred? Why not people like him who are financially weak but have the willingness to work hard? He couldn’t quickly grasp the subject matter taught in class, and when he raised questions, he was told to shut up.
As if that wasn’t enough, all the educational consultancies that run bridge-course classes had greedy stomachs—especially when it came to students like him. They lured their parents for so-called much-needed coaching for a bright future. At present, he, too, was at the mercy of such institutions. After pocketing out the painfully large sum of Rs 10,000 when his family could barely make ends meet, the course had poor management and barely delivered. He felt as if everything was staged from the beginning, and he was merely a clown playing his part.
The money spent by his family at such schools and institutions had no yield. How could he pay off debts slowly, taking his father’s grey hair and his mother’s weathering smile as interest in such times? How could he leap from Sisdol to Babar Mahal with little hope left and roots of poverty clasping him down? Was his best friend Raju’s teasing message on the last day of college in farewell shirts to meet in khaadi turning into a devastating reality?
Late in the evening, when he sat outside his house for fresh air, his Aama called him inside and asked him, caressing his face, “What happened, babu? Is everything alright?” Ganesh answered it was nothing and everything was okay, even though dark thoughts suffocated him. She said weakly, “Chimeki (neighbour) says khaadi has good money, babu.” The very sentence from his Aama shivered his heart. He couldn’t hear further.
Faintly, he listened to his Aama, saying, “Are your papers finally going to be ready, babu? It’s been two months that you are preparing, and your father has gone to take a bank loan for your tuition fees.” With the last bit of hope that one day her son was going to make everything alright, she kept telling how her chimeki was pestering her with the whereabouts of Ganesh and when he was leaving. Then she fondly asked him, “When do you plan to go, babu?”And Ganesh sat there without moving. He felt as if the ground below swept him off his feet, and thunder came crashing down his head.
How was he going to make it? Is going to khaadi the only way that’s left? How was he supposed to tell his Aama that he was going to classes these past two months to study and not to make documents for khaadi? How would he tell his Baba that he wanted to do something in his own country when he couldn’t even focus on tuition classes or his subject matter entirely? Is this the plight of students who couldn’t afford higher studies? Or is this the future of our country, where the wings of aspiring students who dream of flying high are cut off even before they mature? He didn’t realise when his mother had fallen asleep beside him. He kept wondering and fell into oblivion for an extended period.