Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sharon Samwad

“Love birds on a classic dating spree, isn’t that what they might think about us!” said she, hinting at her friends sitting a little far on her side. A mere 4 hour was all that remained for our 4 day sojourn to draw to an end, a sojourn that started on purpose -- a feature article on Sharon Weng for this column. The pain of parting after the soulful moments we shared in this short duration was unmistakably vivid in her labored smiles. Tears welled up in her eyes and she was soon wiping them off with suppressed hiccups. I was in no better state either. But then I tried to recall the song by Yogeshwor Amatya, "Logne manche bhayera runu hunna re" (man don't cry..) and held back my tears.

The past four days with Sharon were a continuous interviewing venture guised as casual talks. They were my attempts to understand her and the probable shift in the perspective of this young girl brought up in the sophisticated lifestyle of Hongkong after her firsthand experiencing of the lives in remote Nepal. The Education Tour of 25 UNICEF Hongkong's Young envoys had brought us together. But it must have been a sweet coincidence that she was the one chosen for my article. On top of that, one of our common likings certainly worked as a catalyst for our growing rapport – our interest in Fiction reading.

We were headed towards Dhulikhel when I spotted her totally absorbed in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl ’, a historical novel by Philippa Gregory. I chimed in with the talks about my favorite author Paulo Cohelo with his novel "The Alchemist" and our conversation soon found a fertile ground. Our growing affinity had us missing in the group during an excursion at Thamel that followed the Dhulikhel visit. While others were busy shopping souvenirs we took a dip into the bookshelves of a nearby bookshop. I bought my copy of ‘A walk to remember’, a novel that she suggested I get, just as she took in my suggestion to buy ‘Eleven Minutes’. She was deeply interested in understanding the ongoing conflict of Nepal, so I gifted her ‘Palpasa Café’. The next day after reaching Hongkong, she wrote in an email, “I could fully relate to the feelings of Maria in Eleven Minutes; i really enjoy reading it. i felt like maria and i have a lot in common,” adds “do you still keep a copy of that book? maybe we can read the book together? so then we'll feel closer to each other.”

“A Journalist in the course of being an engineer!” that’s how I had introduced myself. It must have confused her at first. I illustrated, “Writing is my passion but I want to build a career as an engineer.” I motioned her to look out of window; at the recurrent potholes and rising dust at Bhaktapur Construction site, “That’s where I want to see myself as a professional, mending those potholes and rejoicing in the dust”. After a moment of silence she said gravely, “You should follow you passion though,” she lets her emotions surface and adds, “We have such a short time to fully relish the beauties of our life.”

She always rang unusual to me. Probably extraordinary is a better word! She says she wants to study Medicine. But there she was right before me, letting out the torrent of her thoughts through the poems that she would compose just as spontaneously and a novel, tight in her arms, to her constant company.

After three days into the villages in the outskirts of Kathmandu, we took out some time to sit and talk at the terrace of Duhlikhel Resort. Earlier, the fog blocking the view of mountain ranges bothered her but that day nothing matter her more than the conversation we were into. She seemed quite emotional. “It was only here that I was able to understand poverty so closely,” her easy delivery belied the depth of the emotional crater that these experiences had scraped on her heart. She adds, “I’d seen a ‘different’ poverty in Hongkong. It was an invisible one, here it’s downright palpable.” She giggles, “Despite living in skyscrapers, the people occupying the ground floors consider themselves poor.” She opined that material wealth alone cannot be a measure of richness. “It’s the fourth day in a row that I haven’t used internet, my blackberry must be teeming with messages from my friends and my X-box would have collected a layer of dust on top of it by now,” I was paying all my attention to every word she spoke, “devoid of all the amenities, I should have been counted among the poorest of men. Here, I have realized how I’ve been spending a blandly virtual life in Hongkong. This trip has been an eye-opener for me that a secluded life within the walls of a classy room can’t give me the faintest idea of the lives of people around me.”

“In Hongkong, few are fortunate enough to have dinner together with the family,” says, “even sleep stands inessential as long as work is concerned, let alone a good family time. Despite hosts of opportunity for the new generation, ours is the one mired into frustration. Teenagers are into drugs at an early age and nor are they properly guided towards goals of their life.” With a slight change in her tone as if a new insight has struck her, “It is in fact, during adolescence that one tends to look up to the elders to follow,” she adds, “what more, even the people sharing rooms in a same flat are total strangers to each other.” She reckons how the people in Nepal are actually taking the true pleasures out of life. “Despite abject poverty people share a close knit with family and their neighborhood. Even in dire straits people show courage to listen to their heart’s call.” She fondly recalled the moment when the school going children at Panchkhal were fervently pursuing a speeding car, joyously soaring in the cloud of dust, “They too are on a pursuit of their own form of passion, one that shapes with life,” with a gentle and a much deeper smile this time, she adds “that’s the joy of life!”

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