My Ma was a family day care mum for over 20 years. We had kids in our care from when they were just a couple of months earth side, until they started school. For all their firsts, we were there. I couldn’t wait for school holidays to help Ma. Their family became our extended. It was such a beautiful little community we had nurtured. I’ve always known that I want kids. I’d say six, I want six of them.
When we migrated to Australia, my Ma already spoke 3 languages, but english wasn’t one of them. She hadn’t studied past primary school. She was born in a village Salakpur, and her future was supposed to remain in that village, married off to a suitable boy, of her parents choosing. But, my Ma was the youngest girl, and from what I have learnt, she was the loudest, the kindest, the funniest, the cheekiest, the rebel.
My Baba is the fifth of seven brothers, along with two sisters. He too, was born in a village – Pangtha. They lived in a four story house. His father, my Ba, was known as “Chartalle”, the one with the four levels. My Baba’s grandmother, my Hajurama, was the village doctor. She carried within her knowledge of Ayurvedic medicines passed down through her ancestors, so much of which died with her. I remember watching her on the spinning wheel, working the thread for hours, with the brightest smile on her face. She always wore that smile. I remember how much she loved us girls, how much she showed it, enveloping us in her frail but mighty embrace, she let her love be known.
My Ba had plans for all his boys – education. He portioned off his land, ensuring all his children an equal parcel. My father tells me he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up, he didn’t know of his passions, he didn’t even know you were allowed to have dreams, because dreams were not an option back then. He tells me he was lining up to enrol into university. The only options were to be a doctor, or an engineer. As he waited his turn in that line, a plane took flight above him. He remembers being so captivated by that monstrous, enigmatic, mechanical bird in the sky. By the time he arrived at the enrolment desk, he decided on engineering. When he was much younger than his peers, he won a scholarship to a prestigious engineering university in India, and god damn he took it.
My Baba, while studying in India, placed an ad in a Nepali newspaper. Somehow, because of some beautiful random magic, it reached my mother. It read, that this man, studying Mining Engineering at IIT Khargpur, was seeking a penpal for friendship.
My Ma answered. The rest is history – they both married someone of their choosing, each other, against the wishes of their respective parents.
I’ve never met two people that celebrate each other more than my parents.
My Ma has taught me all the rudest words in Nepali. She sees the line and crosses right over it, just for a laugh. She talks a lot, connects with anyone, and brings them all together. She oozes joy, and she has enough of it to share with everyone she comes across. She can be so stubborn, and if she’s mad, she just stops talking, her silence, the most effective tactic in her arsenal. My Ma is incredibly intelligent, with the sharpest memory, she retains absolutely everything. She’s our human ancestory.com for both sides of the family. She’ll be able to name who my Baba’s cousin’s daughter’s son is, and she’ll no doubt already have them as a facebook friend.
My Baba is a gentle man, always so softly spoken, with a laugh that bellows through him, as if every single part of him is in on the joke. My friends never quite understood his jokes, but his laugh that followed was sure to get them cracking up. He knew this, that they were laughing at his laugh, but as long as they were laughing, he was happy. My Baba, having grown up in a staunch patriarchal society, became a father of two girls, and a proud one at that. He’s the biggest feminist I know. After my sister was born, people would reassure my parents that the next one would be a boy. My Baba would tell everyone, “I’ll have a party, but only if we have another girl.” Four years later, I came along, with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, I made sure my entrance was dramatic. And yes, we had that party.
My Baba told me one day when I was 2 and my sister was around 6, one of our aunties took my sister by the hand and led her to the kitchen. She explained to my sister, that she must learn to make chia (tea), so that when guests come over, she can help our Ma in the kitchen.
My Baba believes this was one of the earliest moments that planted the seed of migration within him. It would cultivate, over time. With two girls, he’d grown increasingly sensitive and hyperaware of how prominent these remarks were in our day to day. Our family and friends meant no malice, this he knew, but exposure to this constant messaging of what a girl should do versus what a boy can get away with, is something he wanted to limit as much as possible.
My parents, my Baba especially wished for us girls to be free, to explore, to discover, and particularly to dream, an option my Baba is realising only now in his retirement. They encouraged us to to live outside the confines of gender stereotypes, outside of contrived duties and obligations, and rather nurtured us to live inside of our own truth.
My Baba’s biggest regret is that he didn’t encourage my Ma to pursue higher studies. “You know she’d be a brain surgeon,” he still tells me to this day, “She’d be discovering all sorts of new breakthroughs.” My Ma chimes in every time, “stop it, you’ve treated me like a Queen and kept me so happy! I looked after people’s babies, we gave them a loving home so that their parents could keep working. I loved my job. I loved those kids. I’m proud of all I’ve achieved.”
As I navigate through life, I have realised the gift my parents have given me – their love story. I will forever be indebted.