Bagmati River Cleanup Campaign

Bagmati River Cleaning Campaign
Chain of Volunteers Cleaning Bagmati River

Just as I was named Goodwill Ambassador for cleaning Bagmati recently, I became fearful of my voluntary job. What if I fail to achieve some concrete results in the cleaning project of Mother Bagmati River? This is the lifeline of humans, cattle and vegetation in and around the precious and picturesque Kathmandu. Our home is so beautiful yet it has been plagued by irresponsible human behavior of throwing trash, garbage and plastic poison in the holy river. As an achiever, I value success I wish and hope for success in every endeavor I embark upon. I hope it ends with some tangible value for my community and myself. And, I am talking about my hometown, Kathmandu.

Manisha Koirala during the Bagmati River Cleaning CampaignEarlier on when I was appointment Goodwill Ambassador to Natural Disaster Fund, post the massive earthquake that my country faced. I remember the immense suffering of the people in Sindhupal and adjacent effected areas. How can I forget the young mother who was blankly staring at the horizon, her mind far away, trying to solve problems that had engulfed so many people, people with destroyed homes and perished hopes of finding their loved ones. The physical tremors of the massive quake may have subsided but what there are still challenging days where family members are lost, where homes, hopes and will are crushed. How to repair homes, rebuild lives and relive the dreams they had lost? While I took my appointment seriously and held many high level meetings, I must admit the results were disappointing. So little was done, so little achieved, so little hopes revived. During Sajha Sawal, it became starkly clear we had failed the earthquake victims. We all share that burden of non-delivery at the most critical time of our recent tragedy. No I’m not alone in this failure – the rulers, bureaucrats, the government in succession have failed. I feel ashamed for this non-delivery. Do ALL others who were accountable and responsible, feel as ashamed? I sincerely do question.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-24 at 3.43.49 PMIn 2010, post my marriage, Kathmandu became my home and cleaning Bagmati was one of my personal ambition and for that I had formed a core group. In the process of research we met and discovered about Vaidya who tirelessly worked everyday to clean the river. My professional life then took me back to Mumbai. After seven years, the challenge and opportunity is again in front of me. I am really excited to fulfill my dream to create a clean Bagmati for all the valley residents and the habitat.

Manisha Koirala during the Bagmati River Cleaning CampaignWhatsApp Image 2017-06-24 at 3.37.10 PMIn the process of working for cleaning for Bagmati I had the opportunity to have two most important meetings. One was with the government body and the other one was with a group of dedicated volunteers. It seems to me, that both the government and the volunteers are quiet earnest about this issue. During the government body meeting, it was made clear that they have thought through a permanent solution, which would indeed take a few years, provided we dedicatedly work towards it. The solution would also require large amounts of funding. The core issues they wish to tackle included:

  • The building two dams so that the flow of water is consistent throughout the year and the flushing of the garbage happens.
  • Separation of the sewage system from the river.
  • Plotting plants near the river to purify the water.
  • The encroachment of the river and the land around it, this has to be tackled well.
  • Beautification of the river site in which many companies have already committed.

Manisha Koirala during the Bagmati River Cleaning CampaignWhatsApp Image 2017-06-24 at 3.37.10 PM

What I learnt in the meeting with the dedicated volunteers was that they have taken this cleaning campaign as a symbol to bring about good values in life. That’s why, without any financial support or any selfish gain they volunteer in the clean Bagmati campaign. Every Saturday, on their holiday, they are up from 7am to 9am, for two hours they go and pick other peoples garbage. No self-interest, no money involved, they in fact even put money from their pocket. They do service without any selfish interest and they are dedicated to it until Bagmati is not clean completely.

Manisha Koirala during the Bagmati River Cleaning Campaign
With the volunteers of Bagmati River Cleaning Campaign

Looking at them, and being fully fully aware of my responsibilities and also about my serious limitations about being able to deliver, I do carry hopes that together we will succeed. A goodwill Ambassador has very limited, restrictive power and few resources at disposal. But I know that I can raise my voice, advise for right actions, bring people on board, and show faith and commitment, which of course I shall do. Every day, I will hope and work for better tomorrow with cleaner Bagmati and fresh air. We are all entitled to this dream. This must be delivered. We must not fail again.

On Women Empowerment

What does women empowerment actually mean? To me it means the ability to control my life; to confidently make a decision for myself, and to have the ability to dream, aspire and achieve goals. To live a full life the way life is meant to be lived, for me that is empowerment.

Swami Vivekanand Ji had once said said, “There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of the women is improved, for it is not possible for a bird to fly only on one wing.” and it is important to talk about this for in a patriarchal society like ours when a boy is born there is so much of pride and so much of joy, “beta hua hai-beta hua hai.” We hear that with so much of pride and joy, but is it their the same pride and joy when a girl child is born?

Let me share my personal story. When I was born, my Nanaji, my mum’s father, made a disappointed face. My mum was deeply hurt. She didn’t speak to him for weeks, and when I got to know about this years later, I was deeply hurt too. It made me wonder that why my birth did not give joy to my grandfather?

I found a common thinking behind this, which is so common in everybody that beta is a symbol of security and bread winner- “Hamare budhape ka sahara banega, Budhape ka lathi, Hamara vansh chalyega.” Whereas, the moment a girl is born, a sense of responsibility comes. Her safety/security becomes the prime most important thing for a parent, and the best way to ensure that is to get her married. To me it appears as though the responsibility is shunned from one hand to other.

Let us take a journey into a woman’s life from the time she is conceived in a mother’s womb till the time she dies. First issue, female infanticide, almost 50% girls under the age of 18 are married off. India and Nepal both featured lowest in female literacy.

Next, dowry issues, this problem is not only available for the poor and uneducated, but I was appalled to know that this problem exists in the middle class and upper middle class families too.

Domestic violence, crimes like assault, kidnap, rape, and acid attacks. When we hear so many stories on the news, it makes me wonder aren’t there laws? But of course we have laws, but implementing these laws are a problem because of the legal loopholes. There is a need to implement the laws so that there is a fear of the law. We need to hear more stories like if there is crime committed against woman, he is punished by the law. We need to see more examples like this.

Another rampant issue, income inequality. Imagine your equally talented, equally hardworking and equally sincere in your job as your male colleague, but just because your colleague is a male, he would get 25% more income. Is this fair?

As a Bollywood actress, I my story to share. There was a time when I was doing a lot of movies, and I was at the top of my game. I was shocked to know that the difference between my salary and the hero’s salary was huge. I thought I was important for the film, but when I saw this, I was hurt and disappointed. I asked the producer of this, told him that this makes me feel unwanted and small. Think about it, why don’t they make movies with only men, if female actors are not valued enough?

Finally, and the most important point is political participation. We have almost 50% of the \ voters as women, yet only 11% member of parliament are women. Imagine, if we have more women on decision-making chairs, on policy making and changing chairs; the kind of parliament we would have, and the kind of government we would have. We need more women in our boardrooms, in our courtrooms, in our schools and universities. The kind of society we would be making. The kind of nation we would be having.

I asked a question to myself: What can I write that would add value to you dear reader? Not long ago; some years back. When I was young, I saw double standards in our society, and in my work area. It angered me, and then I became a rebel. A rebel without a cause. I am not saying that’s the best way to be or that’s the best way to react. Many years later with a couple of wrong decisions, I now know better.

I am a little wise now, and in times of confusion, and in times of disappointment there is a better way to deal with, which is to stay inspired with the great ladies that this country had already produced. We had Rani Lakshmi Bai known as Jhansi ki rani. We had Ahilya Bai, and we had a Kalpana Chawla, we had a Mother Teresa. There are so many women, we need can be inspired by them. When it is in our culture, and in our history, for in our genes then why not take benefit from that. Let us remember them, and in times of confusion never forget who we are, we are Shakti, the wisdom to deal with life’s problems is all within us.

Trust the process.

What should one do, when you have too many dreams and goals, but neither the time or the physical capacity to see it through? That’s how I feel at times, overwhelmed !! I’m sure its pretty common with most of us, especially those who are on the crossroads where one life chapter gets over and before you start another, there is a struggle to get clarity. It gets confusing, does it not ?

At this stage in my life, I still feel like the same 16 year old, on the precipice of cinema… with big dreams, shy, nervous, unsure, slightly lost and slightly alone. (Even though there was ample of advisors and mentors, no was saying “that this route and for sure you will succeed,” Notice how we all love to give advice, yet we feel clueless in our own challenging times.) 

That time, it was the dream of being an acclaimed actress, but in this second phase of life, I have so many more goals to accomplish.. directing films, starting wellness programs, pushing more awareness for cancer patients, even opening shelters for the poorer patients, I definitely want to write a book too, and all the while living between Mumbai, Goa, Kathmandu and NYC… aaaahhh !! 

manisha koirala

Right now I’m in Thailand to be a Bikram Yoga Teacher… as you all know wellness is my passion and an integral part of wellness is Yoga and so here I am. There are days where I feel I have taken on too much… Bikram Yoga twice a day, 90 mins each session in 105 fahrenheit temperature trying to perfect the 26 postures and all this amongst experienced practitioners !!! Everybody here is well toned and so balanced… and I know I have a long long way to go and yet I have to be mindful if I’m overloading myself. I have to keep watch on my harmony between body, mind, soul….

mila bron

And so just like my 16 year old self… I struggle, I have anxiety, I shed a couple of tears, and I have my inhibitions… what if I’m not good enough? Have I done the right thing?  Again slightly lost and slightly confused… This is when I remember people who have converted adversity into opportunity, meeting these people, learning about their human spirit, acts like my own personal fuel !!! Such people never give up, they aren’t confined to being too old to change or too scared to try some thing different and new… 

manisha koirala

So, Just like before, this chapter too is new and this new road is tough and its dark out there… but despite the fears, the tears.. one must walk.. walk.. walk.. with faith.. trusting the process!!

Sleep…zzz

My brother said ‘if you can’t sleep, try and do something, like watch a film, read a book, listen to music etc..  as I have been terrified of waking up in the night I could NEVER really enjoy any of this. Heart pounding, head buzzing with worry and whole of next day..being a zombie. I have struggled with insomnia for ten years , may be more..and I know how bad it is! My worst nightmare was to lie awake, without my sleeping pills , which I had gotten so used to..(doctors in my family prescribed low dose of Ativan after doing a lot of effort in convincing because its highly addictive ) as a result I got hugely dependent on tabs to help me sleep…

I guess years of unskillful lifestyle bombarded with stress, erratic shooting hours in nights or staying up late in parties..could be the trigger. Health deteriorates if we don’t get 8 to 9 hrs of sleep daily, specially our immune system goes for a toss. Sleep is a very important aspect of healing as in this time our cells are getting regenerated and recharges too.

IMG_7919
lavender soap, bath oil and bath salts

My tried and tested methods are.

1) No caffeine in the evening.

2) Slow down the pace of activity as the night falls.

3) Take hot bath (l m a big fan of lavender oil,soaps,bath salts).

4) Soft music..relax.

5) meditate, do breath watch n meditate. I FIND THIS SPECIALLY EFFECTIVE FOR SLEEP.

6) NO TV and No comp (this one is my struggle as I get free in evening and would like to check my mails or catch up on news etc..hence I m mindful that I won’t switch on comp or tv after n if I do its only for 30 mins and thats all).

7) Read a book.

8) Fix a time to go to bed n wake up, this really works as body loves discipline. BUT  my freedom from it actually happened after a long stint in oneness university as the result of my intense prayers!! The day I could sleep without tab peacefully for 8 hrs, I celebrated with my teachers in oneness university!!

Interestingly I stumbled upon articles on plants that promotes sleep..wow, who could think of that?

Aloe vera is an excellent indoor plant. 

Lavender plant..You may have used lavender essential oil, but have you ever tried growing your own lavender plant? 

Jasmine plant.. Just smelling this plant may help to reduce anxiety and stress.

English ivy.. is classy and easy to grow and this affordable plant may help you to significantly improve the quality of sleep.  

Snake plant..are easy to keep alive and are great for interior decorating. Snake plants are believed to improve air quality by filtering the air and thus improving the overall atmosphere of a home.  

The purer the air the better sleep at night and more productivity during the day!  

I read anything under the sky about insomnia, talk about it passionately as I KNOW  the struggle. So I will suggest few good articles on insomnia and how to get rid of it.

AND  at the cost of sounding cliché i will say..”YOU CAN DO IT..IF I CAN SO CAN YOU”” 

Good reads..