August 11, 2000 (2057-04-27)
“A tiring journey to Kathmandu University along with Prem – to apply for the post of a teaching assistant. Useless it was! They want one to work from 9 am to 5 pm – 8 hours a day. Isn’t it a prison house of a so-called qualified people? I immediately decided not to even drop my application there, but Prem urged me at least to do so just as the token of our visit. I left the application but never hope to reappear there. One man pinched me saying that I had no first division marks. Little irritated, but I digested it in no time. This is the beginning, I know.”
August 18, 2000 (2057-05-02) “I have been called from KU for an interview. I don’t know what made them take me in their shortlist. I don’t have any zeal to go there though I may at least face the interview.”
August 19, 2000 (2057-05-03)
“Rishi Dai urges me to join KU in case I pass the interview. Gopal and I went to meet Mr. Bal Chandra Luitel, one of my uncles. He too told me to face the interview. He said it was somehow good to be at KU, ‘to build a career.’ I’m in absolute dilemma – whether or not to join if I pass the interview.”
August 21, 2000 (2057-05-05)
“I faced the interview at KU and got an offer to start working. But I refused to work there thinking that it was too far and occupying. However, it was a nice interview, and I enjoyed speaking with the people.”
August 22, 2000 (2057-05-06)
“I rejected the offer from KU. Now I am confused whether it was good to do so. They wanted that I start there. Especially the dean, a Kafle himself, seemed to be more determined to appoint me. I doubt if I will not repent for avoiding joining the university.”
August 23, 2000 (2057-05-07)
“Professor Kafle from KU phoned me to ask if I would promise to join under a condition of increment in salary. He emphatically said that it would be very good for career; that once I joined I would not lose the chance of being upgraded. I don’t think he was exaggerating. Moreover, Sanjay sir (Dr. Sanjay Mishra) advised me to be open about the salary and go there anyhow. Working there permanently does not make one inferior to those who are permanent at TU.”
The repeated offer was enough to put me in greater dilemma. I am still wondering over its pros and cons. Because of over-thinking I hardly slept. It is the occasion for making a vital decision – choosing a path for future.”
These were my thoughts while deciding to come to KU exactly seventeen years ago. I wrote them in our Kirtipur room when keeping a diary was one of my biggest addictions.
I wonder what those ten bulky notebooks contain now.
I almost did not come to KU. But when I came, I came with a commitment to work in any formal condition and expected only little that there would be any increment at the outset beyond a Teaching Assistant’s pay. How could there be an unusual rise for a fixed position, for a beginner? I had decided to come after series of consultations with and counseling from friends and well-wishers.
Prof. Kafle’s curiosity had worked only as a stimulus to take KU as a destination.
Seventeen years have slipped from the day I picked my appointment letter from the dispatch section. The envelope fell on my hand unlike the way I had expected. I had expected that someone “high” above me would hand it with a formal welcome and a sort of orientation about my responsibilities and limitations. But when the letter came alone, I thought it was the first tickle to my enthusiasm to start in an organization of repute. So, the first day here is afresh as if it were yesterday – the exhaustion, the irritation, the dilemma, the confusion, the compunction, the curiosity, and a final shrug.
Seventeen years make only a little less than half of Kathmandu University’s entire journey, if you count its predecessor, the Valley Campus. But those are the years from my active life from as soon as I started my family and hoped for a safe career like any common Nepali does. I wonder, sometimes, by what unknown power I was drawn back here after three days of deciding to quit as soon as I joined. When I see the changed part of its surroundings and the new establishments today – those about a dozen buildings for the then bare slopes and dense vegetation – and when I count the number of school- and college-going children from the KU residences with my own sons along, I begin to ponder over the days, months and years.
My perceptions have fluctuated in these years, no doubt. I have been both appreciative and critical about my lived surroundings. The years have collected a meaningful saga of a man’s life from starting a career to reaching its mid, from naivety to fair consciousness of the present and future.
I am trying to trace my transitions and transformations in reminiscences, in my diaries, and sometimes in the gray hairs of my friends and colleagues. My ruminations cannot be more organized now while the flashback comes like a hillside stream during a torrential rain.
How detached and confused I was about starting at KU in August 2000! For a fresh MA with a not-so-bad Nepalese marks in English, Kathmandu was so appealing for half a dozen vacancy announcements per day. The work at TU and its colleges looked so leisurely and independent that the job offer at KU with eight hours by six days compulsion did not tempt me an inch. But I joined KU because I had always respected the first option and a reasonable offer, regardless of what alternative further struggle and waiting would lead me to. There were assurances from outside KU that I had not landed in a wrong place. Inside most of them looked satisfied despite the minimum sixty kilometers journey daily and the 8 by 6 reality.
I had learned from previous experiences that once one was at home in a workplace, they did not have to strive fruitlessly for a productive space. After all, I had entered a place where there would be no boundaries for intellectual productivity. To be at a central station of a growing university would naturally mean to be a part of the growth itself. I sustained because I wanted to become such part. And it was long before being infested with the contagion of ennui and frustration that the comparison with a more ‘colorful’ life at the Kathmandu market and elsewhere would bring.
“Ten years are sufficient to grow confident and passionate for a job,” said one of my old acquaintances at the beginning of my eleventh year here. His belief still rings true to me. With completion of seventeen, a new phase has started already. But I have stayed at one place with extremely rare absence! In the so-called ‘Western’ standard which often takes mobility equivalent to dynamism, one would consider hanging in a place for so long close to atrophying.
But the period of seventeen years is worth a book because it has not been without upheavals, albeit small to others. It has not been without friends and foes, joys and jerks. I now recall how I had found myself amid the air of resignation at my work-station when fully inside and how much I had tried to share the efforts to restore optimism which everyone working around me feels these days. How it changed largely with my hard work and belief in collective spirit. I have a confident claim for a substantive share in the creation and transformation of my present workplace. But I would require a larger and more serious space to justify this claim. My confession for now is that I did not go to explore greener pastures elsewhere. I think I have grown as confident and passionate as my old friend’s theory assumes: a decade is enough to grow passionate for a job. Seventeen years make it a part of life.
The conditions of the growing attachment are worth sharing. First, I remained close with hardworking people, who knew very well that only a slight lag in the quality of service and that of the students would ultimately endanger the institution. I happened to join at a time when the University’s youthfulness was writ large on the working spirit of the majority. When I came here, there was enthusiasm like a contagion, at least in those who initiated and helped the institution to grow. Perhaps the contagion easily took me. I now take it as a proof of what V. S. Ramachandran puts, “I realized a long time ago that the best formula for success is to be around people who are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do, for there is nothing more contagious than enthusiasm.” Some people here were a rare lot for hard work and perseverance, and still are. Their company has been one of the most remarkable incentives so far though the journey itself, especially in the light of promotions, has been full of staggers due to imperceptible delays.
Second, the need for creating a space and of securing what was given, apart from the general challenge from the leaders: ‘What you’ve got is just enough for entry, to go ahead you must be different from what you are now.’ Anyone who landed at KU for a career would share this partly annoying but largely awakening warning on disuse and redundancy, and suffer a productive unrest for the need of update. Besides, because the place was manageably small (say big), one could immediately find himself (in)capable of creating impact. Anybody would be visible in a short time. This visibility, which is rather absent in highly populated institutions, would either force one to choose a path of uplift, or explore a more leisurely and riskless station elsewhere. Those who sustained this dilemma for the path of growth ushered the University further. This is why almost everyone who has spent a decade here owns KU.
Pointless to say, and expect, that everyone grows to bear the same challenges. Not that everyone has got to keep shoulders ready for undefined, unpredictable responsibilities. A dozen or so ‘post-meridians’ have always kept their eyes and ears open, and got torches and boots handy. A vast majority rightfully disappears at 4 pm and minds its own business, leaving the professional community wondering how the institution aims to thrive in research and intellectual contribution while the ‘researchers’ and ‘intellectuals’ do not like to outwork the schedule. Most of the resources remain untouched till the next morning, while the premises turn into a rendezvous for strollers and lovebirds.
But optimism is intact. People have continued to have faith on our work. And we have continued to work with the faith that we have been instrumental in retaining the glory of the institution.
Seventeen years – a child grows enough to adapt to some of life’s entanglements. Seventeen years – an adult grays enough to understand the futility of excesses; an old person is gratified enough by life’s heydays and has adequately rehearsed for the pains of last days. Yes, I have seen all of these at this beautiful hillock. I think that my life has become all the more meaningful than it would had I chosen to strain myself for the ‘greener pastures.’
[Taken from Midlife Montage]