FRIENDSHIP BORN ON THE BANKS OF THE GANGES RIVER
How did I run into Shiwani Budhathoki? Well, where else would it be but Rishikesh India? And It was my last day there. Despite the icy cold water, I knew I could not leave India without submerging myself in the sacred waters of the Ganges River although I had previously submerged my self in the Ganges a few years earlier at Varanasi. I also had no fear of the river despite Western ideas of how polluted it is. I don’t deny this fact but I have my own theories about it.
I believe the amount of ashes that flow into the river act as one of the best purifiers in the world. Additionally, the sacredness with which the river is viewed by worshippers from around the world imbue the river with special healing qualities. I wanted to go into the river again at Rishikesh.
I had been in Rishikesh for three weeks and not one day went by that I was not tempted to jump in. But logistically, as a woman, I was not quite sure how to accomplish the task without freezing on my way back to the ashram in wet clothes.
Two hours before the taxi was due I grabbed towels from the Ashram and went to look for a suitable place to take the plunge. When I got to the ghat (bathing platform), to my delight I saw two ladies submerging themselves into the Ganges.
They quickly spotted my bewildered look and kindly got me through the whole process without my having to drag myself back to the ashram soaking wet!
Shiwani showed me the ‘ladies’ changing area but the towels I had brought from the ashram were not quite big enough to dry and cover me enough to walk through the narrow streets back to the ashram. Shiwani took her lovely woolen shawl and gave it to me so I could get back to the ashram inconspicuously.
We instantly became good friends and she invited me to have chai on the street with her family. When I tried to return her shawl she refused and said it was a token of our friendship.
We said our goodbyes, but not before exchanging contact information.
This was the beginning of incredible stories she would share with me from her work as a Nepalese Journalist/Activist. In Shiwani Budhathoki’s own words following are excerpts she shared about herself
I am Shiwani Budhathoki and I like to be known as a journalist and social activist. Like everyone, I also have a dream, and my dream is to be the voice for the voiceless.
I started my career as a journalist at Avenues Television. It is one of the popular and leading news channels in Nepal and I feel very proud to say that I am part of the Avenues family. This organization gave me a golden opportunity to explore myself and my society. I got a chance to learn many things and will always be grateful for the channel.
My job is my dream job. I am living my all dreams through my job. Raising awareness, showing the truth to the people, becoming a bridge between the public and government, and most important becoming a voice of those who can’t speak for themselves against injustice.
I started dreaming of becoming journalist at the very early age of 5/6 while watching cartoons. But when I grew up I realized journalism is not only about becoming superman’s lover, it’s about becoming brave enough to speak for what’s right, and become a mirror of society.
I still remember my whole village used to praise a lady named Uma Singh. She was a journalist but at that time, for villagers, she was like Google, full of information and knowledge. The way villagers appreciated her work, made my desire to become a journalist increase more and more.
I come from the Terai region, where the dowry system is still the root cause of women’s violence, domestic violence and abortion of baby girls. But Uma Singh focused against that deep rooted violence and tried to raise awareness and empower women through her pen and words.
The patriarchal society of the time couldn’t stand her efforts and on January 11, 2009, she was killed. When she got home from work, a group of about 15 men barged into the room she rented at a house and hacked her with sharp objects in full view of other boarders.
She was the first women journalist to be killed in Nepal. As journalists, our job and even our lives are not safe. Yet the passion for providing information is what we all dream about.
To be a journalist is not about working 10-5, its a 24/7 duty. We have to be ready any time; we won’t be there at family
functions; we have to learn about the things happening around us and narrate that news with full proof and facts. While working as a journalist we become the mirror of society and we become everyone’s source of information.
While carrying the mike, logo and camera I feel so complete and proud. Those things are the real weapon and power of a journalist. But with power, comes responsibility. We have to use our power wisely and carefully to avoid misinterpretation.
Becoming an award winning journalist is the biggest achievement of my life.
One of the places I admire the most is the Saphalta HIV Positive Siksha Sadan School. It was the first school in the world to openly identify HIV positive children then follow through with protecting, housing and educating them. I appreciate them for this and will always support them.
Read more about Saphalta HIV Siksha Sadan School here. You can also support them on Facebook. Their bravery in openly helping to educate HIV positive children is commendable. If you want to share opinions on women’s rights and Shiwani’s work, please leave comments below this blog.