As a contribution towards The Big Story, ChoraChori-Nepal staff members have been contributing their mini-memoirs. Here, Clinical Psychologist Hashana Shrestha describes how she has found professional and personal contentment in the most challenging of circumstances:
“After appearing for my finals of Bachelor degree, I was looking for some kind of part-time job which would give me a sense of becoming independent. Luckily, I did get one and it was a job of – field researcher. As someone who loved to travel, I couldn’t have felt more than happy to get this work. My work focused on social research which meant that I needed to travel to different remote places of the country. This was my first time ever to be travelling to remote villages of Nepal; a first of many more adventures to be unfolded in future.
I grew up in the heart of Kathmandu, the capital city, and for this city girl, her perception of what villages looked like were what was being shown in TV and movies. I imagined a village to be a peaceful and naturally scenic place where people are simple and happy. I was also a student of pure science faculty then, and so, rarely had an opportunity to interact with friends about the different social issues especially those of villages. We mostly had conversations about the different chemical experiments to be conducted in the science lab or specimen collection, or recalling scientific names of plants as saying Tagetes erecta instead of Marigold; my world was confined into this small world with many scientific stuffs. However, this first job of mine was a complete eye-opener as I was introduced to a new world with a very new experience that completely changed my perception towards life.
I saw villages where children didn’t go to their schools during the rainy season because there were no bridges to cross the rivers. I didn’t see even a single health post in the villages I went to, and the situation was so worse that people needed to walk hours even to get paracetamol. There were people who still talked about low and high caste,and equality was a foreign subject. The houses had only children, women and old people as young men left the villages to earn money. I experienced a deep sense of sadness, and desolation. Lot of questions and imaginations floated in my thoughts- what if a child got ill and needed an emergency treatment; what if a girl was misbehaved or even abused on the way as houses were far apart; what if there was robbery in the village and so on. But, one critical question was printed on my mind more strongly than others- how do these people perceive the quality of their own life, are they HAPPY?
With many such questions in mind and a new experience of life, I returned to my homeplace. This field experience added in me more curiosity to travel, and explore the different lifestyles of people. So, I continued to work in the field until the time I joined University. I guess I already knew which path I was supposed to take by then, and hence came the twist where I changed my stream of study from pure science to Social science. I chose to become a psychologist.
Being a student of pure science for 5 years, it was really difficult for me to understand words related to psychology initially. Sometimes I felt like a different type of English was being used in my psychology class. While I was already coping up to learn all the technical words being used in lectures, I was always being questioned by few classmates as to why a student from science needed to transfer to psychology. However, this journey continued.
After University, I worked in an NGO that worked with street children and survivors of sexual abuse. This was again like a whole new layer that I uncovered with a totally different experience of learning. It was really difficult for me to cope with my own emotions when I used to work with girls who were sexually abused, and even with boys who spent a part of their lives in the street. Working for four years with these groups of children, I was almost burned out and I thought I won’t be working in the area of trauma.
I chose my further specialization in clinical psychology. But, even then, during my residency period in hospital, I needed to deal more frequently with the cases of child abuse as compared to my colleagues. After I passed my examinations, I experimented with a few jobs in different areas of psychology but I realized trauma existed everywhere. I eventually landed in an organization that works with survivors of abuse and trauma. Some days it becomes really difficult to carry the pain shared by the survivors, some nights I dream about them and at times, I find myself thinking about them only.
All my life, I have always been the secret holder of many of my friends. I used to be surprised why people shared their secrets with me. Later, I discovered that I am actually a good listener. Definitely, with this nature of mine, I was able to pursue psychology and understand people.
After all this experience in fieldwork and meeting so many people, I have stopped complaining about my life like before. I realized that all these things which we take as granted- our education, facilities, economic situation and even our family are dreams of many out there. I am learning to be more thankful and grateful. Whenever I feel low and frustrated with different life issues, I remember the lives of people of those villages. The passion and desire to do something good for people around who need the most grows even stronger then. As I recall my journey now, I realize perhaps this is my destiny because I’ve always searched for an answer to – are people happy?”