Maya in Nepali means love. And even though I have uttered this two-syllabled word (without having truly realized its meaning) for innumerable times since I first learned to speak, I never thought that a rustic academy perched on top of one of many hills of Nepal above a sea of cloud would actually instill its worth in my mind. And make me truly feel it –maya– in my bones, in my soul.
Maya Universe Academy, founded by Manjil Rana who calls it a youth movement, with its bucolic setting, is a place where private education is free (the first of its kind in Nepal). But Maya is not just another school pursuing to educate the rural nooks of the earth; it seeks more than the conventions, and gracefully achieves it. It is a school that actually lives up to the meaning of its name – where love for one another thrives, and is contagious. I was immediately aware of this omnipresent force from the moment a small boy wrapped his tiny hand around my fingers after I’d just gotten off the bus with my friends. And instantly, I felt at ease and at home.
During my brief stay, I learnt how to collect fodder for the cattle from the local forest, and became aware of the hardships associated with it. I learnt how to make briquettes at the expense of being squirted with manure, but was glad that I was actually applying the Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). I learnt how collecting firewood could be a tediously long task, but felt gratified when the smell of vegetable curry wafted the air. But most importantly, I learnt what the power of love could achieve when channeled positively.
One afternoon, I was blessed to have witnessed an act so selfless that it certainly restored my faith in humanity. Amidst the chaotic hustle-bustle of the lunch break was this small kid with no lunch, and no appetite for play. Manjil, the founder of the school, was quick to notice this forlorn kid and, without a second thought, gave him his plate of steaming noodles. I instantly realized that it was not just free education that Manjil provides these children, but that he also instills a sense of compassion and love by implementing it rather than just talking about it. And this compassion with which Manjil has founded this academy upon is definitely what sets Maya apart from other organizations that I have volunteered in.
The love was present even when the children were competing with one another for the ball, the love was present in the eyes of the ambidextrous mothers making necklaces as side businesses, the love was driving everyone to, subconsciously, create this serene milieu made the stay worth the bruise, the cut or the risk of encountering an unknown wild animal in forest. Inevitably, I was one of the members of the Maya family – exuding love and soaking that of others.
As I write this, I am enveloped by the tensions of upcoming midterms and pending essay deadlines, and naturally I am nostalgic of the mischief of the kids in Monkey class (It’s not called first grade, but Monkey class!!), singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds every morning before the start of the school, the feel of earth on that hill, and the crisp air of Maya.
*Note from Editor: Sonam is a first year student from Nepal, and this is her first blog article as a The Things That Matter staff. Welcome, Sonam!