She was shedding the tears of joy when she listened a government representative of City of Louisville, Kentucky State in the United States of America announced, “We decided to dedicate a Day on her name ‘Dr. Bishnumaya Pariyar Day on September 27”. That was in 2015. Dr. Pariyar found it very difficult to control her emotion as she recalls the moment. The ‘Dr. Bishnumaya Day (September 27)’ is being observed in the City of Louisville in the United States of America in the honour of renowned Nepali social activist Dr. Bishnumaya Pariyar. “That was a great moment and a complete surprise to me which I had never expected in my life”, she said while her eyes beaming, “I still become emotional when I recall that moment. I find no words to describe what I felt at that moment”, she turned nostalgic. “I thought I do not deserve the award and, at the time, I remembered my parents,” she shared in emotional tone. Dr. Bishnumaya and her struggle
Dr. Bishnumaya Pariyar was from a low-income, so-called Dalit (untouchable) family. She was born on December 19, 1973 as the fifth daughter to Kanmaya Pariyar (mother) and late Rup Bahadur Pariyar (father) in Taklung, the rural village in Gorkha district of Nepal. The Pariyar couple had altogether 11 children-10 daughters and one son. The life of Bishnumaya and her family were synonymous with poverty and lacking even basic necessities, and on top of that, caste-based discriminations and untouchability were rampant that Dalits were facing for centuries.
When Bishnuamaya was teenage, the society was afflicted with caste-based discrimination unlike these days. Besides caste-based discriminations and untouchability issues, the society was not so friendly to girls/women and was not aware of the importance of education for girls. The Pariyar family has a smallholding, but that is too less to sustain the family. To find a source of income for a living, her father Rup Bahadur who was in his caste-based ancestral occupation-tailoring-would reach the doorsteps of villagers carrying a sewing machine to sell his skills for grains and peanuts. The Pariyar family used to get little grains from the villagers in exchange of his service. Her mother carrying a traditional bamboo basket (dhoko) on her back would follow her spouse and help him collect grains. As Bishnumaya tells, each year, her father prepared hundreds, if not thousands of garments for the village people; mother changed several baskets to gather grains in her life; but their days have never changed for the better life. The members in the Pariyar family never saw a new cloth on their body.
Despite the ordeal, Bishnumaya’s future had something in store. Now, she holds the honorary doctorate degree from the US-based reputed Pine Manner College. She presently serves as the advisor to the Jersey City Mayor Stephen Fulop. She would never be in the current position in the absence of family encouragement, especially, from her parents. “My life is incomplete without my parents.”
Her earlier days were full of hardship and struggles. Often, “Oh Damini (a derogative word used to refer to a Dalit women in the traditional Nepali society) education is of no use for you and why are you going to school instead of doing your ancestral duty?” villagers used to poke her with this question frequently, but, despite all harassments and discrimination, she moved on overcoming all obstacles in her life. The family support, mainly, from her father, her self-dedication and strong passion have worked as a driving force in her life to reach this position.
As a Dalit, she had experienced innumerable caste-based discriminations in her life. She had no way except to resisting her thirst when she was not allowed to touch public taps. She was barred from direct participation in the cultural functions even at her school. She was the real victim of the discriminatory social norms and her heart aches when she recalls such moments. Unable to bear the daily humiliation and tortures, she once asked her father, “Why we are treated unfairly by the society?” Without explanation and showing resentment, Rup Bahadur just dismissed the incidents as examples of caste-based discriminations existing for long in the hierarchal society. However, at the same time, the father would say that his children should stand up against such practices. Her bitter experiences as a Dalit girl sowed a seed of revolution inside her young mind and heart. One fine day, she promised to herself that she would rather die of a thirst but would not drink water from public tap, from the cusp of hands by bending down. This way of drinking water was socially prescribed for the Dalits so that they could not touch a water tap directly.