Cover Story

Pushpa Basnet : The Mother Of Superheroes

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Kiran (name changed) brought up the rear of the fleet of excited children that poured into the room. His eyes almost squint shut behind the thick spectacles that he was recently prescribed to help with his condition. Kiran is one of the newest members at the Butterfly Home, and he is slowly fitting in. Pushpa is vigilant around him because he still needs some time to find his comfort zone.

PUSHPA IS FIRM AND ASSERTIVE IN A WAY A MOTHER OF FORTY CHILDREN NEEDS TO BE; BUT, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, SHE SUCCUMBS AND SMOTHERS THE CHILDREN WITH LOVE

Then there’s Granny. She’s laid back and likes to spend her time out in the sun doing nothing. Lokharke (squirrel) drags his feet around in oversized chappals and Jhuse speaks with a squeaky voice that parades random bouts of fluctuations. They’ve received the nicknames based on their own individual characteristics that define them, something that these beautiful children have had the chance of exhibiting thanks to the efforts of Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) and Pushpa Basnet.

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Pushpa Basnet is a well-recognized personality, and her story has
been told many times. During
her internship work she visited prisons across the country. In this manner, she was confronted with a disheartening reality of innocent children accompanying their parents and growing up behind bars.

This was what inspired Pushpa to start her social endeavors of taking these children under her wing and providing them an opportunity for a normal life. With the help of her friends, family and any one willing
to contribute, she opened ECDC
in 2005. Her aim was to provide daycare services for children under 6 and a residential home where mostly older children received education, food, medical care and a chance to live a more normal life. Since then, this arduous enterprise of saving children from a life behind bars has exhibited a tremendous ascent, one that has brought Pushpa Basnet incredible international acclaim. ECDC’s efforts were recognized and Pushpa was awarded the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year. Then again, in 2016 she bagged the CNN Super Hero Award.

While there are several groups that have initiated similar ventures, Pushpa insists her concept of what she does is slightly different.

“I was fortunate to have an easy life with a good education and I want others to have that.” Pushpa said.

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A decision to abstain from undertaking the family business and dedicating her life to raise children didn’t sit well with 21-year-old Pushpa’s parents. Getting a yearlong suspension from school didn’t instill a lot of confidence in her already protective parents, especially her father. But her mother was a pillar of strength, always encouraging her to do what she believed in.

“Me and my sister had a lot of toys from when we were kids, and they were pretty good condition too. So
we set up a very small place back in Bhatbhateni Dhalku, and that’s how this enterprise started.” Pushpa explained as we sat and talked in what was the first day care centre ECDC opened. Located in Sundhara, the space is now being used by ECDC as an operational office since it is more convenient to access. Under the now well-furnished carpet that covers the floor is the same tart flooring that she first installed back in 2005. She believes that it helps her stay grounded and in touch with the struggles that came with the now established enterprise.

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Pushpa had found her calling and was adamant on doing what she had put her mind into. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Government officials and even incarcerated mothers were skeptical about Pushpa’s gargantuan aspirations. Undaunted, she took the first steps and convinced whoever she could to help bring her efforts into fruition.

She started with two kids, both of whom are now studying in the ninth grade, in very modest beginnings. Now that she has built the institution to a much higher standard, she thinks what she gives her children should be up to par. Simply feeding and putting a roof over the heads of as many children as she can isn’t her idea of ECDC’s work ethics.

“Growing up, I had all the amenities
I could have needed and I want my children to have that quality of life and more. I want them to experience everything they can so that they will not have to feel undermined in front of anyone when they go out into the real world.” Explained Pushpa.

AMONGST THE NUMEROUS AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS PUSHPA HOLDS, ONE SHE GLADLY BOASTS OF
IS THE WORST DRESSED PERSONALITY HONOR SHE WAS BESTOWED.

She thinks like a mother, and every step she takes embodies that spirit. Her day starts early, the older kids help care for the younger ones and everyone chips in with the household chores. Pushpa is firm and assertive in a way a mother of forty children needs to be; but, more often than not, she succumbs and smothers the children with love. And all forty children reciprocate this love and call her “mamu”.

After sending the kids to school Pushpa returns to work. In her line of work she encounters government officials and organizations on a regular basis.The government support has been increasing and that has encouraged her to better her work. Still, achieving international recognition and acclamation has
put her in the crosshairs of many who want a piece of the pie. Nevertheless, over the years, she has built a thick skin and knows how to deal with such obstructions.

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“The more you grow, the more
eyes you have on you.” Explained Pushpa, “but it’s important to find your bearings and stay strong, my kids have their eyes on me too.”

Although Pushpa has become a role model for many people in
the country and across the globe, she is most concerned about how she comes across to her children. Pushpa’s mother was always a source of inspiration for her and a major figure in making her who she is today. For the children of incarcerated parents, Pushpa is a pillar of inspiration and strength and she does her best to hold up an image that she can be proud of.

Pushpa is far from a social butterfly. Amongst the numerous awards and accreditations Pushpa holds, one she gladly boasts of
is the worst dressed personality honor she was bestowed. “I’ve got my kids who look up to me, I need to set the right examples. You’ll be hard-pressed to find me at social gatherings and events. I’d much rather spend that time with my kids. And the last thing I could care about is what people think of my wardrobe. I have to run after these kids all day and I won’t be able to do that with a sari and heels on.”

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Skepticism has come in hot and heavy for Pushpa with people even telling her that she doesn’t deserve the admiration right to her face. But she remains unfazed.

AT TIMES SHE IS LOUD AND BRASH AND SHE WEARS HER EMOTIONS ON HER SLEEVES BUT SHE DOES WHAT SHE NEEDS TO KEEP THE BEST INTEREST OF HER CHILDREN IN MIND.

There aren’t a lot of fancy frills
to Pushpa; she is as simple as simple gets. At times she is loud and brash and she wears her emotions on her sleeves but she does what she needs to keep
the best interest of her children in mind. And that was what instigated the rise of ECDC and their noble cause. What the world says wouldn’t matter to her as long as her children see her as the loving and devoted mother she is.

“If all my children weren’t as good as they are all of my efforts would fall short. They are the biggest part of who I am and everything you see before you. I owe it all to my kids.”

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Ankit Shakya

Ankit Shakya

Editor at Autolife and TNM Magazine

Ankit Shakya is a talented writer who generally focuses on the intricacies of pure storytelling in his writings. Besides, he loves eating, drinking and spending time with his loved ones.