I was born in 1964 in Kathmandu, Nepal which is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a per capita income of roughly $300. About 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture for a living and over half of the people survive on less than $1 a day.
I belong to a middle-class family with two brothers and two sisters. The reason we all are well educated was due to the efforts of my mother, Basundhara Devi Shrestha. Very few girls from her generation were sent to schools because Nepal was then under the rule of the Rana families. The women from her generation were even hesitant to walk freely on the streets outside. They were expected to stay at home and perform household and domestic work. As a result, they had to depend on their male counterparts for income and for making decisions.
My mother had always wanted to study, but she was unable to do so because of the social perception. Therefore, she tried very hard to make education possible for me and my sisters. By providing us a favorable environment and education, she has successfully made us independent. She always encouraged us to study hard, pursue our dreams and become successful women. My mother died in 1987, and with her the stable, supportive and favorable environment vanished. My sisters and I then had to struggle hard to continue our education. But, we were determined as we were after all, fulfilling our motherï¿½s dreams along with ours.
I was actually a bright student already at school, and won many awards. I completed my B.Sc. in Physics in 1986 with first division. There were only 5 women (including me) out of more than 300 students. I completed my M.Sc. in Physics two years later in 1988 with first division and then started teaching in Tri-Chandra College. Out of 21 graduating students, only three, including me, were women. I got married in 1992 into a large and conservative family.
Being the eldest daughter-in-law, I had a huge family burden and many social obligations. My husband, Lokendra Pradhan, had three younger brothers who were all studying at that time, and the youngest was still in school. I conceived shortly and delivered my first son a year after my marriage. I took care of him in the morning while my husband took over during the day? an arrangement which we followed until he was about two years of age. Afterward, I left him in daycare every morning before we went to do our jobs. About three years later, I had my second son. We shared our parental duties similarly.
Meanwhile, I took a second job in St. Maryï¿½s School where I taught Physics to high school students. Managing two full-time jobs along with the domestic duties was a hectic experience, and I used to fall sick often. A few years later when my husbandï¿½s income had stabilized, I resigned from St. Maryï¿½s School. I started teaching Physics in various other private colleges, as a part-time lecturer. It was not until 2007; after eighteen years of teaching that I was able to take a leave from Tri-Chandra College and begin studying for the Ph.D. degree.
I had obtained very good opportunities to continue further studies abroad many times after my M.Sc. But, I declined all of them because my heart belonged to my children and family. Besides, things got really complicated after I got married and had children. Those of you who havenï¿½t had children yet, will not believe how much your priorities change after you have them. You will always find yourself subconsciously tipping the balance in favor of your little ones. I wanted to progress further in my academic field, but I also wanted to give my children the best childhood I could give. Therefore, even though I didnï¿½t want to, I waited 18 years before I pursued the Ph. D. degree. In a way, Iï¿½m happy with my decision as my sons have grown up to become talented persons.
Across cultures, we have the primary responsibility of taking care of our home and children. Social factors, most importantly our responsibilities towards our children have a major impact on our careers in Science. I am lucky in a way as I had a loving, understanding and supportive husband. And through his continuous support, I have maintained the balance between my career and my family responsibilities.
As of now, after the publication of numerous research papers (including one in a prestigious journal J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys.: 47(10), p105002(2014), IOP Publishing) and their presentations in several countries, my Ph. D. is almost completed.
Now, I am very happy working as an Associate Professor at Tribhuvan University, raising two maturing boys, and moving through highs and lows of life with my husband and family. In the end, I am thankful to several people who have played a pivotal role in my life, including my siblings Udaya Shrestha and Meenu Hada; and Professor Dr. Ramesh babu Thayyullathil who has helped me a lot in my journey to Ph.D. Without their help, my journey would have been much more difficult.