PICS: ANI KONCHOK
For Ani Choying Drolma, it is a life-long dream fulfilled. The Arya Tara School for nuns on a hilltop in Pharping is an imposing five-story structure with a gilded Tibetan-style roof and elegant silhouette. Inside, the earthquake-resistant building has a library, computer lab, classrooms, a meditation hall and dorms.
There is a sense of achievement in Ani Choying's voice as she shows visitors around the school. The nun's school started from a humble rented flat in Maharajgunj 11 years ago and has 70 students enrolled. "You can say this is a free boarding school for nuns," says Ani Choying, who runs the school from money raised during her concert tours and album sales. "Like women in general, nuns are also deprived of education. It is common to find monks with higher education but few nuns."
Ani Choying set up the Nuns Welfare Foundation, which runs the school and other welfare activities. Arya Tara School is different from other nunneries as it provides a secular education. But there are additional subjects like Tibetan language and Buddha dharma.
Nepal's famous singing nun wants her students to go out into the world and empower communities. In a sense, Ani Choying is creating lots of Anis in her own image. Ani Choying beams with pride when she talks about her students' accomplishments. She says, "The general attitude towards women's education isn't positive. Women are always deemed inferior to men, even in monastic life. This is just a small step towards ensuring that nuns get an equal opportunity at education like monks. I am overjoyed when I see the progress in my students."
The feeling seems to be mutual. As she walks through her school, Ani Choying is greeted by her students and staff with reverence and affection.
Songs of peace, harmony and devotion, MEGAN MELINE
Songs of blessing