Saturday, February 24, 2007

Manju Joins Us

After the bandh we were free to start bringing children home. We picked up Pratima on Friday morning, returning to her mother's room in Parsyang. I got a peek inside their home, which was a 5' 10' cinder block room decorated mostly with posters and pictures of Hindu gods. Their bed was a construction of wood planks covered with a straw mat. Steel dishes and cups were strewn about the floor.

Despite these humble surroundings Man Maya dressed up her daughter as best she could, combing Pratima's hair and making her wear her wool school sweater. Before we could leave we had to complete some paperwork with witnesses present. Finding witnesses never seems to be a problem in rural Nepal. Always lots of people around interested in goings-on.

Dinesh read the various forms to people, making sure they understood who we were, what our intentions were, what responsibilities we would assume, and where we'd be in the future. They were all very helpful and thanked Dinesh for taking Pratima, having been familiar with her situation for some time.

On the cab ride to Sam's House, Man Maya talked nearly the whole time. And though my Nepali is far from perfect I could barely follow anything she said. Usually I can pick up a word or two to discern the topic under discussion but from her I could understand nothing. Later I asked Dinesh what she was talking about during the ride. He said he didn't know either.

We gave Man Maya a tour of the house to show her that Pratima would be well looked after. She was extremely impressed. The separation, as all anticipated, was kind of rough. Pratima is a loving, trusting, easy-to-laugh child, but she's no fool. After some negotiation we gave Man Maya some money to buy Pratima a snack, this being the deal maker. Man Maya promised to come back tomorrow, which of course she couldn't do, but she knew this would be the only way to part. Dinesh and I stood nearby promising Pratima that she'd soon have lots of friends to play with.

Then last night, Indreni told us that Pratima cried for a long time before bed because her mother hadn't returned. Then she said that "Dinesh Uncle" and "Chris Uncle" were liars because she didn't have any friends to play with yet. That was mildly heartbreaking to say the least, but we would soon redeem ourselves in her eyes...


Today we drove to Lumle to pick up Manju Devkota. She lives in a tin shack with her grandmother. Her father is a drug addict living in India, parts unknown. Her mother is mentally unstable and left Manju to go back to her village.

We were accompanied by Sushil from Namaste House, which referred us to Manju from their waiting list. Also along were Bharat Malla, one of our trustees and Manju's cousin who was familiar with her case. We piled into a taxi and headed on Baglung Highway to the north, up and down 30 kilometers of switchbacks. To wildly understate the matter, it was an exciting ride.

When we got to Lumle, Manju's grandmother was not there. She knew we were coming but being Saturday she had walked across the nearest mountain to go to temple. Her cousin arranged for us to work through the exchange forms with the some relatives and neighbors with the promise that he would personally bring the grandmother to Sam's House sometime next week.

Unlike Pratima, probably because her cousin was with us, Manju eagerly led us back to the taxi and jumped in the front seat. The clothes she wore are the only clothes she owns and the only material things she has. Tomorrow she'll get two new sets.

Back at Sam's House, I watched Manju feeling happy for her but also wondering how bewildering this must be--to be ushered off with strangers into a home where suddenly everyone is making a fuss over you, talking to you, but no one or nothing looks familiar. She followed the didis to the water tap where they washed her hands and feet. Soon after she was on the playground, passively following me to the swingset and letting me give her a push. As all of you with children already know, kids are a lot tougher than adults.

So I left Manju eating churra and vegetables with chiyaa. I imagine now she's outside playing with her new sister. Suminder Gurung had come downstairs to be the mothering figure over the whole playground. Very sweet.


In an hour Dinesh and I are going to Archalbot to see Amrit Ranavat, a seven year old boy who lives in a room by himself, where neighbors give him food. His father is alcoholic and lives in Pokhara but wants nothing to do with Amrit. His mother left years ago. Recently Amrit's father saw him at a buspark. Thinking his son had money, the father asked him to give it over. When Amrit refused, his father tried to throw him under a bus. Fortunately on-lookers intervened.


I have to run now but I just wanted to say that I wish you were all here right now. And I know you are in some way or another, but you all really deserve to see this up close. Your generosity (through money, work, or a kind word shared) has literally changed (even saved) the lives of two little girls and one little boy.


Cathy said...

Hi Chris,

I'm amazed by all that you are doing and knowing that you're helping and saving those three kids (and many more, soon enough)brings a tear to my eye.

Looking forward to reading more!


Irwin and Ruth said...

As you get ready to leave, you can do so knowing that Sam's House is definitely up and running- and that you are leaving it in good hands. We are grateful also to everyone who helped make this possible. Our continued good thoughts will be there in the coming days.