Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Manju's Village

Yesterday we went to Manju's village, Lumle, which is a winding, twisting, and elevating half-hour north of Pokhara. I had prepared B & H by saying this ride would be more terrifying than paragliding but the roads were dry and it went smoothly.

Manju is the second child who came to live at Sam's House, back in February 2007. She lived with her grandmother in a single room quonset hut on the side of the road. It had room for a bed and a small, single-burner gas stove. They survived on income Manju's grandmother received from selling grass clippings and other types of manual labor. Manju attended school irregularly, less often than not (for reasons explained below), and she could hardly read when she began school at GEBS.

I wanted B & H to see a typical Nepali village and also to get some appreciation of where the Sam's House children started their lives--the conditions, and so forth. I hadn't been thinking about taking Manju along but Dinesh suggested it as she had seen her grandmother only once since last February when her grandmother came to Pokhara.

At first Manju said she didn't want to go but then changed her mind. When we arrived in Lumle, Manju jumped out of the cab and ran ahead of us to her grandmother's house up the hillside. We struggled to keep up and by the time we reached the house, Manju had already moved on. We found her further up the hillside at her cousin's house, where they informed us that her grandmother was down near the river cutting grass. One of Manju's cousin's went down the hill to find her and we walked back to the road to get some tea and wait.

We waited and drank tea, it occurred to us that they might not be able to find her. Some neighbors came out from their houses to greet Manju. Some of her old friends sat nearby. After awhile we had drawn a fairly large audience. Manju, who is normally very shy, did not interact very much.

Then after another ten minutes this old woman dressed in traditional work garb (sarong, headscarf and shirt) came toddling across the road, already with tears in her eyes. She looked a hundred years old. Manju jumped up and ran to her and her grandmother hugged her and kissed her face over and over. Then she asked how Manju had come to Lumle and Manju indicated Dinesh. Manju's grandmother made Namaste and waved us to follow behind her. She grabbed Manju's hand and they walked together to her house.

When we arrived at the house, Manju's grandmother placed a mat on the front step for us to sit on. She offered us rice and milk (all she had, I'm sure) and Dinesh declined. She took Manju in the house and immediately fixed her a plate, like a loving grandmother anywhere in the world.

Manju's grandmother came back outside and sat with us. She asked who we were and Dinesh explained who we represented (the Sam's House family) and she started crying again and made Namaste and took my arm and kissed it. Dinesh also told her that we were planning to get an operation for Manju to fix her eye (she is cross-eyed) and she took my arm again. And I so much wished all of you could have been there or that I could've explained how many people have made this possible for her and for Manju.

She again offered milk which Dinesh declined but she was hearing none of it and went back and poured us glasses. Then she sat back down and told Dinesh that sometimes when she gets sick she misses having Manju around but understands that she has a good home now. The grandmother said that after Manju's mother left (she was mentally disabled), Manju would ask "when you die, who is going to take care of me?"

Manju's grandmother said she had never liked school because other children would steal her pencils and notebooks, and if you've met Manju, you know she could put up no protest. Other children used to mock her mother and call Manju "the daughter of the crazy woman." Needless to say, Manju did not enjoy school and spent more time working with her grandmother.

We sat for a while and a neighbor came by with another little girl, who stood hiding behind his legs. He explained that this little girl had the same situation as Manju, living with her grandmother, barely able to make ends meet. Again, Dinesh explained that we were full but maybe in the future, when we had a bigger place or a new place, we could admit her. Dinesh has to do this very often. I can't imagine how difficult it must be.

It was time to go and as we walked back to the path that led to the road, Manju's grandmother kissed our hands again and thanked us (you) over and over and over and over. Dinesh told her that Manju would come back to visit her during Deshain (in October).


Grandma and Manju walking back to their house.

Photos courtesy of Hannah Smith.

1 comment:

Ruth and Irwin said...

Manju's story certainly makes those cold, snowy Morris yard sales worth it! We continue to spread the word of this fantastic place called Sam's House. Enjoy the rest of the visit. Keep those blogs coming.