Niru

Coming to Chitwan was the right move.

Intuition, heart, gut … you rock!  Thank you for propelling me forward.

To think, I might have missed witnessing these rhinos while on an elephant safari in the jungle:

I might have missed taking a wooden canoe down a river lined with scary-looking crocodiles:

I might have missed meeting a momma-to-be elephant, pregnant with twins:

I might have missed getting showered by a frisky elephant while bathing her in a local river:

And I might have missed meeting an energetic 15-year-old girl while visiting a local village for cooking lessons and ceremonial dancing:

Her name is Niru.  I wound up spending the majority of my time with this young lady, as she served as the unofficial translator for her tiny Tharu village.  Along with what appeared to be the entire village’s female population, Niru showed me around, dressed me up in traditional clothing and made me comfortable in a setting clearly different from my home.  When I told her about skyscrapers, she ooohed and aaahed.  That was just a small window into her humble life.

Niru wants to be a nurse when she grows up. Her inspiration came after an accident on the playground sent her to the local hospital, which is some 30 minutes away.  Niru showed me the large scar on her leg from that accident.  (It wasn’t pretty.)  While at the hospital, she was awed by the nurse attending her — and told the nurse that she wanted to be like her when she grew up.

Niru goes to private school, which means that she is more fortunate than most Nepali kids.  At the private school, she gets a “better” quality education versus those who attend the public/government schools.  This is evident in her English language skills alone.  Niru speaks pretty fluently, while her village girlfriends who attend the nearby public school really couldn’t say more than a few words to me.

Niru is proud that she is the language captain in her class, a title given to the student with the most proficient English skills.  But she is still very much a teenager with a silly side.  She loves to dance, and showed me a few routines with her girlfriends.  When I tried to teach her how to wink at a boy, she giggled and said she couldn’t do it.

Toward the end of our time together, Niru was interlocking our arms as if we’d known each other for years.  She asked me to marry her uncle.  I said I’d think about it.

This 15-year-old has the spark of so much potential.  But do girls like Niru make it out of tiny villages like this one in Nepal?  Where chickens roam free?  Where computers are non-existent?  Where the dirt roads aren’t lit at night?  Where the toilet might be behind a house down the street?  Where, when you ask someone for her mailing address to keep in touch, she doesn’t know it?

Yes, Niru couldn’t give me her mailing address.

The question seemed to confuse her, and she needed to consult a few people before scribbling something for me on paper.  So I gave Niru my mailing address and told her to write to me — in her best English.  We could be pen pals, since email and Facebook are foreign to her.  I could track her progress.  Possibly help where I can.  But it means that she needs to take the initiative and put pen to paper.

I really hope that she does.

Our exchange held a mirror up to my own life, and how insanely fortunate I’ve been.  For the opportunities alone.  After all, I could have been born into Niru’s life.  No way would I be where I am today if that were the case.  Opportunities don’t come as easily in tiny villages such as this one in Nepal, especially for girls. All the brilliance and determination in the world might not be enough for a lively girl with a brilliant brain to transcend a life of housewifery.  Not that there is anything wrong with that role.  But when I see a girl as ambitious as Niru, I wonder if there is an avenue for her, to be something other than that …

I hope that Niru’s dream of becoming a nurse doesn’t fizzle with time, or under the pressure of her village’s social expectations and norms.

And I really hope that she writes me.

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