This is a goodbye Nepal post. It’s been almost twenty hectic months. Now, three documentaries later, I’m finally going home. Today, I have a screening of one of the three docs, a feature length – my first feature length piece of work – Untouchable Love. Read about it here http://untouchablelovenepal.blogspot.com/ and follow the cause on facebook http://www.facebook.com/Untouchable.Love.Nepal
This documentary is the reason I came to Nepal. Late in 2008, I had rashly quit a day job to try and make a living in film making. Within two months, I discovered I had committed suicide. And then the girl I was eyeing then, who all along was tagging along with me to the movies and lunch dates, started growing cold feet. I tried to make it work by taking her to guitar classes, for she loved the guitar, but instead, she started eyeing the guitar instructor. And I felt very bad that Christmas. So unloved. So lonely. A major disappointment to everyone who had ever believed in me.
But up until this time, I had never had a real girlfriend, mostly because of this maddening ambition to be a writer (and later the more lucrative filmmaker). It meant I would stay indoors for days, phone off, email off, hammering away at the keyboard, dreaming up stories that no one would ever read. I became sort of a loner, and now age was catching up with me, reminding me that it was time I got a girlfriend and settled down into a family. I was nearly 30 (or already 30 :O ) and I had never had a real girlfriend. Only imaginary ones, and temporary ones, and flings. So I started to question the meaning of love – why do people fall in love? what is true love?
Naturally, being an internet freak, I turned to google for answers. Soon, I heard about the fate of lovers in Hindu societies, who cannot marry outside their caste, but who endure all sorts of torture and bloodshed to stay in love. And I thought, ‘Wow, isn’t that a story worth telling?’
So I started to look for ways to go to India (I was following the advice of Yann Martel, author of “The Life of Pi”, whose word to struggling writers is, “Go to India, you’ll find salvation”, or something to that effect.) However, I couldn’t find a way into India. Instead, I got a volunteer job in Nepal, and I saw that it had the stories I was looking for. So I came late in 2009.
And twenty months later, after learning the language, so much so that now I have a Nepali accent, according to my girlfriend (yes, I did find love finally), I am proud to show the film tonight. It has been a terribly tough twenty months. I cannot say I enjoyed Nepal, mostly because I was a six foot tall ‘original’ African living in a rural place where the average height is five feet, where they have never seen a person with a shade of dark like mine! The one you can say is ‘original African’. Pure black.
I suffered loads of staring (I will find time to post this), and loads of discrimination. I was treated as an untouchable most of the time, especially when they discovered I was working for a dalit organization. So I have not enjoyed my stay here, and I could not wait to get out of the country! I just can’t wait for my flight on Sunday night. If I had been based in the city, I might have loved the country. I might have enjoyed my stay. But sadly, I was placed in a very conservative, rural district.
Well, on the positive side, I made some friends. A lot of friends. Some of them I’ll never see again, or even communicate with again, since they have no access to phones or internet. Like this woman in my town, who many people say is a ‘prostitute’. I regularly got food at her shop. She offered to cook me rice at a time when you can’t find rice in any restaurant (I’ll be writing about this too soon.) I’ll miss her momo and chowchow and veg khana set.
People call her a prostitute because she got married twice. She is a low caste dalit. Her first husband died, and then she remarried outside her caste, with a Tharu man. That ruined her reputation. In Hinduism, widows are not allowed to remarry. Once your husband dies, that’s it for your love life. You remain single for the rest of your life, even if you are only eighteen years old. In the past times, the widow had to commit suicide by jumping into the funeral fire of her late husband. But this practice ended maybe a hundred years ago. And what remained was a stigmatization of widows. Those who dare to remarry are branded prostitutes.
Some of them, like this friend of mine, end up selling themselves because of public opinion. The men in the town force them into sex, and throw money at them. Especially after they get remarried, they are constantly harassed by other men, for they are considered to be ‘characterless’.
One time, I was in a plane to Kathmandu. I shared a seat with a man who turned out to be a pimp in one of the casinos in the city. He told me about Sweta (name changed), my friend, and his exact words were, “there is ‘one’ in Dhangadi, but she says that these days she doesn’t do it. But if you want, I can talk to her.”
Honestly, Sweta once offered to have sex with me for money. I turned her down and gave her a lecture on AIDS. She never mentioned it again. She said I was a good man. Soon after, her husband started insisting that I marry her. He thought I turned her down because she was already married. He wanted me to take her to Uganda, so she can get work and send him money. I avoided their restaurant/shop for a few months and when I showed up again, he never mentioned it again.
And I did find a few prostitutes hanging about in her shop a few times. One time I found a fourteen year old girl there (which drew another long lecture from me!).
A few months ago, Sweta complained of stomach pains. They had been bothering her for more than six months, and she was using local herbal medicine. I suggested she gets herself omeprazole, and within a few weeks, she was fine. It was mild ulcers after all. She thanked me with a really big meal.
I will miss eating in her shop – especially her momo. And when I go back to Uganda, I will miss these friends that I made while in Nepal.
PS: I joined a Blog Tour about the ‘treasures of my life’, and while I treasure my ambitions and writing, below are links to blogs with what people treasure most! In the hunt I found a blog which I fell in love with, written by Debbie. http://www.scatteredmusings.net/
Here are the blogs on the tour.
5. Karen – http://britsunited.blogspot.com
6. Shannon – http://reflectionandreview.com/
8. Hope – http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com