Well so we had become friends. And my stay in that village was soon going to be over and I was to return to Kathmandu. Which I was happy about for myself, but the thought of leaving that kid behind to that very probable kind of dark future and in a present that was already bad enough to begin with … this thought really troubled me.
But it was not like I had many options for her at hand – taking her to Germany, which the Nepali obviously assumed would be such an easy thing to do for me, was out of the question. So what if I took her to Kathmandu and somehow managed to arrange for her to stay in some children home or something? But there was no sure reliable contact that I had in Kathmandu, where I already knew she would be taken care of. So taking her away was really quite risky, since I had no way of guaranteeing that she would be better off in Kathmandu – far away from the place she had grown up in.
But still: Would I be able to live with myself, maybe in 5 years time looking back at the fact that I left a kid who was so much in need of help to her bad fate? Would I want to be that person who looked away for her own convenience – or would I want to be someone who actually took some action and took a chance to do something good for someone else.
I have grown up in a family that was very dysfunctional and how often had I wished for an outsider to come and actually help me to get a better chance at life.
No, I did not want to be someone who would just walk away! So what I did first of all was approach Rita and बुझाएँ (bujhaae~) to her my crazy idea. I wanted to find out what she thought of it. Maybe she was all content living in the village with her dad beating her up and everything – who was I to judge what her life should be like. So I said to her: “Listen Rita, I have to leave soon and go back to Kathmandu and then to my own country. The thing is, I was wondering if you want me to take you with me to Kathmandu and arrange for you to go to school there and maybe some day be able to find a job and earn your own money? I feel it is not good for you how your Dad treats you and I just want you to have a chance at life. The thing is though that you really need to understand that I cannot take you with me to my own country, so you will be alone in Kathmandu eventually – without me and without your Dad. So what do you think about this?”
And her immediate answer was: “Oh no didi, I cannot do this – I cannot leave my father behind. He only has me left in this world. I cannot leave him.”
So I said: “Naani, that is totally ok for me. You don’t have to leave here if you don’t want to. I want you to do what you think is best. But I am asking you to consider my offer a little bit longer – think about it well. Think about the consequences of what will happen if you stay and what will happen if you leave.”
And I left it at that – but 2 days later Rita approached me by herself and said: “I changed my mind – my Dad was very drunk last night and he beat me up again. And now I think: I just cannot stay here. I have to leave.” – “Well Naani, I hear what you are saying, but this is a extremely important decision. So please think about it one more night and if by tomorrow you are still sure that you want to leave, we will try to get the necessary permissions for that from everyone involved. The district officials have to say yes and your dad has to say yes.”
The next morning, she stated again that she wants to leave. So as a first measure I discussed the issue with a Nepali coworker from the organisation I was there with. And he arranged for me to talk to the district administrative chief and somehow also managed to bring the Dad along as well already. Which worked out really well for Rita, because this way the Dad was easily persuaded to say Yes. I remember him saying, that he really wants a good future for his daughter – which I sincerely appreciated.
Since we were to leave within two days only, things had to be done in a hurry. Rita had no luggage, since she only had the ripped clothes that she wear every day. We went to a small photo shop at the districts headquarters and got her, her dad’s and my own headshot taken – as a memory. Also we bought some 10 kg of rice for the dad, since Rita reasoned if we left him some little money, he would just directly spend it on alcohol only.
The day we left was very heartbreaking. And I must say that I did not handle it so well for being overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted myself. We had to walk for 8 hours to reach to next road, and in the beginning her dad walked with us. He was already drunk again. And it was heartbreaking to watch the little girl swaying between real shame and anger towards him and just an overwhelming sadness and fear in her eyes. The dad kept trying to start arguments with me. Since I could not understand his बोली (bolii), that did not work out well for him, but it turned out that he wanted more money from me. At which point I lost my cool and told him off and said that he should let us walk in peace and to say goodbye to his daughter now. Which I am really not proud off – especially since it turned out that this was the last moment those two ever saw each other.
Once the dad was gone, finally Rita started crying and I was able to comfort her a little and then was able to distract her with some silly jokes about something. Once we got in the car, she started throwing up, since the driver was deadset on following his dream to become a Formula 1 driver or something. Of course seeing the kid throw up, made me throw up as well. We stopped once on the way, because Rita’s sister apparently lived just next to the road and by luck it turned out that she was at home, and the two of them spend a few moments of really heartfelt, teary goodbye.
After travelling for two days, we arrived at the airport in Nepalgunj. Rita who had never even driven in a car before was now about to depart on an airplane all the way to this scary, huge city where she knew no-one but myself.
Read how the story continues in the next part.