28 June 2011 Eve
Just back from the orphanage. Maria, who is starting her fifth year of medical school, went with me to check up on Krishala, who was ill again today. The report on Krishala’s stool sample came back and informed us that she has ameobic dysentery, which is extremely common among children in Nepal. The headaches are harder to explain. She probably needs to see an eye doctor, but Gehlu wants to clear up her other problems—viral tonsilitus and now dysentery—first. So the doctor gave her some paracetamol, which Americans call acetaminophen. Maria and I went over to find out if Krishala was getting the proper dosage of the medicine she needs, and also to see how she was doing.
We arrived at a completely darkened house. The children were eating dinner at candle- and flash-light. Maria, who I have come to like very much, is as drawn to the children as I am. Indeed, everyone who has met them falls in love with them, because they are all extremely affectionate and cheerful. But Nirmala, the youngest, is the most endearing of all. She smiles all the time, and her eyebrows jump up as her eyes ignite when she looks over at you. I call her my little laughing Buddha. “Eh-bhui!” she erupts, bobbing up on her toes or, if she is sitting, onto her haunches, whenever something piques her interest or enthusiasm. Or she starts and points and says “U!” when she sees something she likes. She likes to look at photographs of herself and her new family. She loves to be held. Maria loves to hold her.
Maria also determined that while Krishala is getting the medicine she needs, she has only been given half the amount that she should take to get well. So she and I will go to the pharmacy tomorrow to restock. We don’t know why there is not enough medicine for her. We assume that Gehlu, who picked it up, did not understand that she needed more. We will remedy the situation, but worry about what would have happened to Krishala if we had not been here. We worry about what will happen to all the children when we leave, as we must.
This morning I held Krishala on my lap, because she was sick. So naturally all the children wanted to sit on my lap, and I spent the morning under a heap of loving little bodies. Surely it is impossible to feel unloved and unneeded here.
Today I learned something that made me very sad. Each of the children have suffered from neglect, poverty, cruelty, and forced labor. But Krishala’s body shows the blows that fate has dealt her more than the others. Today I found out that she is 10, not 8, as I had believed. She is much smaller than the other ten year-old, Anura, and smaller even that Gorima, who is indeed 8, or thereabouts.
Why is Krishala so small? Because she has been malnourished. Remember, Krishala is the one who came to the orphanage cleaning up after and serving everyone, because she had been an enslaved servant for most of her life. Her father was a drunkard who squandered the family property and sold all of their land to support his carousing. He desperately wanted a son. When his wife gave birth to the tenth daughter in row, he abandoned the family, and the girls were sent or sold out to work. She is ten years old. She looks six. She is woefully behind for her grade in English, in math, and in science. She is intelligent, very intelligent, but she has spent nearly no time in school. Rupus, the six-year-old, appears to speak better English than she does. But she comprehends a lot.
Sometimes I rock Krishala in my arms and sing lullabies to her. She goes quite still and closes her eyes, drifting back into a baby state in which she drinks in my maternal love for her. She needs desperately to do this. So does Anura, who hangs on me or hugs me or Bimila, like an infant. These children have not only been starved of essential nutrition, they have been starved of essential love, the acceptance, the nurturing, the contact between skin and skin, and eye and eye, that well-loved babies receive from their mothers and fathers.
Thank goodness for Bipin, who looks after them with love because he has been well loved by his mother. He clearly identifies with their plight. His own father disappeared when his mother was pregnant with him. He speaks excellent English, for his age—also 10—and translates for his mother. I communicate with her through him.
Tonight we handed out some of the presents we had bought the children. Maria gave them a skipping rope, and I had brought a soccer ball. Bipin said that it needed air, and told me where I could get it pumped up. We’ll go to the shop on the way to school tomorrow morning.
I was wondering if some of my readers, especially my family and friends, would consider sending play clothes and toys to the children. They have very little to wear after school and, as I mentioned before, nothing to play with other than one another. If you have any decent hand-me-downs, especially dresses, jeans, tee-shirts, shoes, socks, and jackets, and could send them to me here in Kathmandu, you would be doing a great good. And toys—there don’t seem to be any nice, sturdy ones to buy here. Today I brought small rubber balls and stickers, which were a huge hit, but not very educational or comforting. Maria and I asked the children what they wanted. All the girls said dolls, dolls with black hair. The dolls for sale here are cheap, tawdry, and white. They all have blond hair and blue eyes. The boys wanted cars. Bipin specified that he wanted an electric car with a battery.