She sat on a bench facing away from the sun. Draped in green cholo and dhoti, she brought a nostalgic feeling inside me. But it wasn’t just her attire that caught my attention. Her face held a grim expression but it was her eyes that gave it away. She looked anxiously towards every person who passed her by as if looking for something. Perhaps then I knew I could be the answer for her.
I approached her slowly and smiled at her hoping she would do the same. But she held onto her grim expression. By the time I asked her how she was feeling, I was disappointed. The grandma could barely answer and as helpless as she was in making me understand her gestures, I felt even worse as my hopeless attempts to understand her went in vain. That was when another voice answered, “Chiya khane re! (She is asking for tea!)”. I glanced at my savior and found a younger looking face complimented by a shy smile. Her short grey hair made her stand out and nothing could suit her more than the red cholo and lungi that she wore. As we hurriedly passed around tea and biscuits to all of the grandmas, I chose to sit with her and talk.
Because every wrinkle and every strand of hair that turns grey with age has a story to tell, I knew I could find one in her too. She was polite and as we went on talking, she opened up to me. We asked about each other and I told her about me. She herself was from a Gurung community. What was even more unbelievable was when she told me she was already 104 years old. Her original home lied in western Nepal and the reason why she ended up in the old age home was heart-wrenching. Her voice shook with sadness as she showed me how poor her health was. Her legs didn’t function properly and despite every medication she was taking, there showed still no signs of improvement. During the whole period while she poured out her agonies that she kept concealed within her heart, I tried to comfort her by assuring her that now her painful past didn’t matter. She was here and she needed to be strong. I felt it was important to tell her how she need not shed tears for those who didn’t care for her because had they been worthy of her tears, they wouldn’t even let her go through all of this alone. I held her hand because it was what she needed, perhaps from a very long time.
When I came back home that evening, I remembered how happy she was when she put tika on me and gave me her blessings on the occasion of Dashain– “Nani, thulo manchey bannu! (May you be a renowned person in the future!)”. By then we had formed a bond. And as I sit here, thinking of her angelic smile and the moment we shared, I find myself wanting to go back and to see the angel I met by the corridor.
-Upama Tamla, ECCA
[A visit to Matatirtha Old Age Home Commiitee, Mahadevsthan, Kathmandu on October 20, 2015 took place where ECCA provided 5 sets of Solar Lamps and 4 sets of water filters for better accomodation of elderly women. Discover more photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/135969140@N03/albums/72157659690341039]