|Ritu and Betty|
I met Ritu in 2010. She knew of me and I knew of her as one of David’s stalwarts. I went that year with Max (my and David’s son) for a stroll in the Himalayas and after that, we of course visited the Chitwan Valley.
It is truly a place of beauty and for me, very exotic with camels or elephants passing beneath my hotel window. The air was also clear enough when we were there that from the village we could see the mountains we had recently left.
|Manis, Ritu, Shiva and Mamata|
David thought it would be a fun idea to surprise Ritu with our visit. He never told her that Max and I were coming to Sauraha. We rented bicycles to take the pocked and stony road to Ritu’s house. I remember the acres of chartreuse yellow mustard fields and little villages with large animals docile, sitting down amongst people, dogs and chickens. As we rode up to the house, Ritu was outside and was very happy to see David. She smiled when she saw other guests coming with him. Then David introduced us. “This is Betty.”
I never saw such an expression of love pour out from a face as what appeared on Ritu’s. It was as if her whole heart tumbled out onto her face and smothered her vocal cords, making her speechless. We hugged a long time. She cried. She laughed. She forgot all her English.
This woman did not even know me, yet she welcomed me like family.
Ritu lives with her husband Shiva and two children, a daughter, Mamata and a son, Manis. They made us a delicious daal bhat dinner of rice, lentils, vegetables, a spicy pickle and tender, delectable chicken. Shiva cooked the meat on an outdoor fire and Ritu prepared everything else over a one-burner kerosene stove.
|The memorable mustard fields|
After dinner, Manis searched the radio for some music. Ritu insisted on teaching me how to dance Nepali style and wanted us to dance together. Our captive audience enjoyed my clumsy attempts until eventually I got the hang of it. Of course, I got more hugs.
When David first met Ritu, she was working in a micro bank but lost her job due to downsizing. She found another job in a larger micro bank and decided to continue her studies even while working. Raising and feeding her family were ongoing, with Shiva as a supportive partner.
Ritu finished her secondary education, which led to work in the accounting office at the large micro bank. To add to their income, Shiva and Ritu built an extra room on the house so that they could lodge guests. Ritu loves the company and she can polish up her English.
|Ritu and the orphans|
Close to where they live, there was a family tragedy. The father of five children died and the mother, who could not cope, simply ran away and deserted her children. Ritu and Shiva could not sit by and watch this. First, Ritu started feeding the children. Then Shiva helped build a small home for the family of five. In a way, Ritu adopted the family. They now come over to her house all the time to eat with them. She holds the young ones on her lap and has a whole new family to love and laugh with.
I am always impressed by how people with less means than most of us have in this part of the world can be so generous with whatever they have and with their love. I felt rather privileged that I was on one end of that stick. I know that Ritu’s capacity for love is boundless. Those who fall in her wake are very lucky…as was I.
Betty M Walton