Back in Pokhara, I explored my options as to how I would spend my last week in Nepal. While several people had recommended I go to Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace) I decided I wasn’t up for the ten-hour bus ride there. I decided I would spend a few more days in Pokhara, going through my photos and catching up on my blog, then spend one night in nearby Sarangkot. Finally I would make my way back to Kathmandu, stopping on the way for a few days in Bandipur.
A few weeks back I had met a young girl who served me at a local Pokhara restaurant — she looked no more than 15 years old. She appeared shy and not completely confident of herself – she said she was new. However she was very attentive and was trying very hard, and when her manager asked me if she was doing well, I told him honestly that she was doing a great job. When I paid the bill I gave a small tip which she was reluctant to take, smiling shyly and saying, “Oh no sir, it is OK!” Finally she took the money after her manager nodded. Was she as young as she looked? Was she in school? I was curious about her story.
Today I ended up having lunch at the Newari Cafe where she worked and since it was not busy we chatted for a while. She said she was 17 (older than she looked) and I was glad to know she was in college (11th Standard). She was very fluent in English. I complimented her on her English and encouraged her in her studies. She said she was the eldest of four siblings and that they and their mother had arrived four months ago in Pokhara, to join some other family members. I had assumed she was a Nepali Newari (it was after all the Newari Cafe!) but I learned she was from India — Nagaland to be exact.
India or Nepal, girls face many more challenges than boys, even before they are born. In Nepal, for example, female literacy significantly lags that of males, girls are less likely than boys to be enrolled in school, and girls are more likely than boys to be working at a young age (UNICEF). Nagaland has similar statistics.
I suspect that this young woman can go far if given the opportunity, so let us all wish her well in hopes that she may continue in her studies and reach her potential. (She gave consent for me to take her photo, and I gave her the address of this blog).