I got to know Shanti one one of the very first days of my stay in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Shanti is in her twenties, just like me. She loves a good raksi-party and is still looking for a nice husband for the future. Nearly seven thousand kilometres apart, but in a way pretty much the same.
Who is she?
Shanti is a niece of my guestfamily and works for the Suvadra Foundation Nepal, which is the foundation for the Swarga homes where I volunteered. She studied and worked as a beautician, and even though she still really likes beauty, she believes her brain is capable of more (and she has every right to, she’s a smart one!). She is now studying management and assists Suvadra with their management tasks. She is very diligent in her tasks and about finishing her study. Besides working for the foundation, she is also very closely connected with the children in the Swarga homes, where all the children call her ‘didi’, meaning ‘big sister’.
What about us?
You know what’s funny? Even though she lives in a completely different country and culture and has different standards for life, we are both girls in our twenties. We both want a husband in some near future, we both want a job that satisfies us, we both think family is important and we both like to see the world. However, if she doesn’t find a husband in about a year, her family will find one for her. She made the brave decision to study something else because she thinks she can do more, which not a lot of people do in Nepal. She still lives with her family and supports her sister economically in studying, and will not move out before she gets married. And even though she wants to see the world, the chances to do so are quite small.
She is such a sweet girl. We went out for drinks every week and she was always happy and smiling. She loved having a good raksi party (the local home-brewed alcoholic beverage) and really enjoyed being together with all the volunteers. She even plucked the eyebrows and cut the hair of others, because she loved being a beautician. I really, really admire that even though she already finished a study, she decided to do something else because she believed she’s capable of more. Here in the Netherlands it’s not even common, let alone in Nepal.
I expected the girls in Nepal to be much different. To care less about their looks, to – how bad it sounds – not be really thinking about school but more about future family life and that they didn’t think so much about the rest of the world. How wrong I was. They do care about their looks, maybe even more than in Europe. Not all of them, but a lot of girls do go to school and have high hopes of their own future, apart from their family. And even though they don’t want to change the world, they do care about others outside of their country.