It’s overcast and grey this morning, but so far no rain. Shiba, the manager of Radio Jagaran, tells me with a smile that it has not stopped raining for five days, so we must have brought the nice weather with us from Kathmandu. I look up at the clouds and smile.
The vehicle we take to the settlement will only start by pushing it. I lend a hand along with three others and once the motor catches, we all jump in. The twenty minute ride takes us past fields to villages of clay huts and thatched roofs. We turn off onto a dirt road and soon stop in the middle of a wide expanse of rice paddies with a few huts off in the distance. Once out of the van, I’m startled by the serenity and quiet.
We pass a group of men and boys sitting in the shade of a guava tree. They nod as we step around their stares. We come across a family waiting for us outside their hut. Raya, one of the radio journalists, gestures to a small girl clutching the hand of a woman next to her. Her hair is tassled and she wears a white dress that looks a size or two too small, even for her small frame. Raya says in a low voice, that’s the girl.
The family offers us water, and we exchange some small talk. Prakash and I then lead the mother away from the courtyard. I carry the camera and he asks the questions: Have you noticed any change in your daughter? How has your relation with the village changed? Who have you told?
Some of the villagers hear a video camera is in the settlement and they gather underneath the huge bodhi tree where our van is parked. We walk back to meet them. Men opine about the matter, women clean pots and pans from the water pump and children play in the tall grass nearby. The sky has remained overcast, but the rain has held up. Raya points to another girl, just as small, who is washing a dish by the water pump. It happened to her, too, she says. The same boy.
I’m overwhelmed with responsibility. As a white man, I am perceived in this country as someone with the power to do something. My camera is proof of this. After all is said, I am the one people look to for answers, for plans, for resources. I understand this from the eagerness in which Nepalis receive me into their homes: I am the first to receive a glass of water, even before those who are older. The reverence I get when I enter a place of business: owners abandon other shoppers to assist me. The respect I receive when I visit a village, the village elders always invite me into their home for tea. The hope I see in the eyes of those who have been victimized.
It is difficult to comprehend the helplessness a mother must feel whose six-year-old daughter was raped by a 16-year-old who lives in her village. The powerlessness of not getting any support from the police. The vulnerability of opening up her life to a foreign man with a camera so that she might have some hope of regaining any kind of justice for her and for her daughter.
Posted By Therkelsen
Posted Jul 24th, 2008