Tuesday, 18 October 2011

13th October - N...'s story

N…'s house was at the very top of the village, high up overlooking the mountain ranges beyond and the valleys far below. Rain began to fall as we arrived at her home. A chill cutting wind blew a reminder of the winter ahead. We received a wonderful welcome as we climbed through the wooden door and into the courtyard. We were taken into a room where we sat with the women. N… and her sister so beautiful and immaculate, dressed in clothes decorated with embroidery, done by hand.

N… had been at school as a child and had loved being able to study. It all came to an end when a girl at her school ran off with a boy from her village. The incident caused outrage and many parents withdrew their daughters from school. N… was one of those and she was forbidden from returning to school. At 14 her parents married her off to her cousin despite knowing that he was an opium addict. She led an awful life and had children very young. Her husband took drugs in front of her and her children and he often beat her. Eventually he joined the military and she begged her parents to take her back home and to let her go to school again. They relented and she was allowed to attend school once more. She is much older than all the girls in her class, but she doesn’t care. She loves being back and is planning to be a teacher, to have her own salary and to be more independent. The good result from her harsh life story, in her own words, is that her beautiful younger sister will be given some say in whom she marries and will never have to suffer as she has.
Listening to these stories, it makes me so ashamed that I haven’t learned the language yet. There are so many stories behind the lives of these men and women and I feel I have barely scratched the surface.
That night we stayed in a village house. They prepared great plates of rice and meat, chutneys, naan, a sweet pistachio pudding and fragrant fresh pears from the orchards. Far too much and as ever so generous.
We went to the women's quarters, usually a really good experience, but this seemed different. The women were quite aggressive and wanted gifts and it all felt very unpleasant and not good for Amy’s first night. There was a bad atmosphere and the room felt very bleak and we all felt rather ill at ease and far from home and insecure as we spread out our sleeping bags on the floor and tried to sleep.

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