She is limping away from the maternity hospital. I cannot help but notice that she is not carrying a child; instead, her body is thin, wasted away to almost nothing. She cannot comprehend what has happened.
I turn to the front of the car and glance into the rear-view mirror. I catch the taxi driver staring and avert my eyes. It’s too late; I can tell he’s smiling. The car comes to a halt.
Sticking my head out the window, I see it’s an army check. No problem, I have all my identification with me—passport and school I.D. I pretend that I cannot speak Nepali; I could get into trouble if they know I do. For a reason I cannot comprehend, the soldiers don’t seem to like people who speak Nepali and don Western attire. I am a foreigner here, but I lack the physical characteristics of a typical American citizen. My copper brown skin and black, almond eyes betray my Bengali background. In times like these, I wish that I had not been adopted by a white American couple, but instead had been left at Shishubhabhan to live out my fate as an unwanted little Bengali girl who had no past, and likely no future.
I stare blankly at the soldier while he asks if I speak Nepali.
“Ke usle Nepali bolchha?”
The taxi driver, ignorant of the potential consequences, says yes. I glare at the driver as the soldier turns to me. Seeing the gun in his hand, I begin to sweat.
I stammer an excuse that I do not speak the language very well and that I am an American. I wave my passport and I.D in his face; I pray that he notices my broken Nepali. The gun makes me increasingly nervous. In rapid English I explain that I attend the American International School and that my father works for a non-profit organization. When I finish talking, I realize that I have been looking the soldier in the eye, a cultural faux pas in Nepal, as it appears suggestive when a woman looks into a man’s eyes. A woman is considered the subordinate species in this land. My gaze falls to the pavement. I sneak a peek and notice the bewilderment on his face.
I sigh with cautious relief and wait for him to let my taxi go. But he doesn’t; he calls over his friend, a fellow soldier no older than 18, who struggles to hold his rifle as he swaggers over to the taxi and peers in the window. His eyes linger over my bare shoulders and my low-collar. He licks his lips and smiles at me slowly, as if he has just realized what a treat he has before him. I stare at the floor and silently grope for my bag next to me. If I can find my mobile I can call someone; it is commonly known that if in trouble you can call for help and the soldiers leave you alone. Seeing me pull the Nokia mobile from my purse and ‘answer it’, the soldier tells the driver to move along. I exhale slowly and wipe away the tears that are beginning to spill out of my eyes.
These army checks are constant reminders that my home is crumbling to dust. I must stand on the sidelines, an outsider, excluded during this profound moment in history because to them, I do not belong. I blame my accent and my clothes.
In my heart, I am like the woman walking away from the maternity hospital: I cannot comprehend what has happened; still, the sun is setting, casting a golden glow on the Himalayas. I smile to myself, absolutely beautiful.