I arrived at the orphanage early yesterday morning @ 9.45.Though I was early, I thought there would be staff around. But all I could see was kids of all ages roaming around the long empty corridors. Every room was locked including the toilets . I did my usual hello in Nepali ' Nemaste' to everyone I met. And the children responded accordingly.
Out of the various groups of youngsters who were running around, there were 5 small boys who approached me . When I said small, I meant small for size. I thought they probably are @ 6-7 years old . They were poorly clothed. Some of them have scars on their faces, others with healing scabs on their necks and arms. They asked me for something in Nepali. Obviously I did not understand . Then I realised that they probably were after some goodies which all visitors tend to bring like sweets etc. I said' ni , ni '. They then started to shout some words at me.Just as well I did not understand, but I could make out the jest of it. I panicked a bit . I started to look around for an adult, any adult who would surely have the authority to ask them to leave me alone. There was no one, but all these kids swarming round like thugs .
The time was 9.50. All the rooms were locked. I was standing on top of the stairs, near a big window. Next thing I felt my shoulder bag was being pulled. I lost my cool and jerked them off me. I shouted at them to go away.I started to put my back against the window in case they try to physically pulled my bag away. I snarled at them. I was shocked. I have not anticipated to be harangued and threatened by kids no older than ?7 ?10 years old.They had the smug look of saying 'We have almost got you! 'There was an air or menace. By the way they behaved, I guess they must be at least 10 with loads of street cred and confidence. The kids then smiled and left me .To them it was all a big joke. I swore then that I will not be early for my work here from now on . I will always arrive after 10am to avoid the scenario again. Uma has now rearranged for the taxi to pick me up at 10am from today
I realised then that no one would arrive for their duty any earlier than they need to . On the dot of 10am , one of the volunteers came duly to unlock the day room. All the toddlers waiting outside were let in . It is amazing that the toddlers from 18 months onwards would come down from the floor above (where they sleep) unaccompanied. Some of them were coming down the stairs hanging on to the wrought iron railing, one step at a time. Others with the help of a 2/3 year old holding onto nothing but each other. Its really precarious to watch. Safety in the home obviously does not exist here. However they appear none the worse. I suppose they are all have to very self reliant and independent from a very early age. I tried to carry the younger ones down to the room, but I couldn't keep up with the numbers that were arriving in quick succession.I was never more relieved when I saw Davee, one of the volunteers turned up.
It would appear that the children would have 3 meals a day , 8am breakfast; midday lunch and 5 o'clock dinner. They are then in bed @6-7pm.They have a sleep-in lady who cares for about 25-30 children in this big room with cots line up alongside one another. There are 4 rows of 5-6 cots.To compound the caring responsibilities, there are 3 teenage boys with cerebral palsy residing in the same room. They just lie there day and night. I was thankful that I was not assigned to look after any one of them.I would not know where to start if I was asked, phew !
For some reason, there is no water anywhere to wash hands after one has been to the toilet at the orphanage. On my first day, I made a mistake of going to the workers' toilet.......I then vowed that I would not drink any water from 8am onwards to avoid having to go again at the orphanage till I get home in the afternoon. On reflection, I don't think it is practical to do that. Therefore I decided to look for one which is used by the management upstairs. My reasoning being it has got to be better if they are somewhat educated.Well, how wrong can one get!. All these assumption I made with various situations, well......I discussed this lack of water for flushing the toilets and washing hands with Uma, she too cannot understand the logic behind it.
Nowadays, I carry a big bottle of water in my shoulder bag at all times. It has 3 functions .One is for self protection (I can clout someone with it if need be ), anther to drink (there is no provision for any refreshment ), and thirdly to rinse and wash my hands on my way out when I finish each day.
I think I am adjusting to this okay, all things considered