“She is our Lakshmi (The Hindu Goddess of Fortune),” enthuses Kala Sarki while holding her 7-month-old daughter. “Since Anita’s birth, we have forgotten all our pain and suffering. It does not mean we don’t have problems now but when we see her calm and smiley face, we forget every insult we have to face every day.“
Kala looks to her husband and explains through hand gestures showing her little goddess. Wrinkles form over his face as Man Sarki smiles, using sign language back to his wife.
Every morning, Man carries tools for sewing and repairing shoes, along with the hope that he earns enough for the day to feed his family. While Kala stays home to take care of their daughter, she worries each day when he leaves for work. “Because Man is deaf, others treat him disrespectfully, and he might face different problems. I can’t concentrate on anything else until he returns home safely.”
His eyes filled with tears, Man signs to tell his story. Kala helps him express his feelings, “We have been neglected and insulted by society not only for this disability but also because of our surname. Sarki is a Dalit name indicating that you are a handler of leather, the shoe cobbler caste.”
“My family and I had never imagined that we would have something to call our own because, for us, it is tough to earn 200-300 Nrs (around $3 NZD) per day. How can we imagine even buying land?”
“I feel fortunate that in my lifetime, the government has made this possible by giving us a piece of land and a house where we can sleep soundly. We also thank Habitat for Humanity who made it possible. Now we don’t have to worry about the annual floods nor the earthquakes.” She added, “I remember when I was young, I saw children my age going to school, but I had to go with my father to work in the market. I haven’t learned any sort of letters, except sign language.”
Man holds Anita but she keeps sliding off his lap. “Now, I have only one dream; send her to school. For that, I will give every drop of my blood and sweat. I want to give her a better life than what we came from because she is our goddess,” touching Anita’s little feet and hand which is full of creases and scars.
“In our society, to be born a girl is a burden, because it is expected a girl must have a dowry; otherwise, it is difficult for her to marry well. Our daughter is our hope of life,” Kala expressed with a smile on her face, then looks at her husband.
“Despite his disability, I love him because he is very caring and respects me even though I am much younger than him. This is a very odd behaviour in Nepali society. Here, wives are mistreated by their husbands, but my husband is different and unique,” as she wipes away her tears.
For the Sarki family, they have been able to receive and enjoy the blessings given to them recently. They have triumphed in a society where they are marginalized because of the low-caste and physical disability. Still, because they appreciate every blessing bestowed upon them, they exude love and strength.