Lady in Red

WritingPosted by Olga.L

It was Nepal 2013, my husband and I were hiking along the lush folded paths of the Himalayan mountain range near the small hamlet called Dulikehl... about 1-hour east of Kathmandu.

Along the path we met The Lady in Red burdened with a heavy load of shrubs, food for her goats. She was barefoot with a wizened wise face and shiny bright eyes. She greeted us warmly with a shy smile and paused for me and my camera. Then she quietly asked “MONEY”.

— "MONEY" —

I see red whenever I get asked for MONEY and in a huge huff, I responded NO MONEY...with a voice that sounded like I was yelling through a megaphone... and off I steamed away.

I steamed away with angry turbulent thoughts wondering why every time I point the camera in someone’s direction they want money. My husband’s gentle words came barreling into my raging thoughts with “she had no shoes, you could have given her something.” DAMN, what a jerk I am, I have so much, tramping in my expensive hiking boots and I didn't have the heart to give her anything, only angry words. “NO MONEY”.

Then the time came for our Annual Photo Club Exhibition. To have a photo voted in by the club members is quite an achievement for many are/were professional photographers, videographers, and just great creative people. I decided to work on The Lady in Red and submitted her photo (below) , it was voted into the Exhibition. There she was in full bloom for the world to see and admire for two full weeks hanging in an upscale mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And all the time in the back of my mind I kept thinking "I didn't give her anything". I wasn't brought up like mom and dad; refugees of World War 2 were poor and struggled but were always giving......always. They brought me up to be considerate, caring, and acknowledging the plight of the “other”.

Comments about the photo were very positive but every time a comment came my way I could feel my stomach knot up and the thought came to me as well as my husband's voice kept echoing in my head "SHE HAD NO SHOES, YOU COULD HAVE GIVEN HER SOMETHING!"

The two-week exhibition has finished and The Lady in Red is coming home with me, reminding me that I am a shmuck. I put her up in the top of our wardrobe, where our suitcases rest, where we never ever look unless we are about to travel...which is often and I am often reminded that I gave her nothing. ONE YEAR goes by and we are about to travel again. We are going back to Nepal, it is a country that is not only beautiful in vistas but the people have hearts of gold. We are returning so that I can find this woman and give her MONEY. I cannot live with myself.

Lady in red
— Lady in red —

A large print has been made and we use it to wander through various villages showing the photo (much to the chitter-chatter of the village folk) trying to find her. We were pointed this way and that way and up the mountain and down into the valley. Soon people began to recognize her and the directions became more focused.

By the time we got to her home she knew we were looking for her and as I stood beside her mud hut surrounded by goats, she came towards me still wearing the same red dress and still barefoot. I handed her the photo and began to blubber away like a fool knowing she doesn't understand a word; however, she understands the language of the heart and hugs me and kisses me on each cheek. You have to understand that in the Asian culture one does NOT kiss, it is not in them, not in the Thais, not in the Japanese, not in the Nepalese, but she kissed me.

I gave her money... a lot. It felt good. I should have given her more... maybe. Her husband came to greet us, her daughter and granddaughter came out to greet us, and then they invited us in for a coffee.

COFFEE....for us westerners it is easy, we can afford it but for this family to offer us coffee (something they never drink) which they cannot afford is on par with us offering gold to visitors. It is through the roof expensive......and we knew it. So, we refused with some lame excuse which they couldn't understand but we did stay for a short while, drank some tea and I took more photos.

When it came time to say goodbye, the entire family, came to the edge of the hill and kept waving to us. We turned to see them often, they still were standing on the hill waving not moving….we waved back…and I kept crying. PS In 2015, while we were in Nepal the Mother of all Earthquakes hit this beautiful country claiming 9,000 lives. My husband and I were involved in helping the people with the Nepalese Red Cross and I wonder about this Lady and her family because as you can see in the background their home is nothing more than a mud hut. The photo below was taken one year later and shows the Lady in Red with her husband and her grandchild in the background.

Lady in Red with husband and grandchild
— Lady in Red with husband and grandchild —

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