Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Laxmi dreams of flying


RUPA JOSHI in SUNSARI


At 16, Laxmi Rai is a big girl for her class. Her classmates in the single room school in Gairi Gaun Sunsari are 8-14 years old. Like her friends for whom regular schools were too far to walk to, Laxmi is also in this non-formal school so that she can complete her accelerated primary level education in three years.

She squats at the back of the small classroom, chatting all the time with the teacher and her classmates. She sings rhymes along with them, chimes in the class work and draws pictures with equal finesse.

Seeing a camera pointed at her, Laxmi delicately pushes away the hair falling over her eyes with her right toe. Stricken with polio as a baby, Laxmi uses her feet to do the things her friends use their hands for. Writing, drawing, unwrapping candy and pushing it into her mouth, she does all that with her toes.

"I was born prematurely at seven months...a tiny, weak baby," Laxmi says in her halting speech, "then when I was less than a year old...they say I fell very ill?they said jungle lageko...but I think it was a bad case of...polio."

As her friends romp around the classroom singing and dancing, Laxmi sits in the corner swaying her body to the rhythm and singing with all her might.

"If my hands and feet...were ok, I'd have loved to...stand up and dance with them," she says, "in fact...I would probably have become a heroni."

pics: RUPA JOSHI
ON HER TOES: Laxmi does maths with her toes.
Laxmi often dreams that her legs are ok. "I see myself moving about normally...I often dream...I am punching bullies and fighting them rwamma rwamma with knives."

Although she does not wield a knife in real life Laxmi says she is pretty tough with boys who tease and bully her friends.

Using her toes, Laxmi flips through the pages of her thick diary in which she has scribbled poems in her neat 'footwriting'. There are hundreds of poems: about friendship, life, the country, and love.

Laxmi has even written a story that runs like a script of a film, which she says she would like to hand to a film director to turn into a blockbuster movie. "It's a... love tragedy," she confides with a shy smile.

Laxmi lives with her 67-year old grandmother Dhnamaya Rai in the house next to the classroom. The land for the school was donated by her family. Her father, who is a cook at the BP Koirala Hospital in Dharan, wanted his daughter to stay with him. But Laxmi, who is very attached to her teacher and friends, wants to stay on in
Gairi Gaun.

She says: "I will first...complete my education, that is most important for me? then when I grow up...I want to become a litterateur...a famous one."


The foot-writing in her poem is better than most people's handwriting
caged bird
i am a caged bird
why do you do whatever you like with me?
i have dreams of soaring open skies
my heart wishes to be with friends
always, i cry inside day and night
you don't even feed me enough
perhaps my tears will keep flowing throughout my life
i am just a sad caged bird

Laxmi Rai
14 August 2008



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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