Monday, October 22, 2012

To Honor a Great Lady - Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha

On the Privilege of meeting Dil Shova Shreshtha
Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha speaking at Himalayan Yak. Oct 14th 2012. Photo by Ashok Pant

On October 14th, I had the good fortune to meet Dil Shova Shreshtha when she spoke at the Himalayan Yak restaurant in Jackson Heights. An extraordinary woman whom I had read several articles about, Mrs. Shrestha was there to receive a commendation from the large Nepalese community in New York, arranged by Dr. Tara Niraula,  who is a prominent educationist and scholar. Although it was a short notice (I was notified just the day before), hundreds of people from all the many different Nepalese communities arrived to hear her speak and have a chance to meet her. 

Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha greeted by Dr. Tara Niraula Photo by Ashok Pant
I had read about her selfless cause, her “Aama ko Ghar” (Mother’s House) in Nepal, and about how her daughter, who now lives in Chicago, has been sending $300 a month to help her care for so many abandoned women and children in Nepal. I expected Mrs. Shrestha to be a very impressive woman, but when I heard her speak in person, she surpassed my expectations with her warmth and kindness and humility.

I found it so heartwarming to hear her, and at her telling of her story everyone in the room was in tears, including she herself. She said that her father was an inspiration to her, and told us how in the village where she was born, if a house had no smoke rising from their chimney, her father would tell her and her siblings to go check the house and see if the people inside were alright. 

She told us how she came to find her calling, which started when her husband ran off to married someone else along with 500,000 rupees they had saved for their daughter’s marriage. He left Mrs. Shrestha and her daughter broke and devastated. They were both so heartbroken they decided to take their own lives. They prayed together and then they swallowed poison. But like something out of a storybook, the only thing the poison did was put them both into a deep sleep. When they awoke, her daughter said,  “Mama, maybe we didn’t take enough.” They made another pact and prepared a bigger dose of poison, and then sat down again to pray. While praying, the daughter sensed a supernatural voice, she believes god spoke to her and said, essentially, “You are not ready to come with me. Your work is yet to be done. There are many who are much more miserable than you two, and they need help. Go out and help them. “

Mrs. Shrestha’s daughter said, “Mama, I will help you. I will do the son’s duty,” by which she meant earning money and helping in every way she could. They started raising money by making and selling candles, packets of masala spices, and sewing.  Mrs. Shrestha had at least the house that had been given to her by her parents, and with the little money they had coming in, she and her daughter decided to take in five helpless elderly ladies who had been abandoned by their husbands or by society. One in particular, rescued from deplorable conditions, was left unable to care for herself in a room full of feces and lice, uncared for by her own sons and daughter-in-laws who lived in the same house. This lady’s fingernails had not been clipped in two years.  On bringing her into their own house, Mrs. Shrestha and her daughter bathed, clothed and fed the lady, who, along with the other old women, had her dignity restored. 

Group picture with Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha at Himalayan Yak Restaurant, Jackson Heights
Photo By Ashok Pant
The original plan may have been to take in five women, but soon there were many dozens, and countless more followed. Mrs. Shrestha told us about one of the women, afflicted with cerebral palsy, who had lived on the streets. This woman had been raped by so many men that whenever she sees a man now, she is completely terrified. I had the impression while listening to her stories, that many of the women she’s rescued are probably experiencing the first happiness, or at least the first feelings of peace and security, of their lives.

Mrs. Shrestha has done it all on a shoestring budget and been compared to Mother Teresa with good reason. Whenever one of her charges dies, she and the others in her house forfeit vegetables for a month in order to pay for a proper funeral, called a dakbaadi, which involves washing the body and lighting a funeral pyre with a torch. Usually this is a rite performed by a son, or by a sort of hired son if there isn’t one, and it costs money. Sometimes, because of lack of funds, Mrs. Shrestha performs the funeral rituals personally, making herself a sort of honorary son for the deceased. Had these people not been rescued, but died on the street, they would never receive so dignified funeral as she gives them. Knowing that they will receive this when they die, along with the great care she provides them while they’re still alive and with her, allows these people a tremendous feeling of comfort and safety.

Sometimes, Mrs. Shrestha said, she gets calls from hospitals and nursing homes who can’t take care of someone, and she always accepts whoever it is. There are no paperworks involved or referrals needed for anyone who comes to her. They come from all walks of life and they are all welcome. While she started with very meager funds, in recent years she has begin  to receive  donations from all over the world. Many local people started donating bags of tea and sugar, rice and other necessities, and recently the Nepalese government promised her some land on which she plans to build a much bigger home to house all of her extended adopted family. 
Me with Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha and Mr. Aditya Maharjan.
Photo by Ashok Pant

I was lucky to be among the people giving Mrs. Shrestha a khata, or scarf and a Namaste, and it felt very good to be face to face with this courageous and gentle woman. If any of you, my friends, would like to make a donation to her cause, you can find ways to do that by following these links. Any amount, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated. 
Mrs. Dil Shova Shrestha with Mr. Subash Lama and Mr. Bansha Lal Tamang along with others.
Photo By Ashok Pant
For Information or Donation contact:
Old Age Management/ Social Welfare Trust
Soaltee Mode, Ravi BHawan, House no. 183
Udayabasti Marg, Kathmandu-13
Phone: 977-1-4274730/ 4670165
Cell: 9841-702176
Email: /

Brief look at "Aama ko Ghar"

Indra Tamang
Oct 22, 2012