I met Rupa in 2002 on my first trip to Nangi. I was an emergency doctor with wilderness medicine experience that I wanted to share with the healthcare providers and learn about Nepali health in the remote rural regions. Mahabir had encouraged me to go and introduced us. Along with Lila, she was one of the two healthcare workers in Nangi who provided services ranging from prenatal care to hospice needs of the seriously ill and elderly.
I can not remember the exact location where we met…probably at the volunteer house, but I remember two things very well….the juxtaposition of her strength and her shyness. She wore the traditional cotton sari skirt, a wrap blouse and a traditional patuka, a narrow, long length of cotton cloth, circled her waist. A shawl was draped over her head and shoulders for warmth and protection from the high altitude sun. She was 28 years old, muscular and beautiful, but so very shy. Despite her five years of experience as a nurse midwife and having far more knowledge of Nepali medical needs than I; she hid her face behind the shawl and giggled while we both bumbled through that first meeting…her English far outstripping my Nepali. She was nervous…I was nervous…15 years later we are colleagues and friends who still laugh and giggle together.
Last fall while working for the CIWEC Clinic in Pokhara I met up with Rupa and her husband, Boj, who is also a teacher at the school. She had recently taken a job with the Nepalese government as a nurse midwife and was returning to her remote and challenging posting in Gurja Khani.
But Rupa was not only visiting her parents in Pokhara on that trip; she had been to the cancer hospital in the Terai for her every 6-week check-up. With the greatest of courage, she told me the year before she had back pain and during the workup found out she had advanced renal cell carcinoma…kidney cancer. Her kidney was removed but the cancer had already spread. Now she is facing her mortality with her strength, dignity and still at times…her shyness. When I asked if I could tell her story she replied…”who knows me?” I assured her many people know her…the students, her patients, the many volunteers, HEF supporters, the HEF Board of Directors…all of us whom she has touched with her quiet strength and vast knowledge…making our lives and her world a better place.
Many of the teaching volunteers will have met her because not only did she run Nangi clinic with Lila; she also taught kindergarten at the Nangi School. You can send letters and cards to Rupa at this address:
RUPA KHORAJA PUN
HOUSE NO. 114
SHANTI MARGA, HAMAL TOL