Stephanie and Mamta, 17-year Relationship
I never imagined that it would turn out this way. My friend Christine founded the Mitrata-Nepal Foundation for Children six years after I took my first trip to Nepal. Having been profoundly moved by the people of Nepal, I wanted to do something to give back. When presented with the opportunity to sponsor a little girl, I jumped in.
Mamta was six years old when the sponsorship began. Ironically, she was born the year I first traveled to Nepal. I received photos of her a few times a year and we wrote very simple letters to one another. She drew cute pictures of houses and mountains, all of which I still have. We had a shared dream of meeting each other, which we finally did when I travelled back to Nepal for a sponsor trip in 2009. After seven years of letter writing, Mamta and I were thrilled to meet! We were both a bit shy with each other at first, but that shyness dissipated after we got the opportunity to dance and shop together. A lifelong bond was formed. Letters became more frequent and switched to instant messaging as she grew older. She graduated from the Mitrata program and, still, we kept on messaging all the time. Facebook gave us even more access to each other. By the time I was able to visit again, it was 2016 and Mamta was married, running a family business and raising a child!
We got to spend a lot of time together on that 2016 trip. I had to scope out that husband of hers (I wholeheartedly approve of Jarnar, by the way!) and I was lucky to be able to spend time at Mamta’s home, feasting on her delicious cooking and getting to know her delightful family. I also had the privilege of being driven around Kathmandu on the family’s yellow scooter! (Riding on the back of a “scooty” is a Kathmandu rite of passage.)
Two more years went by, this time with constant communication; video chats, silly Facebook posts, etc. I had a big favor to ask Mamta for my 2018 visit. Would she help me do the buying for the Mitrata Bazaar? Thank goodness she said yes. We had a lot of work to do, but we were undaunted because we knew we would get to spend a lot of time together. We shopped like it was an Olympic event. We developed a process and powered through 10-14 hour work days with my seemingly endless buying lists. Our bond deepened after we discovered that we have a similar work ethic. We shared a number of slaphappy moments. We both got sick and still kept going. Most important, our relationship evolved. She guided me. I depended on her. She took care of me, even bossing me into taking antibiotics when I was being stubborn. We are sisters. Both of us are grown women with major responsibilities. Neither of us are too serious to break into a dance or a fit of hysterical laughter. We inspire each other. 17 years ago, I never could have guessed how much more I would get from this experience than what I put in.