KATHMANDU, Jan 6: She was just 11 when she came to 'Pushpa Mamu'. Her own mother was in jail. Her father was someone she had never heard of much, nor had she ever seen his photo.
As she mingled with many other children like her at CNN Hero Pushpa Basnet's Kathmandu-based orphanage 'Butterfly Home', little Henna felt accepted, for the first time in her life. Years passed on, Henna turned young and beautiful. Not only did she become an integral part of the Butterfly Home family but also she started working there, earning Rs 14,000 per month. 'Mamu' then asked her what she wanted next in life. Henna said she wanted to get married.
Butterfly Home had never ever arranged the marriage of its children. Giving them the best possible life, least affected by their horrible past was the only focus of Pushpa so far. Helping them hone their skills and chase their dreams was what kept her busy. Unmarried herself, due to the different path she chose for herself, finding a groom for 'one of her eldest daughters' was a challenge for Pushpa. Moreover, Henna was a muslim girl.
"I did make efforts, finding a groom was not easy," Pushpa laughs. "She was not that sharp in studies, and was rather interested in other skills. I thought I should find a match for her, just because I am unmarried, my kids shouldn’t remain so."
Pushpa was on her way to Chitwan when she was talking all this to Republica over the phone on Monday. The sounds of giggling and merriment could be overheard. There were five other people with her in the car, including Henna. The groom is from Tandi area of Chitwan and two years elder to Henna. Henna is 24.
"We will reach there in a while. Her nikah will take place at a local mosque. Then I’ll leave my daughter at the groom's house," Pushpa said.
On Sunday, Pushpa was overwhelmed to report that her daughter looked very happy and the nikah, to her surprise, is the simplest form of marriage!
"No expenses, nothing, very simple rituals. Even for myself, it was the first time I was attending a muslim marriage. I found both the bride and the groom very happy. He (groom) too has started to call me mamu," she said. "As her guardian, I've to be careful however, how they keep my daughter."
The nikah took place at late noon and the ceremony went on till the night. Amidst a small group of Muslim religious leaders, friends and families, the bride and groom clad in special attire accepted each other as lifeparters. A decent party was thrown.
Henna's husband Ali Ahmad is a chef. According to Henna, who also did cooking for a long time at Butterfly Home, she will do ‘something in life that suits her skills'. Now that the marriage is over, she plans to come to Kathmandu and, if possible, try to get in touch with her biological mother.
"I have not seen her for a long time. Maybe I was 15 when she was freed from the jail and then she vanished. I do have her phone number, but that doesn't work," Henna said.
Henna saw her biological mother in jail for reasons unknown to her, right from the moment she started to understand things. Earlier it was at the Palpa District Jail and later she was brought to Sundhara jail in Kathmandu. In their brief meetings, little Henna could not ask a lot of things to her mother.
"I lived with my grandmother when we were in Palpa. I used to visit my mom in jail. We came to Kathmandu; she, too, was brought to the jail in Sundhara. I never asked much about my father, nor did she like to tell me about him," Henna reminisces.
Had it not been for Butterfly Home, Henna's life could have missed the track. But luck did a favor to Henna; Pushpa picked her up and the shy, quiet girl became a new member in the family.
"It's like a huge achievement for all of us. This is the first such wedding ceremony at our home. All children and staffers quite cherished it when we arranged the Mehendi rasham (the ritual of putting mehendi on the bride's hands and legs). It is for this satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, that I've chosen to be many children's mamu," said an emotional Puspha, whose other children have been excelling in different fields as they grow.