5th February, 2018
I got a Facebook friend request from a fairy land. As usual I opened the wall of the sender before accepting the request. The request sender was a woman in white apron with a slung stethoscope on her neck. Easily I could guess she was a doctor. She was Margarette Santosh from Brazil, a charming and robust lady. Naturally, I was fascinated by her. But before accepting her friend request, I sent her a message -”Margarette you look like a doctor. Facebook is an easy platform for exchanging ideas. I don’t find you active on Facebook after October 14. What good is there if we are Facebook friends?”
“As I am committed to my work as a doctor, I have a hectic schedule every day. Better you send me your mobile number so that we could get in touch through Whatsapp,” she replied after a couple of minutes.
After reading her reply an avalanche of thoughts poured onto my head. From early childhood I am a bit nosey on trifles. I prefer straightforwardness. Then I wrote in the message box, “I do not use Whatsapp. If need be we can use a message box only”.
“Sorry, you feel that way?” she inquired. I was busy for some other engagement so I did not respond.
Next day as I logged in my Facebook I saw her charming face on her wall. I thought she was saying, “My dear LB why don’t you accept my friend request?”
Instantly, I accepted her request and wrote on the messenger,” Now we are friends, Margarette. I love your frankness. You are beautiful. I am so happy. You are in Brazil, here I am in Nepal. We can share our feelings and experiences. If you ever wish to visit Nepal, you are welcome. Nepal is a beautiful mountainous country, a heaven on the earth. I wish to be your host, and you my guest”.
I am not sure whether she read my message or not but after that we were out of contact for the whole day. In a way I was busy on some loose ends.
6th February 2018
After I logged in to Facebook in the morning I saw her message in the inbox. That read, “Oh! Very fine. I think you are a very kind person,” she had written.
She had labeled me “a kind person”. I wrote, “I think you are a psychiatrist. Thank you for your kind words, Margarette.”
“I love you,” she replied.
That was an extra bonus for me from a charming foreign lady. “I love you” she had said, being labeled as “kin” first. Do I deserve all these? My mind worked with a quick plan. I would invite her to visit Nepal. Nepal will get a foreign visitor and LB will get an opportunity to be in the company of a foreign lady for a couple of days.
“Thank you. Love is great, Dr. Marga,” I had shortened her name to Marga as a pet name and added, “We mortals have nothing except love, only love. We are made to love each other. To me this is the only priceless message for humanity,”
In her reply she just wrote,-”Yes I know.”
Then she asked,” Are you on Whatsapp? I found your words really appealing.”
“Thank you for your compliment. I am sorry. I don’t use Whatsapp.”
Firstly she suggested that I use Whatsapp, and then asked me about my family. Very frankly I replied to her, “My two sons live in Perth in Australia. I and my better half are living a life of reconciliation without any grudge, looking and appreciating each other. I am prone to laughter and light heartedness. Every year I go to Australia. I have visited the UK, USA and some parts of Europe. I am a non-veg and not a teetotaler, 2-3 pegs of whiskey every week is what I love. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Shall I tell you more madam?”
“You are really a funny and lovable guy. How nice it would be if you were near my place. I am sure you can play a playboy. I suppose your better half must be the luckiest woman in the world,” she replied
I was moved by her hearty message but was conscious enough to ask my heart- “you fool, do you deserve this joy?”
“No. You don’t,” my heart replied.
Instantly I replied to Margarette, “Oh! I am so happy. Surely we will meet someday. Let’s dream until we meet. Life without dream is dreary. And my better half? She is fine and very helpful. You know better how much ‘help’ counts in one’s life.”
“Definitely, my dear. Help makes life worth living,” she wrote. “Anyway, it is now time for my morning gym. When I return home we shall continue our chat.”
“OK. Better not miss your gym hour. I too have a special schedule today. Have a beautiful morning,” I replied.
“It’s very nice of you,” she replied.
For a week she didn’t come to my Facebook messenger. Nor did I bother much.
While doing my post-graduation from Patna University, India, I had two very close girlfriends – Sheela and Lymsy. One day we three were in the library busy with the books. To kill the monotony of rigorous study I broke the silence, “I do believe that girls are charming. I do get attracted by them however, I follow none.”
Limsy gazed at me and retorted,” Oh yes. You think you are Tanner of ‘Man and Superman’ and every girl would want to follow you.” We three had laughed to death.
13th February 2018
Margarette wrote from Brazil “Hi, Good morning dear,”
“Good morning doctor. How are you?” I replied. “Fine dear. Hope you are fine too,”
28th February 2018
At 8:38 PM, she posted,” Hello dear!”
“Hello doctor. Good evening. After a long gap of 15 days!”
“How is my professor today?” she inquired.
“I am fine in every way.” I replied.
“Oh! Great. Were you busy doing something interesting these days?” she asked.
“Reading, writing, gardening, lecturing, at times poetry recital etc,” I wrote.
“Wow! What a wonderful time table,” she replied.
I kept quiet but not for long. I wanted to see whether she would comment on my reticence. She didn’t. Two options were open to me. First to keep on the quietness, second, to start the lovely talk. I chose the second one.
“You must be busy caring for patients with heart and mind problems. Have you ever met an insomniac? Ha-ha-ha-ha. Thank god, I am not an insomniac. I sleep finely.”
How seriously she took it, God knows. But she said,” Of course, thinking about insomnia makes me sick too.”
“In Nepal doctors’ lives are very hectic. They are always on the go,” I wrote.
I thought she was expecting to change the subject.
“Anyway, I am gonna be free from tomorrow because by Monday I will be in India,” she said.
Her information made me jubilant. “India? Very nice. Nepal and India are neighbors. Nepal is a beautiful small country. Please keep in touch,” I wrote.
She was inquiring about the visa, but I was much concerned about her safety during her stay in India. India is not short of swindlers. If she got cheated or robbed, then? I didn’t say anything about her visa. “Keep on informing me about your stay in India. I will keep in touch with you,” I wrote.
But she was more careful about the visa for Nepal. She inquired saying,” I want to visit your country. Is visa a must?”
“Of course it is. You need to get a visa for Nepal too. I don’t know much about how you get a visa in Brazil,” I said.
“From India?” she asked.
“No. I mean from your country,” I said.
“OK. I will go to the Nepalese embassy in Delhi and find out how I get it.”
“But I think when your country issues a visa for India, they can include Nepal as well. Better let me know,” I added a suggestion.
“I will let you know tomorrow,” she said.
“OK. You are most welcome in Nepal.”
“Thank you professor.”
This way our conversation ended that day.
After we wound up our conversation I pondered over her visit to Nepal. From India she would land in Kathmandu. Should I go to Kathmandu in my car to receive her, or tell her to catch a plane to Bharatpur? I was in a dilemma, but not for long.
2nd March 2018
At 00:23 PM she sent a message. “Hello, how are you?” it said.
At 1:34 the same night there was another message.” I am flying directly to Delhi,” it said.
I read her message on my laptop early in the morning. I replied,” Good morning. I just couldn’t catch your schedule. When will you land in India and how long will you be there?” I was expecting her quick reply.
At 3:24 PM there was a message from her, “Hello. I am now at Dubai transit. The plane is scheduled to take off at 9:25 in the evening. It will land in India at 7:55 in the morning. Please let me have your number. No sooner I am in India I will call you. I am a stranger in India. When I am done with my shopping I will enquire at the airport and get to your place.”
I was relieved reading her message. I wished to inform her more. I sent her a long message.” If it is your first visit to India, you must visit Red Fort, India Gate and Kutub Minar. Do you have a list of famous tourist sites in India? I have a hectic schedule for some days. There is a great chance of my going out. I will be back home on the 7th March evening. I live in Chitwan, a very famous district in our country. It is just a 20 minute flight from Kathmandu. Please let me know in detail about your schedule. Then I will suggest to you what to do. Beware of frauds in India. The moment they notice new faces they play foul. Be alert. My number is 9855061484. Remain in touch.” When I wrote this I felt I did my duty as a very good friend.
“OK. No sooner I am in India I will call you. I am planning to go shopping as well. Tomorrow I will be at the airport and give you a call,” she replied.
I replied instantly.” Oh! Wonderful. You just buy a SIM card there. You can very easily reach me.”
“Ok I will keep in touch with you. Now it is time for lunch. As soon as I am in India I will call you,” she said.
I wound up,” Ok. Keep in touch.”
I pondered on the places in Nepal to take her for the visit when she arrives in Nepal. First Pokhara, then Lumbini. She would certainly wish to spend a night at Sauraha for jungle safari and elephant ride. One of my closest friends Usman Grimier has a deluxe Jungle Safari Lodge there. She can stay there. The last day I will take her to Kathmandu in my car. After visiting a few historic sites I will see her off at Tribhuwan International Airport.
3rd March 2018
At 12:53 PM there was a message from her “Hello dear. I am at Delhi airport. I am with so many problems here.” But I couldn’t respond as I was too busy. At 4:04 in the morning there was yet another message. “Now I am in the WIFI zone. Please let me know how things are going on?”
A bit later I replied lightheartedly.” Please tell me have you been in India before or is it your maiden voyage?”
“This is my first trip to India. At the airport I paid $1500. And now the bank is claiming 82 thousand as an entry charge,” she said.
I was puzzled. “Really? I don’t know anything about it. Why do you have to pay $1500?” I asked.
“For my yellow card and customs clearance,” she replied.
“If you do have a visa for India, you need not pay a single penny.” I wrote.
“Yes, but the yellow card is a necessary document for me. They say the charge is for overweight luggage and the yellow card.”
I got puzzled for a moment. How overweight luggage? But I knew, in India, swindlers waylay a single woman, especially a foreigner. I remember once we lost our luggage in Delhi Airport. We were going to Ranchi. It was but natural for them to overcharge a foreign lady for any pretext. I thought over her helplessness. Meanwhile I looked at her message that read, “I wish there was someone to help me. If only I could borrow a little? If I could cash my DD check I would pay them and after a bit of shopping I would reach you,” she said.
I felt something scurrying on my head. I brushed my head with my left hand.” Is there any way out? Who could you borrow from dear? Do you know anybody in India?” I asked her.
“Sorry. I don’t know anyone here” she replied.
I could easily imagine how helpless she was in an alien world. She was a woman, a foreigner. She was stuck at the airport in India. I was really worried. I had already fulfilled my daydream of visiting different parts of Nepal with a foreign lady. After a while she sent a message. “If you could help me, I can give you my account number”.
I was really very keen to extend my cooperation. I wrote,” No problem, but please tell me how can I help you?”
“I will send you my account number. You can transfer money on it. I will draw and pay them. The moment I reach you I will pay you the amount I owe,” she replied heartily.
Again I was stunned. I smoothed my head again.” I just couldn’t catch you clearly. Do you mean I send you some money?” I wrote.
Anxiously she wrote,” Oh yes dear. You kindly lend me some money. The moment I cash my DD check I will pay you. I will be very grateful if you help me.”
I wanted to help Margarette but the algebra was beyond my capacity. Something clicked and a smile found a place on my lips. I sighed with relief. I was so happy and relieved.
I replied, “Sorry Margarette. I am a retired teacher. Teachers are the poorest ones in our country. I live on my pension that is just a pittance. I thought you would come to Nepal and I could help you visit our villages, help you see our perennial rivers. I would accompany you to the places of natural splendor and would point to our glorious mountains saying–Dear, look how beautiful my country is. But unfortunately my dreams are nipped in the bud, Margarette. I am so sorry. I have nothing to offer you except ‘sorry’.”
“Oh dear. I don’t know what to do,” she shot back her helplessness.
I was already thinking of saying good bye to her. So I wrote, “I am at a loss. I don’t have any idea. Better you fly back to your country and come well prepared. I am ready to do anything for you.”
After a short silence I asked, “Hello Margarette, no reply?”
After a short while she wrote,” I am considering your advice. Now I have got to pay the airport charge and return tension free. If you could borrow from someone and help me, I promise I will pay you.”
I wrote, “I am awfully sorry Margarette. Though I am unable to help you financially, mentally my inner heart is always open to you. My dream of accompanying you for visiting Nepal didn’t come to fruition. I am really grateful to you for the short time you let me rest in your imagination. Thank you so much.”
A beautiful dream ends abruptly even before its beginning. However, I could consider my achievement that in my imagination I visited Sauraha, Pokhara, Lumbini and Kathmandu with a white skinned woman doctor from Brazil and sent her back happily to her fairyland.
Now I remember Santiago, a character from ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ who would go to the sea with a fishing line and patiently wait the whole day for the fish to catch his bait. One day, a huge fish stuck to his hook. Despite an untiring attempt he couldn’t land the fish. All he got was just the skeleton of the fish. Santiago and Manolin return home, destroyed but not defeated.
The next morning, he tells Manolin, his fishing friend: “We are going fishing again.”
I am not sure whether my Brazilian friend Margarette told her friends or not: “We are going to go searching for another LB.”
[LB Chhetri’s story “Margarette”. Translated by LB Chhetri himself]