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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Rhythm

My home-stay sister’s name is Ritu.  She is 30 years old and lives in the same house she has grown up in her whole life.  Ritu has three brothers, but they are either married or at school, and have all moved out of the village.  Ritu takes on countless daily chores to take care of the household and her parents.

The first thing I noticed about Ritu was the rhythm that she seems to move to.  When Ritu milks the buffalo in the morning, there is a calculated pattern to the way she tugs and switches her hands.  When she tailors clothes on an old-fashioned sewing machine, she swings the fabric this way and that with ease.  Even when Ritu speaks to me in Nepali, she says her words slow and deliberately, like she is speaking to a beat.  Other people have commented as well on the fluidity that Ritu does her daily tasks with, the way she seems to float through the day.

Ritu is somewhat of a Jack-of-all-trades.  Some days, she goes into the jungle and brings back grasses for the buffalo to eat.  Other days, she is in the field, harvesting potatoes for her family and for her neighbors.  But Ritu’s favorite thing to do is weave on her loom.  Ritu lets me help sometimes (even though it would be much quicker if she did it on her own), but I think I prefer watching her weave.  The machine has so many moving parts, but Ritu has control over all of them.  Her feet press the pedals in time with her hands, pulling and pushing and swinging to create a little song that sounds like “thud tha thud tha thud tha thud…”

Ritu is truly one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She does whatever chore is at hand with a jolly readiness.  She is extremely giving and nurturing.  She loves sharing anything and everything with me, whether it is pictures and stories, words in Nepali, clothing, berries, tea, or even some of her chores.  But my favorite thing about Ritu is that she loves being an older sister. Whenever I call her “Didi”, her face lights up.  When I follow her around in the morning to watch her work on her loom or milk the buffalo, she loves the company and will repeatedly say “Maya Didi madat!” (Maya helps her big sister).  Sometimes, we don’t say anything at all, but just smile at each other and share the time together.  The more time I spend with Ritu, the more clearly I am able to see the smooth rhythm she follows throughout the days.  With her constant positivity and beaming smile, it seems as if Ritu is dancing through life.

 

It seems only appropriate that Ritu, in Sanskrit, means rhythm.