The Right to Equal Discrimination
By Megan Smith

The cow walks beside my wheelchair as we both travel down the potholed, monsoon-drenched road towards the freshwater creek, both his hooves and my wheels making sucking noises as we walk. I have a basket of laundry tied to the front of me and the plastic water tank hooked to the back of my push handles. I have stuffed the soap and shampoo between my legs with the intention of washing my hair along with the laundry. I join a crowd of squatting women who chatter about the ineptitude of their husbands and lazy daughters.

The cow gets first dibs on the water and lazily moves aside for me to take my place dunking, slapping, scrubbing and rinsing the dirty laundry on my favorite rock.

The rock sits higher than the rest so I can straddle it, reach the water while maintaining my perch on my wheelchair. The women, who range from newlywed wives to wizened elderly ammas, chat in Nepalese, thinking I cannot understand, as I am a foreigner. They make comments of my potential promiscuity living with the most eligible bachelor in the village and wearing a skirt that shows my lower calf; they critique my skills of washing clothes, saying my hands are too soft for such work; they speculate on my potential for bearing children by the size of my hips and breasts, and ultimately come to the conclusion that I am too thin to bear healthy children.

After an hour beside the hot, humid embankment, I gather the semi-clean clothes in my basket, fill the plastic water tank with semi-clean water and wheel back to my gahr (home) with the cow treading beside me on the now dry, dusty road. The cow, who I have named Felicity, and I diverge, returning to our respective homes.  Charging up the two planks laid down over the steps, allowing me entry into the house, I start the fire for the three large kettles used to boil the river water, string the laundry in prayer-flag type lines across the small house, and start preparing for the afternoon chi’a.

Prakesh comes home. I serve him hot chi’a with warmed yak milk and too much