By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu : After almost a century, a 117-year-old Indian woman in Nepal finally had her two biggest dreams fulfilled – becoming a bona fide Nepali citizen and getting an audience with King Gyanendra.
Though she was born in Sunsari district in southern Nepal and lived there all her life, Kamaladevi Pathak, whose parents were of Indian origin, did not have a Nepali citizenship.
This year, when a growing movement in the Terai made the government of Nepal issue citizenship certificates to hundreds of citizenship-less people in the plains, Kamaladevi finally became a bona fide citizenship with a state-issued certificate testifying it – at the ripe age of 117.
Brimming with happiness at the better late than never state recognition of her rights, the 117-year-old, now looked after by her grandson Surendra, told the media – who came flocking to meet the centenarian – that she had one last wish left.
Though there is a growing demand for the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, in the plains, a large percentage of the people still favour monarchy and the older generations still believe the kings are descended from a Hindu deity.
Kamaladevi was widely reported by the media as saying that she wanted to meet King Gyanendra once, to thank him for her citizenship.
The reports caught the eye of the Narayanhity royal palace in Kathmandu and the king, now stripped of his official duties and privileges by the new coalition government, issued an invitation to Kamaladevi.
Last week, for the first time in her life, Kamaladevi boarded a plane with her grandson that flew her from the Biratnagar airport to Kathmandu.
In Kathmandu, the grandmother and son were put up in a guesthouse and on Tuesday, the king granted them an audience.
"The king was wonderful," the ecstatic elder citizen told the media after the meeting. "He was very gracious and smiling during the audience."
Wearing a simple white sari with a red border, Kamaladevi went to meet the king with a local shawl wrapped round and her head covered.
She carried a garland of yellow flowers and was allowed to put it on the king, also dressed in white. She also held the king's arms, a privilege allowed to few.
"You are a great man," she told him. "Do great things so that everyone sings your praise."
When the smiling king asked her if she wanted anything, she said at her age there was nothing she wanted for herself but she would like jobs for her grandchildren.
The entire cost of the trip, including the airfare and accommodation, was borne by the palace, the local media said Sunday.
The palace also thoughtfully arranged a visit for her to Kathmandu's famed Pashupatinath temple, reports said.