Dhanmaya shook herself awake from a bad dream— as vivid and haunting as a painting etched onto the canvas of her unconsciousness. It was as if the future had cast its long shadow upon her slumbering mind, offering a glimpse of what lay ahead – a premonition, dark and foreboding. The ethereal mist wrapped around her, thick and suffocating, mirroring the uncertainty about what was going to happen, looming around her in her unconsciousness, creeping into her while she was asleep, a shadowy premonition of what was about to shatter her.
Waving his hands to her, Dhanbahadur, her beloved husband, had disappeared into the mist. And she had run after him—off the cliff. Soon, the day came when her dream turned into reality. This time, however, she did not run off the cliff; she had no time to stop him. He simply disappeared.
When it happened, it was spring—the time when lilacs, planted in her courtyard, filled the air with their soothing aroma. Daffodils, on the other hand, waited to be picked in their sheer delight, while some reluctant, old, dry Dhunge Dharas quenched their thirst as the water hammered down on once barren land. They smiled, and so did the entire environment. It seemed that her corner of the world had just woken up from a long winter’s sleep.
It was also the time when nightingales offered their songs freely in broad daylight.
Joining the melody, the far-stretched mountain that always faced Dhanmaya’s home dressed in red, with rhododendrons covering some of its areas. The red dazzled, danced, and shone shyly and sparkled as if it were vermilion placed sacredly on the parted hair of a newlywed bride.
Similarly, weary and worn-out pathways surrendered, conceding to the verdant blades, penetrating the earth with an audacious determination that reverberated through the very soil. The ground quivered under the weighty impact as if the earth trembled in response to their persistence.
In their humble advance, every individual blade of grass exhibited a graceful respect, permitting the resolute roots to advance, weaving an intricate, noiseless symphony in synchrony with the moistened mud below. Each subtle thrust carried an air of gentility, inducing a benevolent grin from the terrain, and the celestial expanse bore witness to an exquisite ballet, a union of nature’s unwavering perseverance entwined with the planet’s yielding and tender embrace.
The land lay beneath the open sky, bathed in the soft hues of twilight. As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm, golden glow, it seemed as though the very earth exhaled and smiled. Each blade of grass, every whispering tree, and the meandering brook that wound its way through the landscape seemed to revel in a moment of respite.
This tableau of tranquility was not merely a product of nature’s rhythm; it was a manifestation of the labor and love bestowed upon it by the toiling hands of diligent peasants. Generations of sweat and sacrifice had nurtured that land, and that night, it reveled in the culmination of their efforts.
Laughter echoed through the air, carried by a gentle breeze that rustled the leaves, as villagers came together to celebrate the fruition of their labor. In the heart of the village, a bonfire crackled and leaped toward the heaven, casting dancing shadows on the faces of those who encircled it. The aroma of hearty stew mingled with the smoky scent of wood, and the night air was alive with the melodies of music and shared stories.
The land seemed to take a much-needed pause, a sigh of relief, perhaps, having borne the brunt of innumerable footfalls over time.
With a job well done by peasants who had saved enough for a rainy day, it also appeared to be a time of celebration, optimism, and satisfaction—a time of rest, play, and renewal, a warm night filled with beautiful dreams.
Yet, amidst this tapestry of mirth and celebration, one figure stood apart, wrapped in the shroud of her own memories. Dhanmaya, with eyes that glistened like stars but held a profound sadness, gazed into the fire silently. Her heart, a chamber of cherished moments, was aching horribly.
As the bonfire’s flames leaped higher, casting a warm, flickering light that mirrored the myriad emotions within her, Dhanmaya’s thoughts meandered through the landscapes of memory. She remembered Dhanbahadur’s mischievous grin as they had danced in the rain, the stolen glances that spoke volumes, and the whispered promises of a future filled with shared sunrises and sunsets.
That night, the land’s joyous sigh seemed to echo her own.
As the world moved forward, celebrating the cyclical nature of life and embracing its inevitable ups and downs, Dhanmaya felt caught in a different cycle altogether — one characterized by a continuous loop of loss and longing. In the midst of this emotional whirlpool, her fingers instinctively found their way to the pendant hanging delicately around her neck, the pendant that was the sole physical remnant of her time with Dhanbahadur. It was as if the pendant held the power to provide solace through its very touch.
The memories rushed in as her fingers traced the pendant’s smooth surface — memories of shared laughter, intertwined dreams, and the comforting warmth of being in each other’s presence. Their love story had flourished in a quaint village nestled amidst rolling hills and lush forests, their lives mirroring the natural world around them. They had spun visions of a future painted with vibrant experiences, much like the wildflowers that adorned their surroundings.
As she recalled her beautiful past, she turned a deaf ear to the jubilation of the village.
Besides, the village’s festivities continued.
However, no joy reached Dhanmaya’s heart, for it was the time when she missed the love of her life.
The melancholy hung onto her being, bringing back the memory of the moment when she felt breathless as Dhanbahadur disappeared.
It was an early hour when Dhanbahadur left home, abandoning everyone and everything in and around their household.
That morning, unaware of what was going on in Dhanbahadur’s mind, she decided not to disturb him and let him sleep a little longer. But, when the sun shone on the hill and he did not rise, she became suspicious.
As she entered his room, she found his bed empty.
She searched for him everywhere she could reach. Several times over several days, she stood atop a nearby mountain and called for him, her voice so loud that it echoed throughout the vicinity. At times, as extra pressure was added to her vocal cords, it almost choked her. However, she did not give up.
In the days to come, as a daily ritual, she kept on searching for him tirelessly, her heart aching with a mixture of hope and desperation. Her mind said that he was gone, but her heart said that she could find him soon. There was a kind of tug-of-war between her heart and mind.
Meanwhile, the forest had woven its enchantment around her, pulling her back to its depths like a moth to a flame. It gave her the impression that she would find Dhanbahadur there. It was almost like a morbid fascination, a hallucination that she could find him started to extend its tentacles around her.
On the other hand, Dhanmaya’s determination had taken her to the peak of a nearby mountain from where she called him again and again, with every ounce of her being. In the beginning, her voice was louder and stronger. However, it started to turn into a melodic plea, soaring across the landscape, carrying her longing through the valleys and into the heart of the forest.
Each time she cried out, her voice carried a piece of her soul—a piece she hoped would resonate with Dhanbahadur and bring him back.
The echo of her cries rebounded off the craggy mountainsides as if the very landscape itself yearned to aid her in her quest. The wind, gentle and yet forceful, carried her words to the farthest reaches of the forest, where ancient trees stood as sentinels, listening and watching. However, they could do nothing but helplessly witness her plea, her longing for her lost love. Her voice wavered at times, the strain of her efforts threatening to overcome her. But she persisted, her determination a fire burning within her chest.
Days turned into nights, and Dhanmaya’s ritual continued unabated. Each morning brought renewed hope, each evening a tinge of disappointment. Her voice grew hoarse, her throat raw, her hope undeterred. The mountain, which had become her pulpit, bore witness to her unwavering devotion.
As the days stretched into weeks and weeks into months, the landscape around her started to change. The leaves took on deeper hues of green, the sky seemed to mirror the blue of her own eyes. Yet, despite her fervent efforts and the forest’s whispers of encouragement, Dhanbahadur remained elusive. However,the spirit of forest, bound by his own mysterious ways, continued to elude her grasp. And so, as the sun set one evening, casting a golden glow upon the her world, Dhanmaya’s voice finally faltered.
All her hopes knelt down. This time, with a mixture of resignation and a trace of sadness, she looked out over the forest, her eyes glistening with unshaded tears. The mountain, the trees, the wind—they had all borne witness to her quest, her unwavering search for a connection she had felt so deeply. And there, atop the mountain, the echoes of her voice faded into the embrace of the night, leaving behind a sense of quiet acceptance and a memory of a love that had transcended the boundaries of the seen and unseen, the known and unknown.
By now totally exhausted and helpless, she stopped looking for him in the forest and beyond.
However, she would gaze at the door of her home with her frozen eyes, which had already become accustomed to staying awake—often throughout the night.
The wind blowing in the valley would intrude into her courtyard and shake the wooden door. The door by now turned slightly out of place, not perfectly fitting its frame, leaving a void for the wind to enter her room, resembling the very void in Dhanmaya’s heart.
Whenever the door cracked, she would rush to see if he had returned. This would happen almost every night. In the past, when he was late from work, he would stand at the door and knock it three times.
“Dhan, I am here. Open the door,” he would gently make her aware of his arrival. She missed it so deeply. A simple knocking from her beloved had turned into a luxury she failed to afford. She would respond to the wind, hoping to find him standing by the door once again someday.
“He can’t leave me alone,” she believed deep down in her soul. Because of his decision, Dhanmaya’s world had come crashing down to earth. However, it didn’t stop there. And today, after two years since his departure, something unsettling made her miss him: the scar of her past, once again, donned a green attire and stood rebelliously in her path.
The reason behind this was his coat. To drive away the insects, she would take the coat out and place it in an open area where sunlight would dry it. Occasionally, she would do it out of love. The rest of the time, it simply hung on a rusty nail in his room, serving as a reminder of her love. The coat held special significance in many ways: something he wore, something that captured his body odor and sweat. Above all, it was a gift bestowed upon him by the king himself.
Back then, when Nepal was preparing to witness vehicles running within its territory, the king was present that day to boost the morale of the workers who were constructing the road that would stretch from Panauti to Kathmandu.
“Who is he?” the king asked, surprised by the hard work of a lone worker. It was Dhanbahadur, working diligently on that particular day, determined to finish what he had started, even though it was time for lunch and all his coworkers had already left. The king awarded him Rs. fifty, deciding to acknowledge his hard work.
“Get him a coat,” he ordered, seeing him shivering in the cold. Upon hearing the news about the gift, the entire village gathered at Dhanbahadur’s home to meet and congratulate him. As it happened for the first time in that tiny village, people in his village wanted to touch the king’s gift. It was the moment when a mere peasant had become someone everyone wanted to know about.”
However, as time passed, his achievement soon became a thing of the past.
Nevertheless, his coat remained in his room, attracting none of the guests and serving as a reminder of Dhanbahadur—only to his wife. Now old and worn-out, devoid of the shine it once had, lifeless like a discarded piece of wood somewhere along the path, and a new home for spiders, it hung on a rusty nail, engulfed in complete obscurity. The coat, with a couple of new holes in it, embodied the very melancholy of its wearer. And in the wake of the wearer’s disappearance, the coat found itself forsaken, its fabric untouched by any other soul that could care, revive, and restore its previous luster.
And since the wearer vanished, no one else wore it. Due to her numerous preoccupations, Dhanmaya had also forgotten to clean it. However, the presence of the coat in his room never allowed the memories of her husband to fade away. It was always there, filling the void left by his disappearance. As an object that Dhanmaya’s husband wore around his chest throughout winter, it always held a special place in her heart – something akin to a part of her husband’s skin.
And it was this coat that encountered an unexpected fate that Saturday morning: after years, Sunkesheri, their seven-year-old daughter, unhinged the coat from its nail – not to wash it, but to cut it with the scissors her mother had borrowed from their neighbor the previous day. Dhanmaya wanted to cut Sunkeshri’s hair – to make her daughter look like a tiny princess, always clean, always in good shape. But the scissors were used for something so ominous.
That morning, as her eyes fell on a bare nail, she asked Sunkeshri about the missing coat. Shaking with fear, Sunkeshri showed her the place where she had hidden it. When she saw the anger in her mother’s eyes, she begged for forgiveness and kept her gaze pinned to the ground.
At the sight of the coat, which now looked so ridiculous, Dhanmaya failed to control her rage. As she stood there, looking at the tattered coat, memories of her beloved husband flooded her mind like a river wave breaking its banks. Entangled in those imaginary waves, she remembered the days when her love was there for her, filling their home with laughter and warmth. But now, the echoes of those joyful moments seemed distant, slowly fading into the shadows of the past.
“Get out of my home, you little serpent!” she exclaimed with a voice full of rage, her grip firm on her daughter’s hair as she pulled her out of the room and into the center of the courtyard.”
“What makes you sting the one who feeds you? Can’t you stay calm and composed like other gentle kids?” she shouted.
The thrust was so powerful that Sunkeshri resisted the impact of the ground with her tiny hands. In addition to this, Dhanmaya rushed forward to deliver a forceful slap to Sunkeshri’s cheek. It was so intense that fingerprints became visible on Sunkeshri’s delicate skin. Her cheek turned a vivid shade of red, resembling droplets of blood that seemed poised to cascade from its delicate surface.
On that fateful Saturday morning, as the scissors severed the coat, it was as if the last thread connecting them to Dhanbahadur was cut. This was the reason Dhanmaya’s anger surged like a hurricane, beneath which lay the pain of a mother whose heart was broken by circumstances she couldn’t control. Dhanmaya did not wish to hit Sunkeshri.
After the incident, both the mother and daughter found solace in their tears. Dhanmaya clung to the remnants of the coat, seeking solace in its familiar touch and dried sweat, while Sunkeshri, with a tender touch, caressed her cheek, remembering the gentleness of her father’s love – the gentle kiss and the lingering dampness that remained there. It was right on that tender cheek that a thunderous slap from her mother had landed.
“Had he been here, Aama would have never hit me. He would have stopped Aama. He would have excused me for everything,” she thought as she sobbed. She had been just five when he vanished. Even so, a considerable fragment of the good times they spent together stayed with her as his sweet memories. Whenever her mother scolded her, she missed her beloved father. And it was because of so many such occasions when she felt unwanted and unloved that she had begun to understand that a father meant protection and the source of unending happiness.
Not very long ago, she felt elated as her father lifted her high off the ground. She had never seen the world from such a movable height. On the very day the king gifted Dhanbahadur with a coat, he took his little princess on his shoulder. Carrying her, he had walked across the village to accept the well-wishing of his villagers. On the way home, he had narrated to her a beautiful story about a wise daughter, who, through her juvenile wisdom, had saved her father from going to jail.
As her father wove that enchanting tale, Sunkeshri’s heart glowed. It wrapped around her soul like a comforting shawl, its echoes resonating within her being. In the days to come , he would often spin the yarn as he oiled Sunkeshri’s hair and fashioned them into beautiful ponytails. She longed for more of it, even though she knew that her wish wouldn’t come true. Thus, her wish became like a tiny drop of rain on a taro leaf, destined to fall off its slippery surface, leaving a void she could never fill. All stories had abandoned her, as though the very essence of storytelling had departed with him to a place unknown to her.
During those days of the past,in Sunkesheri’s life, threads of curiosity wove intricate patterns. As an inquisitive and innocent spirit, she yearned for answers to all her questions. Stars, seas, wild creatures, and even the hushed tales of witches and wizards danced through her youthful mind.
One twilight, beneath a sky ablaze with a mosaic of stars, Sunkesheri turned her eager gaze to her father and asked, “Father, I’ve heard whispers that women in our neighboring villages are witches, weaving spells to make young children sick. Is there any truth to such rumors?”
Her father, wanting to shield her tender heart, lowered his voice to match the hushed reverence of their surroundings. “My beloved princess,” he began, “Time is like a brush, and with its passage, our bodies change. The radiant glow that once graced our faces gives way to the gentle etchings of age. Our teeth may part from their keeping, our sight may dim, and our once-straight frames may bow to time’s embrace. Often, when children see elderly people wearied by age, they become frightened.
By eventide, taking Sunkesheri onto his lap and oiling her hair, her father often shared some fairy tales for the delight of his princess. He carefully chose the ones that could impart some wisdom to her tender heart. Sunkesheri, with her young eyes wide with curiosity, listened attentively to her father’s words. Meanwhile, her imagination took flight like a bird soaring in the sky above their lovely abode. When her father shared his wisdom and the stories, she always cherished those moments; they transported her to far-off lands and magical realms.
He gazed at her with deep affection as he continued his gentle discourse. “But, my dear,” he continued, “the passing of time is not something to be regarded as fearful. As a natural part of life, it is a journey we all must go through. Seasons change, flowers bloom, and in a similar fashion, we change and grow as we move through life.”
Sunkesheri nodded, her curls bouncing with motion. At least in the abstract, she understood the concept of time. With a certain gravity in his words, her father’s words held meaning that made her ponder over them.
“You are like a delicate rosebud, just beginning to unfurl its petals. Your own journey is about to begin. It will go through time, and each moment will be a precious gift. Make sure that you embrace it, learn from it, and never let the fear of the unknown hold you back. Promise me, my princess,” he urged.
Hearing those words, Sunkesheri felt a sense of reassurance wash over her. Then, he reached out and gently touched her tender cheek, his fingers warm against her skin.
It was at this moment , Sunkeshri’s mind once again darted back to the rumors she heard about old women and the accusation them being witches ,casting ominous spell on young.
“Father, will I too grow old and ugly. And am I too will be blamed for being a witch and casting ominous spells and making young children weak ?” she suddenly asked.
“My princess , try to understand this truth: it is not the craft of witches that weaves this fate. By accusing our neighbors, we create a mirror reflecting our own fears. Thus, people spread rumors that it is the work of witches that brings sickness to children. Truth be told, it is never so. If we say that the women in our neighboring village are witches, they will say the same about the women in our village, creating a fearful image of our own village. Now, tell me, my princess, are the women of our village witches too?”
In the embrace of that starlit night, they shared a moment of profound understanding, leaving young Sunkesheri with a lesson more enduring than any spell—a lesson of empathy, unity, and the fragility of human perception.
Her voice, a delicate melody of curiosity and concern, continued to ask.
“ Father, why do some people become thieves and harbor darkness within them, driven to harm others, take away their property ?”
Her father pondered over the query for some time and recognized the complexity that lingered within it.
He knew that the understanding of changes in human behavior was not something that could be easily conveyed, especially to a kid. He knew that people did things differently for different reasons, propelled by different motives.
“My princess,” he began, his words resounding like a poet’s soul-soothing verses, “it is a profound truth that no soul enters this world bearing malice. In the beginning of life, it is pure and pious, devoid of any dents. However, life’s journey, when marked by a tapestry of incidents and accidents, molds us differently. Yet, within each of us, a reservoir of goodness resides, though it may lie dormant, hidden beneath so many layers—layers that are heavy enough to keep the goodness in us dominated.”
“Nonetheless, it yearns for a stirring, at times a relentless one, to bring it forth into the light.”
With wisdom in his eyes, he continued, “Allow me to explain this to you, my darling. Go to the kitchen and ask your mother to prepare two cups of tea for us. After pouring it into the cups, tell her to add sugar but let it be unstirred. When they are ready, tell her to bring them to us.”
In due time, her mother brought the tea.
“My princess,” her father entreated, “take a sip.”
The initial taste left her dissatisfied, as bland as an unsung verse.
“Have you observed something?” he queried.
“Now, let me intervene, and you shall taste once more.”
Complying, she watched as he stirred the brew. This time, the tea transcended, a symphony of flavors dancing upon her tongue.
“Now, consider the tea,” he encouraged.
“I made no addition, except for a simple stir.
In human life, similar alchemy transpires. Over the years, as we navigate through our existence, our innate goodness becomes eclipsed. It gets buried beneath the weight of experiences, material need , incidents, accidents, deceit, and betrayal. But, my dear, it never vanishes entirely. It lingers, patiently awaiting a touch of a good human, someone who will undertake the task of stirring the goodness in us, to shake it awake from its slumber, allowing it to rise to the surface.”
“A benevolent friend, a nurturing teacher, a devoted life partner, or even a stranger with a good heart can serve as our salvation. They possess the power to reveal the dormant goodness within us, to stir it to life, and thus return us to our true, unblemished selves. If ever the opportunity arises, my beloved, aspire to be such a savior for another lost soul.”
“Did you understand, my princess ?” he asked.
“Now I will tell you a story, my princess.
It is a famous story from Hindu mythology.
It is called ‘The Churning of the Ocean’.
Illustrating the concept that we just discussed, I believe it will make you understand it completely. And you love stories, don’t you?
Long ago, an assembly of Gods and demons was called upon.
This was because they sought to obtain the nectar of immortality known as ‘Amrita’, hidden at the bottom of the ocean, concealed and overshadowed by so many other items. Thus, it was a difficult task.
They needed to churn the ocean to bring this precious elixir to the surface.
To accomplish this difficult task, they asked for the help of Mount Mandara who agreed to become the churning rod. On the other hand, the snake Vasuki became the rope that went around the mountain as it planted itself upside down in the middle of the ocean.
As they churned it,a multitude of treasures and creatures both wonderful and dreadful emerged from the ocean.
However, the surfacing of a poison known as ‘Halahala’ brought tensions in both Gods and Demons as it arose the questions: who shall tame and contain it?
Who is mighty enough to do the task of saving the entire universe from its wrath?
At this hour of difficulty , all remembered Lord Shiva and ran to Him for the help.
With a compassion-filled heart , Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the world. But he did not swallow it entirely;he let the poison rest in his throat that became blue as the poison started to gather in his throat. This earned Lord Shiva the name ‘Neelkanth,’ meaning ‘the one with a blue throat.’
Meanwhile , the churning continued and numerous divine gifts emerged from the ocean.
Among those divine gifts were the wish-fulfilling cow, a celestial elephant, and finally, the coveted nectar of immortality.
This story teaches us that there is a hidden reservoir of goodness within each of us that can help us even amidst the turmoil of our desires, conflicts, and struggles.
In challenging circumstances, to save the day, our innate goodness can rise to the surface.
It is a reminder that kindness, compassion, and selflessness are values deeply embedded in our nature, waiting to be discovered and shared with the world.
Her query did not stop there. Instead,she went into the depths of her curiosity and unearthed yet another profound question that laid hidden in her mind.
“ Father,what is puja ?” she asked , her voice tinged with both wonder and doubt.
“ Does God really want us to worship Him through the rituals of offering flowers,bowing to Him,dedicating our precious time,even at the cost of our vital duties ? Yesterday, mother rushed to the temple , ignoring the urgent cries of hungry cows . I was hungry too. But she did not stop. Instead , she said that she would be late for her puja and that she would feed us after she returns from temple.
“For fear of reprimand from mother, I did not ask this to her,” she said.
Her young heart wanted to know the answer,nevertheless .
Thus, now she turned her gaze towards her father,her heart overflown with humility.
“My dear father,” she began, her voice now a gentle stream of inquiry, “may I ask this question to you? What wisdom lies in these rituals, and what purpose do they serve?”
Her father spoke with a gentle tone resonating with a profound insight ,trying to explain it to his beloved about the mysteries of life and faith.
“There is no fault, my child,” he said , “in the act of visiting temples, in bowing before the divine statues, or in offering flowers at Their feet.These actions bring peace and serenity to one, nurturing a connection with the higher power.
He paused for a while to let his daughter to grasp what he was referring to.
“However,” he continued, “ the true worship transcends the rituals we are entangled in . It resides in the purity of one’s heart- a heart that is not tamed by selfish desires. Besides,if you are benevolent ,that is the highest form of worship.
Understand this my dear. Offering a helping hand to the poor and needy, selfless love and compassion towards them, is the worship that truly resonates with the divine. The Almighty in their heavenly abode rejoice when they witness acts of selflessness from us .Thus, it is not in the rituals alone but in the sincerity of our actions that we find the favor of the divine.”
This time , he leaned closer ,his words bore the weight of a profound truth.
“Confining our devotion to the walls of temples, if we offer flowers to the divine but neglect the cries of the hungry and the suffering of the poor, we shall never receive any blessings in return. Gods want us to perform our karma first, our duty—to work diligently, to extend our hands to those in need, to embody benevolence in all our actions, and to reflect our shared humanity in our interactions with others.”
In that moment, the young seeker partly understood that the path of true puja was not confined to the walls of temple alone.
Once, in broad daylight, as Sunkesheri was playing in the garden, she accidentally stepped on a thorn. Crying, she ran to her father. Immediately, he took her onto his lap, consoled her, and cleaned her feet with water. Then, with the help of a needle, he removed the thorn from her foot. She missed that incident too.
To some extent, she started to feel that the needles would now turn ruthless and unruly, intentionally blocking her way, for she knew that her father, the protector, would never show up to fight back against any predator she might come across. She felt vulnerable and helpless.
In the hush of the night, her father would visit her in her dreams, a spectral presence that brought both solace and heartache into her being. Yet, these visitations too grew increasingly scarce, slipping through her fingers like grains of sand.
That ominous winter Saturday, he left their humble abode to drive hunger away. But his destination remained an enigma, shrouded in the mists of uncertainty known only to two: Dhanbahadur and The Almighty. However, among the villagers, whispers and conjectures swirled like autumn leaves in the wind. Rumor mongers started to spread the news that he had embarked on a journey to Muglan, the name given to India at the time.
On that fateful morning when he left home, Sunkeshri, the cherished daughter and a glimmer of hope in their darkest days, was still asleep. Manifesting his love with a tender kiss on his princess’s forehead, he made his silent exit, and, like a fragile thread, that wordless farewell hung in the air.
In the wake of his departure, the village, too, seemed to hold its breath, trapped in a cocoon of unanswered questions and unspoken fears.
With unwavering determination, Sunkeshri, now the keeper of her father’s memories, clung firmly to the traces of his love.
Meanwhile, the time flew,days turning into weeks and weeks into years, yet the mystery surrounding Dhanbahadur’s disappearance remained unsolved, turning a haunting specter that loomed over their lives like an uninvited guest.
She often found herself gazing at the horizon, where the distant hills met the boundless sky, as though expecting her father to emerge from the very essence of the landscape. It was during these moments of silent contemplation that she felt closest to him, as if their souls were still tethered across the expanse that separated them.
Dhanmaya felt the sadness lingering onto her daughter’s being. She too felt gloom hovering on to her . However, she hid it from her daughter and tried to be happy in the veil of smile.
Had she shown her own shattered self, Sunkesheri, her daughter, would have been devastated. It was because of this very reason, she confined her pain deep within her heart, never allowing it to emerge, remaining lost in the labyrinth of her emotions. However, she cried in silence, in the dead of the night, until her beautiful eyes bore bloodshot marks in the morning, indicating her troubled nights. They revealed something more profound – a longing, a secret and silent surfacing of pain as intense as internal bleeding.
Seeing her daughter unhappy,however, her heart often broke into pieces .
Finally, Dhanmaya had taken all the blame upon herself: she remembered that on one of the Saturdays, she had been out of her home. Going out on Saturdays was strictly forbidden. People in the village believed that Saturdays were ominous and that one should not leave one’s home on Saturdays. They also believed that disobeying it meant inviting misfortune into one’s life. Now, all their hypotheses and prophecies turned into truth for Dhanmaya as her husband disappeared – perhaps in that so-called Muglan.
In the following weeks, Dhanmaya made sure that she would never leave home on Saturdays.Meticulously performing her rituals and prayers especially on Saturdays,she sought solace in her faith , hoping that her actions would protect her family against any misfortunes on those ominous days.
Sunkeshri, her daughter, watched her mother’s transformation with a mixture of curiosity and concern,failing to fully comprehend the superstitions that had gripped her mother’s life. As time passed, the villagers began to notice Dhanmaya’s unwavering commitment to observing the Saturday prohibitions. Some even labeled her as eccentric and whispered behind closed doors. On the other hand ,there were also the ones who admired her devotion to her deities.
All this while, Dhanmaya remained unfazed by the opinions of others whatsoever, focusing solely on shielding her family from harm.However, she failed to ignore the worries that Saturdays would bring. Right from Friday nights , her concern would start to mount and when Saturdays approached, it culminated in its peak, racing her heart with fear and anxiety
Her newfound responsibilities pressed upon her so heavily that she felt like questioning the validity of the superstitions she had clung to so desperately. But she dared not wander from her beliefs, fearing consequences more severe than the disappearance of her husband.
Thus,every Saturday evening, as the skies darkened and the stars emerged, Dhanmaya felt a sense of relief wash over her once more. She would thank her Almighty for the blessings, reaffirming her faith in the protective power of her rituals. She further believed that her unwavering dedication was the key to preserving her family’s well-being.
(The story appears in the first chapter of author Sanjiwan Pradhan’s novel ‘Her Final Tears’)