(January 15, 2024)
“May I come in, sir?”
A group of boys appeared at the door of the classroom while I was taking my class for BBS Second Year. One of them who looked like the leader asked for my permission to come in. It had just been slightly more than ten minutes since I entered the class and started the lesson of the day.
“Yes, you may.” I permitted him. There was no other option. When a student leader wants to come in, he must be allowed. This is a general rule in a community college.
After getting my permission, first he, then his henchmen entered the class. They were more than ten, but actually I did not count them.
As soon as they had come in, the leader delivered the notice to the students. “Friends, we are going to organize a Teej special program for our girl students after this period on the ground floor.” The tall fat student leader said, “Dear friends, we expect everyone, all of you guys and gals, to be present on the venue and have a full masti of the program.”
The classroom turned into a hive with humming bees. The students seemed as busy as bees in calling each other and discussing about the program. At the same time, the whole campus building vibrated with the hollering sound of the music system installed at the program stall. Then, I decided to quit that day’s lesson. I wished all my students a HAPPY TEEJ, and came out of the classroom.
I met my colleague Saroj on my way back to the staff room on the ground floor of the building. No doubt he also had similar experience like I had and was returning from another classroom. A tall and handsome white guy who looked like a foreigner he was. Whenever we meet, he smiles at me before saying “Hello,” or shaking hands with me. He is friendly and happy as I have always observed.
“Oho, Parshu sir. Let’s go for a cup of tea.” He proposed to me, “Let’s celebrate Teej ourselves.” We shook hands with each other, and headed towards the college canteen.
I am not a tea-lover. But there was nothing else to do at that moment because the students were cramming up to the program venue and no one was in the mood to sit in the class and study anymore.
“Sir, may I ask you a question” I asked him while sipping the lemon-tea from the cup down to my throat, “if you don’t mind?”
He seemed a little doubtful, but said, “Of course, sir, you can.”
I was more than curious about him for a long time. I had heard that his father was a professor of English in Kathmandu and his mother lived with him. It was going to be a probe into his personal life.
“I’ve heard,” I began, “your father is also a professor of English. Is that true?”
“Yes, he is.” He replied without a flinch. “I am a son of a professor of English. But I have nothing to do with that man.”
I was fumbling a word for a moment as I listened to him saying so. His face turned red as if he was holding a glass of red rum, not the tea, in his hand. His excitement scared me.
“I am sorry, sir,” I tried to console him, “I was just curious.”
“No, no, you should not worry.” He assured me. “Though he is my biological father,” Saroj said, “I have no attachment with the man since I have never felt his love for me in my life.”
“That’s natural when your father has no time for you, or does not live with you.”
“He eloped with his own student in Kathmandu leaving my mom helpless in the village. My mom had actually sent her husband to Kathmandu for further studies after SLC. She had hoped that one day he would complete his study and come back to take her and her son to Kathmandu, too, but that never happened.”
“I apologize for showing my interest in your personal matter,” I encouraged him to speak further, “but I would like to know how it all happened if you want me to hear.”
I was keen to know what actually had happened in his life so that he hated his father so much. Since we both, Saroj and I, had leisure that day, he was ready to tell his story which I was enthusiastic to hear. He also looked in a good mood and was ready to tell me his life story over a cup of tea.
“My father is a great trickster. He betrayed my mom who sent him to Kathmandu for joining college. I wonder if there is anything such as hell; it’s certain what awaits him. He married my mom just as a scapegoat for his chance to go to Kathmandu and live a romantic life. When my illiterate mom worked laboriously in the farms and jungle in the village, my father became free to presume himself a civilized and studious university student in the town.
He came home once or twice a year, so my mom was convinced that one day he would take her to Kathmandu with him as his wife. I was born eight years after their marriage. But before my birth, there was a huge presser on my father for the second marriage from his father (my grandfather) and other family members. My mom had to bear a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional torture from my widower grandfather, great uncle and his wife, and an unmarried aunt. They frequently demanded a huge amount of hard work from her while depriving her of the basic needs like food, clothing, etc. My father favoured his relatives more than his wife, and became their tool to oppress my mom. My seven-day old sister died on her bed due to some mysterious illness, and the tortures on my mom escalated even more and more in the ensuing days. Finally, when it was more than bearable for my mom, she decided to leave the home where she toiled for 12 years with a hope of a beautiful future. She took me to my maternal uncle’s house in a village in the terai(the plain) because that was the only place where we could take shelter then.
I was four at that time, but I still remember vividly how difficult that journey from the hill to the plain was. It took us three days and two nights to reach my maternal uncle’s house which was in Morang district. In those days, there was no good facility of roads and traffic. I now wonder how my illiterate mom who had never been out of her house took me along that long journey alone. What a courage she had shown for my future! In those days, traveling long distance alone being a woman was out of imagination. It would be a great issue for the talk among the folks in the village.
I was brought up in my maternal uncle’s house. I was admitted to a government school from where I completed my SLC in the first division. Naturally, I wanted to study science and become a doctor or an engineer because anyone who passed in the first division in our village in those days would be expected to study science in college. And I had a real interest in science. However, I did not have money to study science.
Since I was brought up by my mom and her relatives in my maternal home, I always felt the lack of my father in my life. Whenever people talked about me, they asked whereabout of my father to me or to my mom. Therefore, I did not pass even a single day without remembering or talking about him. My friends and relatives insulted me for his absence in my life. They abused me physically, verbally, and emotionally just because he was away from me. I was always a helpless child in the eyes of most of my relatives from my mom’s side.
My mom used to remember my father frequently. She did not think that my father was to be blamed as much as his father, sister, and other family members for what had happened in our life. However, she had a complaint against him – he did not love or show attachment with me, his son.
“He used to assure me of taking us to Kathmandu once he finishes his study and admit you to an English school.” she often shared with me in her calm mind, “But he trusted and listened to his father and sister more than me. Hell to those sinners!”
Perhaps it’s because of my mom I did not have so much negative opinion about my father despite all the miseries I went through in my school life. My mom used to encourage me for studying well by using the reference of my father. She often reiterated that my father was a well-educated person and had passed Double M.A. I did not know how much that degree called ‘Double M. A.’ was. But I was sure that my father was a well-studied man, a great scholar. Therefore, my father was both a virtual competitor and a source of inspiration for me from my early childhood. In my mind, there was always a constant idea that I must study more than my father, or at least as much as him.
I met my father first when I was in Grade 10. My thulobuwa (the elder brother of my father) who lived in Biratnagar came to Letang one morning to take me his home. He informed me that my father had wanted to see me. Then, I felt much excited and hurriedly prepared myself to go with him. When I reached Biratnagar and met him for the first time in my life, I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I cried. I could not speak a word with him for a while. I felt I had found a precious part of my soul that had long been missing.
My mom was always very careful about the possibility that my father would deploy his relatives to steal me from her. Therefore, when my thulobuwa came to my maternal uncle’s home for the first time after we had left home she hid me behind the door for long. She told me to come out only after an hour when she was fully assured that he was not there for robbing me away from her. I was almost five or six then. When I was eight, I started going to visit thulobuwa’s house in Biratnagar alone by bus. Then, my journey to his house and back to maternal uncle’s became frequent, one or twice a year.
Next morning, my father taught me a lesson from Class 10 English book. I think he wanted to check my intelligence. He taught me the lesson called “How Bhairab Saved Ram Singh’s Life?” I found his pronunciation and tone much more standard than the one I used to hear back at my school, that of my English teacher’s. His style of teaching was more attractive and more convincing than my subject teacher’s at school. I was very happy at the moment because I was being taught English by someone called my father, my dream man, my ideal. At the same time, I also felt sorry for myself because I had missed him in my pitiful life for so many years.
After lunch, he was ready to go. He was flying back to Kathmandu that afternoon. He told me to follow him to Biratnagar bazaar so that he would buy me some of the things of my necessity. Then, I would have to go back to Letang alone.
“What do you need” he asked me, “for your study?”
I had already told him that I stood first in my class, in grade 10,, and I had achieved seventy-five percent in Grade Nine final exam. His offer was going to help me achieve more in future.
In Biratnagar bazaar, he bought me a bulky Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary that I had never imagined existed in this world. I had seen only guides, guess-papers, and Nepali-English minidictionaries and grammar books by some Nepali writers by then. It was my first experience of touching an English book written in full English language by the native writer. In the stationary itself, my father taught me how to use the dictionary, the phonetics, the meanings of the words, synonyms, and antonyms. He also told me how by reading and practicing from English to English dictionary every day, I could develop my language skills. It was not going to be easy, but I was fully determined to take up the challenge. I wanted to be a scholar like him. I carried home the dictionary, a pair of new shoes, and some other stationery items that my father had bought for me.
After I passed SLC in the first division, my father called me up on the local PCO (public communication office) and informed me. I received the message the same day the result was published in Kathmandu. My other friends who did not have their relatives or friends in Kathmandu had to wait for a week until the Gorkhapatra arrived in our village.
I was much jubilant to go to Kathmandu for further study. Though my father had tried to persuade me to study science at Hattisar Campus, Dharan, or Diploma Engineering in Purwanchal Engineering Campus, Dharan, I wanted to study science in Kathmandu. I passed the entrance exam and got admitted to Amrit Science Campus, Lainchaur, Kathmandu. It was the most reputed public science campus in those days. However, due to my misfortune, I fell sick after one month. I had jaundice.
It’s a long story how much I suffered after that due to the illness. My father took me to various hospitals and clinics for treatment. I suffered a lot due to both sickness and my loneliness. My father never took me to his house, nor introduced me as his son to anyone else in the town. His second wife and children have never seen me. I suffered more during my illness because my father did not accept my mom’s presence for my help. Throughout the years of my suffering, I was forced to live alone in my room. I will tell you about this some other time.
It took me complete three years before I recuperated. I lost my golden three years of life without study. Then, I had no more confidence to study science because of fear of the possibility of the repetition of my illness. Then, I came to Dharan and joined Humanities at Mahendra Multiple Campus with English major. My father did support a little with books in my study, but not so much monetarily. When I was studying I. A. first year, he came to Dharan one day with his elder brother and forced me and my mother to accept our part of endowment from him. I requested him to help me at my study instead, but he was furious. He threatened me not to give even what he was offering, and challenged me to do what I could. I was helpless without support from any of my relatives, not even from my maternal uncle, a retired Indian army man, and a dire need for fund to support my higher studies and living costs. So, finally I accepted his deal.
He and his brother were very clever and they secured themselves legally in such a way that they used a lawyer to write a tricky paper and made us sign in it. My mom and I were given a small piece of land, a kattha, of a cheap price (which I sold at one lakh fifty thousand rupeesafter two years) and deprived us of all our rights to claim anything more in future.
I completed my study up to Master’s with much difficulty. I never failed, but I could not study as well as I had the capacity to because of my poverty. My mother had to sell fruits in the streets in Dharan for our livelihood. I had to work full time during my study of Bachelor’s. I married early due to my need for family settlement and help to my mom. Fortunately, my wife and her in-laws were kind and caring. They encouraged and supported me to do Master’s.
On my request, my father supported me with books and stationery items during my Master’s though he did not give me money. Despite my hardships, I was a little positive about my father due to this gesture of his. However, it shattered soon.
I went to Kathmandu to meet him after completing my M. A. in English. This time, I wanted to shift my family to Kathmandu so that I could study MPhil and work in a school. But my condition was so miserable that I could not collect enough courage to settle in Kathmandu without his support. I was unemployed and had no cash in hand to sustain my family even for a month in the capital city. Therefore, I met my father and asked for his help but what he said shook me out of my fancy that he was my father and I was his son. You cannot imagine how you would feel if you found yourself in that situation of mine.”
Then, suddenly Saroj stopped. He felt very uneasy to continue. He seemed as if he was about to cry. I touched him on his right hand with my right hand softly so that I could make him feel that I was with him, showing my sympathy. At this point of our conversation, my curiosity had been much higher than before we started. However, I could not force him to talk. Neither could I tell him to stop. In fact, I found myself in a very difficult situation. To some extent, I thought I had been much selfish. I was compelling my friend to remember his past and be sorry while I was breathlessly curious to know more and more of him.
Saroj took a sip from his cup. “It’s already cold,” he said with a mild smile in his face, and put the cup down.
“Yes, it is.” I told him, “Please tell further what happened when you requested your father to help you and your family settle in Kathmandu. I am eager to know more.”
Fortunately, that day was a leisure for both of us. Neither was there anyone else to disrupt our conversation. We two were the only ones at our table. Isolated. Calm. Undisturbed.
“My father never took me his home as I have already told you. Whenever I called and let him know that I was in the valley, he called me at different places to meet him. Sometimes he called me at Dharahara. Sometimes he took me to Swayambhunath. Sometimes to TU field, Kirtipur. Sometimes somewhere, and sometimes somewhere else. But he never took me to his house. He always said his family lived in a rented house. He often talked about his loans, and other difficulties so that I would not ask him for money.
You may wonder why I did not try to go to his house. Actually, I never tried it. I always saw no use of it. I did not want to go to his house and fight with his family or put him, my father, in trouble. I wanted peace with him because I always hoped that one day he would collect enough courage to face his world and his people to tell them about me and my mother. I did not have anything left that I could take from him. He had already deceived me.
It’s not that I believed in what he often told me or wanted me to believe in. I knew every moment he talked to me that he was lying to me. I reached his six-story building in Sankhamul once or twice with my friend who lived in New Baneshwor. I watched for a while his wife sunbathing on the balcony on my first visit. Then, I returned. When I visited the place the second time, he came home for lunch and, after a while, he came out and rode his motorcycle and went away. His motorcycle had a box on the back in which he carried his books and notebooks, or exam papers.Then, I stopped spying on him. I felt he was a very pitiful character in this world.
Whenever he had to have a meeting with me, he often pretended to be in a hurry. I think now he did all this to avoid a long conversation with me so that he could get relief from me sooner. He used to keep looking at his wrist-watch frequently and say, “I must go now. I have the next class after half-an-hour.”
He was a reputed teacher of English in Kathmandu valley. He passed M. Ed. in the year I was born. He had started teaching English at different schools and colleges in the valley for long before I was born. He joined Pulchowk Engineering Campus in Lalitpur as a lecturer after some years. Certainly, he might have been known to a lot of people. So, I think it was natural for him to get fidgety every second he passed with me. Despite all these, I can forgive him for he is my father. However, I cannot forget one incident in my life with him and cannot forgive him for it.”
My ears became cleverer as if they were erect on my head like a rabbit’s. I did not want to miss it because I was waiting for it all through.
“That day I went to meet him after I had completed M. A. in English. I had a little money saved by working in a local newspaper office in Dharan as a copy editor, but not enough for taking my family to Kathmandu and sustain our lives there. Moreover, I had already had my daughter.
I wanted to pursue my study further and join MPhil in English literature at Tribhuvan University. Since I had heard that it would be a very difficult course, I would have a tough life there. Besides, I had the responsibility of my mother, wife, and daughter. Therefore, I had planned to join a newspaper office for journalism or a school for teaching for survival. If my father assisted me for three months in Kathmandu, then I would have no more tension. I could manage a job for myself within the first three months in Kathmandu because I had a first division certificate of Master’s in English and some good relations and friends in the valley. This was my calculation at that time. If I could not manage time for study, then I would postpone my plan of doing MPhil for until I would be ready. At least, I would have some stability in the valley with a career. But that day my world came upon me and I felt that someone was pressing on my throat.
My father took me on his motorcycle to the field of TU in search of a peaceful place to have a conversation with me. He might have had another motive – nobody should see him with me. Anyway, he stopped his bike almost 150 feet away from the door of the University Campus of TU. We sat on the ground folding our feet.
Some cows were grazing on the grass nearby. Two or three girls came down the stone steps. In a while, they vanished from our eyes. The whole field was desolate. There was no one else to disturb us. Far away, at a distance, some children were playing cricket. The sky above our heads was blue and beautiful. We were sitting on the dried couch of grass.
As soon as I had shared my plan for settling in Kathmandu, my father first told me that it was not a good idea. Then, he told me why: since he had many rivals – mainly the professors and students affiliated to other parties than his. There were many others who envied his progress in the academia. Since a father’s enemies would naturally be the son’s enemies, they would also run after me once they knew I was his son. If my father’s enemies started chasing me, then I would have a very difficult situation in the valley to survive. Even if they did not take my life, they would not let me live peacefully, or in a dignified way.
Therefore, only for this reason, and not for any other cause, my father wanted me to call him UNCLE in front of others – anyone who knew and talked to him. This strategy I could apply to save myself and my family from his enemies so that they would not be able to cause any harm to us. When those enemies were not around, I could call him FATHER, or BUWA, or DAD, whatever I enjoyed.”
Oh, my God! What a bastard in the name of a father! I thought this while my friend was telling me his tragic story. But was speechless for I was too shocked hearing his story.
“My friend, can you imagine how I felt at that moment? Perhaps you cannot… The blue sky over my head turned foggy or cloudy. I could not see anything in front or around me for everything became suddenly blurred. I could not hear his voice anymore. I had no sense whether he was sitting beside me or saying anything to me. I just saw his mouth open and closed, open and closed, open and closed, for a while. I looked at his face. He had no feeling of shame or guilt. He looked as comfortable as he was before telling me this.
One of the cows that were grazing nearby looked towards me. I felt as if she was expressing her sympathy upon me, as if she was trying to say, “What can be more profane than this for a father to say to his son? This man is insane, my boy.” I could not cry because I did not want to. At least, in front of him. I was too shocked at the moment to cry as a son in front of an insolent father.
Then, I got up from the place where I was sitting. He followed me. We were ready to go. He started his bike and I sat behind him. He drove me to a lodge at Sundhara. The next morning, I took a day bus and arrived in Dharan in the evening. I decided not to go to Kathmandu, or think of not going there anymore. Not because of my father, but because I simply did not like the pollution, crowd, and the level of hardship people go through in the city. Also, because I was concerned about my health that I would not be sure enough to keep it up in the town.
Even after that event, I met my father three or four times more in Kathmandu. Once I took my daughter, his granddaughter, to him because she stubbornly wanted to see her grandfather. Somebody had informed the little girl that she had her grandfather in Kathmandu. She did not give me a rest until I promised her to take her to him. So, I reserved a seat in a night bus to Kathmandu and took her to her grandfather. As usual, he came to meet us at Mahabouddha, and hurriedly took us into a mo:mo restaurant. My little daughter, who was just seven then, had been talking about a jaamaa that she would request her grandfather to buy for her all throughout the journey. However, she was so shy meeting him that she forgot about it. I could remind her about it, but I did not, for I knew my father, her grandfather, well. We returned empty handed.
Next time, almost after two years, my wife wanted to meet her father-in-law. I took her to Kathmandu on my vacation and arranged a meeting with him. Again, he agreed to come to Sundhara to give us a visit. We met him in the Mo:Mo restaurant in front of the Dharahara. For almost one hour, we sat on a bench, my wife and I on his right and left, and we both, my wife and I, tried to persuade him to arrange a get together with his children from another wife, a son and a daughter, who were already adults themselves, studying at college.
“Buwa, in case you die one day,” I told him, “How can I join your funeral rites with them who do not know me as your son?”
“Past is past. What you did is already a past and we are ready to forget about it.” My wife told to her father-in-law, “Now you must accept your mistake and create a situation for us to meet with them and know each other. We don’t expect anything more from you, Buwa.”
We coaxed him in a way that he was our son, not the father, for full one hour, but at last the coward said, “How can I face my daughter? She won’t believe that I have lied to her all these years.”
However, we, my wife and I, did not lose our hope that one day my father, her father-in-law, would be able to have some courage to face his dear daughter. We then took some photos with him in front of the Dharahara destroyed by the great earthquake in 2072 B.S.
After three months, my father’s birthday arrived. I knew about it via Facebook. I posted the photo in which we three – my father, my wife, and I – stood in front of the Dharahara with broad smile in our faces. I also wrote a status in his profile just above the photo: Happy Birthday, Buwa! May God bless you with long life and happiness!
But I was shocked to see just after half-an-hour that my father had deleted the post. I called him and asked him why he had done so. He said he did not know how to use Facebook and the photo might have been deleted by mistake. When I tried to post the photo and my status again, I found I was blocked by him on Facebook.
I have not phoned him again since then. Neither has he called me again. Nowadays, he is a retired professor and a dignified Lion’s Club member who is busy in social works, earning reputation as a man with sacred soul. I don’t know how long I will be able to go along this way. I don’t think I will be able to participate in my father’s funeral rites if he dies anytime now. Forget my early death. He won’t even wince a single time at my departure. My friend, this is just a piece of my life-story. If I write it in full, it will be a best-selling novel.”
When Saroj had finished this narration, my wristwatch showed 9:30. It had already been late for me to rush home, and then to school where I work as a permanent fulltime teacher. The digital attendance machine leaves no chance or gives no excuse for being late. Therefore, we got up from the chair, and I hurried towards my destination.