My home stands beside the highway. More, my room stands facing the road. It has come to be a part of my daily routine to open the window and peep out and observe the activities taking place on and around the road. Quite often, I peer out from here. I recognize most of the people who keep this road: those who go to their offices and return, the students, the milkmen and the vendors of breads. In other words, this window is the site of my pastime, and I have no leisure at all. This doesn’t mean I am spending my entire life sitting on this window. There was a time when peeping out of this window was considered a heinous crime, let alone a sit-in here. However, after the 1950 change, father’s death and my own educational progress, things changed by a great measure. I grew more intimate to this window. After I completed my education and started working at a morning school, there was no one that could exercise any restriction upon me.
My constant gaze out of the window has no bearing with my morality. I am of a timid nature. I don’t usually talk with others. I don’t look at others, either. Till date, I have not expressed my love for anyone. Let me confess: I have no interest in all these things. I move about with a heart puffed up with idealism, though no part of it is useful, practicable or progressive. Maybe because my idealism is unorganized and immature, I have not been able to set a solid ambition for myself. I am interested in no one. I don’t remember others taking interest in me, either. I am quite queer in nature, quite peculiar too. The worth of my life is nothing more than that of a barren land that doesn’t breed even a flower or a stone. Since I have no interest in social work, literature, gossips or the cinema, I hang on to the same window for entertainment and pleasure. Through it, I read the road downstairs daily, and forget it in no time.
It’s early Falgun. The day is bright and the sun mild. I have just come and sat on the window. Those heading for offices are gone. The road is tranquil. A few students who are later to school than its opening time are seen walking.
There’s a school a few yards away from my home, where only boys are taught. In the meantime, I see two boys right underneath my window. One stands erect, while the other one is bending to fix his cycle’s chain. They are perhaps twelve or thirteen years old. The one bending down to fix the cycle chain once looks up and sees me on the window. I keep staring at him without winking my eyes. Embarrassed, he moves away from there, making his cheeks and ears crimson.
It’s a remarkable day for me, a day of special looks. This coincidence too is a special one. I have been looking at a strange lad—whoever he was— for a long time, face to face. The lad has run away from my eyes granted, but I have not able to erase him from my memory. On his dusky, handsome face, he has two dark eyes, agile pupils, curly hair, curls falling over his ear-locks and temple, and an enticing smile which I cannot forget even if I try. I have a tickling deep inside, the touch of an untellable experience. I can’t understand it, no matter how much I try. The window appears new to me, something quite pleasing. Again, I find myself quite sick.
But frankly, I never had the feel of such restlessness in the past. I had no issue to remember or forget before. There was no worry to send me brooding. I was in a way happy, but perplexed considering why I had this tickling now which I didn’t have during my youth. So, as I confessed earlier, this sudden bout of a new feeling, different from my monotone life, made me sick.
Since that day, I have been seeing him always every day. Now on, I have a silhouette to imagine, a subject to think about. I am not that empty from inside anymore. A fluid has started splashing inside my breast too, as I am gradually melting inside. He comes, stands on the side of the road and looks up toward the window. He sends his friend to a nearby shop to buy something, while he keeps standing there pretending to whistle. Whenever his eyes meet mine, he wears unbearable smiles on the cheeks, temple and around the eyes. He talks in chirps with his friends, hardly making any sense out of it. To me, this noise occurs like the sweet ditty of birds on a spring morn, sweet like the ringing of a small bell. My ears are filled with tastes. It gives me self-satisfaction. Yes, self-satisfaction. But the impatience engendered by this new experience remains intact. Questions come meandering, their number increasing each second. I am smothered by feelings like love, compassion or endearment. I am aware, a house without any foundation in taking place inside me, hanging in the air. I can consciously feel that my chest is aching. It seems, something pent-up inside me is trying to splash and ooze out. I speak little. So many things in me stay unexpressed. Yet, my inclination toward the lad is spilling out, crossing all its limits. I grow quite impatient on seeing him. I am inclined to embrace him and plant kisses on both his cheeks. I even wish to place him on my lap and fondle him. To tell the truth, I want to hold him hard and tighten my grip on him. I have feelings like the bouts of hysteria. I am fully aware that the balance of my mind is swaying. Time is on the run, and with it, the humankind has come under the increasing grip of willpower. If, like animals, it follows natural instinct, it will be named immortal and anti-social. It would be weighed on various grounds and thrown away from the social wheel. So, an individual always weighs herself or himself.
I am doing the same, testing myself thoroughly, because these experiences occur to me like a sort of mental sickness.
I recline on my bed and contemplate. I am of a nature different from others’; I have my own ideals. I was never touched by youthful exuberance or restlessness pertaining to sex drives. I never had the urge to have a crush on anyone, get married, and become someone’s wife. I am still unmarried, and am approaching middle-age. I can marry, for marriage is a coincidence. But it won’t be a pleasant one. In fact, I have no interest in it. It’s true that I don’t look as old as I am. The mirror hasn’t still repelled me once. I have heard that if anyone stays unmarried, meaninglessness and distaste enter life, and sex diseases appear. I don’t have any of such distress, but I don’t know if my present feelings are symptoms of the disease. I have not been completely stripped off life yet. I have heard of people beset by distaste in this age, especially those who stay unmarried. Could it be that I was fast developing that delinquency? I get startled, only to console myself another moment, because people call it delinquency in this age, even if it is pure love. I have read somewhere that a woman’s body remains enslaved to her organs till she is thirty-five. This makes me shudder, and I sweat all through. My throat almost gets choked. I make a count of my age; I am not yet thirty-five. But then, if I had married I would have had a son as big as that lad.
As soon as the word ‘son’ occurs to my mind, I have a quiver like a jolt of the earthquake. A layer of fog clears out. An interrogation mark disappears and I am less fretful. There is no gag on the throat and many a burden release me simultaneously. I derive a different sort of satisfaction, though there still is a feeling that something I am willing to pour out has still remained shut-up. However, it’s true that I find myself relieved by some degree.
It’s yet another morning now. My sickness has subsided but thoughts crisscrossing my mind have increased. I still don’t have free time. The longing to embrace and kiss the lad has still lingered. I imagine that the boy—my son or someone else’s—is a blessing from nature, unable to stay aloof from a woman’s love. Maybe a woman was first a mother, before really becoming a ‘woman’. So a mother’s love is in higher order. Son, son and son! I see a son everywhere. After all, we all are sons and daughters, who got to be born even as our parents reiterated, ‘Son, son!’
I spell out a son, like everyone else does. I imagine ‘if there were only sons here’, and laugh out to myself. To fondle a son, one needs a husband. But the moment I imagine a husband, a shiver passes down my spine, for it is a thing I have never imagined. I have a sort of abhorrence with the very word. Whenever I pine for a son, I imagine getting hold of a husband, but can’t do it at any cost. I want to hold this being called husband tight in my arms and erase the image of a son, but as I do so, the husband disappears. All I find is the same stout son lying playfully in my lap.
My sister has a sickly son, but I am not interested in him. I do not play with him either, for a son in my imagination is as big as the lad I often see. At such moments, I have doubts over my own motherly love. A cloud of smoke rises and assumes the form of a question: What kind of a son? What sort of a husband? A husband and a son appear in my imagination like a modern painting, quite complex to understand. Yet I am happy because seventy-five percent of my ailment has disappeared from my mind.
It’s the beginning of Falgun. The schoolboys sprint on their own, and play with abir and lola. It is recess time at the school. The children are coming out into the street. I have come down to the shop by the roadside. There is a pile of books near the shopkeeper’s seat, made ready by putting new covers. I stroke the books and ask, “Whose are these?”
“They are on sale,” says the shopkeeper.
I grow even more curious. The books are quite new. “Who brought them here?”
The shopkeeper moves his eyes all around, and signals, “He, there.”
I can see the same lad whom I call my ‘son’ standing there, smiling.
I am rather resistant, rather shy as well. Perhaps this is the nature of emotions in women who are past their mothering age. I am urged to ask him a question. I say, “Why are you selling these, eh?”
The shopkeeper answers with pride, “To smoke. To watch movies.”
A dark screen falls in front of my eyes. I feel I have slipped a little down the hill. But the shopkeeper interferes. He says, “The lad had asked me about you. He had wanted to know who you are, sitting up there on the window.”
I am struck by another bout of curiosity. There are a number of issues to think about—the books, the cigarettes, the movies—but nothing occurs to my mind at the moment. The lola that hits me hard on the forehead has momentarily robbed me off my eyesight. I blush with shame and with the redness planted by the lola. My son is standing at a distance, displaying a lovely smile. This is a smile I can hardly withstand and so I run away. My feet are not heavy. They are as light as a flower.
I cannot tell what followed next. It’s true that I have achieved something. At night, I dream of a son I have just borne, and am puffed up with a mother’s pride. Too big for my lap, he lies outside and is asking me to lend him some money for smoking. I wake up. My eyes moisten, but his tender touch continues to have its lulling effect on me. Though in a state of unconsciousness, I conceal his pranks within myself and say, “My child, you are exceptionally cute.” Perhaps, those who are mothers save a similar sort of defense at some corner of their hearts to conceal their sons’ mischief. You can never be sure of the bonds of illusion, or of the present time, morality and development.
I am a captive to my ideals that bind me from everywhere. I don’t know if I have become a mother. My manners have certainly changed. I love the boy child in the picture. I am seized by an urge to embrace the first boy I see playing in the dust on the road.
It’s a full-moon day. The sky is clear and the sun quite hot. There is a sort of exuberance, some sort of restlessness in the air. I am on the wait. I have hopes from the flowers I never planted. Perhaps they will bloom. After all, what they need is soil and rain.
In the meantime, I hear the tickling of a cycle bell. I look, and am left gawking. Blush over his ears and cheeks, cough that almost pukes out tobacco and lungs, the clean road, and the sputum! I get restless, but my eyes do not call up any water because I am not a mother. This time, the black curtain hangs not over my eyes but over my heart. I feel I have fallen quite deep.
My ailment grips me harder now. I am a patient of mental ailment. I am unable to manifest this illness by any means. I am an educated person and am in full consciousness. As long as my conscience warns me, I shall never allow myself and my ideals to get burnt into ashes. Be it mental ailment or sexual delinquency or any sort of love affairs for that matter, it’s something I cannot manifest. It is not a thing that subsides by telling out, nor is it a sort of sorrow that transpires on sharing. Like a shameless mother hen trying to brood a plastic pullet, I am moving about smoldering myself in an absurd emotion. The mother hen’s emotion is a truth. But mine? Don’t know true or false.
It is Falgun end. The mild spring wind is high everywhere, tickling entire nature. It’s midday, and the sun is veiled by a thin layer of cloud. I am on the walk, moving slowly toward the town. Soon I come outside an alehouse, some yards away. Its owner is a spinster, who is quite graceful and a little cheeky too, but is quite adept in running her business.
I unknowingly look toward her shop. ‘Why he needs to come here?’ I think. ‘It cannot be for tea, for kids do not drink that. He is here for tea, granted. But what is sold here is pickled meat and liquor.’
I shudder. My alleged ‘son’ is flirting with the shop owner, touching her with his hands. He turns to me and laughs in his patent style. The woman is trying to ward him off. She says, “Leave me alone. Aren’t you ashamed to bother an old woman?”
The potent blow of her words fall hard on my body, and it shudders. I find my ‘son’ maturing, and is following me in age. I can clearly hear him speak, his voice ringing like a bell and chirping like birds. I believe they are passing lowly remarks on my gait and dress. They are words of low order, aimed at bantering upon me, but I feel, they are gusty bullets just out of a pistol, piercing my ears and moving ahead. The curtain that shall fall next might conceal the entire world from my eyes, perhaps.
I am once again besieged by hysteria. I try to turn back and speak something, but cannot. I am deterred by an unknown idealism once again, and I curse myself. I curse the change of age, its education system and mothers’ love, but think no ill of my own cowardice. Experiences of jealousy, hatred and inferiority spill a layer of blight on my face. From my lower lip, I can easily decipher that I am sinking further below. To waft all these suffocations out, I blow my nose. My body chills, and I feel the touch of sudden coldness. I also perspire, though I have the feeling that my ailment is gradually leaving me, like the fever that subsides after a patient sweats.
The outside world vanishes at the verge of our ken and the horizon. But what about the world of the mind? Diverse is the creation of our mind.
I am completely fine. A heavy stone has fallen off my heart. The thing that impatiently urged me to purge it out will not do so anymore. It has disappeared. Something so dear has been lost, but its absence doesn’t bother me at all. I will no longer look out from the window or read the road. I now have leisure, and only leisure. Today, I stayed reading the newspaper stacked upon the cupboard head all day long. I have grown quite hard inside. The fluid splashing inside me has frozen like ice. It will not melt anymore. Never!
 In 1950, the 104 year-old dictatorial oligarchy of the Ranas collapsed, and Nepal became a partial democracy, the king still being the Head of the State
 The eleventh month in Nepali calendar, between mid-February and mid-March
 abir is the red vermillion powder smeared on people’s faces during Holi festival, while lola is a rubber dimpling with colored water inside, used to throw upon others in playful jest during Holi
Translated from Nepali by Mahesh Paudyal