It was already twilight when I reached home from the office. It was an everyday story—exchanging views about the office, the government, and the nation with friends met on the way, as a result of which, I was always late in the evening to reach home.
They had already had their dinner, setting aside food for me in a hot-case. I felt the food was waiting for me, but I did not hurry. Getting fresh, I sat, with my knees bent, on the veranda to rest. Then, I happened to see that strange bag hung on the wall in front of me.
It was strange. We did not have such a bag. Even if we had, we never hung it as such. I stared at it with a fair caution. I was doubtful if it had some suspicious object.
They don’t have any good news these days. Cases of loot, murder, rape are increasing everywhere. I thought, thus, such bags could contain suspicious objects. I asked Sitaji.
“An old man in his 60s was here this afternoon. He stayed awhile. We offered lunch; he accepted. He was looking for you; said, ‘I want to meet Dharabasi Sir, but I don’t know him’. As he told us, his grandparents hailed from the hill around ours. It had been many years since they first came to Nepal from Manipur. They are living in mercy of some kin in Sharanamati. As they didn’t have citizenship certificates; they couldn’t save earnings in any bank; neither could buy some land to build a house. He said he loaned some money to a relative, but they did never talk of paying it back. The relatives, who at first promised to help get citizenships, don’t want to talk to them these days, he said. The elderly dropped his tears while he told, ‘My family and children are in misery. We had properties to earn living when we came here, but now they made us beg for life!’ He explained he had a relative from Manipur in Jayapur up there. He told me before leaving, ‘I will be back after meeting them. Let me keep my bag here until I return tomorrow’.” Sitaji narrated the whole story in minutes.
I first pitied the man after listening to Sitaji. But, I was not yet confident about the bag. With all those doubts in my mind, I had my meal. Then, drying my wet hands, I got back to my seat and closely looked at the bag. I was still heavy in my heart. I told Sitaji, “People suffer these days if they eat something offered by strangers, even if they guard their things. Who knows if this bag has some bombs? Who knows if the old man is a cunning dacoit? You should have been careful enough not to believe what he says. You did enough by offering lunch; why should you have kept his bag here? You know, the man already fixed his lunch here for tomorrow too!” We laughed!
My talk made Sitaji quite serious. Aama looked awake. My discourse made them all suspect over and fear about what the bag had. The level of doubt—that what if it had something like an explosive— slowly rose up.
That is why, in terror, both Aama and Sitaji tried to stop me when I approached the bag. But, defying their hands to block me, I grabbed the bag in my right hand.
Well, the bag was not as heavy as I thought. But, I felt it had something special.
I returned to my place with the bag. I opened and began to look into it. But, Aama said, “Why you rummage in other’s bag? Who knows if you will get blamed tomorrow for some stealing?”
I didn’t care what she said but took out a pile of papers bound like a file from the bag. Beside that file, the bag had some clothes and other accessories. The opening of the pile was strongly fastened; that took my some minutes of labour to untie. Inside was a thick roll of papers. I began to open up that.
The kitchen chores were over and all of them were at the drawing room now. I also dragged myself into the room, with that bag and those papers. They switched on the television, for a Pakistani serial was in its climax that day.
When Aama, Sitaji and children were eagerly waiting for the serial; I had an unlimited curiosity for that roll of papers. Looking into the type of papers in the roll (they were homemade pahade papers from high heels), at first I suspected that it might be a collection of chinas–birth charts–and he was looking for a skilled astrologer. A man has faith in anyone and anything once he faces any pain. Thus, he had a deep faith in astrology, I thought.
Finally, I unfolded it. They had thick, but good, handwritings, perhaps scripted with a pen of bamboo that requires it to dip into homemade ink for writing. Some papers had holes as big as characters, but in overall, they were readable. The paper roll was, hence, strong enough to pull me from the TV serial into it. I began to read it. Thus was written:
My mother was just 27 then though dad was already an old man. Dad had married my mom – who was 40 years younger than him – after his first wife deceased leaving four children in the lurch. That was the time when no one would try to match age of brides and grooms; people were ready to marry off daughters in a very young age to a man regardless of his age. That used to make women live in hell sometimes. My mom didn’t have any other child till I was 11. But, my half-brothers were already mature enough for work. My second half-brother’s son was just two years younger to me. They were all separated already to live with their own families.
Meanwhile, dad died of a minor illness.
No one had ever thought that he would die in that age. But, he was telling mom some strange things for some days. Once, I heard him telling her, “Kanchhi! You cared me so well in my age of need. The Gods will look after you for that. Thus, please don’t be a sati if I die early. You have to raise this son up.”
In irritation, she had replied, “What a misfortune this old man thinks of. Who will die so soon?”
“Only if death was predictable, my dear! One can die anytime.”
Though she resisted in appearance, mom must had felt some cold inside her with that talk.
I was a child, would enjoy nothing but playing. But, they had already assigned some tasks for me. I had to go to graze cattle after the morning meal every day. Those nephews – sons of my half-brothers – were naughty; they would chase my cattle away from the herd. I hence had to look after them alone.
No sooner had he talked that thing to mom than dad fell ill. We tried many medicines and shamans, but none worked. The shamans had concluded that the clan god is unhappy, thus cast a spell on him.
Then, when the sun was turning toward the west, he breathed his last. I was in a jungle grazing the cattle. I had collected four eggs of peacocks that day. I was planning to fry them and have them as soon as I reached home.
People came to take me home. As soon as they told me the bad news, the eggs fell off and broke. My body grew frail. I remembered him telling mom, “Please don’t be a sati if I die early.” I was frightened; it was complete dark all around me.
The people who had come to take me back tried to engage me in other issues. Finally we reached home. There was a crowd gathered, everyone lamenting. Aunties offered their laps for me, but they restricted me from going toward my mom. I knew that she was in a corner inside. I once strived to escape auntie’s lap; but soon they said to me, “Don’t go there. Don’t touch her. Your mom is a sati now. No one should touch a sati.”
I answered, weeping, “Nay! Dad told her not to be a sati. She is not a sati. No, she is not.”
I struggled to get off auntie’s control. I heard mom crying so long inside the house.
Preparations began to take dad’s body to the ghat – the cremation site. Simultaneously, they began to motivate mom to get ready to become a sati. They offered lectures on why becoming a sati is important for a widow. I was looking all those activities from a distance.
Her face – it felt to me – was so strange and fearsome. Her look was strange and unknown from a distance. She didn’t say anything even if I was crying loud.
Women were crying together at a corner. My sisters-in-law were silent. Men of the village were busy in rituals. The day was about to end. Thus, they were saying the body had to be taken to the ghat as soon as possible. It should not be kept there through the night.
I was shocked, seeing how those men behaved. My brothers, uncles, neighbours, priests, no any man was touched by the sorrow of death. A young woman was getting burned alive with the old man who had a natural death. But, they were not touched. I was in grief, but they didn’t have anything called sympathy, sentiment or humanity.
I felt as if I would collapse. I had a yearn to be in her lap, at least for once; but the priests were counselling her that a sati should free herself from the worldly affairs of attachment and think of the deceased husband alone – so that she could get in heaven with him. Mom was sitting there still, as if she was not seeing with open eyes, as if she was not breathing.
Weeping women were caressing my hair in an act of love. They were talking about mom’s age and beauty. They were expressing concern over my future. They were searching their lifespan in faces of their husbands. Liability of living death was flowing out from their tearful eyes. Each and every woman present there was counting her life in heartbeats of her husband.
No one dared to propose not making her a sati. Neither did my mom protest. Still restless in her lap, I told auntie what dad had said to mom. But, auntie stopped me and said, “Okay, keep quiet, Babu! No one will listen to you. Don’t you see it? Here, people have gathered more to look her being a sati than attending the old man’s funeral. Helpless women have thronged just to know their fate in future.”
Auntie then didn’t stop her lamentation. Her tears dropped on my head making my hairs wet enough, that I could easily feel the wetness. Her voice was growing sharper gradually. Uncle came and told her to keep mum. But, auntie didn’t stop; rather she stirred up, “Why hush? How can this injustice become an act of religion? You marry a 40 year younger lady in a full awareness and make her die now today? She still has years for life, she has such a promising son. Why hush?”
“What can you do, lady? Religion is what they practiced for ages. All our mothers and grandmothers went through this,” said uncle.
“How is this called religion, which allows a new widower to choose young girls for marriage and live happily thereafter, but forces poor widows to get burned alive?” Then, some other women grabbed her hand and took her behind the house. But, I heard her speak louder and louder for minutes.
They made my mom worship her own body. They decorated her with all jewelleries available at home. They got her dressed anew as if she was a bride waiting for a groom on the wedding day. They played various musical instruments. Also, they played the divine conch shell long and one-fold. The crowd now moved down toward the ghat with my mom in the front, followed by the corpse.
I cried and cried so long that I didn’t have any energy to cry more. Thus, I was silently looking into all those. It was getting dark. Auntie tried to stop me, but I too followed the crowd a little later. I heard someone saying, “Let him go. He can see final rites of his parents.”
There was a temple of a goddess in the half-way near a chautari – a wayside place for rest underneath a tree. They briefly stopped and lifted down the corpse. While musical instruments were playing there, they took all ornaments off my mother’s body. They poured mustard oil over her head and the oil dropped on the ground as if she was taking a bath there. Then, they undressed her. I saw a mature person completely naked for the first time in my life. But, that naked body did not bring any thought of shame, shyness and obscenity. She was respected as she was earlier with clothes. They played the conch again, long and one-fold. The crowd, with my mom in the front, approached the Tamor River. The sun was getting yellow when we reached the ghat. People set the funeral pyre. The priest was beginning the rituals for the satiburning. He was making my mom worship this and that. The ritual was over soon and they asked her to sit on an end of the pyre with knees bent, hands joined and eyes closed. The dead body’s head was placed on her lap.
Some funeral attendants chose to scatter around just to avoid seeing ignition of the fire. The sun set just now. As the hill in front of us blocked light, the surrounding looked darker. The eldest brother ignited the pyre.
Smoke billowed from the pyre in all four corners, just to add more darkness in already dark and black ghat.
I was looking all those developments, hiding myself behind a tree. I saw even some men were crying and sobbing after the pyre caught fire. After few hours, the fire had reduced both of my parents into ashes. What was left was me, a goddamn orphan.
The mother who had sent me to jungle after feeding me some meals of love just this morning was now cremated alive into cinders in front of me.
I could not sleep a second that night.
Auntie embraced me and tried to make me asleep, but her heartbeat itself was disturbing me. She was taking long breaths and sobbing throughout the night. Holding my head into her hands, she opened knot of her mouth with these words, “What can you do, my poor child! We women don’t deserve any meaning in life. They don’t give us any value even what cattle get. People don’t kill, but sell old oxen or cows when they can’t work; but they kill us, mothers, against our will. They burn us alive. Once the husband to love and protect dies, all people living around us turn to be enemies, enemies of our existence.”
Uncle intervened to counsel auntie. But, auntie continued, “Why is it that we women have to live for men only? We get left if they leave; get deserted as impure when some second man pulls us, or only touches us. We can’t get complete entitlements of their love even if we devote all our wishes, desires, body and labour for our husbands. Men can choose out of will and make anyone a wife, but women have to surrender to whoever wishes her to become his. A man gets freedom in death of his wife, but a woman should die alive with the man’s corpse. What’s this?
Are your mothers, wives and daughters not secure in laws that you men made? What constitution is yours that burns mothers, wives and daughters alive? Can’t you change this? You people have just returned to home by charring my sister-in-law of my daughter’s age. Doesn’t this rule thus require me to get burned alive, no matter how much I care my body, if you don’t take care of yours?
How easily you sons can burn your mothers alive, forgetting that she carried you for ten long months and made your life from her blood? Is this world only for you men? Only for you men’s happiness? “
Then, she told me caressing my head, “My son! They cremated your lovely mother alive today. Tomorrow, they will burn me when your uncle gets the misfortune. What more, you will join your hands to ignite my pyre. You are also miniature of that masculine evil. I don’t know why I love you so much today. I am feeding you just to make you prepared to burn my body alive.”
Then, she rose suddenly. “But, if you men dare, please defy it. Challenge the tradition of killing mothers, my boy! I wish the new era would end the tradition.”
I saw uncle was wiping his eyes silently, sitting by the oven.
We spent the next thirteen days in mourning rituals.
People gradually forgot the tragedy. Aunties and sisters-in-law were also much calm now. But I was burning in the core. I would see mother in my dreams every night. She would suggest, “Child, obey what auntie says. Feel that she is your mom.” That was why what auntie told that night haunted me all the time.
After the end of days-long rituals, problems galore hit me. The brothers took away all household goods. They took me too with them. Auntie had cared me like mom during those days of rituals, but I was not allowed to stay with her all days. The brothers would not treat me right. Even their sons, elder than me, would mock me all the time.
I resumed daily routine of cattle grazing from the fifteenth day.
But, I could not pay attention into the cattle those days. I could feel so vivid in my eyes all the time the scene that people were burning my mom alive. I had to witness funeral processions once in two to four days, just to inject the pain of sati in me.
It was one of those routine days. I lost my cattle. I spent hours searching them, but in vain. It was already twilight. I was too worried, for I didn’t know that the cattle already returned home with others. While I was about to cross the river and search cattle at the other side, I saw a dim light at the other edge. I was frightened, the heart stiffened. As the darkness was increasing, I grew a dread for tigers and leopards. I felt it would take almost an hour to pass through the uphill way into the jungle to reach a human settlement.
That light dragged me toward the cave. A part of my mind urged me to go and check there, but the other part doubted that it could be a ghost or some deadly spirit. Nonetheless, I took slow steps and hid myself beside a bush near the cave and looked toward that closely. I saw a naked creature near the fire and that was roasting something over there. I thought it was an ape, thus I returned.
It was quite late when I reached home. I had both worry and fear for the loss of cattle. But, I knew at home that they safely arrived at cowshed on time. Brothers, nervous of my disappearance, were preparing to leave for jungle with a torch to find me. They were relieved after I reached home. I narrated the whole story.
The next day! I was too curious about the cave I saw the previous day. Thus, I took the cattle toward the same site. I left them grazing at a meadow and went toward the river. I then stepped toward the cave. I looked into it. It was not that much big. A big stone was giving a shadow. I saw a long humanlike figure lying by the wall. I came closer; it felt more like a human. But, it was unclothed. Despite growing strange fear and shaking body, I came closer again.
I was cautious enough not to make anyone feel my presence, but a stone that I was standing on slipped. Its sound in that dead silence not only frightened me, but also awakened that creature. I saw it and cried in horror. On the other hand, my cry also shocked the figure. Now, I struggled to escape, but my feet were not moving. Helpless, I gazed at the figure for minutes. It was also coming closer and looking at me. I felt it was a dream. I felt a nightmare there.
I gradually collected my consciousness. The figure was still staring at me as I was staring at it. Meanwhile, I burst into tears. My throat blocked, I could not utter a word.
What was I seeing? My mother, nude, in front of me! She was in the same condition I saw her last time on that day when she was made a sati. Believe me, it was not a dream, nor was she a ghost. I could not help myself from embracing her in my arms, without a word. I shook her body and felt she was now regaining consciousness gradually.
Minutes after, she hugged me and yelled out in pain. Her cry, as I felt it, shook the entire forest. She kissed my cheeks, forehead and the whole body and held me in her breasts. I don’t know how long we spent crying together. Both of us ended up tired of crying.
I asked in amazement, “How come you are alive today that you were burned alive earlier?”
She told the tale, “I dived into the river after the heat of fire and smoke was intolerable. I flowed a little down along the river. Then I swam a little to come out of it. It was dark. I could sense that the mourners were poking the pyre at the ghat. My body was stiff due to cold water of the river.
Darkness was mounting. As long as I saw the people at the ghat, I was happy for succeeding to escape them. But, as soon as the fire at pyre was over, it was dead dark and I was alone. They thought I died in the fire, but I was struggling for life here. I climbed to a tree and stayed there overnight. The next morning, I stepped down and reached this place in search of a safe haven.”
After finding her alive and healthy, my joy did not know any limit. But, again, it was distressing for me to leave her alone and naked in this dreadful jungle. She told me not to tell it to anyone and not to come back again. She said she would live there till the final day when some wild animals would devour her. She also advised me to struggle for life and not to lose any hope.
But, I didn’t agree with her. I told her that I would be back soon with foods and clothes for her. I, however, promised her that I would not reveal the secret to anyone. I convinced her that we needed to leave the place and go somewhere far to begin a new life.
That evening, I reached home with cattle on time. I gave fodders to the cattle and told brothers that I would go to uncle’s home and stay the night there.
Auntie asked me why I came to them so late.
Seeing her, I was in floods of tears. Thus, she put her hand in my head and dragged me, “May be you miss your mom so much. Come, be with us.” Everyone had had their dinner already save the aunt. She shared her food with me.
After the food, I told her wiping my eyes off tears, “Auntie, please let me stay here and talk to you this night.”
She looked at me lovingly and said, “Okay dear! I will let you stay at my room with me.”
Perhaps they were too tired of day-long labour; everyone was dead asleep and snoring a few minutes later. Auntie was also asleep. But my eyes were wide open in that darkness. I squirmed over the bed thinking what and how I could tell all these to her. I was also worried that how auntie would perceive the new-known fact about my mom.
I gradually collected guts to awake her. I awoke her and whispered the whole tale. Then, auntie got up and sat on the bed. She lit the light and had a glass of water. She had sweats all over the body and was taking long breaths.
“Auntie! If you offered me your used clothes, I could give them to ma tomorrow,” I said.
“I will go with you tomorrow, my child. Please lead me there,” she said.
I was so happy that I felt my heart leaped up to my throat.
“But, auntie, she has said not to let anyone know it.”
“Oh, my poor kid! Who is the fool to tell this tale to others? If they know it or find her, they will kill her. No, we shouldn’t tell.”
The next day, I woke up and returned to my brother’s home. I had lunch, and then left for the jungle with the cattle. As agreed, auntie was waiting for me at the fountain. She handed me a bag and said, “I know the place. I will come there this afternoon to collect fodders. Please tell her to wait till I come.”
I nodded in agreement.
I found mom covered in leaves of trees.
Today she seemed brighter and shyer to me than yesterday’s unclothed and dejected figure. Nonetheless, she was trampled with serious grief.
Not caring about the cattle at all and leaving them at the forest, I had reached the spot in hurry, also avoiding any people seeing me.
Mom looked at me as if she saw me for the first time. Perhaps, her soul in this miserable condition felt me as a strong foundation for her life.
I immediately produced in front of her the bag that auntie had given. The bag had gunyu, cholo, patuka, majetro and other clothes. Also, it had a bowl of rice pudding. Like a child’s, her face showed an instant happiness in seeing all those, but that was immediately replaced by an adult-like sorrow sentiment. She burst into tears, and let tears flow for long.
I could not see her condition. I turned back and stared at big ripples down in the Tamor River. I wished we could go flowing with that water to a place far from here where no one could see or know us.
She dressed first. Then, I saw her in the same appearance what she was in before. She must have had an intense appetite after she had to fast for days. She at first allotted a few of pudding to me on a leaf and began eating the rest. I gazed her eating that. She had it as if she was deprived of any grain in life. Alas! My poor mother!
She was shocked to know that auntie sent them all for her. Auntie and mom did not have good terms before dad passed away. They would have minor misunderstandings frequently. Mom used to comment, “I can’t settle with these old sisters-in-law. I wish we could shift the place.”
Then, dad would say, “Where can I go in this old age with you naïve wife and this baby son leaving all kith and kin here? This is my ancestor’s land, I have grown-up sons here.”
But, mom was quite emotional today in seeing support of that very sister-in-law. At the moment, I also shared with her how auntie loved and cared me in her absence.
“Ma, now, we need to leave this place. Let’s go abroad. We shouldn’t meet anyone who knows us. Now, I can protect your life even with slavery at some rich people’s homes. I can do anything now for survival. But, please, I can’t leave you here alone in this jungle like an ape,” I said.
She didn’t respond.
We were waiting for auntie.
We suddenly heard the long, one-fold sound of conch from the other side. It felt cold to me. We looked at the site. Mourners were carrying a corpse down to the river after they circled the chautari.
After a while, we also saw that a sati was walking with them. Both mom and I quivered. I hugged her. She held me tight. They were farther, across the river. We could not hear them, but we knew meaning of each and every act there, because we had already faced it.
Mom said, “Nani! That sati can’t flee today as it is broad daylight. “
The mourners arrived at the riverbank. They prepared the pyre in minutes out of logs they carried from the way. The priest had begun the sati rituals. It was getting evening. As the rule, the sati was ordered to sit at the pyre, knees bent. The corpse’s head was kept on her lap.
Perhaps it was a son; he lit the funeral pyre in his father’s mouth and collapsed a little away in the bank. Some people lifted him up and dipped him into the river to revitalise his consciousness.
The mourners were sitting in a circle. Suddenly, they rose up and ran. Why they ran, we couldn’t guess, thus stared more closely.
There, far away. We saw a naked woman running away down along the bank. Now, we knew that she fled from the pyre. It occurred to me that the mourners could not know her escape while they were caring the collapsed son.
Some brave and big men ran along the bank.
A man hurled a stone at her, but the mission failed. He again hurled, that too didn’t meet. Another man threw a stone from close, and that hit her back. The hit pushed her away and she knelt down. Another stone hit her before she rose. Yet, she attempted to stand up and run, but failed. Another stone hit her head again. She collapsed and squirmed.
Some three to four people lifted her up and rushed to the pyre. They hurled her in burning flames.
I felt mom’s hands – which were holding me – turned loose. I turned toward her just to find that she fainted already.
I brought water in my hands from a small pool nearby that she dug herself. I sprinkled water over her face, hands and feet. She opened up her eyes after a while.
At that very moment, I heard someone speaking near the river and later identified it was auntie. I heard her words, “Those cruel sinners! May the God curse them and lead to the most miserable condition. They beat a woman black and blue to death and then hurled her alive into the funeral pyre. May their hands decay! May their wives die and children never get born!”
I also saw uncle following auntie. Seeing him, my body stiffened in fear, mom’s face turned green. I regretted why I told the story to auntie. My lips dried up. I was silent in shock. Auntie said, “Don’t fear, boy! He will do nothing. He will help you get relief.”
Uncle’s eyes were full of tears. He was speechless.
“The rule is not in our hands. We, some specific families of the society, are not to be blamed. We all need to unite in order to break it. Each man, if he loves his wife, should think of making her future secure after his death,” auntie was murmuring.
Uncle came to mom and greeted in her feet. He was still speechless.
Mom said to auntie, “Kanchhi, if only I, a wretched woman, could wish for your good. But, you made me feel good. I quarrelled and fought with you when we were in luxury; but I failed to know your good heart then. May you get what you want, may the God bless you. May you die before the man so that you should not be a sati. I wish all well in your life, may your children obey you. You came to be my sister-in-law, but I respect you as my mother. If you were my ma in the past life, I wish I could be your mother in next life.” She murmured for minutes.
Uncle was still speechless.
Auntie took out some money from her handbag and put that on mom’s hands, “Save it. Use it to make your life wherever you go. Make yourself strong. Don’t get coward. For life, struggle with anyone as much as you can. You will live if you win; in loss, you will die. Making yourself weak and helpless is leading you to that loss. If an elephant was not frightened, could its master tame it?
Go to Dharan through this jungle. You know the way as you have travelled it while fetching salt every year. They say people get easy jobs in Dharan. You both mother and son can work and make living there. If you fear that people around would know you, you can go to Birgunj or Assam or India or somewhere. Wherever you go, make sincere attempts to grow this son up.”
Finally, uncle spoke, “Sister, I reckon no one is easily ready to break traditions. Whoever have undergone through the fate in their families force to make satis in other families too. Forgive us. Forgive all mourners. No one knows that you are alive, except me and my woman. We will tell it to none.”
Mom hugged auntie and both wept together for long. They lamented as if a mother and her daughter were departing. Uncle also gave me some coins. He held his hand on my head and offered wordless blessings. I also saw his eyes were in tears and he was wiping them when he left us.
When it was some minutes before the sunset, mom and I left them and set off for Sankranti Bazaar through the jungle.
It was already dark when we reached the Tamang Gaun there. Downwards at the bottom of two hills, we saw the Tamor River flowing in its natural pace with big roar. It had a target toward south and hence was in its course toward that in hurry, without stopping anywhere.
I felt relief. I felt that we are also in the river’s flow. I felt mom’s face showed a new glow of a new life.
I could not read some one paragraph at the end as the paper had holes in it.
I then realised that my eyes were about to shed tears since the time I didn’t know. The TV serial was ending. Dipesh, my son, kiddingly pointed toward my eyes and said, “See, Buwa cried. Shame, shame!”
Earlier I would mock children whenever they would burst into tears while watching some TV programmes. He was taking its revenge on me today.
My eyes shed a couple of drops. Aama, Sitaji and all laughed. Aama said in a while, “See, your dad can’t do it. He can’t tolerate minor sorrows. How in this world males can be such coward? But, this kid is same from his childhood.”
I stared at her face. The more I gazed at her, the more tears came out of my eyes. Thus, I went to the bathroom. The serial was over. Kids tried to tell me final events of the serial, but I didn’t bother.
Sitaji was stunned seeing me cry. She asked me repeatedly why I cried. But, I couldn’t tell her. At night, turning aside to avoid her, I pretended asleep. But, I was awake till midnight. Even after that, I got shocked and woke up frequently.
My heart was still heavy when I woke up the next morning. I didn’t feel good for the whole day. I felt something was crushing me from above. I used to speak out loud and make fun every time. But, I was so silent today that I myself couldn’t believe. In the morning, Sitaji again put forward her curiosity on my silence. I couldn’t answer her again.
Before leaving for office after lunch, I told her, “Sita! Please don’t let the owner of this bag go unless I come back. Ask him to stay here tonight. Please stop her. You can hide the bag if you can’t stop him anyway!”
She didn’t answer and I left.
The heart was quite light when I came back in the evening. I saw Sitaji at the yard. Her face showed both smile and gloom at once. She said, “We finally knew why you wept last night.”
I didn’t bother answering her and went straight to the drawing room. Sitaji and Aama followed. All in silence, I took out a framed photo from my bag and mounted it on the wall among portraits of Prithvi Narayan, Tribhuvan, Mahendra and Bishweshwor Prasad. Both women looked at me for long. Aama asked, “Nani, who is this man? Why you pasted his photo among those great people?”
I gazed at Aama’s face again. I then gazed at the photo. I said to her, “This is Chandra Shumsher. Aama, you are living the life that this man granted since 18 November 1976 till today. This great man eliminated the sati system, Aama.”
I felt as if my eyes were bursting into tears again.
I stood up and left the room. I saw the two women staring at the photograph and each other.
[Translation of Dharabasi’s “Jhola” by Diwakar Pyakurel]
[Krishna Dharabasi (b. 1967) is a poet, novelist, short story writer and theorist of high repute. He made his debut in writing in the early nineties, and has since then published series of poems, essays, short stories and novels. His novel Radha, won him Madan Puraskar, Nepal’s most prestigious literary award in 2005, and the work has also been translated into English. He is one of the leading theorists of Leela Lekhan, a post-structural theoretical school of thought, championed by Nepali critics. He lives with his family in Kathmandu.]