Monday, June 27, 2011

A Night in a Village

The dusk was just setting in and we were about an hour of walk away from Rabi’s home. Suddenly there appeared a huge crowd of people looking with astonishment across the stream. As we went closer, it became clear that it was a dozer which was used to first crack and then break the giant rocks with its especially designed metallic rod that apparently rotated dispersing the small pieces of rock first and eventually breaking huge chunks of it. Smell of diesel traveled all the way across the stream to reach our noses even as people applauded after every huge chunk of rock tumbled down to the stream.

I was definitely unhappy to see all this occurring in a village that was supposed to be far away from the life in the cities that depended on the technology and pollution even for mere survival. We began to talk and I argued that the money spent in that giant diesel-machine could have been diverted to the local people most of whom were unemployed or under-employed while constructing the roads that were far more sustainable and eco-friendly. The pace of construction might have been slow but …. That was how I thought the things should have progressed.

Rabi had little to refute but said it was impossible to construct roads overnight with human labor, which was what the people expected now that finally their area had got some budget for road construction.

“This reminded me of a bitter byproduct of the old way of executing development programs with solely human endeavor; though that is not how I want to counter your particular argument.” Rabi said, “There is a story interesting but very tragic that involves an incident I came to know when I was a child.”

It was as if we had found a magic wand that was going to help us ascent the last steep trail ahead before reaching his home.

“However tragic, please tell me that story right now, after hours of walking, this supposedly last ascent is more than bearable. We shall just sit in some Chautari, finish that story and then walk again.”

Though Rabi initially agreed to do so but later realized it was hard to finish our story without interference of one person or another walking along that trail most of whom knew him. We decided to keep that story for the night before going to bed even as a group of kids greeted him with surprise and affection. They were returning back from a small town beside the stream for some household shopping. They came along with us and it was easier to walk in their company as they chatted endlessly.


It was already dark by the time we reached his home that lay atop a small hill. This was my first trip to that part of Nepal and I was excited to search that new terrain for the unique beauty that is always carried by any rural part of this land; at least that was how I saw things before proceeding with Rabi during a short vacation from college. From what all followed after our arrival I realized even Rabi had become like a guest in his family after years of stay in the city. The surprise and joy in the faces of his parents was beyond description when they blessed him after he touched their feet. The home would be like during a festival for so long as he stayed and would be deserted like ever the day he left for his ‘new home’ in the city. It took me no time to realize that fact given my own experience back home.

After an exceptionally delicious dinner that was prepared for that special occasion, we retired to bed after a short chat with the parents who felt it prudent to let us rest before any serious issues could be discussed the other day. Two beds lay head-to-head there in the Veranda in the first floor that was called 'Bardali'. Rabi then started that poignant story.

“Few months back, I met with a face that I felt I had known long before. She was a girl about ten years or so staying in the orphanage where I had gone to collect some data for my research. Though I was sure I had not seen her anytime before, my intuition believed I knew her somehow. Her cute face with wide forehead, bright eyes, well-built nose and narrow mouth resembled strikingly with some other face that was too familiar for me to forget, someone intimately related to my childhood days. I got excused from the principal and went to that little girl to ask where she was from. She was startled and unwilling to talk at first but eventually we were talking as if we were friends known for long but separated for last many years.”

“The moment she told the name of the village where here maternal family stayed, her identity struck me like a blow. It was the same village of my maternal grandparents where I had also spent two years in a school before a secondary school was built in our own village. That village is closer to the district headquarters than this one and the kind of development that is taking place here now took place there long ago. The roads were built back then and we never knew of such a magical equipment that could open up tracks in such a difficult terrain overnight. People worked like ants back then setting up temporary camps to feed and lodge them that would move after a stretch of the road was built.”

“The life of that innocent kid was also related with that fateful development project.” The story now took another turn as Rabi continued with this twist: “Those days were harder for the villagers than now and money was very scarce throughout. You know the cash wealth of these people was built substantially only after there was boom in the gulf that attracted huge number of migrant workers. Before that ninety percent of the young men were employed in India mainly in manual jobs and that was barely enough for subsistence. There was no other direct source of cash income leaving apart the few teachers who taught in local schools. In this background came that project to build the rural road and the contractors soon discovered that the cash-strapped villagers would do the
manual and unskilled job for a fraction of what they paid to the regular workers who came with them.”

“Thus there was suddenly a sort of economic boom in the village. He or she who was able to carry heavy load of boulders up from the stream would get the money, the cash notes. The new found employment and the realization that it was inherently temporary till construction of that stretch of the road made the people compete with each other unnecessarily. This is where the young and apparently wealthy and handsome contractors managed to get some other favors from the young and beautiful girls and women in the village.

Rupa was the youngest daughter from one of the poorest family sustained by a widow and was strikingly beautiful. By the usual standards she was already past the age of marriage but because of the poverty that was only worsened with the marriage of her elder sisters, her mother had been unable to find proper groom for her. In response to her awkward position in the society she sought solace in the company of the kids who were much less offensive to her. That is how I befriended her during my stay in my grandparent's home though she was much older than us kids. Indeed she was the only grown up to appreciate what we did as kids that annoyed everyone else. Even now I feel her character was never in doubt before she succumbed to that catastrophic relationship with one of those young contractors.”

This part of the story reminded me of the many lives of the women ruined by their illicit relationship with the fascinating young men from army and police that could be heard here and there.

He continued: “For a few days there were rumors that the the two were seen awkwardly together while he was supposed to be supervising the work and she was supposed to be carrying the boulders up form the stream. The gossip became universal within a few days and she was placed in very difficult position as the disgrace that she was about to bring by messing up with that unknown person was sure to taint the image of that village itself.”

“A day before I was to leave back for my village for newly established grade 9 in the local school, news came that the two had eloped from the village and the rumors were confirmed. Not everything after that came to my knowledge for months or years and I almost forgot about that grown-up friend of mine who had stepped upon the minefield and was lost forever.”

Everyone was asleep now as we kept talking at low voice. Likely those were days after the full moon so the less-than-full moon just appeared in the east above the mountains that were shaped like a fish-tail. Our years together in the campus and association with the organizations that looked after issues of women and children had made us both much more sensitive to such issues than others. Both of us were sad now remembering that tragic turn of events.

After a short pause he again continued: “After about a year and so, I again went to my grandparents in that village but this time I was welcomed there with the saddest news that had come to me ever. Rupa had been found dead few days back in mysterious circumstances; that too few days after giving birth to a girl child. There were rumors that she was killed and the Postmortem examination was done. But no one was arrested or punished as far as the villagers knew.”

“Soon after she eloped with that deceptively young man and they came back as a married couple, it was known that the man was already married with at least one woman back home; no one knew how many of them were there in reality. Everyone knew she was going to suffer heavily in hand of that lecher. But none was able to do anything to alter the order of things. Neither was that the first incident in which the
poor and naïve women fell in the trap of men who thougt polygamy to be their right.

This particular news was serious and everyone in the village was aggrieved. As usual, people recounted with enthusiasm how good and altruistic she had been throughout her short life even though the poverty and misery of her family forced her into the disgraceful act. The premature death of her father was pointed as the cause of the disarray in which the family had fallen now with terribly depressed and incoherent mother of her waiting for her death in that hut.”

Rabi took a huge sigh before continuing from which I guessed worse part of the story was still about to come. "After that i became even busier and i had no time to inquire more about that issue. My visits to grandparents also became far less frequent after i left this home to adopt the new quasi-home in the city."

"So a lot of thoughts came to my mind that day afer seeing that innocent child in that orphanage. Her resemblance with Rupa made her look even more poignant though almost every child in an orphanage usually has similarly tragic history. When i asked her how she ended up there, she told she was brought there by one of her uncles apparently for a visit but was never taken back and she had not heard of that uncle or any known relative ever since. She was unaware of even who paid for her stay and education there in a grim-looking school attached to that structure. When she asked who I was, i told her i was one of her remote uncles and loved and cared about her very much. i also added i would be coming frequently to meet her now that i knew where she was.

'Every child here gets a couple of visitors every week or so except me and my friends ask me why none comes to visit me. i find no answer to that.' she told me in a deeply worried tone.

'Don't worry dear, now onwards, i will come' i reassured.

i had almost turned to leave when she gently tapped me and asked in a small muffled voice," Uncle, can you please write your phone number down in my note book so that i can call you when these people hurt and beat me beyond limit? Would you please come to my rescue? Even my friends who are older and stronger beat me and i will die of all this if i stay here for longer." The tear drops now began rolling down her cheeks and even i had to sweep aside my tears to clear the blur that had set in my eyes. i could not tell anything but just held her in my arms and swept her tears when she murmured again: "can you please just tell those demons that you are my own uncle and you will come regularly to visit me in the following days?" "Off course my dear kid" i replied and left with a huge lump in my throat, not knowing what and how to tell this little innocent kid who had lived with so much misfortune. i barely managed to keep her words when i met with the stern-looking warden and walked as fast as i could forgetting about the data that i was supposed to take on that day."

None of us uttered a word for a long time. I knew the story was over for now and we had to be asleep now that we were tired so much walking up and down the slope throughout that day. But this much was sure: this was going to be one of those nights when i wished i could fall asleep but sleep was the last thing to grip me. Everyone in the village was asleep; only the moon that was now about to disappear behind the margin of slate-roof of the house as the sole witness of that story.

(this is the first part of the two-part series.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Stagnant River

It was a not-so-cold day of early December on the southern plain of Terai. The fog had just started descending to the land from the sky but the cold proper was yet to grip the population majority of which lacked the adequate clothes to tolerate it. The day was thus warm and pleasant from the morning. The river which had a dam built downwards was in slow motion as if to share the calm of the surrounding. The small bubbles and other tiny particles of debris were floating glittering bright with the rays of light that fell on them at acute angle. The warm yet cool rays of light traveled in bands between the Sisau trees that lined the eastern bank of the river. The images of the trees in the water seemed to touch the blue sky at the bottom of the river.

A crow flew across the river to sit on a branch of a tree on the other side as few others were heard crowing at distance interrupting the calm of the morning. The distant rumbling of the speeding vehicles with their blazing horns reminded what a rush was there in the real life in the city. A cartoon like sketch of a human being lay there in front of Ramesh, carved in a block of concrete probably meant for keeping the belongings of the deceased before they were cremated in the adjoining cemetery. The sketch looked pretty distorted despite the utmost effort of the artist to make it look like a human being; this is probably why so few among the people are successful artists.

The 'Ghat' or the cemetery bore a deserted look as the morning sun made it look perfectly tranquil. The partially burnt wooden logs scattered beside the river made it clear at least one corpse was cremated in past few days. A piece of cloth was seen revolving along a small circle in the water close to this bank. Ramesh was suddenly filled with sympathy for those who died planning throughout their life and failing to implement even a single of them. Even those who died after aging adequately kept planning for years, let alone the unlucky ones who are forced to leave this world earlier. This gloomy reality reminded him of the desperation with which he had exited his room to take refuge of this cemetery in the early morning; quite unusual by any standards. The tranquility in this remote corner of human dwelling had almost made him forget the sorrow that was there in his personal life. 'How can an unfortunate creature like me afford such pleasant moments?' he ruminated as often.

The sun was now closer and warmth was growing. And this warmth in winter was an uncommon commodity in this section of earth where the fog ruled almost the whole of the winter. The shadows of the trees were now shorter and the floating particles in the river seemed to travel faster. More crows were now flying tree-to-tree and the chirpings were of more variety. The dew drops on the leaves of grasses began to vanish though the leaves in the shadows of trees were still wet.

Suddenly a beggar appeared as if from nowhere. He was probably of Ramesh's own age but looked much older with the wrinkles gifted by poverty all over the face. He wore a dirty grey shirt that was probably white when new with a pair of pants that most have been black when they were bought by some benefactor. He had a long face with untidy beards looking longer than they actually were by the emaciation that made the facial bones protrude. He was also wearing a rusted thin jacket that was unable to cover the front part of his trunk as there was no working zipper. As he came nearby, it turned out that he was not a beggar instead did the precious job of scavenging the useful things out of the waste: there was a huge sac made by sewing many pieces at his back that contained the plastic bags, papers and many other materials collected from the heaps of the waste. He walked stooped burdened by the weight of the luggage and was apparently moving to other location from the city and had taken the unusual short-cut through the cemetery.

"He is probably more unfortunate than me," Ramesh guessed and hoped to get some solace by talking with him. He politely invited this prematurely aged man to seat beside him. The man hesitated at first but eventually obliged as probably this was his time to take some rest even otherwise. After making little formal talking, he began a query about the past of this strange man. This scavenger was probably having difficulty speaking with a gentleman and was frequently looking for excuses to leave. Ramesh was able to coax him into telling part of the story. He was from a family of relatively good fortune until a terrible disaster befell on them erasing all those fortunes, but he was apparently unable to explain what exactly the disaster was.

"We had a good home beside a river in the mountains. We even had a cowshed with a cow and a kid water buffalo. I had two brothers and a sister. My father used to fish in the river and mother? Well I never knew what my mother looked like. Those who have their mothers are the lucky people in this world. Those who lose them early are destined to suffer…." The stranger forced himself to silence and stood up suddenly. "It is already too late for me, master, I leave now." He did not wait for the approval of Ramesh and walked faster than he had came.

This story reminded Ramesh of a poignant story that he had heard decades back in the village when he was a kid. A couple was charged of a serious misconduct and expelled from a village with their two children. The already poor family had now become destitute and took refuge in a small hut erected on a small piece of land carved on a steep slope beside a river. The nearest human dwelling from there was at one and a half hour walking distance. They began fishing in addition to working in the fields for daily wages and were somehow able to make a livelihood.

Once the obviously poor couple was going through particularly tough moments and they had been unable to earn any money by working for weeks. The scanty stock of foods had depleted and frequency of their meals was reduced from twice daily to once daily for days. One day the husband decided to make a breakthrough and set out for a longer period so that he could go to distant places to work and earn some money. To some extent, he was successful. But when he returned back with some money and grains his still-beautiful world was annihilated by this cruel thing called hunger. His wife was lying down motionless on a mat on the floor; pale, bluish and silent. To his shock, the two kids were still feebly sucking her nipples. No one ever knew when she died as she was ice-cold when he touched. It was certain she had starved herself to feed whatever grains were remaining to her children. Though extremely fragile physically and mentally, the family of the three survived the disaster and the incident made the villagers lenient so that the man got work more frequently and they also gave him some grains even for no work.

By now the rag-picker had vanished at the other side of the trail leaving no trace of his presence at this stretch of land. The story of that ill-fated couple and their children made him difficult to resist drawing similarities between those kids sucking the nipples of their dead mother and this poor fellow who had also lost his mother early and was now employed in a job that carried the least decency and honor possible in the society. A surge of guilt passed through Ramesh as he recalled his dreams of childhood that were full of fantasy to eradicate this cruel thing called poverty from the world. After almost three decades later, he was no different from the every other gentleman who had dreamt big but achieved little. The sense of gloom increased and his mood was getting darker though it was about midday with bright winter sun illuminating the world with only traces of fog in the horizon. Even the mountains were now visible in the north with a grey haze of winter. The water in the river seemed to move faster and the shadows of the Sisau trees had moved from west to the north of the trees themselves.

The crux of his problem was that he was fired from the job the day before for no apparent reason and he found it difficult telling this bad news to his family that lived in a remote village behind those mountains. This brightness of the day, this tranquility of the riverside was only making him restless and he shivered with the thought of some day ending up carrying that huge sac on the back. Over the years when his attempts to ascent along the ladder of prosperity with honesty at the job went to vain, he was the witness of a exponential growth in the fortune of the bosses who were better than him only in terms of manipulating the system so that their brazen act of stealing the public money were hidden with a thick veil. His life had been stagnant like this river with a dam downstream that forces it to stagnate against the law of nature. Every time he attempted to flow like a genuine river, like the ones between the mountains, some obstacle came like the dam and he was forced to watch others flowing fast to reach the ocean of prosperity leaving him far behind.

He stood up suddenly and threw a small stone to the river creating a ripple that travelled to all directions. Even though he escaped from his room in the morning to take refuge of this tranquil place, there was no escape from hunger and he was now pretty hungry. Now he would have to go back to room and feed himself as yet he was not as destitute as the family that lived at that riverside during his childhood. Only thing was that now he had to create some ripple in his real life that could form the beginning of a dynamic life that flowed like a untamed river.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Ruined family

Legacy of Smoke

“Jail or Rehab-home”, Jange thundered “That is where a person like me can live.” He was now virtually unable to control his rage as his hapless mother took further defensive posture at the corner of the room. It had been a straight third day through which he had not got even a puff of hash and he found himself pitiable with increasing sweating and anxiety. The culprit to blame in the whole affair was his mother who now dared telling him she had no more money and he could do anything, even kill her if he wanted. Everything was fine even up to last week when she gave him some amount whenever he asked though after some hesitation.

The other day she abruptly told that she didn’t have money even to pay for the college fees of his brother. Jange tried to become a gentleman, did not argue with mother and went to the source with some non-cash item. Though that item cost much more than the amount he normally paid, the supplier hesitated to give him the drug and gave him an odd glance before he left. From that Jange understood that the next time he may not get the ‘life-support’ with anything other than money. He was by then fairly aware of the temper of the supplier who himself was an addict and did the business only to feed himself. Sometimes when Jange could not manage to bring money, he would allow him few puffs of hashish and let go. But this time Jange was not in a position to take risk and thus needed the money desperately.

No longer had he begun to throw everything on the table to the floor, his mother took one more unexpected step. She took a rope and began tying her neck with it telling him that she was no longer able to withstand the torture and going to hang herself. This suddenly reminded Jange of one similar episode of remote past when she had threatened the same thing.


He was probably seven or eight by that time, and his brother about five years or so. They lived on a rented room in the city as they had left their home in the village long back after his mother had bitter conflict with the in-laws. Their father worked in some company but he forgot what kind of job that was though that gave the family a good deal of honor. The kids were enrolled on a local private school and they were visibly better-off than their neighbors who also stayed in the rented rooms.

One day the rumors poured suddenly that his father, a still-handsome man had eloped with a woman, that too with a tainted character. People further elaborated that they had the affair for quite long and this honorable man was only one among the victims of that obscenely beautiful woman. Whatever damage was possible was already done by now, as the gentleman didn’t turn up that day at home in the evening. The world of Rupa was thus devastated. She had come to the city severing her relation with the family in the village only trusting this single man. She had even ignored the early and mild rumors about the character of this man. But it was beyond even her wildest imaginations that he would have such a clandestine relation outside his family.

The family was never the same again. It became extremely difficult for Rupa to adapt in the changed circumstances where she had lost not only a husband but also the father of their children and the only source of any income for the family. Despite her sincere attempt she was unable to contain her grief inside her and the two boys eventually came to know what the family was now up to.

It was in this background that Jange had seen his mother attempting some dreadful act. That time she had done everything to mollify the two boys before he saw her doing the wrong thing. When he saw her from the corner of the curtained window, she was about to dash the chair on which she was standing after tying one end of the rope at the neck and the other to the ceiling. He suddenly cried so loudly that even Rupa shivered inside the closed room to discover that he was peering from the corner of the window. She was in the greatest dilemma of her life. She struggled to gather the thoughts as the knot of the rope was rubbing her neck: a gentle push to the chair and she would get rid of all the problems in her real life. Suddenly she thought about the fate of the boy, already fatherless and now witnessing the death of his mother: what would be his life like? Though she had thought a lot about the life of her kids before taking that decision, the shrill cry of the boy at the moment was impossible to ignore. She now decided not to push the chair and took the noose out of her neck. Soon the boys were crying on her lap and she cursed herself for resorting to such a foolish step. Jange obviously made her swear that she would never again attempt the same thing though his brother was little confused about the whole affair.


Suddenly Jange became sober, though he was still shivering and sweating. He found himself increasingly lethargic and sat on the floor as the memory of the past events made him increasingly stiff. He felt as if all the trauma that the family had sustained over the years was now about to take its toll. Though he had frequently failed to memorize the past events in proper order and had virtually no control over his own temper, the images of that particular day were still vivid in his mind. This was not what was supposed to occur.

For long after the first calamity of the family, he had frequently had dreams in which his mother had successfully hanged herself leaving the two children alone. He can’t express the relief that was felt once he awoke after such dreams to discover that his loving mom was there, alive and well. It was in those disturbed teen-days that he understood the importance of a good and functioning family. What came about his father in the aftermath of the disaster were only the rumors and he was never again seen on the city. What was more disturbing was the suffering his mother was going through as the thorns of innumerable social stigmata associated with single mother pricked her round the clock.

This was why Jange could never excel in studies. In fact, study was never his priority though he knew well that it was near-impossible to get a descent job without proper education. His brother adapted far better to the hostile world then Jange did and always did better than the average in all the classes. For long this fact gave Jange a kind of satisfaction but he never knew when that transformed into a kind of jealousy around his late teenage years. The other factor that played crucial role in ruining his conscience was his perception that his mother lacked the impartiality expected from a mother of two children.

Despite all this, he was an average young man until he was there in the school. He even didn’t know then that the life would be ruined like this in such a short span of time bringing another calamity to his family. It was at the college that he got re-birth as the contagiously ruined soul.


It was in the college that he met with the friends who had already ruined themselves and came to the college only to spread that contagious and dangerous virtue. First he was aghast at the extent they could go to serve their mean end like intimidating their own parents through friends to extort money for them. The toilets in the campus were the safe havens for the derelicts who were there free to smoke or even inject whatever they wanted and managed. First Jange was apprehensive of all that uniformly feared all the boys in that gang.

But there were some intermediary guys who were fit on both the worlds. They were among the most sociable guys in the class and didn’t take long to convince the new victims to first smoke the proper cigarettes. The second step came with the smoking of cigarettes concocted with hashish. The third step was whatever it could be. The group continuously needed the new or ‘virgin’ candidates because they formed the prime source of financing the drugs before going bankrupt first alone and occasionally along with the whole family.

It was in this vicious cycle that Jange eventually got trapped. First it was the ‘plain’ cigars that were taken as the indicator of ‘sociability’ among the college-goers. The frequency went only increasing and he eventually succumbed to the concocted cigars that were qualitatively different from the puffs of ‘socializing’ smoke. There was then imperceptible transition from the ‘inhalation’ to ingestion and ‘injection’.

Despite all this, peace and tranquility in life always remained a mirage for Jange. It was only disgusting to find that every bout of drug use, the sobriety was increasingly problematic. It was practically impossible to remain inebriated for ever and the problems of real life only multiplied as he attempted to achieve tranquility with increasing dose and frequency of the drug. Indeed he was further stigmatized in the society as everyone in the neighborhood eventually came to discover what he was really up to. People were simply scared of him and abstained from any meaningful conversation with him. He was thus effectively disconnected from the society increasing the perennial sense of alienation that he had felt ever since the tragic departure of his father and near-death of his mother.

All this made Jange a different man: a definitely different creature, a clear misfit in the society. And as a reaction, he came to hate everyone and everything around him and developed an extremely short temper. His impulsive behavior was, favorably for him, able to threaten sufficiently his mother so that she was forced to give him the required money at great cost to the family.


On the day of this second disaster in the family, Jange looked dreadful with filth all over the body and the unsightly curls in the hair compounded by reddened pimple-studded face. He had lost the routine of taking baths and even washing face as he was nearly crippled once the effect of the drug was over. His mother and brother were accustomed to his behavior and never even suggest a thing to do let alone compel him to do so.

By now he was sitting at the other corner of the room dipping his face in the palms that rested on the folded knees. For the first time in many years, the thought came to his mind: if it was possible to return back to the old world of three gloomy creatures without the menace of drug use. He then recalled how less sad and less miserable he was before he took that first puff of cigarette smoke. He then rearranged the pieces of memory to make the complete journey of him from that reckless puff of smoke and the imminent apocalypse that was eventually invited in the family epitomized by the second suicidal attempt by his mother. Again for the first time he was filled with sympathy towards his mother who had chosen the better life of her kids over the abrupt emancipation from the problems in her life; on that fateful day when he had incidentally peered through the corner of the window.

His mother was also crying now sitting at the other corner of the room, probably recollecting the same turn of the events that had snatched the thing called happiness from the family.

Jange then stood gently though still shivering and went to see himself in the mirror. He then had a bout of inconsolable cry, like that of a badly hurt child. He kept crying loudly and it seemed unstoppable at the moment as his mother was watching at this strange-looking face of her son which was now displaying some humane character after years.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chasing a Dream

It had been long since Lok had dreamt for the last time. Though the dreams were fairly common during his childhood, they had become increasingly elusive for the past few years. First they became less frequent; second, they occurred early in the night so that he could not remember them in the morning. Most important of all, he had no time in the morning to recollect what he had seen in the dreams. By the time he woke up, it was already late to go to the work and there were many other things about which he was forced to think.

This is how dreaming again had been the dream itself of Lok in his professional life and in the rare leisure time, he began to recollect the dreams that he saw in his childhood. Though occasionally scary and frightening, dreams often formed a reasonable source of contentment, though quite temporary. To name few, dreams in which he flew in the starkly blue sky often with instruments other than proper aero planes of real life, gave him the sense of inexplicable joy even though for a moment. The dreams he enjoyed the most were the ones in which he traveled past the flooded river or stream often by swimming. Even after the frightening dreams like ones in which he found himself standing in the islets at the centre of a huge river, the sense of relief was enormous and refreshing after he discovered the fact that the predicament was limited to the dream and immaterial to his real life.

This is how the dreams had been playing an important part of his life throughout his childhood. The trend had continued more or less in his student life. But all that ended once his professional life with overwork and monotony started.

To his surprise, he had a dream one day after an unusually hectic day of work. That was again in the early part of the night and he found it very difficult to reorganize the pieces of memory to make a continuous and meaningful dream in the morning. This much he was sure: the dream was pleasant, almost as pleasant as the most pleasant dream from his childhood. In that childhood dream, he was walking in a huge field with ripe paddy that had given the yellow hue to the whole environment. With the warm sun of winter in the southern-west part of the sky also instilling the yellowish rays on the earth, the scene was nothing short of the ideal place to live, often epitomized by the unclear concept of heaven by the people. Most important of all, he was holding the hand of the kindest person in the world, his mother, and they were effortlessly walking along a small trail traversing across the paddy field that seemed to stretch to the horizon.

One thing, having born in remote mountainous village, he had never seen a plain that big with that much of paddy. All the trails he walked along had ups and downs and it was difficult to imagine a long stretch of trail without them. Also in the real life, there was always pressure to walk; that they had to walk this much before they reach this destination in the evening so that they can reside in the night at some other village if not at home. Some load was bound to be there on the back of both the child and the mother during every journey in the real life and that was sure to cause some tiredness and exhaustion that prevented the pleasure of walking in the warm sun in the winter from being felt.

Even though he forgot most of his childhood dreams, Lok remembered this one as vividly now as the morning after the dream and this represented a utopia in pure sense. For no known reason, he felt that day that the dream he partially remembered now was something akin to that dream of ‘ideal walk’. The only difference was that he could remember much smaller part of the dream now and he was now struggling to arrange the pieces of reflection together to reconstruct the whole thing. First thing he did in the attempt was skipping the bathing part of the daily ritual while pondering over the dream squatting over the toilet pan because it was already late for the office. He was sure he won’t get any leisure time in the day to think about the issue that had no relevance to anyone other than himself. Indeed, his days now had been more about gratifying the others for a small return rather than doing some creative and refreshing thing for himself.

As his mind and body kept struggling in the office in their attempt to satisfy the omnipotent ‘higher’ with ritualistic works at the expense of his creative potential, the bizarre but fascinating scenes from the dream kept crossing his mind. He was there in a lush green pasture spreading to the horizons, waiting for someone. That had been a long wait and culmination of repeated failures. This time that person was sure to come, he was not sure if it was his mere intuition or otherwise, but he was quite optimistic. In contrast to his childhood dream, the weather was changing fast this time, faster than he could follow or comprehend. He was just waiting as the clouds suddenly gathered in the sky and he anticipated some bad thundering. Most significant and pleasant of all, he was decades younger in the dream, most likely unmarried.

That is when the trouble started: he could not memorize what followed then, effectively bringing the dream to the premature end. But he was sure he continued to have the dream for longer; again may be intuitively, though he was not sure. The basis for the assumption was that he had not woken immediately after the dream and some more scenes could be dimly recollected in the morning but had vanished after the morning dose of daily struggles. After each working bout, he tried to recollect the scenes and events but he became increasingly aware that the leftover memories were gradually receding from his mind.

This was when he was caught in the office by the boss who later made a lot of fuss about this 'day-dreaming' fellow with sub-normal dedication to job. He was found to have written this much in his notebook:

Writing after about a decade, i have a sense of terrible loss. When I was a child, I was a better human being free to choose what to do and what not to. May be for that reason, I had many good dreams then, but now, even the dreams have left me let alone any other creative work. Yesterday I had a nice dream and now I am chasing it. Hope I will discover it soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Perspectives: A Couple's Ordeal

The Sharp Wife

It was the straight third day through which we had not had a squabble and that was quite unusual. Till the previous day it had seemed to me as if even this kind of life-style was feasible for us though there was no doubt it was supposed to be that way with all the ordinary married couple. Ours was the extraordinary one, I need not be reminded of that. On that fateful day, I sensed increasing awkwardness between the two of us: something was now bound to happen.

Eventually I got furious that my beloved husband had once again come late from the office and his cell-phone was busy many times for no obvious explanation. I had reprimanded him many times in the past for such deeds and he had apologized whenever he could not explain those things properly. This time it was more than enough for me to tolerate. Was I not his faithful wife with whom he was bound to share all thoughts and experiences? Then why did he frequently hesitate describing me why the things were the way they were? I really hate the clumsiness with which this husband of mine explains the things for me.

That day, however, there was an obstacle for the event to proceed as usual. We had two guests in the home, an elderly relative of him from the village and his son. That could have formed the ground enough for me to avoid the squabble that day but I have no remorse that I began the event despite their presence. Predictably, he was far more restrained that day because of their presence though I was the only person able to compare his enthusiasm in the event in the past and on that particular day. "You the clumsy impotent" I shouted, "you still seek other girls to bluff when the child has begun to go school". "Just wait for one more day, then tell me anything you like" he said in firm but calculated voice so that the guests on the other room would not hear. His hypocrisy was more than bearable for me and I was incensed further: "Why didn't you wait for one more day to call those prostitutes, you lecher?” I gave this fitting reply when I had nearly screamed in my attempt to let the guests in the other room hear.

I could now spot the tiny beads of sweat in his forehead. I had given him no tea and snacks, so he must have been thoroughly exhausted, hungry and demoralized. He sat on the floor, stooped forward and just stopped speaking anything. Then he unfolded his legs and reclined with his head on the Sofa avoiding my gaze as if after witnessing a terrible disaster. I was still agitated but felt it prudent to close the event for the day with some meaningful closing remarks: "I was the burden to my parents, so I was sent away by getting married with the scum like you who can understand everything but the feelings of his wife. I have always remained the burden to you and you will never feel happy so long as I am alive." Then I left the room slamming the door shut.

The Intellectual Husband

Some days bring so much of trouble that it is difficult to forget those even after long. That day the fruits of my hard work of a whole year were stolen by one of my colleagues. His research proposal that was prepared in haste within weeks with little authenticity was awarded with the grant that was supposed to be given to a researcher who developed an entirely new approach in research studies. The new boss had been just transferred in our office and I was not aware of the unscrupulous activities he was involved in. The old boss of our office had appreciated my work and assured that I would be rewarded properly for my marathon effort with which I had conducted the research. Mr. Jagat, my colleague had begun his project after the rumor about the imminent transfer of the bosses had spread and presented an ambitious but barely practicable proposal. Many insiders doubted his research would ever complete but receiving the grant was another thing. His growing proximity with the new boss was, many said, bound to yield 'certain' outcomes.

That day only I knew the meaning of that 'certain outcome'. Probably that was the first time I had been so much upset in the office. I then called the old boss and talked for a long time in an unsuccessful attempt to bring peace to my mind. My exhaustion had crossed all the thresholds and I was feeling as if I were going to fall ill immediately. Then came the outburst of my beloved wife as soon as I entered the home. My mind was in no position to register every absurd word that she uttered but that had been part of my daily life and I was used to hearing anything from her. To add insult to injury, my uncle and one cousin brother were staying in our home for a few days then. I feared my legacy of a bright and successful man in my village would be smeared if they listened the verbal assault of my wife. So I requested her to postpone the duel for few days but that only provoked her to throw more verbal poison towards me even as the guests listened from the other room.

That day I felt myself the most unlucky husband in the world. Thanks god, I did not collapse given the weight of the insults I sustained that day. I now wonder how resilient I was to tolerate all that while steadily pursuing my different goal. May be all those events that seemed terrible helped me to make myself who I am. May be not, who knows?

The Knowledgeable Guest

Ever since my childhood, I have cursed my poor education for every suffering that the life has propelled towards me. I value educating my children very highly. Though they say now that what kind of subject in what kind of institution you study matters now more than anything. And a huge proportion of the educated now fares even worse than the uneducated lot of our time with so many perversions among the urban youth. Still in my five-decade long life, I had never imagined to witness a scene so bizarre and disgusting in which I saw the meaninglessness of educating the children.

I have always been against irrational empowerment of the women and education has got this loathsome adverse outcome. There are few things in this regard that I cannot really digest. One day I was there in the city and stayed for few days at the home of my neighbor's son. We saw the real face of what goes on indiscriminately in the name of empowering the feminine there. The woman was reasonably cordial in her dealings with us and I would never complain about her hospitality. But her behavior towards her over-burdened husband was cruel at best. May be she had brought a lot of dowry, may be the wife earned more than the husband, I have no idea about that. I also never know if she had grown up in absence of her parents or with equally badly cultured parents.

What I know is that the husband was tolerating the intolerable. It seemed he was unable to even postpone a petty quarrel for a few days and his efforts to keep the ugly interaction between the spouses a secret from us failed miserably. All I heard were the irritating words of that egregious woman in a shrill yet masculine tone. Apparently she could reach any point scolding her husband whose face was drained badly when he was there in our room to apologize for the inconvenience just after the episode.

"This is how the god punishes you non-believers" I said directly, "the norms were never made in a haste or without meaning. Your generation will keep suffering like this so long as you all keep ridiculing the millennia-old traditional norms including my naïve son." He did not attempt to argue with me, so smiled gently and left the room, may be he was preparing to face the other assault that was in store for him. May be he was thinking about reviewing his stereotyped concept about indiscriminate women empowerment; who knows?

The Feminist

If there is any example of intellectual dishonesty among the well-educated that I dislike the most, that is what I prefer to call 'missing jungle to trees'. Put it the other way, it is the generalization of a specific case so that skewed if not outright distorted picture of the reality is presented. In this particular case I discuss about the issue of gender-based discrimination as we see it in the practical life. We have got a male colleague in our office who is exceptionally dominated by his wife and is often unable to hide what he gets from his wife.

Most of my male colleagues present this issue as the product of 'mad rush' to empower the feminine not all of which is legitimately justified. But I view it the other way. To start with that poor woman has got nothing to gain by harassing her introvert husband. And that was never the product of empowering her. Instead she must have got some behavioral disorder or some problem in adjusting to the society she was thrust upon without learning how to deal with the people there. May be she lost her parents early and was never properly socialized. May be she was separated from her parents for long and was traumatized by the hostile 'teacher's who taught her everything except how to deal with the world in front of her.

It is too easy to draw some arbitrary conclusion in any issue. And many people cannot resist the temptation to make instant conclusions and they offer their comments before they look into the things properly. Many of them think that the opinions of the others in the issue are, for granted, inferior to their own and often unworthy of proper attention. That creates a scene that looks like a debate but which is, in reality, only a simultaneous outburst of the monologues of many people. And the most common issue to suffer from this fate is feminism.

Feminism has got nothing to do with the isolated cases of gender-based conflict in which the male is the sufferer. And in my opinion, such cases are negligible though definitely not nil. Most importantly, the feminists have nothing to gain from torturing few men. That contributes absolutely nothing in helping the other thousands of women who suffer at the hands of cruel men. That also leaves intact the giant socio-politico-economic machine that works uninterruptedly to maintain the status quo with dominance of the masculine.

All such isolated incidents/attitudes contribute is to provide the self-made debaters with a fascinating topic to indulge in. Going deeper than the 'Argue for Argument's Sake' needs only one and the most important thing: the events/attitudes have first to be placed on proper 'perspectives' before they are to be debated in order to draw some meaningful conclusion.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Waiting for the Day

What if I die right now? A holiday in the college, mourning for few days and the rituals for the next thirteen days. Is there anything more than that that I deserve? Mom would create one more stream of tears in the endless sequence of those in her pathetic life. Friends would set apart the bad points about me and praise me for the good ones for few days and eventually forget me. My prospective husband will sigh with relief that the incident did not occur after the marriage. That is what is taking place ever since the mankind has been aware of the coupling of the life with death. That is what happens after every other soul departs from this earth and that is what will now continue to happen. Nobody can grieve long for a deceased, especially so when the cause of the death is suicide.

It has not been long since I have been ruminating all these things that seem absurd by any usual standard. I can not recollect exactly since when I made the habit of including this dismal option in my prospective fate. But I have been literally obsessed with the idea ever since the question of my marriage has emerged. What shall I do with the married life when I am not able to manage my affairs when I am single?

I would rather prefer to get one of my hands amputated rather than having this obscure illness inside the head. At least the people would then see the handicap, sympathize and behave accordingly. Ever since I was diagnosed with the problem, this thought has come to my mind hundreds of times. What do I do with the illness that even the doctors are confused about? How do I cope with this throughout the life? Who would understand my compulsions in the new household that expects so much from me as a daughter-in-law? How do I explain them the illness that even the doctors have been unable to make us understand?

All this started when I was eighteen or so. Those were the most difficult times in our family. We had lost our father two or three years back. Perhaps I was the one to be most traumatized by the incident after my mother, sister was then just a child. Mom was unable to hide her sorrow with me as with everybody else. That multiplied my own grievance as I haplessly watched one disaster after other befall on Mom. I disliked the way she pretended that I had nothing worth worrying about. That was why I spied to all her mumbled prayers to the never-to-be-seen god after she thought I was asleep in the night.

Indeed she rarely communicated anything grave with anybody all those years. I wonder how she could communicate so much with the doctor last time I landed up in hospital for the second time within a week. "Why all this after me widow reared her all these years with so much care. What did I spare doing for these two girls?" I was sure the tears had trickled down few inches in her face before being soaked by the loop of her shawl and to my utter dislike, a professionally emotionless doctor must have been watching all this. I was then just regaining the consciousness and felt like getting up and asking Mom to just leave the hospital and the doctor for better. "After so many years of hard study investing so much, the children of others are faring so well……" She was mumbling as the doctor began examining the other patient, I guess, as she interrupted her story.

To my horror she spelt the most grave words finally and I was wrong in assuming the doctor had engaged himself with the other patient. "Who will marry her now………and it has already been so late." She had only interrupted to make sure I was similarly asleep, or say, unconscious, so that she could communicate the doctor the real issue of her concern so that he would take it seriously and treat accordingly. I felt like jumping off the bed and asking Mom to forgive me for whatever I had done to her. That would, however, only worsen the matters as she had at least assumed that she had done the best thing possible in my interest: pleading the doctor for best effort with the last trick available. Furthermore, I was still drowsy with the medicines that the doctor had prescribed in the previous visit. I simply kept sleeping in the same posture: for the better at the moment though I am not sure if it would prove so in the long run.

Those years of hardship taught all of us a lot of things. I think we, my sister more than myself, became adults prematurely as our childhood was snatched by the fate. We understood pretty well that it was simply not feasible for us to have the interests and hobbies like the other children in the neighborhood. Both of us developed seriousness unusual for the age. There was, however an important difference between us. Nisha developed a good habit of communicating her troubles with us. I developed the opposite habit: I thought many times before sharing anything with people, even to Mom.

The first episode of my illness occurred when I was preparing for the first paper in the first exams of the college. I had been absent-minded throughout the year and had lost the drive to study that I had during the school years. Still that was enough for passing the exams, I guess. A day before the exams began, I herd the terrible news: the piece of land on which our house stood was in somebody else's name who had migrated from the village long back. Now he was claiming that it had been because of an understanding between him and our grandfather that we were staying there and we could not do so permanently. He had now given a worse option: a hefty sum of money that he knew we could not afford.

A panic struck my mind. I threw the books away, caught the hairs and threw myself into bed. No structured thought was coming in my mind. Twice I almost locked the room planning to go back to home abandoning the exams. I flattered and went back to the room each time. I was suffocated by the feeling of being trapped in the room. I can barely explain how I spent the night. The following day, it was already seven when I got up with unusual heaviness in the head that soon developed into a severe headache. The hours gradually passed by. It was already ten o'clock and few of my friends came to my room on way to the college for exams that were due to start at eleven o'clock. I brusquely told them I would be late for few important chapters were still to be read.

The clock on the wall ticked like a time bomb as each minute passed. I was torn into two by the anxiety about the future of my family and myself. I mechanically changed the dress and headed to door when it was a quarter to eleven. Then I suddenly imagined myself staring at the ceilings in the exam hall unable to write anything, only to score a huge zero. That would be my first failure in any exam yet most traumatic. What should have I done then? I stepped back thoughtlessly and threw myself in the bed as the headache was worsening.

The worst had happened; still the worse was to follow. When my friends came back from the exam hall, they found me unconscious, lying in the bed. After failed attempts at reviving, they took me to a hospital where I was finally referred to a psychiatrist who revived me with the coercive tactics. Then onwards I have got innumerable episodes of the illness and visited the psychiatrist with little results. Over these years, whenever I have to face the challenging circumstances, I can not simply bear the pressure and regress to unconsciousness only to find that my confidence to face this world plummeting with each episode.

The news of my illness added insult to the injury of my mother. What could the poor barely literate woman do to the illness that a specialist clinician could not treat? Lately I have discovered why she is too eager to see myself married. Someone from the village has suggested that the illness is pretty common among the girls who can't get married timely. And obviously, getting them married is the most logical way to cure the illness. Mom has since scolded and appeased alike for so many times to get married though I was able to find one excuse after another. This time she brought our lost father in between in her desperate attempt to placate me. "Had your father been alive till now, you would have been happily married for years for now. His soul will never forgive me for spoiling your life like this ……." This was more than bearable for me and I just left the room abruptly. After few minutes, both of us were crying in the same room facing away from each other and not speaking a single word to each other.

After this episode I could not refuse the proposal that came from a reasonably good family and thus I wait for the day. It is not sure if the proposed marriage gets aborted in case the groom's side knows about my illness before that day. I have no plans for that turn of events though it will be my instincts that will then determine what is to follow. I can read the concern, anxiety and apprehension in my mother's eyes too and probably they are more than mines.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The most hostile trail to be traveled lay ahead of us now. The rain that had forced us to take shelter in the abandoned cowshed beside the trail had now stopped and there was the fragrance of the soil that had enjoyed the first shower of the winter. It had rained quite suddenly and we were wet before deciding what to do. We decided to take a short rest before beginning the last climb up the hill for the day.

Binod, who had proposed this journey out of desperation now seemed content to have the hair wet so that it will set properly. Combing the hairs with his fingers he tried once again to justify the trip: "I have not told the lead story of the day and that will now help us to cross this hill. The thing is that you should not harass me to walk any faster as I'll be loosing some of my energy in telling the story. " We were mused by the fact that he had finally anticipated some harassment from us in the remaining part of the journey. Though we were also no more in a position to walk fast, it was better not to let him know this secret. We cleared whatever ration was left in the bags before leaving the stone platforms beneath the Bar-Peepal tree. A caravan of mules came down the trail and passed us as we were beginning to walk up.

The top layer of the earth had been wet though it could be easily told that the dry earth was within millimeters from the top. The sun reasserted its presence above the mountain in the west by giving the clouds a bright yellow hue and it could be easily predicted that the sun was going to set within half an hour or so. The houses in the lap of the hill facing us were now barely discernable in the growing haze of darkness that had made the otherwise green bushes between the villages quite black. With the fall of the day, each of us was feeling increasingly detached from the realities that we had left behind at our homes and we were able to enjoy all these usual things that had never drawn our attention till then.

"All this happened when I was studying the Bachelors in Kathmandu." Binod had eventually started the supposedly lead story of the day. "I was like today, reluctant to start any relationship with the girls. That must be why I had very few girls as friends and, most importantly I cared little about them. Being an average student from a not wealthy family the worries about the study and the seasonal jobs were enough to keep my mind preoccupied. My room partner was, however, exactly the opposite. "

"Now please don't tell that the story is of your friend and not yours." Prashant interrupted: "We can't spoil this evening by listening the story of a third person. How can it be that you were not nuts about anyone during the college years?"

"Of course I also play a part in the story. That is why I am going to tell it now. This thing called love, I get still puzzled while thinking about it. And I am still not sure if the thing I am going to talk about is really love or something else. Whatever that was I am sure that can never coexist with the thing called rationale. However shrewd you may be in other matters, you surely mess up things once you are up to it. Indeed it is this factor of wild messing up of things that makes it so special and mysterious."

"Are you going to give us a lecture in the theory of love or there is something concrete worth dissipating the fatigue of the climb?" Prashant interrupted as he had been doing throughout the day as the dusk gradually covered us with the black blanket. Our sense of detachment from reality increased further in the weather that was close to ideal with the shower having brought the temperature to optimum level. I wished the dusk remain as such delaying the onset of full-fledged night indefinitely. All of us were eager to utilize this nostalgic moment by sharing a story that was romantic yet peculiar as every love story tends to be. But Binod was giving the theory of love that appealed two of us much less.

"I am sorry, but here there will be more theory than practical as I played a little practical and tangible roll other than exploring the theory of love. That will help the bachelor lads like you when you have to deal with things like this. You need not worry about the practice of love as it is cosmopolitan and it is, I assume unique in each case. But there are few things that are worth knowing even though they appear to be over-simplification at the first glance."

Binod could not continue as he found himself panting for breath in the steep trail that had now digressed from the wide mule-trail to enter to the terraces indicating a village was nearby. That would be our destination for the day. We enjoyed the plain part of the trail along the margins of the terraces that dissipated some of our fatigue. Indeed walking at the level or down it was equivalent to taking rest. This helped Binod to proceed with the story as the sickle-shaped moon appeared about to disappear above the hills in the west.

" The first thing is that you speak an absurdity if you claim that the root cause of your love, or relationship, whatever you say, is that you rationally analyzed the prospective relationship. May be, your relationship will turn out to be practically compatible and even ideal, but at the moment of its conception, it is the instincts that determine what is to follow. Sometimes I wonder if I can discard this faculty of judgment from my mind and let the instincts rule everything. In the story I am going to tell, the instincts play the lead role and the judgments the villain role. Both of you have a lot to learn from the story."

" Hey, we are not your teenager students. Now we would be relieved to listen what had actually happened that made you a philosopher like this." This time I interrupted.

In a turn that reversed the direction of the trail midway between the two terraces, Binod gave a glance to the moon, paused, pointed to it and spoke: "Love is like the fantasy of a child who imagines the full moon to come everyday so that the thing called night never comes with its full vigor. It is like the fantasy in which a child imagines how brightly the sunlight must be illuminating the top of the clouds after days of persistent raining and darkness. The child can imagine this land lying above the clouds so that it has never to bear the darkness and the sad rainy days. Similarly in love, you have to become a child again, and enjoy a setup in isolation, not in terms of its relation or interaction with the others. The moment you prioritize these things thinking them to be compatible with love, the thing called love is no more."

Finally we stopped interrupting Binod as we realized that he had little practical things to tell and it was no worth disrupting his lecture as we also had no better stories to tell. He took a pause, ran the stick he was carrying along the top of the wheat plants in the field that had just sprouted, turned back and gave us each a glance. Now the village was pretty close to us and the sounds of dogs barking at distance were accompanied by the high-pitch musical sounds of the insects. We had walked in the level for ten minutes or so and our bodies almost shivered as the sweat produced during the ascent had finally cooled making it wet everywhere.

"I don't know exactly how the story started. But when I became aware of everything, it had been too late. My room partner had been teasing me with the name of a girl who usually greeted me in streets after seeing me with him many times. She was his junior, he told, but she behaved with him as if he were her teacher. I can't guess how the story would have proceeded had my Roopa been devoid of a 'real' girl friend as vigilant as she was. Now he began to convince me that this junior of him named XYZ was the best possible match for me in this mortal world. That was indeed his attitude: to exaggerate everything, even to create things that never existed. I sometimes wonder what a drive the nature has given few people to enjoy the things the way they do."

"When I sensed some unusualness in my attitude towards the girl, I tried to logically explain everything: that it had been a mere incidence that I met her. That she was like many other girls whom I had met and forgotten with time. That I was impulsively misinterpreting her gestures and the way she behaved with me was usual for any girl of this age to do so with every other boy they met with. That such incidents come and go in life and should not be accounted for seriously. But later I realized that the fact itself that I needed so many arguments to render my relations with her 'usual' made them essentially unusual. After all, it was the longing for her that took many forms. I eventually began to rationalize our potential relationship even before talking few completed sentences with her. I took it for granted that each smile she gave me was the unique compliment and the symbol of the prospective relationship while in reality, she would give a same smile for a man on a horseback with a heavy luggage on top of his head."

Binod was impressed by the way we were afloat in the ocean of story he had unfolded. Finally a story worthy of listening was coming and we did not feel like interrupting. The moon had touched the mountain in the west and was about to disappear when we sat in the stony platform at the bottom of the village. One of my distant relatives lived in the village when I was a child. I was not sure if they still did but I was hoping to make an arrangement for our accommodation by linking myself to the relatives and the village even if they had abandoned this long ago. That is how you get Bas in a village. Mopping the forehead with the white handkerchief, Binod continued the story as he sat cross-legged in the enormous flat rocks of the 'Chautari'.

"She behaved in a reasonably normal way. But, as my Roopa stepped up his scolding propaganda, my susceptibility to emotional fluctuations only increased. I became increasingly possessive of her. In an attempt to interpret them wisely, I misinterpreted her every other gesture. You know how shy we lads from village are in matters like telling a girl how we feel about her. We would rather eat dirt than proposing to a girl whose acceptance of the relationship is not guaranteed. That is what happened with me. As I kept erecting castles of dream in the imaginary world, in reality I was the same shy bachelor from a little-known group of bookworms in the college. I had no special talent and I was ordinary among the ordinary boys. She was, on the other hand, steps ahead in what they nowadays call 'personality development'. Later I came to know that she had got a multitude of admirers in the college and many had even proposed her."

"As in every other case, both of you know my attitude." Binod continued: "I am really clumsy when it comes to making decisions that involve the risk. I wonder why the nature makes few people like me who are scared of taking risk. From the outset, I argued that the girl would reject any proposal from me. That is what I was taught from childhood: perform the best but be ready to bear the worst. I became increasingly possessive of her but that was not enough to prompt me to tell her directly what I felt about her. Often the status quo does not last for long in such cases. Driven by the impulses, I nearly proposed to her one day but an unrelated incident took place to sabotage the process and for technical reasons I had to postpone the program."

"For days to come I was sure that I was going to take the risk and perform a life-sized experiment, something I had never done before. But for poorly explained reasons, my enthusiasm gradually waned over the days and I was surprised by the degree of detachment I developed within few days while it had taken weeks to cope with the emerging feelings about her earlier during the ascent phase of the relationship. Eventually I began to ruminate how ridiculous it would have been to hear a 'no' from her. Even if it were 'yes', that would have been the end of good part, as I have seen it happen with many other pairs who begin the relationship that way. "

"That was not the end of the story, however. It was shocking to realize how utterly mediocre the things had been all along though they appeared special so long as I was deep in love. To mention one, the way she laughed: that was the best laughter that I had ever seen. The way her well-set teeth glittered as she laughed giving a peculiar shape to the face: that drove me nearly crazy so long as I had the thing in me. The moment the love or infatuation whatever they call was over, I began to see a distortion in her face as she laughed. She somehow checked the extent to which the muscles of the face contracted and that added to the artificiality of the laughter and the ugliness of her face. After all, that was what many of the new-era girls did and the parochialism of this all was really disgusting. What was more disgusting was the way I interpreted the very same thing as one of the criteria of beauty. One after another I discovered so many petty things that keep lightening the castle of love so long as the emotion is above a threshold. The moment it dips below the level, everything turns ugly. I nearly shivered at the thought of getting paired with someone impulsively and discovering this hard truth after everything becomes irreversible.

That must be why people still consider so many factors before making a nuptial knot. After all any emotion can't last for ever at a level required to make everything look good. At the troughs there may be no problem but at the crests of the life and relationship you need something beyond mere emotion that can give a firm support to the relationship. You may feel like going after any girl who is quite beautiful and if you incidentally do so, you will be thoughtless for a period when your judgment will remain dormant. After you discover what had actually taken place, however, most likely it would have been too late to reverse everything."

"In the final year of the college, coincidentally, we taught in the same school. I understood that the journey of my Roopa with his mate was also going through rough terrains. So he was less enthusiastic in seeing me hand-in-hand with XYZ. He merely acknowledged that finally I would beat him by getting married earlier. I had no reason to protest now, so didn't respond. He did not insinuate further either as both of us had been aware of what would really follow. "

By this time it had been as dark as it was possible. We were really tired and each of the muscles in the body was aching and I was fearing for the worse: the cramps that sometimes trapped me in water while swimming. I had got an aura of these just before settling in the Chautari. That was why I did not urge them to begin walking earlier. Now that the cream part of the story was over, we had to lift our exhausted bodies and begin the short journey for the day that lay ahead before we reached the relative's house. I was prompted to ask Binod the final question: did she propose him while they taught in the school?

"Leave that for tomorrow. Another story starts from that point." Binod muttered. I was not sure whether he was serious or just joking as I could not see his face in the dark. Each of the option was possible and we had to wait till the other day to discover what had actually followed.