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.