Birbhadra Karkidholi is one of the bright stars of the Himalayan state of Sikkim. He is a poet and story writer par excellence and an extraordinaire littérateur. He has to his credit several books of poetry and short-stories. He is editor of Prakriya, a literary magazine in Nepali. He lives in Gangtok (Sikkim) - India.   email : birbhadra64@yahoo.com



 

 
 

A Nepali Short-Story

The Story is yet to finish                                                    Translated from Nepali by Tika Khati
by Birbhadra Karkidholi
 

Many hills were demolished. The last remnant was demolished today. Border Road Organisation, in its effort to provide an all weather road to Sikkim is cutting hills and ridges. Dozers plied for the whole day. New earth is being cut and dug. We do not know the beginning and ending of the road. At present works of breaking hills are being undertaken. Massive pine trees were cut. It is strange that when the village is in dark, the Border Road Organisation is flooded with light. When our village is silent, the BRO village is full of noise and full of activities. Blasting, bridge construction and earth cutting are going on unabated.

My village has a very thin population in comparison to other villages. Being a hill village, its potato fields are always green. Peach and plum trees have started flowering. Hillocks have become green with new grass. The rivulet is dried because of summer season. It has demarcated the boundary of two villages.

One hour has passed by. I have just returned from the market. We have a flat stone in our courtyard. I have made it my resting place. This stone and the village are new to me as I am recently transferred here. I had left behind many villages and hills in my teacher’s transferable job. Village school master’s job is a thankless job. This has made me short of wits also. Teachers do not have friends to talk to, to share the trials and tribulations. Sometimes I wished to write the history of the villages where I was posted but the old people are disinterested to shed information with the teachers.

I am still sitting on the flat stone. I’m trying to pass the time by observing hillocks of surrounding areas. Sitting on the flat stone is not comfortable than the couch sitting. But taking rest does not mean relaxation.

She had already given two calls for tea. I’m not feeling inclined to go inside the house. The enjoyment sitting outside has a different kind of feeling which is not available inside the house.

I’m not within me. Anyway I got inside the house, sipped the tea. While sipping tea, images of different persons reflected in my eyes. So many children of a couple! All of them emaciated! Their age gap has not exceeded two years! All of them were dirty, face with dots of cough, clotted lips and cracked feet! Wearing rags and weeping and uncared for! How careless were their parents! I had met them while treading the uphill track today. It appeared they were a caravan walking soundlessly. I had stopped them and had said, “Who are you? Whose children are you? Where are you going? What are your names? Come on, tell me. I’ll give you biscuits. Tell me your name in turn!” I had shown them the biscuits. “Tell me, I’ll give two biscuits who tell his name first.” They did not speak. A slice of bread fell from the hand of a girl-child. She picked it up immediately. I made repeated requests but they did not respond. Their faces were similar to a lady whom I had met in my youth. But I was not able to recall it properly. Lastly I gave them biscuits and said, “Don’t cry! Don’t be dirty! Attend my school from tomorrow.”

After traversing some distance, we took different ways to our respective homes.

Faces of the poor and hapless children came again and again in my eyes. I’ve joined this village as School Headmaster last month. Before this, I had served three schools as assistant teacher. But I’ve not seen such children emaciated, hungry and worn out as I saw them today.

At present my mind is in the process of weaving the past moments, sequences of memories and situations. I’m beset with the past now at present. I am not feeling to talk to anybody now. Why the forgotten past is pricking me now? I am recollecting the time of my school final days. I was very close to Phulmaya. She was my intimate friend. I do not know where she is now. She might have forgotten me as I have forgotten her. But many memories are there which we can not forget. We were together from primary to secondary. There are many personal moments which can not be obliterated from the pages of our heart. Two decades have past by now. She used to have tuitions from the Mathematic teacher. She was brilliant in Science and Mathematics. She used to love potato chips and popcorn. My parents were not well up to arranging tuitions for me. We used to share Tiffins. We were the main actors for arranging all programs of the school, be it the Teachers’ Day, Independence Day or Republic Day. We grew together. She was the daughter of a assistant manager of a tea garden and I was the son of a laborer of the tea garden. But she was simple as lily. Pride and vanity had not touched her. I used to suffer from inferiority complex as I had to attend the school with one pair of uniform and with second hand books.

But we, both of us were good in study. We sat for the School Final Examination together. Our parents sent us to school in a grown up age so we were at the age of 22-23 at the time of appearing School Final Examination. We had stayed together in Darjeeling at the time of examination in her relative’s house. It was her request to stay together in Darjeeting. I was obliged by her generosity and I had started loving her. She had the same feeling towards me. We used to meet two three times after our examination. We did not know how it had happened.
When the news of our intimacy was known to her father, assistant manager of the garden, he made all his efforts to suspend my mother from the job of tea garden worker. But he was not successful in his endeavor. Being unsuccessful, he had heckled my father many times in front of the villagers. He had created problems to my family. My father kept mum as he had no guts to face the proud and haughty assistant manager for fear of being hounded out from the garden. He took advantage of my father’s weekness and poverty and pestered him every time.
After one night when we had our dinner and listening to the radio news, my father announced, “We may have to leave this garden.” He was very sad and desperate that night. He shared many things of unhappiness to us that night. I had opened my mouth in the presence of my mother, “Where is the prestige we have in this garden? The image of the higher ups will be tarnished not ours. So you will not leave this village on the insinuations of a haughty and proud assistant manager. If you can afford, I want to pursue my education further.” I had dared to talk to my father that day. My mother was happy to hear the news of encouragement from her son. I had whispered my mother, “After my graduation and service I will marry Phulmaya. She has already given her consent.” My mother had cautioned me not to disclose the secret to any one.

But I had to express my inability to my mother one day, “Mother! Phulmaya can not be your daughter-in-law any more.” My mother had assured me to have confidence. True love will be successful one day. Her words of consolation had helped me to carry on the struggle. All these memories had kept me in sad position. But I had made my mind strong. I wished to see the photo album of my late father. But I desisted myself to open the box where I had kept his photos. I remembered the Fridays when my mother used to give me one rupee from her hard earned weekly wage. I recollected the memory of the day when my father had purchased for me a second-hand coat on my success in the School Final Examination from the festival bonus. How happy he was that day? I have kept the coat with care inside my box till now. I wanted to take it out from the box and put it on now. While with the memories of the past, I had banged the table on excitement.
Finding me in pensive mood, my wife told, “What happened? Have you any altercation with somebody in the market today? You looked depressed today. Is the tea not good? Do you want me to prepare fresh tea?”

“No, please leave me alone for some time. I’ll give you answers to your queries some time some day. But, leave me alone now.”
“Ok, fine. Let me burn the lantern.”

She left me alone in the room. I touched my heart which was aching for many days. The wealthy assistant manager forced his daughter Phulmaya to marry an army man and the blows his henchmen hurled on me came in dim shadow before the flame of the lantern. They gave me pain in winter time.

I came out from the sitting room and entered to the bed room. She had kept one glass of hot milk on the table. She gave a glance on the clock and left the room.

I tried to forget the past. What is the use of brooding over the past? I mustn’t pinch my wounds again and again. There is no point of hovering over the past. I washed my face and said, “Your time of taking medicine is going to be over. Have it.” She was in the kitchen talking with a neighbor.

“Bye, madam!”

“Please come in your leisure time. You are from the same village. We know your problems. Please send your children to school from tomorrow. I’ll talk to my husband. But please send the text books in proper order. My husband is a strict disciplinarian. Ok. We will take care of the matter. We have also come here for the last month. We have not been able to familiarize with many people. Please come tomorrow. It’s very dark, take care of yourself.”

“With whom were you talking to?” I asked her.

“You have the bad habit of poking nose in the women’s world. I’ve to talk to the people visiting our house. It is not your school. It’s our home. I have to treat them with respect and love. We are here as new comers so we’ve to build friendship with them. What more should I say? You are very moody. You can not differentiate between sorrow and happiness. You feel happy with books.” She gave her piece of mind to me.

I said, “What are you talking about? Who was the lady with whom you were talking just now in the kitchen?”

“Oh! The lady! She is from the lower village. Her husband was creating nuisance last night. He is a drunkard. He has some landed property but it is of no use to a drunkard. He is a worker in Border Road Organization. He does not come home without being drunk. Bloody nonsense, woman basher! He does not bring home money and keeps children famished and hungry. He makes his wife pregnant every year and makes her a machine of baby production. She requests him to opt for vasectomy operation but he does not yield. She is going to die with beatings, famished and getting pregnant every year. Oh God? What is the fate of the woman? How He hands over the woman to the person. Don’t get offended. I felt pity on her and so I sent her with some rice and flour. She has agreed to send her children to school from tomorrow. We must extend our help to a hapless woman who is in dire need. And more importantly is that both of you belonged to the same village. If you allow me, I want to give my red saree and blouse to her. After all, you do not want me to don that dress and it is faded also.”

I added, “Oh, it’s good to help others. But tell me who the lady is. Introduce me with her. Who was her parent? I haven’t visited my village after the death of my father. This village is new and you know how you feel when you meet the people from your village ... ·’

“You’ve the habit of knowing every thing on the spur of the moment. I’ll tell you tomorrow or at bed time today. Will it be ok, dear?”

I took her to my side and said, “Oh! Dear, why not now! As you know that we have just come here for a month. My life is confined from school to home and vice versa. I visited the bazaar today after one month. I didn’t feel like going there. I was upset. I was in that state of affairs, had you been in that position you could have been like me. So now tell me who the lady was with whom you talked just now...”

“Ok, I’m going to tell but first have this glass of milk and drink. “ She was trying to keep the secret at bay.

“Tell me first and then only I’ll drink.”

“You have told me about the assistant manager of your Village whom you have a grudge. She is the daughter of that assistant manager. Her name is Phulmaya .... “

I asked again, “What is her name?”

“I told you. Her name is Phulmaya. She is married to this village.”

My milk glass fell down to the ground. The cup broke and the milk spread over the ground.

She comforted me with the words, “Please forgive me. You forced me to tell the story. I knew very well that you disliked her father so much that his name would bring havoc in your mind.”

She brought me to our bed and handed me two albums and said, “Please go through the photos of our marriage and your loving daughters in their boarding school. Meanwhile let me throw the broken cup outside.”

She came back and we enjoyed the moments of our marriage which were stored in album: the love was yet to start and the story is yet to finish.

© Author
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Summer 2015) 
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