AFTER TWENTY YEARS…..
o the north of my home, there stands a tall chain of mountains. They are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains, and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clean evening sky, but, at times, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapours about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.
At the foot of these breathtaking mountains, you can see the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks, having latticed windows and gable front, surmounted with weather-cocks.
In the same village, and in one of these very houses, I lived many years ever since love marriage. I was a kind neighbour, and an obedient hen-pecked husband (villagers used to say). Many of the villagers knew me by name "Writer Baje". The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever I approached. I assisted at their sports, told them long stories of ghost and witches. I was not lazy; for I would sit on a wet rock basking in the sun with a pen and a diary all day meditating on my wife's behaviour and attitudes towards me. I was fond of writing, so there was a wealth of writings but none of them were published. I would never abnegate assisting a neighbour even in the roughest toil and was the first man to help in husking corn or building stone-fences. I also ran errands for the women. I tried to find a job outside of farm. I declared that I was of no use to work on my farm, everything went wrong. Fences were continually falling to pieces; our cattle would go astray, weeds were growing quicker in our field than anywhere else. Our financial condition was worsening. Our only daughter was ragged. We couldn't provide her with a fine dress and send to a good school.
I, however, was one of those elated mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat loaves of bread or dhindo (a food item found in the hilly region of Nepal), whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve or a penny than work for a pound. If left to myself, I would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but my spouse kept continually dining in my ears about my idleness, carelessness and the ruin I was bringing on my family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything I said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. My sole domestic supporter was my dog Bhote. I remember Bhote got more respect than me. Time grew worse and worse as years rolled on. I was at least reduced almost to despair; and my alternative, to escape from the labour of the farm and clamor of the wife, was to take a diary in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here I would at times sit at the foot of a tree and put my feelings into words and share the contents of my wallet with Bhote with whom I sympathized as a fellow-sufferer." Poor Bhote", I would call.
In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumn day, I had scramble without thinking to one of the highest parts the mountains. I loved writing fictions. Late in the afternoon, exhausted, I threw myself on a knoll covered with grass that stood at the brow of a steep cliff. From an opening between the trees I could see many a mile of rich woodland. I was enjoying this scene; evening was gradually advancing, the mountains began cast their long blue shadows over the valleys. I saw that it would be dark long before I could reach the village, and I heard a heavy sigh of when I thought of encountering the terrors of my wife, Srijana.
As I was about to descend, I heard a voice from a distance, "Writer Baje, Writer Baje!" I looked anxiously around and saw a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks. I approached him; he was a short-square built old fellow with thickly bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. He bore on his shoulder a stout keg that seemed full of liquor. I assisted the old fellow with the load.
On reaching the clearing, new objects of wonder presented themselves. At the centre were more odd-looking people dressed in combatant uniform. Maybe they were Maoists. They untied the keg and started drinking wines in silence, I was trembling with fear and my heart was palpitating. I even risked, when no one was looking, to taste the beverage, which I found to be excellent. I was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat. At length, my senses were overwhelmed, my eyes swam in my head, and fell into a deep sleep. On waking, I found myself on the green knoll where I had first seen the strange old man. I rubbed my eyes--it was a bright sunny morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was flying aloft. I thought, "I haven't slept here all night!'' I recalled the occurrences before I fell asleep. "Oh! I thought, "What excuse shall I make to my wife!" She would nag for not returning home last night.
I looked around but didn't find my diary and Bhote. Rather I saw an old diary. I suspected that one of the Maoists combatants might have replaced. And I thought Bhote might have strayed away after a squirrel in the dense forest. I whistled after him; the echoes repeated my whistle, but no dog was to be seen. I rose to walk and found myself stiff in the joints. I shook my head, dusted the diary, and with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned my steps homeward.
No sooner had I neared a village at the foot of the mountains than I me t many people, but knew none. Their clothes, too, were of a different fashion. They cast their eyes upon me, they stroked their chins. A strange faces appeared at the windows. Different names on the door. The narrow trails were widened and pitched. Skyscrapers were standing with pride. To my astonishment, if found my beard and hair had grown a foot long. Even dogs, too, barked at me as I passed. The whole face of the little village was altered; it was more populous. I was sorely perplexed. I was still in a sea of wonders. With some difficulties I found the way to my home. I found the house gone to decay--the thatched roof fallen in and the doors off the hinges. I entered the house hoping to hear shrill voice of my nagging wife but found empty and apparently abandoned.
My appearance soon attracted the attention of the people. They surrounded eyeing me from head to foot with great curiosity. They wanted to know who I was what I came there for, who I was looking for or what my name was. I cried out in despair, "Does nobody here know Writer Baje? At the very moment, a young woman pressed through the crowd to get a peep at me. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened by my looks, began to cry. "Hush, the old man won't hurt you" she consoled the child. The air of the mother and the tone of her voice all awakened a train of recollections in my mind. "What's your name, my good woman?"--"Ayesha." "And your father's name?" "Ah, poor man, Writer Baje, who left home with his dog. The dog returned, and never has been heard of since. His dog returned home without him. I had but one question more to ask, but I put it with a faltering voice: 'Where is your mother?' "Oh, she committed suicide." I caught her and her child and cried, "I'm your father!'' --Writer Baje. All stood amazed until an old woman peered in my face for a while, exclaimed, "Surely enough! Welcome home again, old neighbor--"Why, where have you been these twenty long years?"
By Amar Limbu