Thursday, August 13, 2009

Redemption By Guru Prasad Mainali

(This was a story written by Guru Prasad Mainali, a renowned Nepali short story writer. He started the modern era of Nepali short story in Nepali Literature. His stories take social themes and present them is mutitude of perspectives. He published his only short story collection called 'Naaso' in 1979 containing 11 stories including this one. I have tried to be as faithful as the linguistic barrier has allowed me in the following tanslation of the story)

Widow Gauri’s figure was developing signs of maturity. Every part of her body was blooming with mellowly sweetness and succulence. Along with her womanhood, her concerns for her outfit, makeup and ornaments were also increasing. But she was a widow, providence had already taken away her happy fortunes. At least to save herself from ignominy, she had to behave cautiously in the world. Like any other things, misery also develops at certain times. Before, when she was a child, she used to spend her days playing and enjoying her childhood revelries. She wasn’t aware of her misfortune at that time. But now, even small things brought huge waves of despair in her humanly lake.

Her house was amidst bustle of a city beside a busy street. Occasionally she would see a married couple carrying their children walking in gleeful attire. Sometimes a car flies by with a fresh pair imbued with laughter and jollity. Some day a beggar folkie sitting in the courtyard sings “only once do the days come wandering with charms of youth…” in his violinistic melody striking chords of her dereliction. Allured by such treacherous temptations, sometimes some sudden impulses of unknown desires stormed her frolicsome spirit. Some callow despondency bothered her. Her life did not lack food or clothes but there was always an impression of something missing. Her soul scoured the darkness around her looking for some lost subliminal artifact.

Men long more for objects that are unobtainable than those that can be acquired. Breadless destitute is hungrier than others. Similarly, Gauri wished for dainty dishes and fine outfits. She usually sat at her window attired in clean clothes and lavish makeup. This hapless woman endeavored to conceal her scorched forehead under masquerading maquillage.

Nearby across the street was Govinda’s house. Govinda was a handsome young man. With wide forehead, bulky eyes, sturdy stature, and fair skin, he looked like a sculpted figure. He was an undergraduate at Trichandra Campus. He was a sensitive person. He occasionally published his poems in journals. He had pledged to get married after acquiring a bachelor’s degree. As a feminist he advocated education for women. Women are not objects that are to be adorned and kept in rooms; our social progress depends largely upon women; educated women can make heaven on earth; men and women should be allowed full liberty in sensitive issues like marriage – He frequently debated such matters with his colleagues. He was also interested in fashion. He changed his outfit almost daily to go to college. Being a neighbor to Gauri, he frequently visited Gauri’s house. His appealing appearance gratified Gauri’s soul. As intimacy between them swelled, both souls were chained in a single streak of love.

A few days back Govinda’s sister was married. Gauri had also attended the wedding. When the duo were alone, she had asked him, “How is the world?”

And he had answered, “Everything is enjoyable. Some places there are silvery cascades falling from green hills and some where beautiful gardens glow delightfully. Some places dancers with heavenly beauty dance on the dance floors illuminated with effulgent flashes of lightning, while there are also cities shimmering with lights. What more to say Miss! Wherever I look I find everything spectacular.”

Gauri replied with a sigh, “You lie! I only see pitch-black darkness, precipitous falls, bushes with sharp thorns, deep black lake filled with thousands of savage beasts, crematory sites blazing with fire, vehement lamentations and confinements, but nothing else.”

As soon as she ended her passionate plea, she turned around and tears rolled down her cheeks. “What you say is true; it is only through our imaginations that we can conceive happiness. If you can fancy merry thoughts, you will also be able to get a moment’s happiness.”

“Stop! I don’t want to buy happiness by imagining. Whoever is interested in seeking happiness, whoever has never been happy, let him earn happiness in imagination. I don’t need it, not even a grain of it.”, said she, her eyes filled with tears.

She went to an adjoining room as her tears tumbled down.

Few days later, Gauri’s figure seemed to be heavy. Mortifying shadows appeared on the faces as a reprisal for the pleasure they had sought. Being a diffident creature, Gauri seemed evidently worried. Without any apparent reason, Govinda’s visits to her house became rare.

One night Govinda was sitting alone in his room memorizing some lesson. His maid Chameli brought him a small paper; adding, “Sanobabu, Gauri gave this to me at the tap saying this is a letter sent by some friend of yours.”, she flipped it before him.


It has been months, I have not caught a sight of you. I attempted to hide from the divine eyes God but failed. Lord! I’m drowned, strangled! Rescue me Prabhu! Hold the hands of this wretch and pull me out!


After reading the letter, his eyes were deprived of sight. This effulgent world suddenly turned lightless. Several minutes passed before he reflected, “What wrong have I committed that I should fear? In this society, decrepit old men marry twelve year old innocent girls and widow them before they age. Some men marry two or three women solely to satisfy their lustful appetites. Many visit brothels leaving their wives at homes. If theirs is not sin, if religion is not killed, if those are not crimes, how can I be a criminal? Why don’t men remain committed to their wives as women do to their husbands? They’d know if they had to spend their lives whoring. Tomorrow I’ll proclaim before all society, ‘What right do you have to fetter a girl in chains of widowhood for life, who had been widowed at twelve years of age, when she never knew any mysteries of love making? Which religions dictates that life of a girl stroked by a smoke of desire becomes impure? Gauri is my wife; the child in her womb is my iniquitous progeny.’”

But again, he contemplated, “The world rests on the majority. Who will listen to ravings of this single man? Our deed will be known before the society as a depraved crime. Questions about castes will be raised. We’ll be made to appear before the court. People will talk about our deed squatting in rest-houses, courtyards and chautaris. This will be enough to last a few months in the neighborhood. Chandrakanta Bhandari’s son will clap his hands sitting in his reimbursed store. Pedestrians walking on streets will point their fingers. The honor of our fathers will drown. Mother will cry. Brothers will be liquid with shame and my ravings will be engulfed in laughter.” With such thoughts he released a long sigh.

Govinda was a poet. The golden image of a woman he had crafted in his imaginations had complete resemblance with Gauri. If only there had been no questions about her being a widow, he would have lived a happy life acquiring her.

Few minutes later, Chameli came to inform that his dinner is ready but Govinda sent her back saying, “I am not feeling well, leave the kitchen.”

Gauri’s appearance kindled rumors in the neighborhood. Her apprehension knew no bounds. A horrific calamity looming in her future was dancing before her eyes. She could find not a single consoling soul in this unscrupulous world for her grave predicament. There was no place to escape. In every direction, merciless society has its vigilance. She thought, “The sin was not committed by me alone, today I’ll see Govinda and conclude my duty.”

+ + +
It was first evening. Soldiers who stay on guard were walking with their bundles. Women were gathered in the public tap of the neighborhood. Gauri descended the stairs. After taking a look around the street, she entered Govinda’s doorway. A servant was milking a cow in the courtyard. A person from the hills was reclining on a chair chewing Chiura. Chameli was climbing down the stairs carrying a water-pot. Noticing her Gauri said, ”Chameli didi, will you call Sanobabu once?”
Hearing Gauri’s voice, Govinda’s mother shouted from the window, “Who is that? Is that the harlot Gauri? Why does this shameless whore come to our house? Chameli, tug her hair and haul her out of the house! Accursed bit her own husband within days of marriage, now who is she looking for to bite !”

Her roar aroused everyone in the neighborhood; people living in neighboring houses, soldiers staying on rent, everyone peeked out of their windows to watch the scene. Gauri turned and came back to her own house. As she reached half way up the stairs, she heard a conversation between her brother and his wife. “You put your orphaned sister over your head, one day she’ll blacken your nose! Do you know, she doesn’t stay indoors a single minute. The moment you step outside she scurries down to the doorway. Everyone passes through adulthood but I have never seen anyone as overexcited! Once fortune is scorched, one should know to save oneself from disgrace among four people. Our kanchi has also lost her husband, she never behaves like that! Before dawn she bathes in the Bagmati. Never leaves her room. I heard that that last time sanubabu’s mother warned to haul her out of her house pulling her hair if that harlot Gauri ever dares to enter her house. These days her figure is also getting chubby. Oh what things these eyes are forced to see!”

“What can I do, the scoundrel doesn’t listen to me, it is highly distressing!”

Gauri’s heart had already borne a blow. Now she felt as if she fell from a cliff. Her breath became heavy, her heart palpitated. Her state was like that of a miserable bird that falls writhing with pain after getting hit by a merciless hunter’s bullet.

She sneaked into her room. A picture of her late husband was hanging on the wall. It had been hanging there for a long time lifelessly. But today, she saw her husband’s lively divine figure there. Joining her hands she pleaded, “Lord! In my past life, I didn’t have faith in the Decree of having you as my husband. Drifting with my childish fancies, I ventured to play with flowery showers ! and didn’t notice my whole being charred. I was strayed, I am ruined, now I want redemption lord, redemption!”

Burying her face on both of her hands, she cried. The grief made her unconscious for a while. Up in the blue sky amongst numerous stars she saw her mother’s divine image. With bloodshot eyes she said, “Sinner! You stained black tika upon this sati’s lineage, why are you still living? Lynch yourself! Drown yourself to death, don’t show your blackened face to the world any more.”

Daybreak was approaching. People going to Pashupati to bathe were ambling through Ranipokhari singing morning hymns. Bhote’s sheep looked like scattered stones on river banks. Street lamps were already dimmed. At such a time, a woman throwing her shawl upon the slant leapt into the pond. A man spoke, “Police ! police ! Some one jumped into the pond !”

The police came running. In a moment, a multitude of people gathered. A policeman went to inform at the station. When the day brightened, inspectors arrived. Pulling the corpse from the pond, they laid it upon the slant. Massive crowd gathered.

Docter Gosh stooped down to examine every part of the corpse. Then he took off his spectacles and wiped them. With his brows furrowed biting his lower lip he said, “Her stomach seems to be heavy, post mortem has to be done.”

A laborer walking on the street said to his companion, “Oh boy! What a beauty!”

“That’s why she drowned, to a woman, figure is foe, it is also her friend! Yours and mine are fit to be scarecrows in a Jyapu’s field; even if kicked out of house and told to die, won’t die.”

A few moments later one attractive young man pushing through the crowd came near the corpse. The young man was Govinda. The woman who died was turned out to be Gauri. That instant Govinda’s face lost its color. He looked like some schizophrenic maniac.

In the platform of today’s society, an orphaned widow’s life ended this way.

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