Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Crematorium


Mathura Saymi
(Translated by : Razen Manandhar)
Doorbell rang and I went to see who came to my home. A man was standing there with his face up. He smiled and greeted me, as our eyes contacted. I knew him but I was not sure who he was.

" I wanted to call you but I had lost your number…" he uttered. I could not recognize him out of his face but his voice was not unknown.  He was our tenant farmer from Bhaktapur. "Oh, you? Come, come. Follow me up," I opened the door and guided him upstairs.

We sat in the living room. He sat on a chair beside me and dropped his bag by his side.

"I just could not recognize you. You look quite different, with mustache and beard. It must be two yours, since I saw you. Neither you come over here, nor you call me. Nor did you come to pay off your yield. Have you brought the yields? Last time you brought money instead, right?" I reminded him.

"Yes," he filled the silence.

"Now. What are you engaged with? You have a bad habit. You do hard work in the farm, make a big harvest and then you forget about the landlord when you have to pay off the harvest. You make excuses every year to avoid paying off our share. This is August. You must have completed rice plantation. Right?"

"Yes, we have," he replied.

"Then, when are you going to harvest it?" I inquired.

"In November," he answered dryly.

"OK. Bring my share of last year and this year too. You may bring husked rice or beaten rice. Otherwise, you may also pay in cash. I will not tolerate, if you keep on avoiding us," I said, "By the way, what is your name?"

"Ramkrishna," he moved his lips, mechanically. He unzipped his bag, brought out several corncobs and placed them on the table.

The sight aroused sympathy to the poor man in me. I went upstairs to make a cup of tea for him.

I knew, whenever he came to me, he came with some problems. Once, he was here to ask me find a job for him. I did try but failed to find one. Later he again dropped in, saying that the roof of his house was about to fall. He was asking me to lend him ten thousand rupees to get it repaired. I refused to give money. He might have another demand for today. I was thinking of his past visits, while making the tea.

I gave him the teacup and some biscuits. I broke the silence, "Well, what is new over there? You came to me unexpectedly. And this is the time of curfew. Do you know? There is curfew imposed from 1 pm."

He didn’t touch the tea. He was just staring at it, may be, lots of things were whirling around his head.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

He kept a numb for a while. Slowly he lifted the teacup and said," Actually, I came here to borrow some money…"

"That's it," I interrupted, "You always come here to ask for money. How can somebody just give you money? Poor people have their problems, so do have rich people. You just can't think of it."

He did not reply. I also did not say anything. We were just talking to ourselves. Later, he started," I would not have come, if only I had not faced these series of calamities. Last year I borrowed ten thousand rupees to repair my roof from a merchant. I borrowed another twenty thousand rupees to do an operation to my mother. I haven't paid off even the interest of it. He comes to me everyday and asks to have transferred the farmland to him. I'm confused what to do."

He was silent again. I couldn't catch the right word to reply. I protested, "How can this be? The land is not only yours. You can neither mortgage nor sell it without my permission. Or you want to have your portion separated, so that you can do what ever you want to do with it?"

He said, "No. What can I do by selling that land? The money will be blown up in paying off the debt. It is giving us at least food for six months now. So, I'm here to borrow money for another purpose."

"What are you going to do with that money? Are you thinking about running a business?"

"Neither there is investment nor is market here. I tried to find a job but there is no job for people like us in this country. That is why, I'm thinking about going abroad for work. I met one man, who said he could make all the arrangements. I just need some money…"

It was a surprise. I tired to convince him, "Going abroad? Where? Do you know? You see this anarchy here. So many people are in deep problem there. Many people have been jailed. Some were cheated by the brokers. They are in the middle of the street and some are even begging for food. There is no certainty of their lives. Because of the same reason, we have riots here and even curfew is imposed. And you are saying that you want to go there!"

He peeped into my eyes with lots of expectations.

I did not know how these words came out of my mind. He was as silent as the grave. I was staring at him from top to bottom.

I again tried to drill him, "Who was the person, who said to help you fly? How much money he sought? And do you know where you are going?"

And the silence followed again.

After some time, he opened his mouth, "There is no chance to find a job here. It is not equal thing to stay here unemployed and there. I heard that one could save some thousand rupees every month there. And I will be a rich man after I come back here. I know life will be miserable there. So it is here too. I prefer going there if I have to face all the problems. God will be by my side."

I said again, "What will the God do? Twelve Nepali youths were killed by the terrorists in Iraq. Didn't you hear about this? Do you also want to be killed there?"

He replied, "What I'm thinking is that rather than other countries, I want to go to Iraq. If I find a job, I will earn sufficiently. If not, what will they do to me? So much so, they will kill me. I say, it is best opportunity to be killed over there. If I die, I will not have to work. It will be better for all. Out government has declared that family members of each of those who were killed in Iraq will have compensation of one million rupees and a job too. And their children will also get free education. See, my children will also go to the school. This is the best part of the scheme, I have to say. My whole family will live in happiness, after I die. So, if will be successful to go there, I will ask the God, please take me to the same path…."

He was murmuring. Physically, he was present in front of me. But his mind was somewhere else. He slowly rose from the chair and sat down again, like a man waking in the sleep.

Speechless, I was just watching him and his movements. My mouth was tight shut. All of a sudden, I felt like my room smelled like a crematorium.

Published in Kasti, Nepalbhasha by-yearly literary magazine, Apr-Oct 2015, vol 1, no. 2.








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