Until some months ago, writing was a piece of cake. Words used to flow effortlessly. Since I took a break from writing, the words are being stopped by some barrier. Yet, here I am trying to find why I could not write.
# Reason 1: I got busy.
I had to prepare Maths and Science lessons, then try to teach rebellious teenagers, fail at taking control of the classes, and take a lot of undue stress. I asked the school administration how I could get the attention of my students. They suggested strong body language and beatings, if necessary. I was not convinced. So, I looked up books on taking control of the class. One book by Rob Plevin seemed useful but teaching Maths to students who fear or hate it is a huge challenge. I am doing my best. However, it’s not enough.
Three months ago, I got calls from my friends and they got me involved in a project. They had collected field data and told me and Deepa to prepare a geological map. On AutoCAD! I knew the basics of the software but had never made used it to make a geological map. The learning process was stressful as there was nobody to guide us. And the hours of work on laptop stressed my eyes. I used to be so tired, I used to sleep the moment I got free time.
There were also PSC exams. After completing the second version of the map, there was about a week for preparation. It went on without any disturbance. I did well in the exams too. Then came exams for another company and I still have one left this Saturday. Hope it goes well. Fingers crossed!
I also had to get involved in household chores that I could not avoid.
# Reason 2: I stopped caring about things or when I did, I could not express them.
In the past months, I did not care for a lot of things. They are all out of my memory. There were a lot of things during elections in April and May, but I chose silence over speaking and writing. (I was also busy to write anything!) Let history take its course, was my mantra.
There were other issues that grabbed my attention but instead of writing my feelings or thoughts, I followed what others said or wrote. Sometimes, it is better to remain quiet and understand the whole situation before making an opinion. Waiting to understand a situation helped me remain calm for most of the time.
# Reason 3: I made excuses when I had time or had an opinion.
I have been avoiding writing by making excuses. I have not written anything even for my wife. Even on her request. It’s getting embarrassing. Wish I could write anything at any time! I should stop making excuses. I should keep writing…
वैशाख ३० गते स्थानीय तहको निर्वाचन आउन दुई दिन बाँकी थियो । घरमा कसलाई भोट हाल्ने भन्ने विषयमा छलफल हुँदै थियो । “भोट किन हाल्ने ?” मैले सोधेँ । “वडा समितिका अध्यक्ष र सदस्य बन्न कै लागि ठूला (भ्रष्ट) नेताको अघिपछि लाग्ने अनि आम नागरिकका टोलमा पनि नआउने उम्मेदवारलाई किन जिताउने ?”
बाबाले सम्झाउन खोज्नुभयो । “एकदुई जनाले भोट नहालेर के हुन्छ ? एकजनाले बढी भोट हाल्यो भने पनि कुनै एउटाले जितिहाल्छ । यति पर्सेन्ट ल्याउनैपर्ने भन्ने बाध्यता पनि छैन ।”
“त्यसो भए खराबमध्येबाट मात्रै छान्नुपर्ने हो त ? राम्रा उम्मेदवार दिन सक्दैनन् दलहरूले ?”
“अनि किन भोट हाल्ने त ?” मलाई चित्त बुझ्दै बुझेन । “अनि चुनावअघि त यस्तो घमण्ड गर्छन् । चुनाव जितेको भोलिपल्ट देखि के होला ?”
प्रमुख पदका एक उम्मेदवारको रवैया मन परिरहेको थिएन । प्रष्ट विरोध गरेँ । “बालेन शाहले राम्रा र गर्न सकिने योजनाहरू ल्याएका छन् । इन्जिनियर हुन् । प्राविधिक ज्ञान पनि छ । एकचोटि मौका दिऊँ न ।”
तर पार्टीमा सक्रिय रहनु भएका मेरा परिवारका सदस्यहरूले आफ्नो दलबाट आएका उम्मेदवार बाहेक विकल्प नै देख्नुभएन । स्वतन्त्र उम्मेद्वारले जिते पनि वडाध्यक्षहरू पार्टीबाट आउछन् । केही गर्न सक्दैन । जित्न सक्नेलाई नै भोट दिनुपर्छ । ‘हुन त पार्टी बाहेकका मान्छेलाई टिक्न निदिएको जताततै देखेको हो तर एउटा मौका दिँदा त हुन्थ्यो होला । अनि मौका दिए त जसले पनि जित्न सक्छ नि !’ मनमनै भनेँ । चुनावको नतिजा जे भए पनि स्वतन्त्र विचारलाई समर्थन गर्ने निर्णय गरेँ ।
जे सुकै होला भन्दै भोट हालेको, बालेन शाहले जिते । मतगणना सुरु भएको ५ दिनसम्म त उनले जित्छन् जस्तो लागेकै थिएन मलाई त । काठमाडौं महानगरपालिका बाहेक धरान, धनगढी र जनकपुर उपमहानगरहरूमा पनि स्वतन्त्र रूपमा उठेका व्यक्तिहरूले चुनाव जिते । कुनै एउटा पार्टीको गढ भनेर चिनिएका धेरै ठाउँहरूमा अर्कै पार्टी वा व्यक्ति विजयी भए । स्थानीय निर्वाचनमा पहिलो हुने निर्वाचित हुने (प्रत्यक्ष) निर्वाचन प्रणाली छ जसको भरपुर उपयोग पार्टीगत राजनीतिबाट आजित भएका आम नागरिकले गरे ।
लोकतन्त्रमा दलहरूको भूमिका महत्त्वपूर्ण हुन्छ । हाम्रो त संविधानले नै “बहुदलीय प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक लोकतन्त्र”लाई आत्मसात् गरेको छ । त्यति मात्र हैन, समानुपातिक निर्वाचन प्रणालीले दलविहीनतालाई अस्वीकार गरिदिएको छ । यस्तोमा नेपालीहरूमा दलीय सोच हुनु अस्वाभाविक हैन । तर आफ्नो पार्टी सधैँ ठीक, सधैँ राम्रो भन्ने जुन तरिकाको सोच छ, त्यो परिवर्तन हुन जरुरी छ ।
आफ्नो स्वार्थ हेरेर कुनै राजनीतिक दलको आड लिने मानिसहरू धेरै सङ्ख्यामा छन् । उनीहरू न ती राजनीतिक दलका सिद्धान्त बुझ्छन्, न त नीति अनुसार चल्छन् । लाखौं रूपैयाँ “नेता”हरूका खल्तीमा भरिदिने हो पनि जोसुकै त्यो पार्टीको खुङ्खार नेता भनेर चिनिन्छ । यस्तो विचलनले पार्टीका इमानदार कार्यकर्ताको चित्त दुखाएको छ । यसको परिणाम चुनावमै देखिएको छ । टाउकेहरू अझै पनि अन्तर्घात र धाँधली भनिरहेका छन् । आफ्ना गल्ती सुधार्ने कुनै सोच देखिँदैन उनीहरूमा ।
यस्तोमा पार्टीका “नेता” भनाउँदालाई लाइनमा ल्याउने काम कार्यकर्ताको हो तर उनीहरू पनि आफ्नै स्वार्थमा अल्मलिएका छ्न् । नेतृत्व तह असहमति सहन सकिरहेको छैन । हरेक सिद्धान्त त प्रक्रियाको निर्मम समीक्षा हुनुपर्छ भन्नेहरू नै विरोधका मसिना स्वरहरूदेखि झस्केका जस्ता देखिन्छन् । यस्तो वाक्क लाग्दो राजनीतिको विकल्प केही ठाउँमा युवापुस्ताले खोज्न थालेको देखिन्छ ।
यद्यपि धेरै ठाउँमा सशक्त इमानदार विकल्प छैनन् । संघ र प्रदेशमा संसदीय व्यवस्था भएकाले राजनीतिक दलको विकल्प पनि राजनीतिक दल नै हुन् । कि त नयाँ इमानदार दल आउनुपर्यो कि त अहिलेका बेइमान दलहरू सुध्रिनुपर्यो । देश हाँक्ने मौका पाएका नेता र तिनका दलको त सुध्रिने छाँट छैन । पहिले इमानदार राजनीति गर्ने भनेर खुलेका पार्टी पनि कुर्सीकै राजनीति गर्न अग्रसर भएको देखिएकाले गर्दा नयाँ पार्टीहरूमा झट्ट विश्वास गर्ने अवस्था देखिएको छैन । कोभिड दौरान देखिएको “Enough is Enough” आन्दोलन संस्थागत गर्न चुकेकाले त्यस आन्दोलनको नेतृत्व पनि सशक्त हुने कुरामा शङ्कै छ । तथापि, पहिलेभन्दा फरक गर्न सक्ने मौका भने उनीहरूमा छ ।
नेपालमा अहिलेको जस्तो दलीय सोच हट्ला त ? असम्भव जस्तै देखिन्छ । तर दलमा आवद्ध भए पनि नभए पनि काम गर्न सक्ने मानिस छान्न भने नागरिकले चाहेको देखिन्छ । कुनै वादभन्दा पनि असहज परिस्थितिमा समेत भरोसा गर्न सक्ने नेतृत्व नागरिकले खोजेका छन् । खोजेजस्ता नेताहरू भेट्न गाह्रो होला तर केही प्रयास यही नै रहनेछ ।
प्रकाश सपुतको गीत र भिडियोले तपाईंको मन पोलेछ । “हामीले त्यसलाई बोल्न सिकायौं अहिले हामी विरुद्ध बोल्ने ?” भन्ने प्रश्न गर्दा तपाईंको स्तर ठ्याक्कै त्यही सत्ताधारीको जस्तो भएको छ, जसको विरोध तपाईंहरू गर्नुहुन्थ्यो । कुनै बेला तपाईंले गाउने गीतहरू, देखाउने नाटकहरूका विरुद्ध सत्ता लाग्थ्यो । आज अरूका रचना माथि जाइलाग्ने स्थानमा पुग्नुभएछ । सामाजिक सञ्जालमा गीत बन्द गर्ने देखि सर्जकलाई मार्नेसम्मका कुरा गरिरहँदा एउटा कुरा भन्न मन लाग्यो, सत्तामा उक्लिएर शासक हुन सफल हुनुभएकोमा बधाई छ !
सत्तालाई सत्यले पोल्छ किनभने त्यसले तिनका झुठहरू छताछुल्ल पारिदिन्छ । एउटा गीतको भिडियोले सत्तामा तपाईंलाई यति छटपटी भएको छ भने पक्कै त्यसले सत्य उजागर गरेको छ । स्वाभिमानलाई तिलाञ्जलि दिएर देश बेच्ने तपाईंका कमाण्डरहरूप्रति भने गर्व गर्नुहुन्छ । कमरेड, सत्ता र शक्तिमा यति मोह किन गर्नुहुन्छ ?
कुनै एउटा सिर्जनामा सबै समस्या कहाँ उजागर हुन्छन् र ? समस्याका चाङ चुलिएका छन् । तपाईंको दृष्टि धुलिएको छ । जानुस्, आँखा धुनुस्, चस्मा फेर्नुस् । आफूले धोका दिएका छापामार साथीहरूसँंग भेट्नुस् । क्रान्तिलाई धोका दिने तपाईंका कमाण्डरहरू माथि प्रश्न गर्नुस् सर्जक र सिर्जनामाथि आक्रमण गर्नु अघि ।
आक्रमण गर्नु नै छ भने अरू सिर्जनामा गर्नुस् । कैँची चलाउनुस् तपाईंका कमाण्डरको यथार्थ देखाउने यी गीत (र अरू पनि होलान्) माथि । सक्नुहुन्छ ?
[प्रस्तुत लेख मोहन मैनालीद्वारा अनुदित आकाशमुखी संग्रहको जर्ज बर्नाड शअको स्वन्त्रता शीर्षकको निबन्धमा आधारित छ ।]
आफूलाई मन लागेका कुरा बिना कुनै रोकटोक गर्न पाउनुलाई हामी स्वतन्त्र भएको मान्दछौँ । तर स्वतन्त्रताका पनि सीमा हुन्छन् । समाज र कानूनले बर्जित गरेका क्रियाकलाप गर्न हामीलाई छुट छैन । त्यस्ता क्रियाकलाप गरेमा सामाजिक बहिष्करण देखि कानूनी कारबाहीसम्म हुन सक्छ । यसर्थ मानिस पूर्ण रूपमा स्वतन्त्र छैन ।
रुसो भन्छन्, “मानिस स्वतन्त्र जन्मिन्छ तर सर्वत्र बाँधिएको हुन्छ ।” जन्मसिद्ध स्वतन्त्रताको हकमाथि राज्यले अङ्कुश लगाउँछ भन्ने आशय उनी व्यक्त गर्छन् । जर्ज बर्नाड शअ “स्वतन्त्रता” शीर्षकको निबन्ध वाचन गर्ने क्रममा भन्छन्, “प्रकृतिले पनि मानिसलाई बाँधेको छ” । दैनिक क्रियाकलाप जस्तै सुत्ने, उठ्ने, दिसापिसाब गर्ने, खाना खाने लगायतका कुराहरूलाई प्रकृतिले नियन्त्रण गरेको हुन्छ । तर यस्ता गर्नै पर्ने अत्यावश्यक क्रियाकलापलाई हामी बोझ ठान्दैनौँ, उनी भन्छन्, किनकी प्रकृतिको नियन्त्रणले गर्दा नै जीवन सम्भव छ ।
मानिसले मानिसलाई गर्ने नियन्त्रण चैं हामीलाई बोझिलो लाग्छ । केही महीनाअघि लेखेको What’s the Point? कथामा वाचक (म पात्र) नोकरी (जब) गर्न मन गर्दैन । ऊ भन्छ, “नोकरी अभिशाप हो । यसले मानिसलाई पैसा र रोजगारदाताको दास बनाउँछ । पैसाकै लागि तपाईं काम गर्नुहुन्छ । बोसले पैसा दिन छाड्यो भने तपाईं काम नै छाडिदिनुहुन्छ । नोकरीले तपाईंको स्वतन्त्रता खोस्छ ।”
यो नितान्त व्यक्तिगत अनुभवबाट प्रेरित भएर लेखेको कुरा थियो । शअको निबन्धमा लगभग यस्तै तर अझ कडा शब्दमा रोजगारदाताप्रती रोष छ:
“तपाईंको रोजगारदाताले कपाल यसरी काट् भन्न सक्छ । यस्तो रङको, यस्तो खालक लुगा लगा भन्न सक्छ र यति बेलादेखी यति बेलासम्म काम गर् भन्न सक्छ । उसको आदेश टेर्नुभएन भने उसले जुनसुकै बेला पनि तपाईंलाई सडकमा पुर्याइदिन सक्छ . . . छोटकरीमा, राजनीतिक तानाशाहले तपाईंलाई जति नियन्त्रण गर्न सक्छ, रोजगारीदाताले त्योभन्दा बढी नियन्त्रण गर्न सक्छ ।”
राजनीतिक स्वतन्त्रताको सन्दर्भमा जर्ज बर्नाड शअ भन्छन्,
सरकारहरूले नागरिकमाथि दासता थोपर्छन् र त्यसलाई स्वतन्त्रता भन्छन् । सरकारहरूले मालिकको लालचलाई निश्चित सीमाभित्र राखेर नागरिकको दासताको हदलाई भने नियन्त्रण गर्छन् । मानिसलाई आफ्नो सम्पत्तिका रूपमा बेचबिखन गर्न पाउने दासप्रथा ज्यालामजदूरी प्रथाभन्दा महँगो भएपछि उनीहरूले दासप्रथा उन्मूलन गरे । यसले गर्दा कुन मालिकको कुन काम गर्ने भन्ने छनोट गर्न कामदार स्वतन्त्र भए । यसलाई उनीहरूले स्वतन्त्रताको विजय भनी जयगान गाए । जति स्वतन्त्र भए पनि कामदार त बेघरबार नै हुन्छन् ।
त्यस्तै चुनावका विषयमा उनी भन्छन् :
. . . उनीहरू कामदारलाई चुनावमा भोट हाल्ने अधिकार दिन्छन्, हरेक पाँच वर्ष जस्तोमा आमचुनाव हुने व्यवस्था मिलाउँछन् । चुनावमा धनी दुई जना उम्मेदवारले तपाईंसँग भोट माग्छन् । तपाईले यी दुई धनीमध्ये जसलाई पनि छान्ने स्वतन्त्रता पाउनुभएको हुन्छ । हो, तपाईंले यस्तो कुराको छनोट गर्न पाउनुहुन्छ, जसले तपाईलाई पहिलेभन्दा अलिकति पनि बढी स्वतन्त्र बनाउँदैन किनभने यसो गर्दा तपाईंको कामको बोझ कत्ति पनि घट्दैन । अनि समाचारपत्रले तपाईलाई के कुरामा विश्वास दिलाउँछन् भने तपाईंको मतले निर्वाचनको परिणाम निर्धारण गयो । यति हुनेबित्तिकै तपाईं प्रजातान्त्रिक मुलुकको स्वतन्त्र नागरिक हुनुभयो । छक्क लाग्छ, तपाई कति मूर्ख हुनुहुन्छ भने यस्तो कुरा पत्याइहाल्नुहुन्छ ।
उनी थप्छन्, “१० मध्ये ९ मतदाता साधारण कामदार भए पनि उनीहरूमध्ये थोरैलाई मात्र आफ्नै वर्गका मानिसलाई भोट दिऊँ भनेर मनाउन सकिन्छ ।” यसको कारण के हो भने शासक भनेको रवाफिलो, चट्ट परेका लुगा लगाउने र विशेष अदब भएको मान्छे हो भन्ने मानसिकता हो ।
यी हरफहरू पढ्दै गर्दा ८ वर्षअघि आफूले लेखेको “Democracy or Aristodemocracy?” शीर्षकको ब्लग पो याद आयो । त्यसमा लेखेको थिएँ, “लोकतन्त्र भएका देशहरूमा जोकोही उम्मेदवार सजिलै बन्न पाउँछ तर विजेता प्राय: उहीँ हुन्छ, जसले पैसाको खोला बगाउन सक्छ ।”
माथि नै भनियो, मानिसलाई समाज र कानूनको बाँधेको हुन्छ । शअ पनि कानूनले स्वतन्त्रता संकुचित गर्छ भन्छन् अनि थप्छन्,
कानून विवेकसम्मत छन् र तिनलाई निष्पक्ष ढङ्गले लागू गरिएको छ भने तपाईंले कानूनविरुद्ध गुनासो गर्ने कारण हुँदैन किनभने कानूनले सामान्यतया तपाईंमाथि हातपात, डकैती र अराजकता हुन नदिएर तपाईंको स्वतन्त्रताको मात्रा बढाउँछ ।
यहाँ रमाइलो विरोधाभाष छ । कानूनले स्वतन्त्रतालाई सीमित पनि गर्दो रहेछ अनि स्वतन्त्रताको रक्षा पनि गर्दो रहेछ । आफ्नो स्वतन्त्रताको प्रयोग गर्दा अर्काको स्वतन्त्रता हनन हुनुहुँदैन भन्नु पनि त स्वतन्त्रताको सीमितता नै त हो नि, हैन र ?
Yesterday was Shree Panchami, also known as Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Pooja. Shree means wealth and prosperity. Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity; Saraswati, that of knowledge and art. Is something wrong? Absolutely not.
Knowledge is wealth. Art symbolizes prosperity. Laxmi and Saraswati are different. Laxmi loves red, Saraswati is clad in white. Laxmi is the spouse of Vishnu, Saraswati that of Brahma. They are different. Yet both represent the same thing: Shree.
Shree Panchami is one of the most auspicious days in Nepal. It’s the day for Aksharambha (अक्षराम्भ)- commencement of learning words. Bratabandha and wedding can be conducted even without the advice from the jyotish (astrologer).
This is also the day, we believe Spring (Basanta) begins. Priests organize Basanta Shrawan singing hyms in the praise of season of joy. The Royal family used to attend the ceremony, which is now attended by the President.
Yesterday, Lata Mangeskar, one of the most celebrated female Bollywood singers, passed away at the age of 92. In India, Basanta Panchami/Saraswati Pooja was celebrated on Saturday, a day before in Nepal (I don’t understand why). Yesterday was Saraswati bisarjan there. I saw a few tweets which said that Goddess Saraswati took her favourite disciple with her. I don’t know if it is so. The singer lived a long life. Her melodies are going to live longer.
It took me a while to get to the stage, find the CD player and run the CD. Meanwhile, my act grabbed attention of some of the people around. They kept asking what I was doing. I was too overwhelmed to say anything adding to the fact that I was as clueless as they were.
All the chit chats stopped as Bishwas’s recorded voice greeted us. “Good evening, my guests! First of all, let’s applaud the one who found this recording.”
There was a brief period of silence. “Did you clap?” The voice continued. “I hope you did. If you didn’t, my request has been pointless. You should’ve clapped. You don’t know how fortunate you are to hear my voice. Had nobody cares to look at that target board, you would have left, angry and confused. You’d never have known why you’re here. The time I spent in recording would have been pointless. So, please appreciate the person who made this interaction possible. Let’s give a big round of applause.”
A few people applauded, maybe because they thought they should follow the voice. Most of us were still confused.
“Thank you,” Bishwas’s voice said. “Now, it’s time to let you know why you’re here. You are here to bid me farewell from this world. Yes, you heard that right. A proverb says: “Even if your birth was ordinary, make your death extraordinary.” Extraordinary death! That’s what I am trying to accomplish.
“I’m so sorry for what I am making you witness this evening. I always remained mysterious. Never told everything about my life and feelings. And then I brought you here and literally kept you in dark. Please forgive me.
“I lived a meaningless life, trying to keep everyone happy. But no one ever was. I worked hard in school all through my childhood to keep my parents happy. But they wanted more. I worked harder, just to see them smile. But they didn’t ever truly smile. Their smiles were fake. An act so that I would make more effort in order to kill my childhood.
“I made some friends during my Plus Two days. They celebrated my successes and moaned my failures, without anything else in return. They also introduced me to the entertaining side of life: drinks, smoke, night clubs and dohoris. I met my first love in one of these settings.”
I took a glance at the lady in red dress, paying attention to the words coming from the record. “She was beautiful. I met her a few weeks ago. She has become more beautiful. Her melodies have helped me fill the emptiness my heart suffers from. She kept me happy. Her presence was a blessing. I wanted to be with her forever but it was not to be. My parents once again came on the way of my happiness.
“”We won’t let you marry her,” they said. “She sings at a restaurant at night. Her character is questionable. Besides, she belongs to a lower caste. She can’t be our daughter-in-law.”
“Only I know how hard I tried to convince them. I begged, I cried but their heart did not melt. They threatened to stop paying for my studies. I had a dream to study medicine. Without their financial support, I would not be able to pursue my goal. To keep them happy and to keep my dreams alive, I decided to sacrifice my happiness. I acted like an ass in front of the girl I loved the most and pushed her away from my life.
“I have lived in regret ever since. I could not be with the girl I loved, I could not pursue my dreams and never did my parents become happy. After I failed two rounds of entrance exams, I joined a college. There I made a few friends. One of them thought I was perfect, that I could never make mistakes. I have made mistakes, my friend. I’m so sorry to let you down.”
The Lady looked at me and raised her eyebrows, as if saying, “What did I say?”
It hurt. More than Bishwas’s words. I almost teared up.
Bishwas’s voice was still echoing in the warehouse, “I went up the Himalayas when everything became too much for me to bear. I pulled off all the money from my bank accounts, crushed my phone and SIM and went off radar. I heard of a monastery beyond the Himalayas. I finally found peace.
“But the Lama kept saying that I had not found peace. He said that without facing everyone who suffered because of me, I could not find true peace. Even Buddha had to face his family after returning to Kapilvastu. Although I am nowhere close to Buddha, the Lama advised me to talk to everyone whom I had caused pain.
“I came home and apologized. They said they would not forgive me because of the pain I had given them. If my parents are not forgiving me, I thought, nobody would. What’s the point in living if your parents do not love you, are never happy no matter you do? What’s the point in loving someone, only to remain at a distance from her? What’s the point in getting appreciation from the world when you don’t have a family to celebrate your success?”
Feeling uncomfortable, I looked around. A woman fell on the floor. Some people, including the lady in the red dress went to help her. Others started looking worried. The recording continued, “I’m leaving you all, forever. I’m tired of leaving this pointless life. At exactly eight o’clock today, I will take a leap from the cliff behind this warehouse…”
I looked at my watch. It read 7:58. I ran towards the exit, Bishwas’s voice trailing behind me.
“… There is no point in blaming others for my decisions. Baba, Aama, I’m so sorry I turned you into villains. But I had to say everything so that nobody in the future suffers the way I did …”
The exit door was too far. Can I still save him?
“… My love, I have been terrible. I deserve your hate but please try to forgive me. …”
I barged out into the open and ran towards the cliff.
“… My friends, I’m sorry. I’m leaving you again.”
I went behind the warehouse and looked towards the cliff.
I saw the silhouette of a man above the cliff. How lean he had become! Bishwas was ready to jump. I called him out but he did not listen. I sprinted to reach him. He stretched his arms. “Bishwas,” I screamed at the top of my voice. He looked towards me, shook his head and jumped.
I stood still, shocked and confused. I could not save him. If only had I found that CD earlier! I went closer to the cliff. “No, no, no. I should have saved him but could not save him,” I said to myself.
I returned to the warehouse. What I saw baffled me. Little children were running here and there and dancing to the tunes played by a DJ. Jokes, cackles and laughter filled atmosphere. In contrast, those who had heard the recording were mourning, scolding the children and getting out of the warehouse.
The lady in the red dress came towards me. Behind her was the woman who had collapsed earlier, supported by her husband and a handsome gentleman. We both asked each other the same question, “What happened?”
After some awkwardness, the lady answered, “At exactly eight o’clock, these children and caterers rushed in from another chamber. That was where the feast was. A DJ removed the CD while it was still playing and started playing party songs.”
She gestured towards the woman and her husband. “Bishwas’s Baba and Aama have had hard time. They just won’t believe Bishwas killed himself. You saw what happened, didn’t you.”
“Yeah, he jumped down the cliff.”
Her feet staggered. Bishwas’s parents gasped.
“But he did not die,” I added.
“What?” They all said at the same time.
“Yeah, he dived into the lake and swam to the shore. He changed into a monk’s robe and then looked at me. I could not see him clearly but he must have smiled. Others may say he died but he did not. He is an excellent diver and swimmer. How can he die?”
“But he said he was leaving the world forever,” Bishwas’s mother said.
“Yes, he left us and entered into the world of monkhood. Just like the Buddha. He can now go closer to the truth. Besides, what’s the point in grieving about the man who has finally found peace?”
A flash blinded me. It’s strange how sudden darkness and brightness both have affect our vision. As my eyes adapted to the brightness, I saw the lady in front of me. She was elegant in her scarlet dress. The make-up was loud but complemented the dress well. Her looks demanded attention from the attendees. I could see why Bishwas felt insecure.
“Nice to see you,” she said.
“Yeah, me too.”
I turned around to see the party venue. It had been so well-decorated that it did not seem like a warehouse. Balloons, stars origamis and lights hung from the ribs of the tinned roof.
Before I could take a view of everything, I got distracted by the crowd. Bishwas’s guests ranged from young to old, rich to poor (as I could make out from their clothes). Some were in the middle of conversation and some were alone, probably contemplating why there were here.
“Quite a mass he has gathered,” the lady said.
“Seems like he invited everyone personally,” said an old man behind us.
We turned around to face him. He had thick round glasses over his eyes and held a black cane. He looked wealthy. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I overheard your conversation. I didn’t intend to, I swear. I heard other stories, too. All of them said Bishwas met them and gave the invitation.”
“Who are you?” I asked, “How do you know him?”
“I sponsored this.”
We looked at the old man doubtfully. Without paying heed, though, he continued, “A month ago, we had adverstised a vacancy. Bishwas applied and came for the interview. Before we could ask anything, he said, “I’m organising a charity programme in a couple of months. I don’t have a job. I don’t have anyone who can help me out.”
“I was shocked. “If you want to do a charity, do it with your money. Also, this is not the way you ask for sponsorship. You can not do that in an interview.”
“But Bishwas has this special quality of convincing people. He convinced us in no time. And I personally decided put ninety percent of the money for this programme. Only Bishwas hasn’t shown up and I’m a little worried.”
I could swear the old man was hiding something. I’d rather love to hear his secret than him boasting about his wealth. I looked around to see if I could find something more interesting. And I found it.
On the farthermost wall was a target board. I could not exactly make it out but the board did not look normal. As I went forward, I discovered why it was different. It had the centre point (the golden-coloured portion) removed. It was pointless! What an idea, Bishwas! I smiled. But why was it there?
Upon closer inspection, I saw words written along the circumference of one of the circles. The tiny printed letters said, “Take this board off and look on the backside. You will find a CD attached by a tape. On the stage is a CD player. Run it. Bishwas has a message for all his guests.”
“What nonsense!” the lady snapped at me. She had sounded cheerful before but now she was furious. Why this sudden change of mood?
“You misinterpreted my fury as excitement,” she said. I was finding it difficult to believe her as she continued, “I wanted to see if there is somebody else who finds his catchphrase pretentious. I came here to punch him on his face for what he did. But you’re just praising him. You’re so naive. No wonder he tricked you into believing he is good. You don’t know him at all. He is a man with zero commitment. He never keeps his promises. Does not even try. It’s so ironic that you saw bravery in that coward. “
“Calm down, please. What happened? Why are you so bitter against him?”
“If you’d been in my place, you’d have been bitter too.”
“Oh, is that so? Tell me your story then.”
“It’s not the story I want to share with a stranger but I will tell you.”
The lady narrated her side of the tale–
After I completed my SLC, I convinced my parents and came to this City of Dreams to continue my studies. The money my parents sent was never enough. So, I started to work at a restro as a singer. It was not easy to work there. Drunk men with lustful intentions scared me everyday. But as it was helping me in paying rent and fees and I had trouble finding another job, I could not leave it.
Life was continuing in this mundane way until Bishwas came to me after the end of my singing session that Christmas evening, and said, “I have seen you before, haven’t I?”
Because that’s one of the most cliched ways to talk to a stranger, I didn’t give much attention but as soon as he took the name of my college and said, “I have seen you there”, my eyes widened.
“I go there myself,” he said adding more to my shock. I had never seen him before. Neither here, nor in the college. Could he have been stalking me? I was shaking from inside.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I tried to speak but no word escaped my throat. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I had no intention of doing that. I came here with my friends for the first time and we all thought you were familiar. That’s why I came to talk.”
“He does not sound bad to me,” I could not stop myself from commenting.
“What’s wrong with people these days?” The lady grimaced. “Always jumping into conclusion without knowing everything!”
Having got the taste of my own medicine, I smiled sheepishly. I felt exposed. Thank God she could not see me in the dark! Without waiting to think anything, however, she continued–
You were right, though. He did not sound menacing at first. He had an extraordinary charm. . . .Ugh! Why am I praising him?. . .. Anyway, he used to come regularly, sit on the table close to the stage, and praise me after I sang. One evening, Bishwas came with a stranger and said, “What’s the point in singing here? Nobody seems to recognize your talent. My friend, Sarun here makes music and sells them pretty good. You should now be a professional.”
We made three songs within two months. Everyone who listened to those songs, praised them. We could not earn more, however, because we lacked money. Sarun’s studio was small and I put a lot of money in the recording. Bishwas provided help from his pocket money but it was not enough for aggressive marketing.
Meanwhile, Bishwas and I fell in love with each other. (Yeah, fell in love because it only gave pain afterwards). Neither of us confessed at first. Whenever we were together, Sarun used to tease, saying, “You two are in in love and I can see that in your body language. Why do you keep denying?”
We would just smile and brush it off. On the New Year eve, after I finished singing my song (I had become a local celebrity) a year after we met, Bishwas climbed on to the stage with me and confessed his love for me in public. A lot of emotions came rushing on my mind and I broke into tears. I confessed my feelings, too. Sarun could not stop smiling. His gut feeling had been proved.
A couple of months later, just as I was about to climb on the stage, Bishwas said, “You don’t need to sing. What’s the point? Nobody wants to hear you sing. All they want is you.”
“But you’re the one who has me,” I winked.
“I don’t know. What if someone takes you away from me?”
“No one will take me away.” I went closer to him and looking into his eyes, asked, “Don’t you trust me?”
He did not answer. I felt cold inside. Bishwas had always said he trusted me. I had always believed his words. That day, however, I saw a different Bishwas. It’s not that I had not been noticing that he had changed. I had chosen to ignore because it didn’t seem like big deal. After all, change is inevitable. But his lack of response was something else.
When I ended my performance, Bishwas was still at the back stage. He came to me, grabbed my hand and said, “What’s the point in singing like this, dear? I can meet all our needs even if you stop singing.”
“But you supported my journey and it has just begun. Why do you want me to stop?”
He looked at his feet and said nothing.
“I want answers, Bishwas.”
He did not utter a word.
I lost my patience. Furious at him, I said, “How do I know what’s happening in your head if you don’t say anything? Why do you want me to follow you without a question?”
“Because I love you and I want you to be with me. If you continue singing, I can’t be with you.”
I felt like he pushed me off a huge cliff. I lost words. I could not believe what I heard. Bishwas had said many times before that his parents would not let us stay together because of my caste. But he had always said that he would convince them. Even if he could not convince them, Bishwas had assured that he would never leave me. His name means trust but I should never have trusted him.
He left me. Never even looked back. I cried for days. Sarun helped me during that hard time. I completed my studies, learned English, Korean and Spanish, got a scholarship at a reputed university and returned a month ago. I had almost forgotten about Bishwas but he would not let me forget him. Last week, he knocked at my door. (Oh my God! How did he found where I was living? I don’t know. I should have asked!)
“I’m here to invite you to a party,” he said. “I have hurt you and I understand. But would you come just for the good times we had?”
I stood dumbfounded. “Should I go or not?” I asked myself a number of times. When I finally realized that I could actually punch him in public, I decided to come. But where is he?
I was in a long queue for college admission. It had been two hours and nobody moved an inch. The small window from which “service was being delivered” was nowhere in sight. The student leaders were coming now and then and saying they were sorting the issue. But we were still at the same spot, irritated by the sun up on our heads and the state of administration. Then somebody behind me thought they had to take action and went ahead making sure their spot won’t be taken.
They returned and started arguing with a student leader. A huge boy was growling, “What’s the point in lining us up when the actual work is being done from the backdoor?”
“That’s Bishwas, isn’t he?” the lady exclaimed.
“Yeah, but don’t interrupt me. What’s up with people these days? No patience at all!”
“Sorry, my bad. Please continue.”
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Bishwas and others argued with the student leaders for a while. Every one surrounded the student leaders. “Admit us from the backdoor,” we demanded. To save themselves from the wrath of the young guns, the student leaders finally helped in getting the work done in the right way. Before leaving, I talked with Bishwas, took his number and thanked him for what he did. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said. “I was helping myself. You were lucky to be in the queue.”
We were sitting under a tree in the college premises one day when Bishwas said, “These leaders… These are the ones who create problems out of the blue and now everyone thinks they will solve existing ones.”
Within a month since we got admission in the college, Bishwas and I turned into best friends. We used to in sit the same desk in the classroom, we used to have lunch together, and we used to talk on various things that interested us both. Elections for Students’ Union was coming up, and Bishwas was infuriated that the leaders who had not helped us were now presenting themselves as the saviours.
“Why don’t you run for the election?” I said.
“What’s the point?”
“Remove them from their position of power.”
“Who knows me? Nobody!”
“You should’ve taken the credit that day, you know. Every new student would have loved you.”
“Maybe, but you flatter me. Don’t do it.”
“You should have let everyone know what you did.”
“Should I have held a mic and shouted from the top of the roof?”
“Yep. That’s exactly what you had to do.”
“Nonsense,” Bishwas laughs out loud.
“But a loud nonsense is the common sense.”
“Does not mean those with common sense give in to the nonsense.”
“Yes,” I jumped. “This is exactly why you should run in the election.”
“I won’t. Politics, elections… I’m not made for such things.”
I failed to convince him. And, despite having common sense, and despite the big talks, we gave in to the nonsense and never thought about it again.
After the first year exams, Bishwas stopped coming to the college. He stopped answering my calls. I had no idea where he lived. I still don’t know where he lives. What an awful “friend” I was! If I had been even a good friend, I would have known about his family, I would have gone to his house, I would have shared my secrets with him, like he did. But I did nothing that should call me a good friend. Yet, when he came to my house to hand over the invitation to this party, he said, “You’re my best friend from college. I don’t want you to miss it.”
Surprised, I asked, “But I never tried to contact you after you left college. I don’t know why you left. And I didn’t bother to find it out.”
“You only knew my number and you called me. But I didn’t want to connect with anyone. I had distanced myself from everyone, even my family and old friends. What’s the point in being sad for things you were not responsible? Cheer up, buddy!”
“But why did you go away from everyone? What problems did you have?”
“Let it be a secret, buddy. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“So, something bitter happened. Tell me what happened.”
“What’s the point?”
“Perhaps, to unload the burden off your heart.”
“There is no load to unload, but because you insist, I will tell you what happened.”
He then told that he had joined the college only because of the pressure from his parents. He was a bright kid and his parents had huge expectations. But he could not find joy in the college activities. “Everything felt forced,” he said. He was doing things without any passion. That’s why he devised a plan to run away to the Himalayas. That’s where the rishis and santas have gone to find knowledge and peace. He stole a few thousand rupees, and threw his phone in the Kali Gandaki a few days later. Then he heard about a monk in the wilds beyond the Himalayas and went to meet him. There he found some peace but he could not forget his parents and friends so he came back to invite me to this party.
The party was unlike I had ever been at. It had been held in an abandoned warehouse outside the town. There was no food or drink. Nobody knew each other. And it was dark. The invitation had clearly instructed the guests not to bring phones. The guards, too, were strict about it. They checked each guest and even seized some phones. I was expecting Bishwas, the host, to make a grand filmy entry—that he would show up somewhere in the middle, spotlights focusing on him. But he was nowhere. Nobody knew where he was.
Somebody bumped into me. “Sorry,” said a lady in a melodious voice. “Do you know what’s going on? Why isn’t Bishwas showing up?”
“No idea,” I said. “I’m in the dark just as you’re.”
She chuckled. “Clever use of words, huh? What do you do?”
“I…um…do nothing. Yeah, that’s what I do. Nothing.”
“Believe it or not, I am jobless.”
“Bad luck, perhaps. Or, Ego. I don’t really know.”
“May you be blessed with a job as soon as possible!”
It was my time to laugh.
“What?” she sounded surprised. “I wished you luck and you’re laughing at me?”
“I found it funny,” I said. “I mean, how can you think that a job is a blessing? It’s a curse! You become a slave to money and to your boss. You do something because you’re paid for it. If your boss stops paying you, you leave. Job takes away your freedom. How can it be good?”
A moment of silence later, she said, “I think I figured out why you’re jobless. You do have a big ego.”
“Thank you.” I bowed with a smile although she could only have made out my silhouette.
“So, what brought you here?”
“Oh, that’s a breaking news! Everyone here is because of his invitation.”
“Does anybody in this world accept a precise answer any more?”
“Nope. Everybody wants to know the backstory. That’s where the fun is.”
“What’s the point of it?”
“That’s his catch phrase, isn’t it?”
“Yep. It’s his favourite question. Mine too. Those were the first words I heard when we met for the first time.”