The incident retold in A Civil Servant’s Diary, which was translated by RAM C. KHATRI, is based on a real event that Nirmal Acharya heard while he was in jail following the conflict-hit period of Nepal. The first-person narrator of the story recalls a recent night’s painful event when his commander shoots a pregnant woman for allegedly being a rebel’s wife.
It is pouring relentlessly. Some of the days are so boring. It is the month of Bhadra. This is the time for crunching the roasted maize, but I have been following other’s commands all throughout the days. Sometimes I feel frustrated. What an unlucky day it was when I took this job! Instead of being serious in my studies during my school days, what did I do? Now I am under someone else’s command. Right now at home, Mother might be roasting the maize, sitting cross–legged on the kitchen floor. There was a severe drought this year, so the yield of the maize crop can’t have been good. Still, the maize roasted by Mother is excellent! Ah! It is a great thing to have maize and whey, even if it is thinned with water. The taste of whey really begs description. What is the use of conjuring up memories of home while I am now in this situation?
I don’t know where the hell we will be taken again today. Yesterday they marched us through the jungle saying that something really big would happen. Moreover, they made me an op, and I was overwhelmed with fear. Some went by the hotel—we call helicopters “hotels.” We, the unlucky ones, went on our own two legs, a number–eleven vehicle. A path of dense jungle! We shrank with fear even at the sound of monkeys jumping from one branch to the other. Even the chirps of birds made our hearts skip a beat. Three hours! Yes, I had my op for exactly three hours. Oh! Days pass by, but God knows how they pass. I sometimes get frustrated; I feel like going to my mother at home and whining like a baby. But can I leave the job of my own accord? To get a job in those days was so difficult. I got it through my backdoor influence. How strange, now I can’t leave the same job, no matter what I do. Alas! What days I face! Sometimes I feel like quitting the job and going across the border for one or two more years. But God knows what is keeping me. I run here and there all day and sleep for only a few hours at night. And do we get to sleep properly? Whistles! Firings! We are kept on red alert all twenty–four hours. Thank God this is the way my days pass, and I cannot drop the job all of a sudden. It’s more like I don’t have time to quit it and run away somewhere as a traitor.
Some went by the hotel—we call helicopters “hotels.” We, the unlucky ones, went on our own two legs, a number–eleven vehicle. A path of dense jungle! We shrank with fear even at the sound of monkeys jumping from one branch to the other. Even the chirps of birds made our hearts skip a beat.
Well, I was recounting the events of the day before yesterday. We were led on a march, having been told that something big would come to pass. They had us walk through the jungle. We did not hear a dickybird. The men of our team are very wild. Better not to call them men; they are butchers, skillful butchers. Whoever is met on the way is shot. Our duty starts at the crack of dawn and continues till four p.m. We have to return to our cage after four, otherwise a tiger could eat us if night falls in the jungle. Yes, it’s true that our plight is no different from that of a goat. Enclosed in a cage, walked under the commander’s order! The only difference is that a goat is a vegetarian. We eat meat, or rather, we drink blood―the red–hot blood of men. My head spins just thinking about it.
Ah! What laziness has gripped me? Where might we be taken again today? Wherever else we are taken, I pray that I don’t have to face such an incident as the day before yesterday. My God, what a terrific sight that was! I am still not sure whether she was a criminal or not, but surely it was a tragic event.
It was hardly four in the morning. With a repeated cry—“A spy came, a spy came”—we were all rousted out of bed while we were still in deep sleep. The stupid commander jumps with joy whenever the chance to kill men comes along. But we are no different than he. For us, too, it’s a good chance to open fire. Twenty–five firing, seventy–five hiding! Then we sell the bullets to the storekeeper, a worthless fellow, who gives only fifteen rupees for one bullet. Any chance to open fire is good for us; we wildly fire the bullets even for the smallest of reasons. Once we open the fire, there is the chance to sell as many as one hundred to one hundred fifty bullets. The storekeeper buys them secretly, but who knows what he does with them. I guess he sells them for a profit. Ah! Who cares what he does with them! He gives us fifteen rupees for one bullet, and that’s enough. Fifteen rupees can buy a plate of momos.
Yes, we were made to walk from four a.m. the day before yesterday. My God! What a roll call the devil commander of ours took! He said that a commander of notorious terrorists was hiding around. The rebel commander was to be killed in case he could not be arrested alive, he said, and went on and on. He kept me in the assault group. I don’t know what has happened to me; he always keeps me as cannon fodder in the front line when the time for a possible confrontation comes. However, he keeps me at the back of the troop when there is no danger. I was scared to death while we picketed the house. Our hearts pounded with fear.
The house was, in fact, that of a poor Tharu family. Everything inside could easily be seen from outside. We lit a torch and looked in. We saw a pregnant woman with a toddler of about two in her lap.
The house was, in fact, that of a poor Tharu family. Everything inside could easily be seen from outside. We lit a torch and looked in. We saw a pregnant woman with a toddler of about two in her lap. How quickly that there was going to be a second baby while the first baby was still in her lap! She was a real sex kitten. Fair complexioned. Shapely hands and legs. Her face was even more beautiful. But, for heaven’s sake, no evil intentions were evoked in me at seeing her. Is she menstruating? Her skin seemed a little brownish grey, as if she had put powder on her round beautiful face. How could that be the powder? The poor thing might have suffered from anemia. I must admit that I was overcome with pity for her.
In no time the commander fell on her, kicking, and shouted, “Where? Where is the terrorist?”
Her husband is a terrorist? Anger surged somewhere in me as well. I lifted my leg to kick her, but I don’t know what stopped me from doing so. I swear to God I had pity for the woman. She was sitting cross–legged with the child in her lap. She only stared at us with her unblinking eyes. We could not understand what she was uttering. She was probably saying, “I won’t say. I won’t say,” in her Tharu language.
Her hair was pulled until it was disheveled, and then she was dragged. She was thrashed and pushed from one side to the other, but she remained tightlipped about her husband. Pushing a nine month pregnant woman from one wall to the other looked so funny. While she was jerked from behind, her bloated stomach went farther than the rest of her body, in the way a propulsive engine might pull a man forward. We took great pleasure pushing her from this side to that for a while. She began to breathe loudly like the running bellows of a blacksmith, but did not speak a word.
Meanwhile, my eyes were fixed on a hencoop while the commander was grilling her. There were six eggs. I broke them one by one and finished them in six gulps. Then I put the eggshells in the hencoop. I felt as though I got a little more energy.
Meanwhile, my eyes were fixed on a hencoop while the commander was grilling her. There were six eggs. I broke them one by one and finished them in six gulps. Then I put the eggshells in the hencoop. I felt as though I got a little more energy. The woman was now standing with her baby tightly pressed to her chest. She did not cry or speak a word. “Come on, why don’t you tell us, you fucker?” The commander began to yank her hair again. “Take this, sinner.” Oh, what a fearless woman: she spat in the commander’s face. I swear I had never seen such a woman in my life. I was furious but could not kick her. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time! I thought if I kicked her she would have died for no apparent reason. Yes, it’s absolutely true: she seemed the type of beautiful woman whose death would have haunted me forever.
How soon that commander from hell became infuriated; he tortured the poor thing in her pathetic condition. He became livid with anger simply because she had spat on his face. “Son of a bitch, shoot her,” he shouted at me. To shoot her, or not to shoot her? I was in a dilemma. Yes, I would have to shoot her because it was the commander’s order, but I could not. I swear to God I did not know what happened to me! And, again, why should that motherfucker give the order to me alone? He had already gotten me to kill seventeen people with these hands. That woman would have been the eighteenth. I used to feel a great pleasure while shooting at men’s chests. But that day I could not shoot her. I don’t know what happened to me; I could not pull the trigger.
He shot at her womb. The poor woman’s abdomen was exposed, gurgling. I could not bear to see the ghastly scene. I swear to God, I felt so much pity for her. A fetus fell from the poor thing’s broken womb. How strange! The baby slowly slid through the embryonic fluid and onto the floor.
The commander jumped on me and seized my weapon before I could say Jack Robinson. He looked as mad as a hornet. I swear I had never seen such anger manifested even on the face of Rate. I could only gawk at him. He opened fire in the flash of a second. He shot at her womb. The poor woman’s abdomen was exposed, gurgling. I could not bear to see the ghastly scene. I swear to God, I felt so much pity for her. A fetus fell from the poor thing’s broken womb. How strange! The baby slowly slid through the embryonic fluid and onto the floor. Even the child that she had been holding in her hands fell with a thud. How can I describe the blood that was flooding out so terribly? So many things, so disgusting. What to say? Her intestines were hanging from her abdomen. Then, after a moment, the woman also collapsed. The two–year–old child was lying on the floor, silent and helpless. He spoke nothing, did not weep or cry but only breathed hard. I thought the fetus was also breathing in short pants. ‘Will the baby be alive after coming out of a womb in such a way?’ I wondered.
What a funny curiosity came to me at the moment: I wanted to know whether the baby was a boy or a girl. Well, I am recounting the event. When I slightly turned the child with a thin shred of cloth, I knew it was a girl.
What a funny curiosity came to me at the moment: I wanted to know whether the baby was a boy or a girl. Well, I am recounting the event. When I slightly turned the child with a thin shred of cloth, I knew it was a girl. The mother was dead and the daughter as well while the two–year–old child was weltered in a pool of blood. I felt so much pity. What could I do even if I had pity for her? After all, her husband was a terrorist.
The rain outside is pouring nicely. I hope I will sleep more today. A command to go somewhere might come again. What kind of job did I take where I can’t sleep fully even when I don’t have energy to go to work? God! Sometimes I feel frustrated thinking that I took this job for nothing.
About the Author
Saugat Acharya writes under the pen name Nirmal Acharya. He was born Pyuthan district of western Nepal. He has served as a District Committee In–Charge (Dang) and as a member of the Tharuwan State Committee affiliated with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist. In the course of his participation in student politics during the political unrest in Nepal, he was arrested in 1998, taken captive for two months, and sent to jail where he was imprisoned for thirty months. His poems, short stories, and memoirs are published in different literary journals and magazines. Eleven of his stories are collected in Sankalpa Yatra (A Resolute Journey, 2009), which includes the present story.