Sukanya, Alias Nilima by Sharmila Khadka

Sukanya, Alias Nilima by Sharmila Khadka

Sukankya Urf Nilima (Sukanya, Alias Nilima), written by SHARMILA KHADKA and translated by RAM C. KHATRI, is about a high-ranking government officer and a female fighter. The author presents the officer’s point of view and his stream of thought in the story. The officer is psychologically attached to the young girl, who helps take care of him after he is maimed in an attack on the headquarters.

I feel the warmth of a woman’s exhalation. I wake up. I am unconscious. My eyes open with difficultly, but close again. All my senses are inactive. Slowly I try to take in the information of my surroundings. I find myself so weak that I cannot muster energy to do anything. I again try to mobilize my senses. I lift my right hand, feeling its heaviness, and bring it to her mouth. She is sleeping on my left, touching her plump chest to mine. I feel a ring on her nose. Half of her body tosses with mine. My body is numbed with pain and it feels like somebody else’s. I choke as I try to speak. The connection between my heart and mind is gone. My mind is empty. Strength has gone. I am unable to think anything. After a while I give my mind a jolt like something is repeated from a film.

Where am I? Who am I sleeping with? Did I ruin this woman’s future in a moment of weakness from the intoxication of a heavy drink? No, up to now I have never ogled at any woman. If so, then who is this woman sleeping with me?

A fuzzy picture of a small house, more like a hut, located in a jungle, comes to my mind. Signaling daybreak, birds are chirping outside. I remember now. I have been posted as a district officer or CDO from Kathmandu to this remote district of western Nepal. I search my memory.

I am here now. Where was I yesterday? What was I doing? I stretch my memory more. All these images coming into my unconscious mind slowly fade away when they are replaced with consciousness. Thousands of sounds start to rattle.

****

“Beware! . . . Fire! . . . Shoot! . . . Surrender! . . . We’ve captured the headquarters. Save the public houses . . . Adhar! Pratik! Move . . . Stay together in a group . . . Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Fire! Bang!”

All around are gunshots. The sporadic blasts of the bombs rock the houses. The rattle of thousands of guns are producing earnumbing sounds. Cries, wails, and yells! A fusillade of bullets is falling like hailstones on the rooftops of houses. A while ago, a man was shouting, “Switch off the light!” Shortly afterwards the light goes off. They must have blown out the electric transmitter. A bomb blast rocks the ground. Darkness has enveloped the area, just as a black python devours its prey. The flash of light and the crash of thunder are coming together almost instantaneously.

Cries, wails, and yells! A fusillade of bullets is falling like hailstones on the rooftops of houses. A while ago, a man was shouting, “Switch off the light!” Shortly afterwards the light goes off. They must have blown out the electric transmitter.

I am in the CDO quarter. I am just preparing to go to bed. My God! What a deadly war. Never in my life had I witnessed death slow closely. Nevertheless, I had put my life under the sword of Damocles that hung over my head while coming here as the CDO. And yet, I find a great difference between reality and my imagination.

I am very nervous. I drag the telephone to make a phone call. A bullet ricochets off the nearby window. I shrink. I go under the bed. Soon later, I hear the phone ring and take the receiver with difficulty. The deputy superintendent of police speaks from the other end.

“Sir, what shall I do? We’re warned to surrender,” the frantic voice’s words come clearly.

“It’s your duty to provide security. Do what you can. We won’t survive now,” I say frantically.

“Let’s not surrender. I have heard that the army is being mobilized!”

“Do whatever you can!”

Then, I go down to the floor below. The families of the peon and the other staff have holed themselves up under the bed downstairs. Battle cries are coming continuously from outside. I am restless. I lay down on the floor. With all are wailing and crying, someone is trying to break the compound gate. I am terrified; my mouth goes dry.

I come out through the back door of my quarters. A huge cliff lies behind it. There is silence below the cliff—no sound, no light. Instantly, I set my mind like a computer and enter the room in search of a rope and do not see one. Near a corner, I see a sari belonging to the peon’s wife. I grab it and come out. Outside they are trying to barge through the gate.

I hurriedly tie one end of the sari to a tree and slide down along with it. As I slip down a little, the sari comes untied from the tree. I am wrapped in it and fall down―down until I bang with a thud on a narrow pathway. I am injured with wounds and scars all over my body. I do not feel pain, just fear. I don’t see a house anywhere. I walk down a little and see a small cottage below a cliff. I again tie the sari on a tree with difficulty and slip down along with it. This time thorns scratch my body. My mental pain easily overcomes my bodily pain. I drag myself to the hut. I see a padlock hanging on its door. I clutch the lock and hang on it. I am not in a condition to stand on my own. Good God! The padlock opens. I fling it and enter. I am assured that nobody is inside. I try to close the door, but I find neither the crossbar nor the bolt of the door. I collapse on the floor after pushing the door closed. I make an effort to rise. What happens next―I can’t remember.

****

Now I have regained my consciousness―Is this female body dead or alive? I try to touch it, but no one is there. Is it an illusion or a ghost? Doubt and fear overcome me. I look all around the room. After a while, I see a female body lighting a lamp in a corner. Taking the lamp she sits beside me on a pirka. She turns her face away from mine. I do not see her clearly. I move my body to attract her attention and let out an audible sigh. She turns her gaze to look at me. I can read her face―delineated with a little shyness, a little fright, and a little patience.

Slowly it occurs to me that her face is familiar. I look at her with a surprise—”You!”

“Yes, sir . . . I am Sukanya.”

Her tranquil face and innocent way of looking lure me. I recall something; Sukanya is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever known. But why is she here? I wonder.

“Sir, you might be wondering how I got here. We came here last night to attack the headquarters. I slipped from my friends and entered my mother’s house while returning after the attack. I saw you lying on the floor. Initially, I thought it was my mother lying there. But when the torchlight illuminated your face, it was you. Too much blood had flown from your body. I rubbed some cream on you when you were unconscious. I could not lift you up, sir. So I made a bed on the floor and let you sleep. Thinking that you might not regain consciousness due to the chilling cold, I slept with you to give you the warmth of my body . . .” she stammers while uttering the last sentence. Her face glows in shyness in the light of the tuki lamp.

****

A rumor that went around my office was that she joined the Maoist fighters a year ago. Before this, she had come to my office to make a citizenship certificate and for official work as well. However, we got to know each other better when she finally came for her citizenship certificate.

“Sir, I have to make a citizenship certificate for myself. I am working for a healthrelated NGO. I will be tenured in my job once I get the certificate. Otherwise, after two months, I will have to quit the job,” she said.

“A father’s recognition is necessary to get the citizenship certificate. Is your father alive or not?” I was speaking with a young girl who was nineteen or twenty.

“A father’s recognition is necessary to get the citizenship certificate. Is your father alive or not?” I was speaking with a young girl who was nineteen or twenty.

“Sir, my father is not with us. That’s why it is difficult to get the citizenship certificate. Can you tell me what else I can do? I am ready to do whatever it takes. I have heard that it is not difficult to get the citizenship certificate if you are willing to help me!” My morality was alerted when this young country girl said she was ready to offer whatever it took. I asked, “What are you saying? What do you mean by whatever? Are you asking to get a citizenship certificate without the recognition of a father?” My words were filled with power and pride.

“It’s not that, sir! I do not mean that. I said this just because I had heard that the former CDO used to settle any difficult cases. Sir, I will have to quit my job if I do not get the citizenship certificate. My future will be ruined. I’m told that in Kathmandu a mother’s citizenship certificate also works to get her daughter’s. So I have come to request this favor of you,” Sukanya said politely.

This girl is very smart and fearless and truly does have some knowledge of the former CDO as well, I thought. I also thought it not right to argue much with her. I guessed her story: blinded by sexual desire, an officer like me might have seduced her young mother; then, he must have disappeared, leaving her with a child. As a result, the future of this innocent girl has fallen into this present moment.

She waited for my hopefully positive response. “You must know that the law to make a citizenship certificate from a mother’s lineage has not been drafted in our country. Though once it is made, there will not be any problem to give you a certificate,” I said to her.

She began gasping with sobs, and her shoulders shook. I was bewildered.

In a soothing voice, she said, “Sir, I heard that my father was also an officer like you!”

“Sir, please provide me the citizenship certificate by saying that you are my father.”

‘Oh, how fearless this girl is. How can she talk like this before a CDO? And how could I be like her father, even if people who see me think my age ten years older than it really is? It must be my bald head that has convinced her of my age,’ I thought, but remained silent.

‘Oh, how fearless this girl is. How can she talk like this before a CDO? And how could I be like her father, even if people who see me think my age ten years older than it really is? It must be my bald head that has convinced her of my age,’ I thought, but remained silent.

“How is this possible? Tell me. Can a CDO take the illegal way?” I tried to reconcile her argument with mine.

She came to my office two or three more times. She stopped coming when the possibility of getting the citizenship certificate became slim. Later, I came to learn that she had become a Maoist cadre! I had to be wary of her according to my office staff.

****

“Sir, what are you thinking? Now you have recognized me properly, have you?” Her calm voice interrupts my train of thought. I am drawn to the present.

This time she seems fearless, selfrespecting, and rational. She has been here, overcoming the fear of death and showed no signs of horror and fear manifesting in her face. She has devoted her precious life to the burning fire of revolution. Why is such a beautiful girl with this tender body wasting her life?

“Sir, you are thinking why and how I became a Maoist cadre, aren’t you? Sir, I became a Maoist not out of my own will. I wouldn’t have become a Maoist at any cost if I had got my citizenship certificate. I would have been tenured in my job and would have settled there properly, taking care of my old mother. But I had to quit my job soon afterwards and was compelled to stay at home. Then my friends who knew me started suggesting I join the Maoists, saying that our country required revolutionary fighters. I became a Maoist, sir.”

“Aren’t you scared to play with bombs and bullets?” I asked her.

“Scared!” she exclaimed.

“Our country requires the sacrifice of youths like us. Corrupt and hypocrite landowning exploiters should be rooted out. We cannot manage even one solid meal a day despite working day and night. We have nothing while they have had a luxurious life. We have to make a prosperous new Nepal. For this we need to revolt. Sir, the exploited class should be uplifted, according to Mao’s theory.” She seems to be recalling something.

I want to tell her the many weaknesses of her party, but the pain of my body does not let me. She seems to be highly influenced by her party policy.

My whole body aches. I breathe a sigh of pain, “Urgh.”

Then she says, “Sir, you are suffering from a severe pain. I will get you a painkiller.”

She takes out medicine from some corner of the room and gives it to me with a glass of water. I can’t move one of my legs. There are bruises all over my body. My body starts to ache severely. I notice that she has applied the medicine after cleaning my wounds. I realize it now.

My eyes are fixed on her blouse and sari. I translate my eagerness into words. “You have been to attack the headquarters, but is this the blouse and sari?”

“These belong to my mother. I have hidden my combat uniform. I feared that it would be risky if I wore them now.”

I realize that this girl has become very smart. How quickly can she understand the thoughts in another’s mind? Why is she putting her life at risk for me? Who is she to me anyway? Why is she showing such generosity?

“Sir, I have studied psychology with the party and taken counseling training since I am able to read. So I can easily guess what you are thinking. Sir, you might be thinking why I am taking such a risk. We also have humanity, even if we are very cruel at the moment. We also have feelings. I can’t go leaving you alone in this condition. Sir, we are as insignificant as gnats to you. I have thought that our life is meaningless, but yours is not. You have many hopes that keep on following you, but in my case I have no guarantee for my own life, nor any value. Nor do I have hopes for a future. Later, I came to know that my mother, too, had left me alone.”

She looks thoughtful.

I am impatient hearing such things from a beautiful girl. The girl with such a beautiful body and this height of intelligence surprises me. If only she got the opportunity, she could keep the world under her authority. But the plight of the Nepali people is that many such beautiful tender hands are playing with bombs and bullets. So many nubile girls like Sukanya are exchanging their dreams of a brighter future for revolution. They have stifled their happiness, desires and future deep in their hearts.

It is not yet broad daylight outside while we are talking. She enters the room fetching a pitcher of water. She makes a fire in the hearth in a corner and heats the water. She brings maize from somewhere and starts to heat it. Now there is daylight outside. The corn kernels are popping in the handi. In my mind, too, various positive and negative ideas burst like the popping corn.

I learned many things about life from her company. We are human beings of two opposite sexes, who follow two opposite ideals. I am one of the male employees working on behalf of the government to provide security for the people; whereas, she is a female guerilla, fighting to topple the government with a revolt. She can challenge death, whereas, I am a coward who escapes it. I have many hopes, beliefs, and desires, which I have been plucking from this beautiful world, while she has been trading her rosy future for bombs and bullets, leading a hopeless miserable present. The present moment and this incident make me emotional and agitated. My writing skills, which were dormant, become alert. Humanity staggers. I become serious and sensitive. I determine to verbalize this unimaginable moment.

“Sir . . . ,” she breaks the silence, “I will send word so that some men will come to retrieve you. I myself could take you when night falls but your health might worsen by that time. Therefore, I will make my way, telling someone to take you, sir.”

She starts to pack her things while crunching on the maize. I also take a little bit of it. Soon she scribbles something on a piece of paper and steals a glimpse of my face. Becoming serious and sensitive, she says, “Sir, do not forget me if you see me somewhere! Remember me if you hear or read the name Nilima. I hope you recover soon. I will be on my way. After sometime, some men will come to take you. Do not tell anyone anything about me.”

Her words make me worried and thoughtful. On the one hand, she is at risk, while on the other my health is getting worse. I speak with difficulty—

“Do not go, Sukanya. Surrender! I will speak on your behalf.”

She says patiently, “Sir, it’s too late. All my roads of returning have been blocked. My soul will not get peace even if I surrender. It is against our party policy. So, I must go. I do not fear death.” She goes out, taking a small bundle that could be her uniform. Still lying on the bed, I just watch her go.

About the Author

288341_2099874529301_1236271_oSharmila Khadka (Dahal), born in Dharan in eastern Nepal, writes for children and the audience of all ages. Her more than half a dozen books of short stories and novels for children are published. Samayako Kyanbhasma (On the Canvas of Time, 2008), Sani (2003), Mitratako Mahattwa (The Importance of Friendship, 2006), Saniko Sahas (Sani’s Valor, 2005), and Sinkeko Safalta (Sinke’s Success, 2007) are her major works. Sharmila was awarded the Sajha Balsahitya Puraskar for her first book, Sani, a novel based on child psychology. She was also honored with the Excellent Woman Writer’s Award (2007), the Gunjan Talent Award (2009), among others.

 

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