The town of N____ was a small and peculiar place. About seven miles from Kathmandu, the small town was nothing sort of lively or murky. It was peculiar place because nothing significant ever occurred there as the town lived in boredom, and as it was prone to happen, it lived very much in peace. It was a small town with a bazar where people gathered every evening and like the town, basked in dull apparition of the descending fat old sun. The days trudged their way through the wrecked dreams of the people and the people were old, furrowed and grey. All their children had moved away in the pursuit of a modern life or to say, the western life, and only the middle aged and their old gaping fathers and grumpy mothers existed in this limbo. The bazar was the only place holding the people from insanity and the tediousness of life, as people amassed in the tea shops and taverns and gratified in each other’s company, amusing themselves, sallying their way through the lassitude of their daily life. The women were indulged in gossips, moping though time, and resenting for their blunt husbands while the men evinced their judgement through drunken brawls. The night usually ended in such a carousel that the boulevards were full of lamentation, remorse, rage, and vomit. But when the day commenced, it was all sluggish and lifeless. Like the town itself suffered from bipolar disorder.
It was a small town, about two hundred brick houses, pitched and slated rooftops, two storied with a mezzanine and mostly hueless or withered. The east nook consisted of wild copses and groves through which a deep muddy road passed and into the city. It was so much covered with mud that people trudged their way and slogged their belongings though this narrow field of bureaucratic misdemeanour in which the town whole heartedly gratified. The culture of silence weighed upon the travellers more than the gratified townsmen as they cursed and resented this filthy predicament unlike the hundreds of pigs wallowing in this festivity of filth. It was nothing extraordinary that all the pigs would come up every noon when the sun would be over the head and the little children, amused and overwhelmed, would join in as their dutiful errand and ramble into the groves, spirited and lively, bonding with some and fuming with others over some petty argument. Ah! Children, how true are they to the world, the only hallow entity of the world.
Goloman reached this small trivial town of N____, mid June when the monsoon finally relieved their fury over the region. It was cold, dripping and the breeze blew bland, just hours after a heavy rainfall. The town was laden with mud and ditches while everyone stayed inside their homes and a deserted swampy road lay ahead of him. He veered from his intention and turned left towards a hotel-inn and treaded towards its narrow doors as the slackening rain grew heavy. As he entered through the door he could smell the peculiar fusion of the floor and old belongings that were kept in the room which usually engulfs a traveller in Nepal. The sordid cotton curtains, the rickety furniture, the riveted gods, the elevated raw meats in rusty grills just above the stove, and the never ending boiling of tea, all combining to reek of this peculiar Nepalese smell inside this dimly lit melancholic room. There was a small archway towards the kitchen from where the innkeeper came and wiped the long chair though not dirty or wet and it was understood that Golomanwas to sit there. He sat there and put his belongings on the floor, a mere handbag, and ordered a glass of chhyang. The innkeeper nodded and went inside the kitchen and came instantly with a tainted red jar in one hand and a glass in the other, put the glass in the table which evinced its inner structure, worn out, and poured chhyang into the glass very prudently and slid it towards Goloman. “Do you need anything ?” asked the innkeeper, Golomansaid, “No, thank you. But what’s the matter with him ?”, pointing his head and raising his both eyebrows towards the old man opposite to him, they were sharing the same table.
The man leaning with his arm against the wall sat there morosely and his another hand held a cheap cigarette which hadn’t been smoked for a while as can be assumed with the ashes piling up and suspended through the narrow filter. He was a stout looking man, sullen cheeks, dark circles made a semi arch above his eyes, unkempt dark hair with shades of grey. He was draped in hue of black and blue striped woollen scarf while the blue old tweed coat made an impression that he was to be some government official. He sat there with his eyes closed and Golomanthought that he must have been crying a little while ago as there was a thin dark line in his cheek. “Oh! He’s just from around the corner” replied the innkeeper. “Poor old man! bad luck seems to have taken a liking to him, it seems”. “Why, what’s the matter?” asked Golomannonchalantly. The old man seemed not to care the stranger’s curiosity, maybe he was deeply engulfed in his own thoughts, ruminating fate. “ One should not test fate it seems, I am a poor man too, sir, but I don’t run around complaining my present, my life, if it’s an innkeepers life I should live then I have no sorrow. Not that I am happy with this petty business but I am not complaining, you know”, said the innkeeper. Golomanseemed to have lost his curiosity but still for the sake of being polite added, “Yes, Yes, we should not complain of our lives if we don’t have a solution else it’s just plain whining, nobody likes whiners”. The innkeeper now standing with a glass of chhyang of his own smiled at Goloman, a broad smile revealing his yellowish teeth. “It wasn’t a long ago this poor soul was a well respected man, sir. A government official at the forestry department, you see…..it’s all fate in the end, if we are to end up in the palace or in the ditch…at least the man has a bed to sleep” drawled the innkeeper, probably already more than tipsy. “You see my dear sir, he was struck by Blitzkrieg , as my old papa would have said, he served in the second great war, and I am proud to be a son of Gurkhali……he was wise, my papa, he could have had it all, all the pain fate could afford, he was a true man, what are we nowadays! Just mere shadows of our fathers, only more lofty……..”
“It wasn’t a long ago this man right here, poor man, he was robbed……..robbed of his dignity, his right to stand up and act respectfully, at least masquerade such an act. But here is a man, my dear sir who has been robbed of what a man most desires…….a man may desire a beautiful wife, he may desire plump little children, small house to live in, a Ford or a Chevy, he may be obsessed about drinking exquisite whiskey or wine, he may even desire to keep a mistress for some fun, harmless, until one gets caught……but sir, you have to admit, no man desires more than being able to masquerade about his dignity”. The innkeeper stopped for some more chhyang, poured in carelessly and drank that fill in a hearty big gulp. He began, “…..so sir, this man obviously desiring…….but but sir”, he drawled and lit a cigarette for himself then began again, “ This man obviously yearning for respect made a common mistake that a man makes, that is to let one’s impulse loose, this may dear sir, was his mistake and that has now cost him one hundred and eighty one rupees in my humble tavern, ha-ha-ha-ha roared in the innkeeper. It was an allusion to the old man who apparently began to raise himself but faltered here and now. So, Goloman, after raising his chin and assuming a slight grin also raised his elbow for the old man to hold on to while the man tweaking and trudging, his trousers protruding, carelessly rummaged his pockets for the money and threw out a bundle of crumbled up hundreds and walked out through the narrow door. “Umm…..he seems generous today”, chimed in the innkeeper, apparently happy from his earnings for the time.
Goloman began to feel drowsy now and he wanted to put an end to the innkeepers gibberish rumblings for, he wanted to be left alone at least for a while. “So, this old man, what struck him you said, eh?” Goloman asked, sluggishly. The innkeeper was busy ironing the wrinkled notes and seemed not to care what Golomanwas interrogating about. He drew out a thick book form the bottom drawer of the cupboard, indiscriminately opened the book and slid in the crumpled up hundreds. He was very meticulous in doing this that the way he pressed the both ends of the book after sliding each hundred into the book was almost with the same prudence and force. A kind of discretion was in his ways now and he nimbly stepped towards Golomanlit another inexpensive cigarette and began “Not long ago, the old man was a well respected officer of the forestry department. You know the kind, simple folk, simple ways desiring nothing much from his work but convenience, a hard worker in his own ranks yet timid and susceptible to the flaws of bureaucracy. I heard it was more than thirty years of service sir, that the old chap had done to for the forest around these hills, a undemanding soul certainly……..”. Golomanchimed in the innkeeper for another refill and he unhesitatingly brought a full jar of chhyang in the same tainted red jar. Discreetly poured the glass and continued, “………you see sir, the poor chap was living an ordinary life, peacefully in his home with his lovely wife and a son, who had been sent to a boarding school in the city when he was a child and later was able to acquire a job at a private firm, life couldn’t be more flawless, I’d like to add”. Then the innkeeper began to talk about the boy, how he was, is character and flaws, how he’d risen up to the occasion one day and had bequeathed large sum of money to an old woman stranded by her children and how, one time he, in a drunken carousel had nearly broken another man’s neck with his beefy, sturdy hands. The innkeeper went on and on about the boy instead. He was drunk now and there was no stopping to his rumblings and annoying little tittle-tattles. No thought escapes from the mind of the drunk, like myriad of notions in a speck of light through a mindless thoroughfare, stirring, glistening, vibrant, blissful yet no direction home.
The smell of rain, rusty, oily and funny hovered inside the room for, the rain was heavy and laden with victory. The outburst of this sudden heavy rainfall made Goloman melancholic as he rubbed his forehead with his rigid fingers, eyebrows raised and a furrowed temple. The longer it rained the more he had to keep up with the fibbing drunk innkeeper. The soothing sound when the divine raindrops make while striking the earth, ditch, grass, dilapidated wall, slated and pitched roof, the hackneyed black umbrellas, the shuffling girls and pacing children, such mosaic of insipid and nimble sound, the drum indiscriminately played by nature pacified Golomanfrom the propositions his new friend was making.
The innkeeper was saying, “…..and the boy when he became a full grown man, moustached and prudent felt he had to enter into a wedlock and thus a girl from this very town was arranged”. Then growing solemn the innkeeper spoke boldly and pompously,
“But sir, I will tell you what I think of such marriage, I will tell you what I believe, I believe sir, I believe in what the Chinaman said about the inclination of society to marry off women in such a fashion, what do you think sir ?”,
“What about it”, replied Golomanangrily.
“That…that…arrange marriage is a social rape”, drawled the innkeeper.
“Maybe. I don’t think of it in such a way”, answered Golomanand lit his cigarette rather listlessly. The innkeeper immediately and impulsively said, “But don’t you think it is a progressive idea”.
“I don’t care what those communists say. It’s all a web, a web of charming philosophy and rhetoric they weave upon us and what do they deliver? Huh. What have they delivered to us here. A decade of so called civil war, hostility, freedom from oppression. Oh yes, we were down trodden but not from zamindars, we were chained but not by nobility, we were wronged only by the silence that we adhered to, we were riveted into the wall of subjugation not because there is doctrines like Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, Hinduism, Absurdism or Asceticism engraved in our society like leeches sucking and draining us but I tell you that the latent doctrine of Fatalism chains us, oppresses us and consumes our very soul, exhausting us of our buoyancy and progress. And you tell me that that arrange marriage is a social rape! No my friend, it is the sadist attitude that is riveted in the very fabric of our society that rapes women and men alike, murders babies before they are born, guillotines the creative and dauntless few”, roared Golomanand thumping his fist into the table evinced his rage against the loathsome ways of the society he so much hated and feared.
The innkeeper was startled and grew timid at the paroxysm of vigour that absorbed Goloman. He saw Golomanbecoming red with hatred, his lightly tanned and fair countenance did little to conceal the vexation he felt against the hypocrisy that the society was procuring and breeding, like a vile organism itself, sucking, ravaging, draining the life of the host it was clung to. And like that men cling, embracing the masquerade, thriving under it, affectation based on crude familiarity with the existence of one’s soul. To Goloman, hedonistic dispositions would have been acceptable than such pretence of magnanimity.
“Religion has poisoned our country more than politicians ever could”, plainly added Goloman, contemplating after a while.
There was silence for a brief moment but for the innkeeper, timid and startled, silence was taking its toll until it became unbearable for him. He could hear the nimble and uniform drumming of his heart and feel the rush of blood through his nerves in his head. He looked at Goloman, he was solemn and looked dejected, still chafing his furrowed forehead with his coarse fingers and dilated nostrils. He was probably still vexed at the supercilious realm that society has become and it was mirrored in his countenance.
The innkeeper who just couldn’t keep up with the silence blurted out, “As I was saying sir, when the girl was arranged for….”, but before he could really begin, Golomanabruptly, with a condescending tone chimed in, “Let me tell you one story, you see, I have waited for some time now for you to finish your story but since you wouldn’t care to finish it, I’d like to tell you one when I was arriving at this insolently silly town with obnoxious people who mirthfully have accepted hypocrisy as their way of life and still you-you….”, he took a long breath and immediately realizing that was uncalled for, he felt ashamed, dropped his head and silence ensued. This silence lasted for a long time, Golomanwas penitent of his impulsive nature, the innkeeper was ashamed of his unwarranted idealistic pretence, he knew in his heart that Golomanwas right and that it was hypocrisy and the whimsical nuisance was all that he could afford to provide along with the sour chhyang. Both assumed a grim, rueful and stern countenances but it was evident that nobody was going to yield up to the inconvenience each other had rendered.
“You say religion has poisoned our country, I think you are wrong, sir…..I may be just an innkeeper and you may be a learned man but your education seems a bit unruly, it may sound progressive but religion provides a moralistic perspective to people and consequently keeps them sane from the hypocrisy you are suggesting”, said the innkeeper quavering yet it was obvious that he wanted to prove that he wouldn’t succumb to insult from anybody. Pride! the evil within oneself.
It was no surprise that Golomanfelt denigrated and so was the innkeepers intention even though there were only two of them in the entire room. Golomanassuming a grin in his face derided the innkeeper, “You my friend prove me right. Hypocrisy at the finest…….Didn’t you say earlier that arrange marriage is a social rape? And you believed in it and here you are asserting like an idiot that I am wrong. You support the reds when they say equality is inherent and crucial and you suddenly turn into a communist, an ideologist, conformist, a radical rebel and all that hypocritical lamb you can be but then they say ‘religion is opium of the people, the abolition of religion as illusionary happiness of the people is the demand of real happiness’, you don’t like it, you loathe it, why, why do you despise it so much so that it pollutes your soul? I ask you. Such a society that will not even pursue an ideology in absolute and what more, it reeks, that smell of duplicity, napalm, the stench of fickle mindedness. Rejecting the ideology that very much is near to perfection, the most wonderful ideal that man ever imagined, Communism, has to be compromised, it has to be made flexible to the needs of the time we say. What time is it? It’s time for hypocrisy, it’s time for people all alike, citizens and politicians to masquerade the denigration of an ideal. It is time for us as a society to alter the very nature of an ideal and follow a new doctrine, hypocrisy. A society guided from the love of god is the society most inhumane. Morals are essential but we shouldn’t forget that they are intrinsic to all humans and religion is not required to exert morals. It is but the complete pursuit of idealism that guarantees it. What fallacy we are living in!”
To be continued…..