Past: A Collection of Broken Images

Gender discrimination and domestic violence are common and long-existing problems of Nepal. There is a trend of discriminating between children (sons and daughters) on the basis of their sex. As male children are the most desirable babies, they are loved, cared and paid more attention than female children. A female child's misfortune begins with her father's hatred, negligence and disinterest toward her. Although there is no certainty of future, most of the fathers usually perform less responsibility toward their own daughters when they are young or physically healthy. These sorts of irresponsible, negligent, biased and carefree treatment of fathers, make their daughters either struggle against them or posses negative attitudes toward them - like me in this autobiographical essay entitled, "Past: a Collection of Broken Images".

The clinking sound of plates was coming from the kitchen. The letters seemed to be unclear in the flickering light of candle. He was reading these unclear letters through the lenses of glasses. Rough sounds coming from the kitchen were disturbing him, but he was trying to concentrate his mind by jerking his head.

“What is she doing?”, he thought showing his dissatisfaction. His wife was still washing dishes. He had known that she is furious like a lion.

“What are you doing by lighting a candle?” Ujawala madam’s voice was like the boiling water. He was concentrating on his book, he startled.

“Is it necessary to be angry with the dishes?”, he saw toward the door making a counter argument.

She was standing beside the door, her waist was girdled with her scarf, and both hands were put on it. White light of tube light from behind and red light of candle from the opposite side had created an attraction on her body. Eyes were widened, nostrils were widening and narrowing, forehead was wrinkled. But he had never seen such intoxicating beauty even in her marriage in her eighteen. Mausam thought, “Even housewives are now looking like guerrillas”. His mind was being filled with the novel that he recently read. He felt her standing as if the real guerrilla was standing in front of him. 

It was the winter evening. Darkness had already spread its authority all over the earth. In the heart-chocking cold, I was feeling as if I was trapped inside a refrigerator. No sooner had I began reading these lines from the novel, Urgenko Ghoda by Yug Pathak sitting on the bed by covering myself with a blanket than I heard the same clinking sound of plates coming from the house of the opposite which was coming from Ujwala madam’s kitchen in the novel.

As my room was attached to the window, I opened the wooden-window-pane and gave a sight toward the kitchen of the house opposite just like Mishri (a female character) of the novel, Window of the House Opposite.

“You do not help in anything. But you spend the whole day in chowk instead…”, my mother was scolding father.

“I’ve crossed more than six decades. What do you expect from me in my old age?”, father was replying.

Mother spoke, “Stay at home, take care of pets, don’t drink too much”. She then added, “Do you think I’m in my youth? I’m doing all chores. I have to take lots of medicines but then I’ve to work hard from early morning to the evening without taking any rest”.

The conversation was going in a high sound but I did not pay attention to it anymore thinking that it was the daily routines of my parents. In other words, they were habituated in doing so. White, red, pink and many other multi-colored flowers were being swung by the wind in front of the window. The yellow-colored raatki rani was spreading its scent toward my nose frequently. With the help of a torch, I tried to check whether butterflies and bees were still sucking honey of the flower or not, but the flow of strong wind nearly cut my head off. I found my cheeks to be like pieces of ice and my nose as the mountain when I touched them with the help of my palms.

I closed the window immediately and felt safe just like a baby dove in its nest. Although I had patched the pieces of newspapers and posters in the wooden wall of my room, I was being kissed by the wind. In spite of the freezing temperature and excessive coldness, I drank the cold water from karuwa, opened the book again, turned the folded page, cleaned the lenses of my thick-framed glasses, hung it on my mushroom-like ears, wiped the bulb of tube light which was hanging on the ceiling above my head, and started barking at print again.

“Is it time to walk being intoxicated in such darkness? Don’t you know how much anxious will we be!”. She lowered her hands from her waist but the lock of her hair was still swinging when expressing her fear.      

Ujwala madam was actually in tension even from the day time. She had to walk for an hour to reach to school. There was a program in her school on the occasion of school’s anniversary. She was tired of running after children. She had intended to take rest at home by making her husband do chores. But he appeared at home only after curfew, being intoxicated with wine. She had to do all the chores but her husband had not realized it yet.

No sooner had I started reading these lines than I heard unusual sound of some heavy object tumbling down the stairs. I did not pay more attention to it at first because I thought that the strong wind might have been lifting some heavy object. But later, I suspected whether my favorite earthen flower-vase was being broken by the wind. Meanwhile, I heard an exclamation, “aiyaa mare aamaa…a” ( Ouch! I died, mother).

I took no longer time in recognizing this male voice as my father’s voice. I opened the window again and looked at the yard, at the bottom of the stairs but saw nothing except darkness. My mother switched on the light of the balcony immediately and ran toward the yard where my father was lying.

She asked, “What happened!”.

“I broke my tongue”, father replied.

“Broke tongue! But how!”, mother asked.

“I tumbled down from the middle of the stairs, so…”, father replied in unclear voice.

Mother ordered me to help her by lifting him up to his bed. Unwillingly and lazily, I went there.

“How did you fall?”, I asked curiously.

But curiosity killed the cat when mother spoke, “Didn’t you hear what we talked about?! Now just lift him up from his left hand. This is not the time for an interview.

Mother ordered me, “Now you bring a bowl of lukewarm water along with salt and a clean handkerchief from the kitchen”.

I did so. I nearly vomited when I smelt the fresh blood flowing from my father’s bruises. I saw his face, clothes and even his toes covered with blood. His lips, nose, and middle of his forehead were swollen and he was looking like brahmarakshyas (a monster of the Hindi serial, Brahmarakshyas). I nearly laughed at him loudly but my mother’s lion-like angry face stopped me. She wiped the blood from his bruises and made him change his clothes.

She was scolding him, “You drunkard! I’ve been warning you not to drink too much. but you did not listen to me. Now see the result of drinking excessively”.

She then made him open his mouth. I was busy in changing his bed sheet but was shocked with mother’s unusual screaming. She closed her eyes and covered her face with her palms just after she observed his broken tongue.

“Why are you screaming? What happened to his tongue?”, I asked.

She replied, “You see yourself”.

“Let me check your tongue, father”, I requested him.

Reality was beyond imagination and expectation. The breadth of his tongue was cut from one edge up to another edge. Only a small amount of flesh was joining his tongue. I closed my eyes too being unable to look at his tongue anymore. Despite the fact that he was heavily intoxicated and was unable to control his body by himself, he was still claiming that this accident had happened just because of his (recently dead) father’s wandering soul. He was arguing that a father’s death in a family would invite a number of misfortune and accidents in his son’s life for a year. God only knows what the fact was.

Next day, early in the morning, neighbors and relatives came to visit my father.

One aunt teased him, “You might be missing thermo coat (local wine) in such cold morning, right?”

Mother was tired of reporting the detailed information (including setting, time, health condition) of the same accident for many times.

I teased her, “Now look! your drunkard husband became a celebrity. You look tired of reporting the same information frequently. Why don’t you write it on the drawing paper and patch it on the wall?”

She smiled and warned me to be prepared before bus’s appearance. As we were preparing to go to hospital for his treatment, we went to the bus-stop. As soon as we reached there, a bus appeared inviting passengers and we took our seats. I saw some school girls walking on the street for school. One girl had cut her hair up to her shoulders and had let it free. Another girl seemed to be fashionable stitched in a modern style. Black shoes on their feet were shining. Now trees, mountains, hills, and houses began running but I was still on the seat except the movement caused by the vibration of the engine of the bus. I took a long breath, closed my eyes and leaned against my ‘back’.

I had a meal, sitting between two brothers on a mat made up of straw. My mother combed my hair, divided it into two equal parts and then banded them with the red ribbon. She hung a dark-blue skirt over the white t-shirt and patched them on my body. Unfortunately, on the way to school, my slipper was broken in the midst of the dark forest. I was anxious because it was bought by my mother who had spent NRs. 25. As this slipper was joined twice with the fire, there was no option except to rejoin it either by creeper or by a hook.

One of my friends took a safety pin out of her skirt (which she had used to hook her skirt) and rejoined my slipper. Now, I could not walk as quickly as before. I wore my slipper when other people came near me or appeared in front of me, but I took it off and ran with bare feet when they disappeared trampling the thorny path. The same day, I broke my knee when playing ‘kabaddi’. Although I was slow and steady, I used to be selected by my friends because I used to be the winner eventually.

Tee…teee…. the sound of bus woke me up from my ‘past’.           

I wished for my father’s death till the end of my ‘teens’. I thought that my birth, for him, was a nasty surprise in a sandwich, a drawing-pin caught in his socks, a serious mistake in a nightie as well as a grave disappointment. He used to bring sweets and fruits to my brother not for me. He used to take them on his lap. I do not remember when we interacted frankly. I struggled with him for my higher education too. People often say father is the source of inspiration but it is society which creates thorns on the path of their career. But I have a huge disagreement with that statement because I think father is the most powerful enemy and obstruction. I have never heard a single word uttered from his mouth in my support.

I have an objection with Sigmund Freud’s theory of attraction and affection between a father and his daughter. Once, he had cursed me, “Your future will never be bright” just because I did not inform him that I bought some new books in my eighth grade. Why should I call this man ‘my father’ just because I am made up of his sperm? There are no words to express his brutality and suppression done upon my mother. Nowadays, money can buy a father, but I have a father who is worthy neither of selling nor of buying. The tags of ‘educated girl’, ‘understanding daughter’ and so on are patched on my chest, which have been enforcing me to play the role of a ‘good daughter’                   

Attitudes and perspectives toward something change in course of time. Unacceptable things, facts and persons must be accepted when necessary. Jesus Christ says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hates you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” My mother says too, “baigunilaai gunle mara” (serve your enemies as much as you can).


After receiving basic treatment and some suggestions for dressing and medications, we returned to our home. In spite of my hatred toward him, I nursed him. When dressing and applying medicines on his bruises, I remembered my own bruises (psychological and mental) which were created by him. His bruises could be observed and could be cured as well, but what about my bruises which have been hiding inside my heart and mind?

One day, the doctors declared that one kidney of him was damaged. They cut it off through surgery. He was unable to stand by himself therefore, I supported him. As my elder sister was a nurse, she taught and showed me a list of medicines as prescribed by the doctors. I was the one to take care of him. Providing nutritious food, clean dress and medicines in time were my duties during his illness.

He might have not touched me when I was an infant and was unable to move my body by myself, but I touched him, supported him, nursed him when he was ill and wept at seeing his pain. I could not make my heart hard like stone. Surgeons had thrown stones away along with his damaged kidney. I hope he threw the stone from his heart too.

My name is Sapana Rai. I'm from Nepal and I’m sharing a short essay containing the existing superstitious practices in my community.