Translation of Paral ko Aago, A story by Guru Prasad Mainali.
One evening, Chame came home from his ploughing to find that Gaunthali had locked up the house and gone to the village to watch a wedding. After a whole day of ploughing, he was tired and hungry. Just as he was putting away the yoke and plough and tying up the ox, Gaunthali came down the hill. When he saw her, Chame flared up in anger. The fire hadn’t even been lit yet, let alone a meal prepared! Hurriedly, Gaunthali unbolted the door and rushed off to fetch water. Chame kindled a fire in the hearth and filled his pipe with tobacco.
He sat smoking on the doorstep like a gathering storm cloud. Gaunthali came back carrying the waterpot on her hip. She was just about to enter the house when Chame said, “This old widow’s spent the whole day making eyes at the men, and still she’s putting on airs!” and he gave her a kick. Gaunthali staggered and fell in the doorway. The pot smashed, splashing water across the threshold. She was picking up the pieces and throwing them out into the yard when Chame yelled, “Don’t stay another second in my house! Get out and go where you will!” and he dragged her out by her pigtail and threw her into) the yard.
Gaunthali had been a little to blame, and so she held her peace even when he kicked her. But when he grabbed her by her hair and threw her out, she let fly, “Take your leprous hands off me! My wretched parents in their stupidity have handed me over to a butcher! It would be better to drown than to be the wife of such a destitute corpse!”
“This old widow must think her father”s very rich! If he didn’t do the ploughing for all the other villagers, he’d never get a bite to eat! And then she brags about her family!” and he kicked her again. Gaunthali wailed at the top of her voice.
All the village children had come up onto the embankment to see the show. “Hey, you corpses, what show is going on here for you all to come and watch?” Chame picked up a stick and chased after them, but the children ran up the hill, laughing.
Gaunthali was weeping, but Chame just spread out a rush mat and went to sleep on the verandah.
The next morning, Chame took the ploughing ox off to the paddy field with an empty stomach. When he came home in the evening, Gaunthali had gone. The neighbours told him that she had packed up her clothes and gone off to her parents’ home.
The buffalo was still in the yard and when it saw Chame it bellowed. He gave it fodder and untied the calf; then he fetched a pail and sat clown to milk it. First, it gave a few measures of milk, but then it kicked Chame and skipped away. Chame fell backwards into some dung and the pail fell three feet away. His trousers and waistcoat were covered with dung. On the wall, there was a stout stick, which he snatched up in his hand, but after a couple of blows from that, the buffalo broke its tether anti leapt off into Kokalé’s maize field Chame tried to tempt it away, but the buffalo jumped from one side to the other in terror. Soon the newly hoed maize field was flattened to straw. Koka1é’s mother cursed Chaime from the courtyard wall,
“Chame, may you become a barren corpse! A corpse that not even cholera can carry off! Yesterday you beat your wife, and today you beat your buffalo and destroy somebody else’s income for the year! I’ve never seen such a temper! Look at this wretched serf’s bravery! Last year, Dhanvire laid you flat on your back with just one blow, and there you lay for a whole year, saying how brave you were! It may be alright to wallop a stranger, but why beat your wife or a dumb animal tied to a post? As soon as the evening comes around, you’re causing some trouble or other, and the whole village is in an uproar!”
There was a wedding feast at Dhanvire’s house. All the village youths were blind drunk on the beer. Koka1é had dressed himself up in women’s clothing, and he was beating a drum and dancing.’ All the others had joined in with him, singing and clapping their hands. Just then, his sister arrived and told him about his maize field.
Kokalé ran off to the maize field in his petticoat. When the buffalo saw his attire, it stuck its tail in the air and leapt around even more. Koka1é was furious when he saw the flattened maize; the few remaining heads were just being crushed as he slapped Chame twice across the face. Poor Chame said nothing. Eventually it took four or five men half the night to chase the buffalo away.
Next morning, Chame was on his way back from the spring with the water pot on his shoulder when Juthe the tailor’s” wife came down the hill. Juthe the tailor and Chame were the best of friends. He called Juthe’s wife “sister-in-law.” When she saw Chame carrying water, she said, “Oh, how bad it looks when a man fetches water!”
“Well, what choice do I have? I packed the wretch off to her mother’s, so if I don’t do it, who will?”
“If you beat her blindly, what choice did she have?”
“She’s got a tongue like a razor. What can I do but beat her?”
“It’s true, she is a bit cheeky, but just a mild beating would be enough.”
“Oh, be quiet! I remember Juthe giving you a proper thrashing last Dasain! Well, did you answer him back?”
“Oh! Beat me once, you say! We’re devoted now, but there was a time when never a day would go by without a thrashing! In the evenings he’d come back from the Tibetan village where he’d been drinking beer and beat me on some pretext or another… and then on festival days …
After a few rainy days, my body still aches from it! But even after all these years, I don’t think I’ve ever answered him back.”
“That’s all very well. Do you mean that ! made her cheeky by beating her? If she’d been as even-tempered as you, I’d have kept and cherished her as if she was a goddess!”
“That’s as maybe, but no woman needs to stick with a fool. How much longer are you going to keep on fetching your own water? Go tomorrow and bring her back.”
“If she comes to her senses, well, the house is still here for her. But I’d sooner be a pode than go and get her!”
With his waistcoat over his half-sleeved shirt and lopsided Nepalese trousers, with his black cap gleaming with dirt and a vermilion tika between his eyebrows, with his waterpot on his shoulder and his moustache set firm, Chame cut a dark and grimy figure.
One morning, Chame was sitting on his verandah smoking from the bamboo hookah when down the hill canoe Juthe the tailor. First came Juthe, carrying his son. Behind him came his wife with a small bundle of clothes tucked under her arm. When he saw Chame, Juthe laughed and called out.
“How are things, my lad?”
“Oh, not so bad, my brother!”
“You’ve sent your wife packing; now sit and enjoy yourself!”
Juthe and his wife had a very loving relationship. Whenever he went down to the village to do his sewing, Juthe would take his wife along. On their way, man and wife would discuss the joys and sorrows of the household, and then they’d chat on the way back, too. In the evening, Juthe would set the lamp up on its shelf and read some verses from the Virataparva. His wife would listen as she washed up the pots. If Juthe ever fell ill, his wife would seek out the shamans and healers in the village. Sometimes, on their way to do some tailoring for the Bishtas, Juthe would joke with his wife or stretch his neck and roll his .eyes at other passers-by. His wife would giggle and turn aside, saying, “You may be getting old now, but you still know how to joke!”
Juthe was very religious, too. First thing in the morning, he’d bathe in the spring. Then he would anoint himself with ceremonial ashes by the place where the women dried their clothes and read out a verse such as, “Taking a form like that of the lightning, he flew in a flash to the sky.
Chame was sad as he compared Juthe’s home life to his own. At Juthe’s house, they would have finished their evening meal and would be reading from the Virataparva, but at his house, there would be shouting and yelling. Juthe and his wife had such affection for one another. They walked along, chatting about all sorts of things. But Chame’s wife had quarrelled with him and run off home. It was a long time since their wedding, but he’d never known her to have had a pleasant word to say to him. And now his one and only buffalo wouldn’t let him go near it. Off she’d gone to her mother’s, leaving even the buffalo accustomed to only one person’s hand! And then the buffalo had caused him to get his face slapped by Kokalé! He’d push the damned creature over a cliff if it wasn’t for the moneylender, who’d come chasing him. If he didn’t do the chores, he’d go hungry. It would have been better to have smothered himself in ashes and wandered off as a mendicant than to pass such a rotten life! But what would he do as a Jogi? You have to go from house to house without making the dogs bark, or else you don’t get fed! Anyway, people nowadays would just ridicule a sleek, fat, turbanned Jogi, they’d say, “He’s only become a Jogi because it was too much trouble for him to hoe his fields!”
Living in the wayside inns would be fine… unless he fell ill, in which case there would be no one to offer him even a drop of water! Whether people call out “Hail Narayan! or not, the jogi calls it out himself and wanders from barnyard to barnyard in his ashes. This just seems a little cooler to a man who is being burned by the heat of worldly affairs when he views it from a distance!
During the first week after his wife’s departure, Chame would snap at the very mention of her name. But as time went by, life began to seem empty. He thought to himself, “She may have been cheeky, but she was a lively girl. When she put her mind to it, she’d gather enough fodder to fill the buffalo to the brim. Every morning and evening she’d cook me something, but now that she’s gone I’ve only cooked once or twice. Otherwise, I just get by on roasted barley. When she was here the buffalo gave milk regularly. She milked it herself. But now it’s wary and timid. Everyone’s telling me to go and fetch her. Juthe’s wife says the same.
She may or may not come of her own accord, but I’ll have to go and get her someday.”
The next day, after his morning meal, he prepared to go to his in-laws’. He took out his best clothes and put them on. Then he saw that Gaunthali must have put some tobacco on top of his hat, for there was a stain there, and it was all split and torn, too! Chame was irate.
“Just look at the way that old widow carries on!” he fumed. “See how she treats the things she receives! It’s high time she learned some manners! Perhaps if her father or grandfather had worn properly felt hats she’d have learnt, but her father walks about in a homespun hat and a nettle cloth cloak, so how could his daughter have been brought up properly? ‘A Brahman who has never eaten a mushroom can never know its flavour.”
He quickly brushed off his hat and set it on his head. He had no other waistcoat, so he put the same one on. He slung his cloak in a bundle across his back and set off with a ragged umbrella in his hand.
Pausing at a chautara near his in-laws’ house, Chame wiped the sweat from his brow. The sound of Gaunthali singing came to him from the edge of the forest above the village. She was resting there before carrying down a bundle of grass: “I would fly away, but I am no bird, I cannot bear to stay.”
Chame gritted his teeth, “My buffalo can’t get enough to eat, and its stomach rumbles and twangs like a village singer’s violin! And here she is making the forest resound!”
After a short rest, Chame went slowly on up the hill. As he drew near an itching tree, he began to drag his feet. He wondered what his in-laws were going to say. Slowly, he approached the gate. There he: saw his mother-in-law beside the midden heap, scouring a pan. His father-in-law sat smoking on the verandah. Chame put his hands together and bowed in greeting to his mother-in-law, and she returned his salutation with her filthy hands. Then he went up to the verandah where his father-in-law handed him the hookah and bent down to touch his feet in respect. But Chame brought his knees together to prevent him.
Soon Gaunthali arrived with her bundle of cut grass, wearing a fine bodice and a chintz skirt gathered up to her waist. On her arms there were bangles, and around her neck, there was a necklace of coral; her bosom was full and a large vermilion tika enhanced her forehead. She wore a rhododendron flower in her hair, and she looked dusky and beautiful. Chame was most gratified to see her; it seemed as if the goddess Lakshmi had entered the house in person!
After dusk had fallen, Gaunthali came and touched Chame’s feet in greeting. Chame was overjoyed. He felt like gathering her up and kissing her a thousand times, but she pushed his arms away and walked back into the house.
After the evening meal, a quilt was spread out on the verandah for Chame. He lay down, but he wasn’t in the least bit sleepy. He just lay there waiting for Gaunthali to come. The meal was over; the pots had been washed. Then someone went upstairs carrying a lamp. Suddenly, the door was shut and bolted. Chame was stunned.
“Oh, why did I beat poor Gaunthali that day? Women love to watch weddings. And she’s a young woman, so if she goes off to watch a while, what of it? Should someone who can’t put up with that punish his wife for it? To beat your wife for being late cooking the meal: what could be a more despicable act than that? Alright, beat her a little if she’s cheeky. But if she comes home I certainly won’t do it again. Just see if I don’t respect her even more than brother Juthe respects his wife.”
In his mind, there was such turmoil. From beneath, the fleas were biting so hard!
In the morning he heard a door opening. Chame pricked up his ears: had Gaunthali come? But then he saw his old father-in-law; he had come out to urinate in the drain. Chame hadn’t had a wink of sleep all night.
It was time to let the animals out. Father-in-law sat on the wall and smoked, mother-in-law husked maize on the verandah, and Gaunthali washed pots on the kitchen floor. A little bashfully, Chame said to his father-in-law,
“It’s time to set to work in the fields, time to send your daughter home.”
Father-in-law coughed and rested his cheek on the tube of the hookah. “I hear you called us poor and beggarly and all sorts of names,” he said. “We may be poor, but we’ve never been beggars! We paid you our respect and gave her over to you. You persuade your wife yourself. Take her home; no one’s stopping you!”
Chame was crestfallen. Soon Gaunthali had finished her kitchen chores and was about to leave for the forest with her basket, but Chame caught her by the arm.
“Where are you off to with that basket? Come on, let’s go home!”
“I’d rather die than go home with you!”
“Where will you go if you don’t come home?”
“Who cares? I’ll go where I like. I’m a jogini now!”
“Who’ll feed the buffalo if you’re a jogini ?”
“Oh, cut your own grass and feed your own buffalo!”
“Now, don’t be cross; just come quietly, won’t you?”
“What? Just to quarrel and get thrashed?”
“I’m damned if I’ll ever do that again!”
“Right, that’s settled.”
Soon Gaunthali had dressed, gathered all of her belongings, prettied herself, and was ready to go. Her mother set a small parcel and a jar of curd before her. Gaunthali picked up the parcel and went on ahead. Chame came along behind, swinging the jar from his hand. On the way, they began to talk,
“How much milk does the buffalo give these days?”
“A pathi a day.”
Gaunthali pouted in derision.
The sun was setting behind the hills. Cowherds were driving their cows home in a cloud of dust, moving slowly up the slope. Chame and Gaunthali came to the spring. There they saw Juthe’s wife coming down the hill carrying a water pot in a blanket. When she saw Chame, she stuck out her tongue. Then she laughed and said, “Oh, it looks; like a goose and gander with the bride out in front and the groom behind!”
“Don’t laugh, my sister, there may be another quarrel someday—you never can tell!” said Gaunthali with a smile.
“Oh, it won’t be long before you quarrel again! But a squabble between a man and his wife is just a blaze in the straw!”
(from Katha Kusum  1981; also included in Nepali Katha Sangaha  1988, vol. 2)