short story: the dumb girl

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3rd July 2024 | 9 Views | 0 Likes

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the dumb girl

Fitting and attractive figure, lovely, playful deer-eyes, the set of teeth as a pomegranate, lips as delicate layer of a flower, balance in walking and working, nobody can even guess she is speechless, a dumb girl. She never wears rags and dirty clothes. She is apparently different from other dumb people. Only she lacks is her voice.

Ten years ago, I had brought an eight-year-old child after her father was swept away by a flooded river on the hill side. My mother had suggested that I take care of one of the four helpless children of the late Birkha dai (brother).

I recall those bygone days, how challenging moments those were to make her a perfect and common girl like others. I had to bear lots of harm and losses. The expensive cups, plates, trays, flower vases etc. sent by my brother-in-law from abroad are not in their previous condition, rather are cracked, broken and useless. My husband was not happy with my decision to keep her with us but my soul didn’t permit me to leave her back in the scarcity and pitiful status of her deprived, helpless mother for whom even the rest three were great challenges and burdens.

In this unknown town away from her home-village and loving lap of mother, I’m everything and all for her. I’ve heard her aunt (Birkha dai’s younger sister) is also here but I’ve not met. In last year’s Dashain, (a great festival of Nepalese Hindu people), while I had visited my mother’s home, I had heard that she had got married to a government officer without involving her family. I’ve not seen her from very near, so I’m not sure either I would recognize her. Anyway, in this vast jungle of unfamiliar people, this dumb girl knows me only and shares her feelings in her own language and gestures. I also have sent her to the school for dumb children. Now, she is literate and skilled in simple sewing and knitting as well. She has started showing her interest for marriage in gestures.

“This girl may invite unwanted troubles. Why don’t you leave her back? Even our children have started using her language (gestures).” husband murmurs.

I simply smile because the discussion is meaningless. In my view, her wish for marriage is not wrong. To pacify their physical passion and quench their organic thirst, the physically capable people can adopt any way and commit several sins. Then, does she have no right merely to dream? Don’t they experience the same needs and desires? Is it a crime? Soul revolts against such insensitive thinking. Finally, I reached the conclusion to find a suitable mate for her. 

Telephone rings, I receive my mom. After talking for a while, she tells me to leave the girl back to her mother. Surprisingly, I inquired about the reason. Mom tells that her aunt wants to take her. I understand, she requires a maid to look after her child and home. But what can I do? Taking advantage of having blood relation with them, she is able to convince her sister-in-law (bhauju) to buy the dumb girl with the gift of sweets and a pair of clothes for each.

It shocks me deeply. I glance over the rooftop where she is playing cheerfully with my children. Whatever and whoever she is today, it is the consequence of my endless efforts but how selfish the world is! Her aunt can take anyone among the other three, but she needs only her, the trained and skillful girl.

I return leaving her, she cries bitterly. I’ve no right on her. I find the home empty. Children too feel the same. Time fills all emptiness. Slowly and gradually, we are habitual without her and try our best to erase all the memories with her. She is in this town with her aunt but I’ve not seen. I’m sure; she also has not forgotten this house in which she has several memories of her childhood and teen ages. I think she rarely finds such peace, freedom and warmth elsewhere.

“Sarala, Subba (a post in Government office) Aalok has invited us to his son’s birthday party. Get ready in the evening; we have to visit his abode.” Conveying this message, my husband marches out for office.

In the evening, we attended the party. The Subba couple welcomes us delightfully. They seem very busy introducing and welcoming the guests. I assume that I’ve seen Subba’s wife before but can’t remember. In her eyes, I read the same confusion regarding me.
After the cutting of the birthday cake, the chorus is heard from the crowd along with clapping ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU’. Not remaining the exception, we also mingle up with the cluster. Drinking program begins. According to the desire of guests, the trays containing hot and cold cups and glasses are served. Suddenly, my eyes trip with the eyes of a young girl carrying a tray.

The tray along with cups falls and breaks with the spillage of cold drinks. Suddenly, there is an uneasy silence. With her large widened eyes, she sometimes looks down the floor and sometimes towards me.

“Oh, God! Always she makes some losses! I couldn’t deny her helpless, widowed mother, and I had brought this girl, but now I’m fed up.” Subba’s spouse can’t resist her anger.
“What are you looking at now? Pick them up and clean the floor.” She orders in a harsh, rough voice.

She bends and starts her work with frequent slanting glances at me. I continuously stare at her, speechless. With filled eyes, she is looking at me from time to time. A piece of glass cuts her finger. Being impatient I try to get up, but my husband pulls me back. Then, her eyes turn to a flood. She cleans the floor, once again looks at me with helpless eyes and leaves the room. Husband and I look at each other.

Ah! Unfortunate girl! (Hare, Abhagini!) Why did I meet you again? How easily her aunt made her own blood a maid! It means Subba’s wife doesn’t know me. I also couldn’t recognize her. Now, I’m clear why her appearance is familiar to me! She is much similar to Birkha dai (her brother) in appearance. The helpless dumb girl! She might be penalized more. The angles of my eyes get damp; I pretend I need a bathroom.

“You, stupid girl! What a curse you are to me! You broke my valuable cups and tray. No attention at any work, what and to whom were you looking at?” Subba’s wife’s one hand is on her hair, she pulls mercilessly.
Joining her hands together she asks for sorry in her own language. Ignoring it, she slaps her very tight. 

“Clean all utensils, no need to come inside, understand?” She steps like a storm towards the guest -room, I hide myself beside the walls. I see the poor girl cleaning eyes. I can’t dare to go to the bathroom, I can’t face her. Cleaning my eyes and specs, I move towards the party hall hiding the drops behind the black glass.

Being unable to show my interest in the party, I hardly smile if somebody glances at me. Husband knows my situation, so we want to depart as soon as possible. The Subba couple requests to stay a bit longer but we convince them that we are worrying because of our small children with ‘Kanchha’ ( our helper boy) only. Aalok pair comes up to the door. I meet the same eyes near the ladder, pretend to ignore them having no courage to face and exit quietly lowering my head.

All of a sudden, we hear the proverbial voice, a dumb sound. I turn back. She is calling us standing at the window of the small room near the veranda. She might have a faint hope till our presence there. She had no more patience after our departure. I look at my husband. He too is staring at the window, motionless. Neither can we step away nor return back. Unexpectedly, folding her both hands, she appeals to take her with us.

I sense, my soul is leaning. I stare and stare only and find my husband too in the same condition, being unable to make further decisions. Rapidly, a pair of arms appears and pulls her, the curtain is down. 

“Let’s go home, Sarala!” Holding my hand, my husband says in a heavy voice. With tired legs and a trembling heart, I shift ahead. After a moment, I look back. The lifeless curtain of the shut window has shadowed the very existence of the dumb lass. The feeble hands are not bold enough to undo the drape over again. The panicked eyes have no nerve to peep towards us standing at the pane once more. Finding myself extremely powerless, I, at a snail’s pace, head towards my destination. Heart is pinching and paining. I touch the concealed injury and discover a corner, entirely empty.
  
                                                                         
                                                                                                             Durga Banwasi

Durga Shiwakoti

@DurgaBanwasi

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