Print Edition - 2018-07-11  |  The Collegian

The call of freedom

- Pratik Mainali

Jul 11, 2018-

It was in the smoke and dirt filled Kathmandu that I missed Jhapa the most. Every day, I made my way to the office, jostling through a sea of people and the smoke belching from exhaust pipes, crammed in a stuffy bus. But my mind wasn’t in the city.

By the time I reached the office, I was filled with melancholy, and was teetering on the brink of insanity. Yet I worked, my mind numb, until the shadows grew on and the city was cloaked in darkness. Then returning through the dark, desolate streets, with only the soft glow of streetlights to accompany me, I slumped on my bed and cried myself to sleep. The only thing that kept me from going insane was watching the mountains bathing in sunlight every morning through my window.

During the long and sleepless nights, as the moon filtered through the smoky window and spilled onto the floor like a lake, I looked at the ceiling all night, thinking of Jhapa. The loneliness and gloom grew so intolerable that I bought a bus ticket and left. And after two arduous days of elbow touching and vile food, I finally reached my destination.

The fields glimmered, the rivers dried, the flowers danced, the trees crashed, the bamboos clattered, the leaves fluttered, the roofs rattled, the wind sizzled, the grasses drifted. The Kankai River’s restless waves crashed against the rocks.

My uncle had given me the keys to his house and I had it to myself.  It was an old, wooden bungalow with a tin roof. Tied and knotted together, it was barely standing.

The heavy, still air stood like a brooding wall. I confined myself inside the wooden house with a tin roof, my shirt soaked, the fan hanging oppressively low, whirring above me, the TV gleaming infront of me. The overpowering smell of manure hung in the air too. A swarm of flies droned outside. Unable to handle the heat, I sprang from my bed, and decided to go for a walk. In short, Jhapa in Ashad, seened welcoming from afar was really was quite inhospitable.

Hiding behind the wall of trees, I made my way towards the road. From here you could see the green and yellow fields sprawling towards the horizon, dotted by black huts. The water gurgled as it ran along the canals on both sides of the road.

It was only when I saw dark clouds approaching from the east that my heart grew light. Then with a frenzied fury, the rain burst forth from the sky and crashed against the tin roofs, pitting them like bullets. The still air rippled, and the heat began to cool down.

All night the heavy rain roared and crashed in a steady rhythm, drowning all other sounds. I tossed and turned in my bed trying to get some sleep. The strong winds lashed at the old wooden house, rocking it viciously. Pushing in the drapes, the swirl of cool air came gushing in. The walls kept squeaking all night. The windows kept swinging in and out.

As I rose this morning, I felt an unbearable ache in the back of my head. I threw the door wide open, and caught a pigeon shaking rain off its body. As soon as it noticed my presence, it fluttered away, leaving me alone in the wet veranda.

The door mat was splattered with rain drops. I clamped my hand on the wooden railings and swept the water into the angan. I looked below and my stomach lurched. The angan had turned into a pond where dead leaves and twigs stirred gently. I carefully walked down the wooden stairs.

They creaked and sank all the way. With every step my head ached. I sat on the rickety chair and it squealed under my weight.

When the soft droplets began to bounce on my head, I realised the rain hadn’t stopped. I looked above, puffs of white drifted motionlessly, changing shapes as they moved. Bolting my door, I walked around the village to see the aftermath of the rain. I walked, my slippers caked with mud, pulling the earth along with me. Water came running restlessly along the glittering pebbles, softly gurgling and parting like rivulets before flushing into the angan. Although the ground looked dry, once you stepped on it, water seeped out of it.

As I reached the road, my eyes suddenly fell upon a wall. There you could see the fluttering of the leaves. Besides it cows were mooing. But their calls faded as they floated through the wet air. The fields uncoiled before me. Thick grass rustled with the wind, corn bent here and there, and flowers danced. They stretched endlessly until they reached the hills.

The road was flat. With tufts of green on either side and silver pebbles in the middle. Far away, I could see hills with clouds resting on them like blankets. I was suddenly gripped by a strong longing. I was being pulled towards it in a trance. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see how far the road led. As the fresh air hit my face, I was filled with a profound sense of freedom.

Mainali is a BIBM student at Herald College, Kathmandu

Published: 11-07-2018 08:28

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