Mrs. Nani Maya set the kettle out from the fire. She poured herself a cup of black tea and sat down on an old torn doormat on the front door of her home, looking towards the roadside. The drops of the rain were hitting on the tin roof. There she was sitting filled with an uncertain awareness of what was going on in her life and around her. But she never had anything much to say. At least she was in a better place, she knew that. In a better place than where she was yesterday, a month ago or two years ago.
Two years ago, a major earthquake hit her country, the epicenter being almost near to her district. Her village suffered severely, leaving behind death of about more than two dozen and several being injured from her village alone. Among those who died, also included her only family, her husband and her son. Her husband was trapped in their collapsed house. Her son died a week after due to severe diarrhea.
She knew life would be tough without her husband. Ram Kumar though was a mean man, she knew he was the one who brought money to the house after all. But when she heard the death of her husband she was filled with a strange feeling which was not grief. As she saw her husband’s lifeless body after the villagers rescued it out of the rubble, her eyes refused to cry. The thoughts that flew into her mind were only of bitter memories she had with him. Those times when he used to hit her every once in a while, when a day wouldn’t pass by without hearing his unkind, cruel words. And every night as he forced himself into her, she felt numb inside and out. She constantly believed she was not his wife but some kind of an unpaid servant. Last summer, she suffered an abortion when he kicked her to the ground because the rice was a little uncooked. As she looked into the pale face of her husband, she felt her own salvation in his death. The only compassion she had for him was that he gave her a beautiful son.
Her son was the only love of her life. He was what made her life a little meaningful. A seven year old little kid, he was. It was only a week before the earthquake when he had started to teach her to write. The little kid spoke fascinatingly, “My teacher says, education is important to all, Maa. You should learn to read and write too. I will teach you what I learn in school.” That day she remembered, her eyes were filled with tears and her heart was heavy with pride. But all she could ever learn were the first few Nepali letters ‘ka’, ‘kha’, ‘ga’, ‘gha’. Her son’s hopes ended abruptly with him. He died of diarrhea a week after the earthquake. The local health post failed to provide basic medications for the sick child. But more than them she was angry at someone else, for even after her long hours of worship, her god failed to show any kindness to her son. He took away the only meaning of her life, her only love.
A month later, she thought she couldn’t take it anymore. She was living in a temporary plastic shelter. She worked during the day at someone else’s farm. She had very little to eat. On one ordinary day, one of the local men broke into her place attempting to sexually assault her. She screamed out loud enough to get help from her neighbors. Her mental turmoil began soon afterwards. Days went by, but her problems never seemed to come to an end. When it was too overwhelming, she accepted herself to be a failure. “A failure. That’s what you are”, the voices of her husband were more louder and clearer even after his death. On another ordinary day, she stood at the edge of the cliff with her arms wide extended, her eyes closed and her foot ready to take the next tragic step. But just at the moment, she saw in front of her what was the image of her son, looking at her with disgust. She knew he hated to see her that way. She was his warrior.
She took her step back. She knew she could never see him cry. The voice of her child tells her, “Life might never be easy for you, Maa. It has always been unfair to you. It may be so in the future. But you can’t end it so easily. You need to keep on going. I need to see the world through your eyes. You need to fight for me, Maa.” Life, no matter how hard it could be, she realized it also gifted her with little memories of her son. And those memories were enough for her to keep going on, she thought.
She is in a better state today. Last year she took the courage to join school. She now knows all the letters her son wanted her to learn.
With the aids from local organizations and more so, from the help of her fellow villagers, her house, a one storied, tinned roofed with walls made from wood was finally complete. She now believes she isn’t a failure anymore.
She sits there in the entrance near the front door, still without much to express or much to say, watching silently over the raindrops as they dissolve in the ground in front of her. She sees that image of her child in the ground, smiling at her as she smiles back at it, both with tears in their eyes.