Vehicles need to pay Rs 20 as tax when they enter Hetauda. Our bus stopped there no more than 3 seconds when the conductor ran to the post and literally threw the crumpled twenty rupee note on the man’s chest. “Kasari Pisa deko yar” his friend told him.He laughed it off as if he’d performed a heroic act. The bus moved on and I could see the man searching the note, which was thrown at him as he had begged for it. I was an enraged observer of it all.
I was still angry when the bus stopped at another place in Mahottari, Sarlahi to pay a similar kind of tax, this time it was a Maoist fee ( Rs 100) I later got to see the receipt which showed that the tax was being payed to Maoist Kendriya Sarkar. A commendable job, don’t you think? Earlier they did it secretly now its Public! Wow! We live under two governments, officially! Mind you it’s been more than six months of the cease-fire.
Everyone in the bus strained their necks to look at the Maoist. I did too.
We got off the bus and guess what? Some people in army outfits were stationed there. “Maoists” she whispered. We took the path downhill and then it came as a total surprise. There were people clad in a green t-shirt with “Peoples Liberation Army” written on the back : here, there, everywhere.
The Maoists had been camping in the village since the last two or three days. Green t-shirts hung on the cloths line and comrades walked in my Mamaghar premises as if it were there maternal home too!
“Ke ho mamaghar ta Maoghar bheyacha ni” we laughed. It took a while but then everything became clear, around 210 maoists had come to the village. The first night they had stayed in the houses of the villager’s, now they stayed in the school. Our house is right in front of the school and the Maoists were frequent visitors because we have a constant source of water among the fields , behind the Lichi and mango trees. And of course my mama happens to teach in the school, thereby the school keys. The other reason was that the high level Maoist members were staying in the house right next to ours. So the visit provided plenty of exposure with the so-called “Peoples” i.e Ours Army!
Initially it irritated me, to see them everywhere. Come on, the Maoists can’t be so cheap as to be found everywhere? But after seeing one Maoist cadre stationed in our Mango groove with a gun, facing the river twenty-four seven I grew used to them. The Maoists had dug a hole behind a Mango tree, placed some sacks of soil and built a shelter. When asked why they needed to do that. The answer was: We Can’t trust the government not to have another “Dorumba Kanda” once again. (500 army soldiers are stationed at a distance of 3km from our village. Some years back there was a fierce battle which killed some policemen and destroyed the police quarters there)
The sentry in our mango groove would keep changing in an hourly basis.There was one comrade,21 yrs, had been in the Maoist army since the last three years and talked pretty well. Not with me, with my mom though. I was standing nearby and of course silencing a one year old showing him tiny fishes so had to resist the urge to fire the lad with questions. I know, it doesn’t make up for a good excuse but the fact was I didn’t really feel comfortable among those Purush comrades. Most of them would be looking at us as if we were aliens, and of course my braces does nothing that attract unnecessary attention in a rural setting.So whenever we would catch the men in action my sister would whisper to me ” The Madhesi Samudaya is staring at us” . ( Most of them looked as though they were from Terai ) Later came to know that we( I and my sis) were the “Goris”.
Getting back to the guy, he was excitedly talking with mom explaining a lot of things. According to him the cadres who had come to the place were all worked directly under Prachanda’s command. And the Maoist army are of three types: the first kind control the village, the second resolve the village conflict( the Regional army) and the other work under the Maoist head. ( I am confused about types, between 3 or 4.) He seemed to be glad of being a part of the army though he admitted that it was a more of a voluntary work than a job. They were given a monthly allowance of Rs 500 to fulfill the needs and that was all. He had been a part of most of the Maoist confrontations with the army so was experienced.
The same day there was a misfire in the school where the Maoists were staying.The bullet had gone past the plastered ceiling leaving a hole there.And immediately after the event some of the cadres were hanging out at our place and one of them said, ” Misfire ta ho ni. (Just a misfire).Tyo ta kati huncha kati.( It happens a lot).Ke bho ta. (What’s the big deal?).” The cadre was new, the 21 yr sentry explained later. This was the same gun used he said telling its old but can even go past a tree. I think it was a 3 not or knot ( sorry I don’t know the spelling) rifle.
They used to have their P.T or exercise twice a day, morning and evening on the school playground. And for me the most interesting part was thier training with the gun. Some had guns but most trained with the sticks and as the commander would instruct “Han” (hit) they would all produce all sorts of sounds, “boom, bang”. Most of the cadres looked young, in their teens. The oldest (other than the commanders) had to be in early twenties.
And Mamaghar had surely turned into Maoghar.There wouldn’t be a minute when the “angan” would be Maoist free, sometimes they would come to have a bath, then for fetching water and again to do the dishes. One after the other, and 210 is not a small number. The interesting part was the way they would say: Mahila Comrade and Purush Comrade. The Mahilas( women) wouldn’t go to the tap when the Purush ( men) came and vice versa mainly when they were having their long bath sessions. Once I was at the tap, just hanging out and one of the Mahila comrade was changing her dress. A Purush comrade though at a distance just couldn’t take his eyes off her while she kept grumbling to her friend ” Hera na purush comrade heri rahanu bhako cha”. I thought “What else can you expect from a bunch of teenagers?”
On one particular day, the Maoist traffic was heavier than other days because there was no water from the other village taps. But as ours is a natural source, everyone was thronging to our place. Later in the day the Maoist head of the food department stopped by and was discussing with granddad saying “ Jasle garda bhako ho, tesko kan ko muni majjale hannu parcha ani thik huncha”( One tight slap to whosoever responsible for this and the problem will be solved). He did send some of his people to take care of the problem. But it couldn’t be fixed until the next day. Luckily no one received the PLA slap because the problem was technical.
A day before the Tika , one of the comrades had come for a bath but happened to leave back his clothes.We asked whose clothes they were and the cadres were quick to answer : A friend’s , mus t have forgotten it .” But they remained forgotten for two more days. Then rumor spread that one of the Maoist cadres had run away a day befor tika. My sister’s remark about the event was ” A very interesting turn in the story.”
I was sitting outside and two comrades ( girls) were chattering, looking at my direction occasionally saying ” Ma ta bholi sabai ko ghar ma gayera tika lauchu”. while the other said ” Ma ta timi bhanda chhito utera badi thauma lauchu”. Though they seemed to be wanting me to hear their loud conversation both seemed genuinely excited about it. So I picturized myself putting tika to the girls too! But the next day there was no celebration in the Maoist camp. The girls were rather spending more time bathing than anything else. The tika got over, and I headed to the tap to brush my teeth after the lunch. Some seven mahila comrades were there and one of them remarked ” Didi ta kasto gori, Tapain bideshi ho?” “Hoina” I answered laughing at them. And how could my teeth not attract any attention. Another asked me if my teeth was fake like her brother’s who took it out and brushed them. I laughed harder and explained them the Braces mechanism, why one wears it, high cost( though didn’t dwell on it with fear of being labeled the “Bourgeios” they are fighting agaist 🙂 )
They we constantly repeating how beautiful I looked with the red tika on my forehead, because I was gori, this that so I asked them if they ever celebrated dashain themselves( well, I put a careful question worried that they might link dashain with superstiotions and be offended). To be honest, I was always on guard while talking to them and had to lot of mental exercise to put my question in the most appropriate manner. I guess that’s the power of gun.
“Yes of course we used to celebrate while we were home” one of them answered. What a relief!
So I moved on to asking where they were from and I was surprised because to know it was my father’s place. I thought it would be easier to talk then I but I could already sense their discomfort so I left.
On yet another occassion my maternal aunt inquired about their studies. Most had studied only till 6-7 grade ( though had overheard a male comrade saying he had been studying bachelors) and left school.
“Don’t you want to study?” my aunt asked. And guess the answer of that 14-15 year old.
She said ” Testo Bourgeious Shikshya ko padcha?”
“Bourgeios Education” I wanted to laugh my head off when I heard that. The disdain for B.education coming from a teenager. To what extent can you brainwash a person??
I couldn’t believe my ears. ( Well, she might have been a prodigee but at least I didn’t get any hint of that)
Short hair, always in a combat outfit Comrade Samana caught my attention from the first time I saw her. And on the day before the Maoist left the place she was the sentry in our mango groove. I and my sister jumped at the opportunity and went to talk to her. But the moment she opened her mouth to speak all my earlier notion of a confident Comrade Samana vanished into thin air. She seemed to be uncertain about everything ( didn’t want to talk maybe) and seemed rather childish. Of course, she looked like a teenager too. She had only studied till 5-6 grade and seemed to be offended by the question, as if she didn’t believe she did a good thing giving up the Bourgeios education. And we jumped the gun by directly asking her what were her plans now that we have a ceasefire, and everyone was hopeful of the talks and all she answered as if the People’s War had just begun. ( There was a girl from Rajbiraj who had joined the Maoist army only three months back, after the ceasefire)
” Aba ta barta huncha shanti bhayepachi tapain haruko ke kam, ladnu pardaina ni.” I said.
“Kahan testo huncha ra. Pahadma ladiyo aba terai ma ladnuparcha.” She answered.
Infact all the cadres seemed to be confident that the war wasn’t over yet. She had been in the Maoist army since the last one year and of course been a part of many battles. We had just started to bombard her with questions when she said ” tapain harulai ma sanga kura garna mancha hola tara commander le dekhe bhane gali garchan”.
So we had to leave. Later my sister told me what she thought was the real reason behind her unwillingness to talk. “She had a running nose, needed to blow it”. Well, I didn’t notice it, but could surely have been the cause! And though our favorite song had become “Hami Mahila Chapamar” as shown in the Maoist video( will talk of it in the next entry) I had no reason to disagree with my sister when she said: ” These Maoists are all chors, yesto singane bachha harulai army banayera kudaun chan.Look at thier life, they are nothing without the gun. Take it away and nothing is left.”
Well, we two did debate a lot about the Maoists and all but of course I am supposed to be howde, always safer to talk less than what I know, and have more than I show. ( Now that’s being clever,a nice saying to fool you all hehehee) 🙂 Anyways nothing provides me with more intellectual stimulation than the conversations with my sister. So, the trip was Plenty of Food for thought. The facts are here, do your bit of analyzing now.
( Sorry for the terrible language here, wish could write better and adi-ityadi but yah in a hurry and lots of assignments to be bloggin for absolutely free, no grades and no money ! hehehe 🙂