Dhan Maya Pun lives in the village of Mayurbasti in Bardiya District. The Pun’s are an ethnic minority group in Nepal (minorities are called Janjatis) that do not figure directly into the Hindu caste system. Their ancestors came from the hilly areas of Nepal and slowly spread south onto the flatlands.
Dhan Maya Pun is happily married. She has a young daughter, a kind husband and enough land on their farm to feed their growing family every year. What she does not have yet is a house of her own.
Dhan Maya Pun and her husband live in the same house as her older brother-in-law Lal Bahadur Pun. Lal Bahadur Pun’s father had built the house himself well before his sons were grown. Upon his death he gave sole ownership of the house to his eldest son, Lal Bahadur Pun’s older brother, while leaving equal amounts of land to each of his three sons.
After a few years the eldest son decided to take his family and move back to the hills. This left the question of who would take the house. The brothers decided that legally they would split the house between the two younger brothers and in fact both their families would live there. In practice though it is Lal Bahadur Pun’s house, and it is expected that his younger brother will build a house of his own someday.
While Dhan Maya Pun herself gets confused when describing the details of these transactions, she can tell you clearly the effect it all has on her. As she is the wife of the younger brother, she now finds herself on unequal ground with the wife of her husbands elder brother. The women split most of the house-holding duties but it always remains clear who is in charge. Tradition and culture place the elder brother’s wife higher on the family hierarchy so Dhan Maya Pun must obey her elder sister.
While Dhan Maya Pun does not feel maltreated and feels no resentment towards her elder sister, she still dreams of the day when her family can have a house of its own. Once she has a house of her own, Dhan Maya Pun will know that her daily work will be for her family and her house, and from knowing that Dhan Maya Pun is sure she will find happiness.
Posted By Mark Koenig
Posted Aug 23rd, 2007