Jashoda Sharma. I heard her impassioned speech to political leaders, set against the backdrop of a village school. I witnessed her appearance as an honoured guest in the government office on International Torture Day. On both occasions she appeared as an advocate, a victims’ spokesperson. This evening, sitting on her daughter’s bed, sipping her Nepali tea, with a birthday card and Avril Lavigne plastered wall as her backdrop, the story I expected of poverty and injustice revealed instead a love story: a picture of a man, not an income-generating item. A man stolen by the government.
Surya Prasad Sharma: from the Baglung district, son to local farmers, blessed with the simple, comfortable life sought by many Nepalis. As a Brahmin, he did not have to face the discrimination felt by many from lower castes, but as a human he was deeply affected by the inequality he saw around him.
She told me, unprovoked, about the first time she met her husband. The tears of her damp eyes were not that of someone talking about the terrible injustice she suffered. The tears, contrasted by her smile, came as she relived moments of love. These are the moments that we cannot repeat but memories of which sometimes blissfully interrupt our routines – tending to the shop, cooking for the kids, bathing, cleaning, folding the laundry – allowing us to again understand the beauty that has been life and the beauty that will be life again.
It was Saturday, holy day, dawn. After the recent passing of his first wife, he was mournfully at the temple performing his weekly religious acts to the Goddess Kalika. Jashoda saw him through a tender lens never before used for this longtime family friend. She felt compelled to nurture him. The three kilometer walk home witnessed a respectful physical distance between them, but through the frequent locking of eyes they both understood an emotional closeness later sealed through marriage.
I could not bring myself to stop the slow creation of her husband in my mind and notebook, the chiseling of contours that formed his identity and theirs together, to ask her such questions as “What sort of monetary compensation do you want?”
The golden era of her life. Jashoda’s voice filled with pride as she spoke about the best qualities of Surya Sharma. As a husband, he is loving in ways that are striking in traditional societies in Nepal. For example, during her pregnancy, her husband made her get regular doctor check-ups, not a common practice in the area at the time. She is an equal partner, inputting her opinion in family decision-making. As a Nepali, he was equally loving to the community. When woman were raped by their husbands, and Dalits were assaulted by those around them, he would go out of his way to fight for justice to be seen. Once, she recalled, a Brahmin husband whose Chetri wife bore her four sons, suddenly turned on her, refusing to even drink the water she served. She appealed to the party for help and Surya Sharma acted, as he often did, as a mediator, successfully finding peace through dialogue.
He found peers within supporters of the communist ideals, also sick of the injustice wrought within Nepal based on circumstances of birth. His involvement in the CPNM (Communist Party of Nepal Maoist) was strictly ideological, and not to do with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). In 1997, he was arrested by the police, then jailed, tortured and beaten for 15 days, as occurred to many supporters at the time. The police repeatedly checked in on him and his family, finally forcing him to go underground.
Nepali date Magh 1, 2058. Festival of Maghé Sankranti. It was 05:00. Her husband had snuck into the flat around midnight. She lay with him, fighting all their political boundaries, their social boundaries, by abolishing physical boundaries pressing her bare skin against his. When they banged on the door she remembers shouting at them to wait while she dressed. Her daughters, 11 and 12, both old enough to remember but young enough not to fully understand, were in the room next door, able to hear the final sounds of the golden era. The government’s army surrounded the flat, while Captain Krishna Bahadur Khadka and Jamadar Keshar Jang GC entered and searched every private corner of their small room. She ran after them to the army barrack’s gates pleading and demanding information about her husband, repeating her pleas day after day.
Seven years later, Jashoda is still demanding information about her husband. Her appeal, now public, is made government officials, at conferences, and in front of journalists and cameras. She waits for someone to tell her if her dreams, and nightmares of his face and his body are simply in her mind, or if they could be true.
Posted By Shubha Bala
Posted Jul 12th, 2008