It was almost dark when the two men who had never been seen before in the village were walking confidently down the hill. They were aiming for the headmaster’s house. The headmaster’s house was by itself at the lonely side of the village, the nearest house to his house was the blacksmith’s house, which was almost five minute walk away. The two strangers were not daunted by the Kamiko bhote kukur
which was very notorious and was known to bite strangers. People usually avoided the route just because they feared the big dog. Their heavy footsteps and boldness made the otherwise relentless dog maintain its distance while barking at the new people. They passed the narrow passage by the blacksmith’s house towards the headmaster’s house.
The headmaster’s daughter who was standing on the balcony throwing corns at the pigeons had sighted those two men coming from way up the hill. She usually identified all the villagers from a distance, but these two men didn’t look like any of the villagers. The narrow path led to either the blacksmith’s house or the headmaster’s house. The kitchen door opened to the balcony and the headmaster’s wife could be seen preparing dinner in the kitchen before it got dark. “Muwa, who are those people coming towards our house?” Curiously the headmaster’s daughter asked her mom.
The headmaster’s wife who couldn’t see those people from inside the kitchen said, “How would I know? I cannot see, why do you need to know all the people who walk down the hill? Come help me prepare dinner.” She was annoyed by her daughter not doing anything.
“No they don’t look like they are from this village and they are coming towards our house. They already passed Kamiko ghar
. I wonder if they are our cousins from Kathmandu.”
The headmaster’s wife came out murmuring. She looked at the strangers and said, “They don’t look like anyone I know, they must be lost or they must be here to visit your dad. He always has visitors we don’t know.”
The two men came to the end of the path and stood on the stone wall by the headmaster’s house. They looked like they were confirming the house by asking each other and proceeded. After they arrived in the yard, they looked up and asked. “Isn’t this Headsir’s house?”
“Yes, it is. He is not home at the moment, did you have anything to say?” the headmaster’s wife replied.
“We have to meet him, I hope he will return soon.” They said.
“He doesn’t come until late; he might be in the cooperative office.” The headmaster was the most active citizen of the village, he was not only the principal of the most popular school of the district, but he was also the founder of the cooperative that helped villagers financially when in need, he also founded a high school and also a college a few months back. People from many nearby villages came to study in the high school and the college. It was easier as they didn’t have to go to Kathmandu for further education anymore.
People labeled the village as “Namuna gau
”(Model village) due to its self-sufficiency. Different offices opened by the headmaster provided employment to the villagers and the schools provided them education. Though the headmaster was dominant in nature, he was liked by all and many followed his footsteps. But there were some people who didn’t like his progress and tried to defame him.
“We have to meet him, we will stay for dinner and might as well crash here, if you don’t mind,” the two strangers said. The headmaster had frequent visitors who stayed over at his house, so the headmaster’s wife wasn’t surprised by their intention.
“That is alright, but where did you come from, do you have any business with him that you can tell?” The headmaster’s wife was a warm and clever lady who could keep the visitors entertained and feel home.
“No, we want to talk to headsir. We will wait” The strangers were looking for some place to rest. The headmaster’s wife led them up the stairs and made them sit in the living room, where they sat silently until she left the room. She could hear them mumbling incoherently as she left the room.
The headmaster’s wife added two more cups of rice to the usual amount. She told her daughter, “We have to make some extra dish as there are visitors today, go fetch some masyaura
.” Usually the family had rayo ko saag and rice as dinner.
Darkness invades the village early as it is surrounded by huge mountains. It was already dark when the headmaster returned home, yet it was only seven. He walked into the living room to watch NTV news and was surprised to find the two strangers there. They both stood up as the headmaster arrived in the room.
“Namaste sir, you may not know us but we know you well. We are very impressed by the work you have done to the community,” the two strangers said to the principal.
“Namaste and thank you. But I don’t recognize you fellows, but I can guess you are here to look for job or school, from another village. Where is your village and whose sons are you?” The headmaster asked the regular questions he asked to all the youths he didn’t know who came to him. He knew people from other villages as well, as most of them had come to him at least once for help or counseling.
“No sir, we cannot reveal our identities. We work with Dharma, your student and we hear a lot about you from him. He says you are a very influential and helpful man. I hope we will ….”
“Dharme????” The headmaster knew Dharme well. He was a very smart student. But he had been out of the village for a few years now and had been heard to be the commander of the Communist Party Maoists. Dharme was once caught by police during a clash between the insurgents and the government. He was sent to Bir Hospital for treatment under a very strict watch of Police, he had fled from the bathroom of Bir Hospital, there was no trace of him breaking away from the window or any opening in the bathroom. His breakaway was a mystery to the government. He was one of the most sought for fugitive by Nepal Police. That’s how everybody in the village knew he was a high ranking official of the communist party.
“Sir, don’t take us wrong, we are here to appreciate your effort in the development of the village. I know you are also close to the socialist ideology and we are here to benefit from your intellectuality.”
The headmaster was a stubborn man, he never liked the Maoists from the beginning and he always feared this day would come when he would be visited by one of their activists. He was a socialist but not a communist, he thought good of others by work, not by force, he always thought Maoists were a bad name for socialists.
“I am very flattered by your remarks, but let me be clear with you people before we move on, I am totally opposing what your party is doing. I don’t want to support it, neither intellectually nor financially. If you need the bed and dinner for tonight, I can provide you that but please don’t step in my house ever again.” The headmaster’s voice was getting shrilling and louder as he said it.
“Sir you misunderstood us, we are not here to harm you, we don’t have any weapon, we are just here to talk. Will you please listen to us?”
The headmaster was a strong man, he usually didn’t listen to what others said. He was the one who spoke in that village, he had always been the provider to the village, he had always been the dominant, he had always been “the man” in that village. Nobody could talk higher than him. He didn’t like these new strangers who invaded his village and now wanting him to listen.
“I taught your Commander Dharme, most of the things he says to you is taught by me, now you people, who wipe his ass, are trying to teach me lessons? Send Dharme to me, I have whipped him when he didn’t do his homework. I am not afraid to do so even now. Now, you guys either leave the house now or tomorrow, it’s up to you.”
“Sir, don’t make us ashamed by saying that, we are not trying to teach you anything, we are here to learn something from you. I hope you will bless us with your lessons before we go.”
The headmaster was cooling a little by their politeness. He went up and asked for three cups of tea, his daughter brought the tea to the room, she was unaware of the tension building in the room, she tried to pull a chair and sit by her father but he told her to go outside and close the door behind her. She angrily left the room; her being the favorite child of the headmaster had never been asked to get out.
“Okay, what do you need from me? I will come straight; I will not join your party or support you financially. Other than that I don’t have anything against you guys, if you don’t intercept with my work.”
“Sir, the principle of our party is to cut the old tree that doesn’t produce anything but shadows the small budding plants and doesn’t let them grow. You also have a socialist ideology and we think you understand what we are exactly trying to say. We have heard complaints from some villagers that you don’t let them rise above you.”
The headmaster’s blood was boiling in anger as he as listening to them. In rage, he said, “So you are trying to say that I am the old tree that isn’t letting others progress? Do you know what I have done to make this village such a good place to live? I am the one who developed this village from a Chotra ko ghari to a model village in the whole district, probably a model village for the whole country. Bring the person that says I have suppressed the villagers, I will talk to him personally.”
“Sir, we cannot reveal the names here, but you are not in the blacklist of our party only because our commander Comrade Dharma respects you a lot. But if you will become hostile to our party and its operation, there will be nothing we can do but to blacklist you. And you must be aware that our party doesn’t come soft to those who have been blacklisted.”
The headmaster knew very well what the party had been doing to their blacklisted. The insurgents had been cold-heartedly killing their blacklisted people in front of their wives and children. They are notorious in showing no mercy to those people. The headmaster wasn’t daunted by their actions, a man of steel he was.
“So you are threatening to kill me? So that’s your party’s policy? You kill whoever is against you, don’t you? Well, listen to me and listen to me carefully, I am not afraid of you people, I will die but will not be a slave to what you say.”
They all stopped talking as they could hear the footsteps on the wooden stairs; the headmaster’s wife opened the door and said, “The dinner is ready.”
They all went upstairs, the two men joined the headmaster’s family for dinner. They all sat on the floor waiting for the dinner to be served. The two men looked very calm as they were eating but the headmaster looked perturbed. The headmaster’s wife could sense something was wrong between the three men, but she didn’t say a word. There was awkward silence in the dining room, one of the two men complimented the food cooked by the headmaster’s wife to break the silence. “The food is really good, we will come visit here from time to time, just to get the food cooked by you, Aama.”
“You are always welcome to our house, by the way where you guys from?” The headmaster’s wife asked with a smile in her face. They just said that they are not from that district or zone.
After the meal, the headmaster’s wife showed them a room to sleep for the night, the room was of the headmaster’s two sons who were in Kathmandu for further studies. The headmaster’s wife went to bed. The three men again headed to the living room.
“Please don’t misunderstand us headsir, we are not here to harm you as we said, we just need cooperation from you. We will let you work here in the village if you help us in our mission. Our party is trying to educate the villagers about our country. They shall not be dominated anymore, they are free people of a free country, and it is their right to fight for their freedom and wellbeing. And to make them free we are ready to die and take the lives of those who hinder us in our work.”
“I don’t get it, am I suddenly a bad person to these people whom I have been helping all my life? I could go to Kathmandu and live a very good life there. I have been offered various opportunities to work in the capital but I enjoyed working for the wellbeing of these people, and you are saying I am the one who is in their way to progress?” The fact was the headmaster was a born leader, he could manipulate people and the people always listened to him. He couldn’t do so in Kathmandu, he would be lost in the crowd, but in the village he could do the things he liked to do. And he really liked serving these people as a leader, he liked being the most respected man around here. He didn’t like the dirty politics that took place in the capital city, people were always pulling legs of others no matter how good their intention was.
“Sir, you did all you can to the village and we respect that, but now it is time you hand the responsibility to us, the young generation. We are tired of looking up to the people who have been ruling the villages, we want it our way now, the true socialism, the true communism way where no one is powerful than the other. It’s been heard that you are the head of all the major offices in the village, we need power distribution to the villagers themselves rather than one man.”
The headmaster looked very discouraged and said, “I was born in this village. I know how this village was when I grew up. Unlike my brothers, after my education I came back from Kathmandu to make this village a better place to live. I expanded the two room school to the biggest school in the district. I founded the high school here, I founded the college here, I founded the cooperative here.”
The two strangers were trying to interrupt the headmaster but the headmaster continued. ”The institutions are like my children, my whole life is devoted to the betterment of these institutions, I only take the salary that the government provides me. I am not profiting from any of these institutions. The salary I get is always spent for my travel to Kathmandu, sometimes I have to spend on my own. Are you accusing me of taking advantage of these people? If so, then I can’t do anything but to feel sorry you guys, you poor bastards.”
“We have been very nice to you headsir, as we said we don’t mean any harm. But you don’t seem to get our point, you sure are a stubborn man and we know what to do to make you comply with us. You are giving us no choice.”
“Do you think I am afraid of your threatening? If you think so, sorry, I am not. I have taken care of people like you in this village. Even the most notorious ones in this village cannot talk to me with their heads up. Who the hell are you to threaten me? I provided you a nice dinner and a place to sleep and you are threatening me?”
The headmaster was not just a man who was head of the offices there. He was the people’s judge, the villager’s law and the last hope of the villagers in need. He sure was a man who everybody in the village respected, people who didn’t liked him feared him. Wives when beaten would come to his house for justice, and he would call the wife-beater husband to his house. He would try to convince them not to do so in the future, if they were rigid, he would even scold them. Usually one session with the headmaster was enough for them. Not complying with what the headmaster said would make it difficult for them to be cooperated by all the villagers, they would be an outcast in the community.
“Our party will not forget the dinner and the bed you have provided us But our party needs more and if you become hostile to us and send us empty handed this time, we won’t come empty handed next time to visit you. We will be in combat dress and with weapons when we knock your door then, you will surely feel sorry about it. But we don’t want that to happen sir, we don’t use force to respectable people like you, but we want to maintain our respect to you. Please try to understand us.”
The headmaster was now a little frightened of what they said; he now knew they weren’t playing around. He couldn’t think straight. His voice was now shrilling of emotion. He didn’t want his wife or his daughter know that he was in tension. If they knew that these men were Maoists, they would come crying to the room asking for mercy. The headmaster didn’t want to show them his weakness.
The headmaster calmly asked this time, “What do you want from me? What do you want from me then?”
“We just need two Lakhs of cash for the betterment of our party this time. That will keep you from being blacklisted, but we will need further help too. Our party might want you to….”
“Two Lakhs? Where do you think I will have that kind of money? I am a social-worker not a businessman. You came knocking at the wrong door fellows.” The headmaster said not knowing what to do.
The two men ran their eyes around the room, the room was well furnished with nice sofas and a big color television. They smiled at each other and said, “Sir, we know you can provide us with that money, we don’t need it right now, we will give you time, but our party needs the money.”
The headmaster was losing his mind, he didn’t want to give his hard-earned money to them. He was a man who didn’t save any money but spent them on the things he wanted, like a TV. Though he was living in village, he didn’t want to feel deprived of anything, unlike other villagers. He was against corruption and always discouraged those who did. The amenities he had in his house was the investment of his life, hard earned.
Now he knew the difference between living a good life in a village is not the same as living a good life in Kathmandu. The village people envied his house and his progress as he was outstanding than the others, for the first time, he regretted not moving to Kathmandu.
“Look, I don’t have that kind of money right now, the most I can provide you is fifty thousand rupees. And it’s not because I support your party, it’s because I want to give you the money and not see you again. I am paying you not to show your filthy faces again at my house and my village. Does that satisfy you?” The fifty thousand rupees he had in mind was the saving he had been accumulating with his part of salary in the cooperative. Almost all villagers had an account at the cooperative, they deposited small amount of money monthly which would give interest in a compound rate. The villagers used the savings when needed.
“Yes, that will satisfy us for now, as we understand that you may not have all the money now, but we will want our share. And that is not all, our party might want you to resign from some of your positions. We want you to choose between the headmaster of the school, the headmaster of the college, and the head of the cooperative. We want to take off some load from your shoulders.”
“In your dreams! I won’t let my offices go down by letting you people handle it. Now you guys go to bed and let me rest. It was a long day for me. I will give you the money tomorrow, and you guys can return the very way you came.”
“Sir, you are very understanding, we are very glad that you are helping our party and it is just the start, you will be glad that you helped us and I know you will be helping us in near future too. Goodnight!”
The headmaster wanted to say something right at their face, but he knew it wouldn’t have any effect on them, they had been brainwashed so well that nothing could change them. They would get what they wanted by any means. If the soft words don’t work, they would use their fists to get it, the headmaster knew it well, he just watched them go out of the room.
The two men headed to the room they were assigned. The headmaster went to his bed where his wife was already asleep, not knowing what was happening. The headmaster couldn’t fall asleep but kept thinking about leaving the village for Kathmandu before it was too late. The headmaster had never felt so helpless before, he still wanted to live in the village and do so many other things he had in mind but he knew the Maoists wouldn’t let him do anything. He knew nothing could be done now, he wouldn’t be able to fight these people away, nobody had won against them, not even the government.
Last edited: 21-Nov-09 04:10 PM