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Manoa 13.2 (2001) 23-29

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Maya Thakuri

That day, too, Bam Bahadur left home early in the morning. With Bhagate by his side, he was looking for a goat to purchase.

The price of goats was increasing day by day, but Bam Bahadur didn't care; no matter what price he had to pay, it was always Vijay Bahadur who footed the bill. Bam Bahadur was content in knowing that, in the eyes of his neighbors, his wealth appeared to increase with the price of goats.

This Vijay Bahadur was an astonishing man. He'd come to the village four or five times already this year, and each time he'd slaughtered a goat and feasted all of Bam Bahadur's companions on large quantities of meat and liquor. The drinking and gambling went on all night during these feasts, held at Bam Bahadur's house. Naturally, the villagers praised Vijay Bahadur, saying, "No matter how hard you look, you can't find a man as generous as Bam Bahadur's nephew. Vijay Bahadur has so much money! He spends as he pleases, but never runs out."

Before meeting Vijay Bahadur, Bam Bahadur had had an utterly shabby life. His house had needed a new roof, but he could hardly even afford the morning and evening meals for his wife and three children. To pay off his gambling debts, he had sold his wife's nose ring and her earrings. He'd fallen so low that he'd even sold off the family's few pots and pans to support his vices.

Bam Bahadur had worked nearly nineteen years for the Indian army. By the time he'd retired and returned to his village, he appeared to have left all his youthfulness and vigor in that foreign land. He blindly threw himself into drinking and gambling. It was only thanks to the industriousness of his wife, Him Maya, that they made ends meet.

Once a year, Bam Bahadur traveled to the town of Gorakhpur, India, to collect his pension. But by the time he had returned, his pockets would already be empty. With tears streaming from her eyes, Him Maya would plead with her husband, "Drinking and gambling have never helped anyone improve his lot. Stop these vile habits." Bam Bahadur paid no attention. Before long, he had even managed to gamble away the fields that he'd taken over from his brother.

Everyone knew about Bam Bahadur's older brother, Hum Bahadur. When he was a young man, Hum Bahadur had run off with the wife of [End Page 23] another villager, Santa Bir. Years passed, but Hum Bahadur never came back; nor did anyone hear again of Santa Bir's wife, who had taken with her all her jewelry and gold coins. Apparently, Santa Bir wandered for quite some time with a khukuri knife tucked into his waistband, saying, "If I find them, I won't let them get away; I'll slit their throats." But even though he hungered mightily for revenge, Santa Bir entered death's mouth before he could satisfy his hunger.

A year ago, Bam Bahadur went to Gorakhpur to collect his pension. Two or three other villagers who were also pensioners went with him. Those villagers returned before the winter month of Magh was over, but there was no sign of Bam Bahadur. When Him Maya asked the other villagers about her husband, they said, "We didn't see him after he got his pension. We don't know where he went."

A few days later, Him Maya was working in the fields. All manner of worries were playing with her heart when her eleven-year-old daughter, Kamali, came running to her, shouting, "Aamai, Aamai, Ba's come home! There's someone with Ba. There's also a porter."

"Eh, is that so?" Him Maya followed her daughter home.

As soon as he saw his wife, Bam Bahadur said, "Here, look. I've returned with our nephew. Poor thing--he was living abroad like an orphan, thinking he had no living relatives." Bam Bahadur turned to the...


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