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Guruprasad Mainali (1900-1971) Mainali was one of the first generation of writers to develop the modern short story in Nepali. Little detailed biographical information on him is available, but it is known that he was born in Kanpur village, Kabre Palanchok district, and spent most of his life in government service. Some sources suggest that he wasa high court judge. Mainali left his birthplace for a village near Nuwakot when young and spent his last years in Khairhanl , near Chitwan. In the interim, he occupied a large house in the Tharnel quarter of Kathmandu. Mainall's first stories appeared in Sharadd between 1935and 1938. Only eleven have been published in all,but each is now considered a classic. His most famous stories are "The Ward" (Ndso), in which an elderly Brahman who is without children is obliged to take a second wife in order to clear his way to paradise (translated in Riccardi 1988); "A Blaze in the Straw" (Paralko Ago), translated here; and "The Martyr" (Shahid), a story about a man who lays down his life in the struggle against the Ranas. All of Mainall's stories were published in a collection entitled Ndso in 1969. A BLAZE IN THE STRAW (PARALKO AGO) Chame's wife Gaunthali had a very sharp tongue. Even when he was civil to her,she'd invariably slant the issue and bring up something to fight about. Every few days man and wife would quarrel. One evening, Chame carne home from his ploughing to find that Gaunthali had locked up the house and gone to the village to watch a wedding. After a whole day of ploughing, he was tired and hungry. Just as he was putting away the yoke and plough and tying up the ox, Gaun189 190 SF.LF.CTKD SHORT STORIKS thall came down the hill. When he saw her, Chame flared up in anger. The fire hadn't even been lit yet, let alone a meal prepared! Hurriedly, Gaunthall unbolted the door and rushed off to fetch water. Chame kindled a fire in the hearth and filled his pipe with tobacco. He sat smoking on the doorstep like a gathering storm cloud. Gaunthall came back carrying the waterpot on her hip. She was just about to enter the house when Chame said, "This old widow's spent the whole day making eyes at the men, and still she's putting on airs!" and he gave her a kick. GaunthalT staggered and fell in the doorway. The pot smashed, splashing water across the threshold. She was picking up the pieces and throwing them out into the yard when Chame yelled, "Don't stay another second in my house! Get out and go where you will!" and he dragged her out by her pigtail and threw her into the yard. Gaunthall had been a little to blame, and so she held her peace even when he kicked her. But when he grabbed her by her hair and threw her out, she let fly, "'Jake your leprous hands off me! My wretched parents in their stupidity have handed me over to a butcher! It would be better to drown than to be the wife of such a destitute corpse!"1 "This old widow must think her father's very rich! If he didn't do the ploughing for all the other villagers, he'd never get a bite to eat! And then she brags about her family!" and he kicked her again. Gaunthall wailed at the top of her voice. All the villagechildren had come up onto the embankment to see the show. "Hey, you corpses, what show is going on here for you all to come and watch?" Chame picked up a stick and chased after them, but the children ran up the hill, laughing. Gaunthall was weeping, but Chame just spread out a rush mat and went to sleep on the verandah. The next morning, Chame took the ploughing ox off to the paddy fieldwith an empty stomach. When he came home in the evening, Gaunthall had gone. The neighbors told him that she had packed up her clothes and gone off to her parents' home. The buffalo was still in the yard and when it saw Chame it bellowed. He gave it fodder and untied the calf; then he fetched a pail and sat down to milk it. First, it gave a few measures of milk, but then it kicked Chame and skipped away. Chame fell backward into some...


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