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Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (1915-1982) Better known in Nepal as "B. P.," the leader of the Nepali Congress Party that ousted the Ranas, Koirala became Nepal's first elected prime minister in 1959. Before this, however, he had already become quite well known for his writing, which he began while studying law in Darjeeling during the 1930s. Koirala's first story, "Chandrabadan" (A Face Like the Moon), appeared in Shdradd in 1935, and three further stories were included in the seminal Katha-Kusum anthology in 1938. The most common theme of his stories and novels (of which Koirala published four) was the relationship between men and women, but a significant number of stories also dealt with social issues. The subject of politics, which dominated Koirala's life, is conspicuous by its absence in his writings. Most of his stories are brief but exceptionally effective. Koirala's stories are available in Doshi Chashmd (Faulty Glasses, f949). THE SOLDIER (SIPAHI) It is hard to travel alone in the hills. 1 had to walk for two or three days, but I met up with a soldier on the waywho made the journey pass easily. First he asked me, "Hey, young man, where are you headed?" shouting rudely at me from behind in a familiar tone. I turned to look back and saw a soldier in uniform coming up quickly with short, fast strides. I remembered the many things I had heard about the rough, cruel nature of military men and so I simply replied, "Ham,"1 in the hope that 1. Ham is a district, in the extreme east of Nepal, next to the Indian border. 197 198 SELECTED SHORT STORIES this would shake him off.But by then he had already caught up with me. "Aha!" he said casually,and as he grinned a gold tooth glittered, "I'm on my way there too. Now we shall keep each other company all day, shall we not, rny brother?" He wore a black coat, an army cap, and khaki trousers. In his coat pocket there glittered the clip of a cheap fountain pen. A Queen Anne watch was strapped to his wrist and was visible whenever he lifted his arm—he had a habit of raising his hands as he spoke. Around his throat he had tied a large red kerchief. "I'm a soldier, but you, if the Lord does not deceive me, must be a student. Am I right?" I smiled and confirmed that this was true. "I can always tell who a person is, and what he does, from the clothes he wears and the way he speaks. I swear I've never been mistaken, at least in this. I can't really read or write. Well, 1 can sign my name each month and get through the Ramayana:2 that much I've learned in the barracks. But if I'd studied any harder I'd have turned out thin and pale, like you!" I began to enjoy his talk. He spoke with familiarity to everyone we met on the path, saying, "Where are you off to then?" People were nervous of his military appearance and gave him no reply. On encountering an older woman, he would address her as "motherin -law" and enquire after the well-beingof her daughters: "How is your little girl? Tell rne won't you, oh mother-in-law of whom I'm so fond?" He had no wish to know about rne. He didn't have enough time to tell me everything about himself, so how could he even inquire? "I'm stationed at Quetta.3 I've been there a long time. I do have a wife, but she's back here in the hills, and she's sickly and good for nothing . But we've had two children, all the same. I haven't been home for ages, and I don't even want to go either. She'll have gone off with someone else by now, arid my sons will have turned into rogues. Well, the little one seemed bright enough and I really hoped to educate him. But who could be bothered? My father didn't educate me, arid I'm quite content. I found myself a wife in Quetta, too. Wherever you go you should have what you want." 1 was really enjoying listening to the soldier because he spoke openly and concealed nothing from rne. What was there for him to hide, any2 . This reference is probably...


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MARC Record
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