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Shivkumar Ral (b. 1916) Rai was born at Rinak in Sikkim but made his home at Kurseong in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. He studied for a while at Gyantse in Tibet before gaining his B.A. from Calcutta University in 1941. Rai's career was primarily political: he was one of the founding members of the Gorkha League, an organization that represented Nepalis resident in India, and the first Nepali to hold a ministerial position in the government of West Bengal. Later, he became a producer of Nepali programs for All India Radio. Rai's first story appeared in Skdradd in 1944. His writings are varied; most of the stories in Frontier (Phrantiyar), his first collection, are set among the tribal communities of the northeast frontier states, and others deal with topics ranging from a mountaineering accident to the life of a dancing girl in a Mughal court. Rai's finest stories are those that describe the lives of the lower classes of the Darjeeling district. He is no experimentalist; he tells his stories in a straightforward and unpretentious manner, but his characterizations and descriptions of scenery are among the finest in Nepali fiction. Rai's stories are published in three collections: Frontier (195 f), Yatri(Yhe Traveler, 1956), andKhahare (Monsoori Stream, 1976). (The latter received a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978.) THE MURDERER (JYANAMARA?) The long summer downpour came to an end, and the setting sun glinted through dwindling evening clouds. The shadows of banyan and pipal trees grew long above the spring, reaching out and touching a grinding stone that leaned against the courtyard wall. It was busy at the spring: 224 SHIVKUMAR RAl 22.5 the farmers had planted the last crop of the year, and now they were washing the mud from their arms and legs and cleaning their tools. Soon they all went home. But Ujirman, who had gone to water the cardamom field, still did not return. During the Second World War, Ujirman had fought the Japanese in Burma and at Kohima. His left hand lacked its little finger: he claimed that the Japanese had cut it off in hand-to-hand combat. Whenever someone asked him how he had lost it, he became very animated. "It got cut off, what!" he would exclaim. "It was when we were facing the Japanese in the assault on Burma. But I chopped the radishes off three of them, what! Their weapons were as much use as monkeys' tails. Our knives may not have been sharp, but they were light and quick. We were advancing when they attacked with machine-gun fire, so we halted and quicklytook cover. I had jumped into a ditch, and I was firing away when three of them came up on me from behind. And that was that: I killed the lot of them. I didn't notice my finger was gone until I got back to camp. What! I had to spend a month in the hospital!" Ujirman was a short stocky man in his late thirties, with bulgingcalves and knotted biceps. He still seemed quick and agile. Everyone knew he never missed his mark when he went out hunting. Young boys often ran along behind him, shouting, "If you want meat,just follow brother Ujirman !" Most of the village called him "brother," and sometimes, when the village council developed a craving for meat, they would give him a gun and a couple of cartridges and tell him, "Off you go then, brother. Have a look down at DussenI forest, and see what you can find." Once he had entered the forest, Ujirman never came back emptyhanded . He would always return with at least a few pigeons, or some other kind of bird, if not with a deer or a jungle fowl. No one knew who his first wife had been, and there were no children from that marriage, either. Now that the last ripples of his youth were beginning to lap against the shore, Ujirman felt the need of a young woman. Perhaps he feared that there would be nobody to light his pyre or perform the last rites for him when he died, or perhaps he simply wanted someone to keep him company in his old age. Maybe it was just because Putall was pretty that he was attracted to her. Only he knew his motives. But whatever the reason might be, he felt he had to take a young woman for his wife, and so he...


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MARC Record
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