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Prema Shah Prema Shah first came to the attention of Nepali readers with the publication of "A Husband," which probably surpassed the many other stories on the subject of widowhood. A second influential story is "The Yellow Rose" (Pahenlo Guldph), the diary of a woman who is dying from tuberculosis arid observing her husband from her hospital bed. Prema Shah is also a noted poet. Prema Shah's stories are collected in Pahenlo Guldph (Yellow Rose, 1966) and Visliaydntam (Digressions, 1971). A HUSBAND (l.OGNE) Nirmala, who had just finished mourning for her late husband, came home for her younger sister's wedding. She was soon involved in making up her sister's face, although she herself looked pale and tired and approached the task halfheartedly. The whole affair seemed quite unreal: cream, powder, lipstick, rouge . . . where should she put this spot of mascara, on her cheekbones or on her chin? Oh, who wore such cheap stuff, anyway! It was like making up a mask. Nirmala didn't feel like putting it on; it was so old-fashioned to wear such things on one's cheeks. And her sister's face was pretty enough—why overdo the makeup? Nirmala was trying hard to smooth out and hide the threads from her past that still scratched away inside her. But somehow the reflection of her and her sister in that big mirror simply reminded her of her feelings. The mirror stood just where it had two years before, when Nirmala herself had gone from this house. It was still intact, its silver untarnished, but she felt she had changed completely and aged terribly. 278 Her mascara-rimmed eyes were too tired to dance here and there with the liveliness they'd once had, and there was no longer any zest for life in her heart. When she had finished, Nirmala turned her sister's face to the mirror. She felt so fond of that face. Although the makeup had been her own work, she felt like holding and kissing it. But she could not do that: she felt too shy and too proud as well. For she was just as pretty, prettier than her sister, even now. "Nirmala's prettier than Urtnila"—everyone said the same, but she still felt that her beauty was fading in front of her sister. She had really made her look vividly beautiful, but she was not pleased by her skill. Indeed, it was envy she felt: if only she could make herself look like this! The young man in the next room who had come to see Urmila was a new friend of her elder brother's, from Biratnagar.' He was perhaps a professor, but Nirmala wasn't sure. 'The two sisters could hear them talking quietly.Nirmala pricked up her ears and narrowed her eyes; she noticed Urmila smiling softly as she looked in the mirror. The rosy pinkness of her blush made her even prettier. Then their brother laughed at something, and they heard someone else laughing, too, in a soft, low voice. Nirmala tensed. Although Urmila turned and smiled at her, she felt stung by her sister's total beauty. Everything froze to ice inside her. Urtnila was still gazing into the mirror when Nirmala suddenly plucked the flower from her hair and tore it to shreds. Urmila was shocked. "Why did you do that, sister?" Nirmala's fair, slender face broke into a sweat. She stared wildly at Urmila, and then, without thinking, she plucked the tikd from her sister's brow. Now Urmila was really scared; avoiding her sister, she ran out of the room. Nirmala was amused as she watched her escaping, and she smiled to herself in the empty room. But even as she smiled, she began to cry as well. Her heart seemed to shrink. She put her head on her knees and breathed slowly; then she coughed quietly. Her throat was dry—was it from thirst? No, she wasn't thirsty.But she picked up a glass from the table and drank a little water just to wet her throat. Her tears were still clouding her eyes, but she sensed that someone had lifted the curtain in the doorway and was peering in at her, so she turned around. It was Urmila, who ran away as soon as her sister saw her, letting the curtain fall. "Are you spying on me?" Nirmala felt a sudden anger. "What do you think I would do if you came...


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MARC Record
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