By Dilip Poudyal
I heard about you time and again. Media spoke a lot; paper as well as an electronic. Several people on my way asked me whether I had seduced you. You were with me. I kept you in my room untouched. You were virgin to me. Several times, I wanted to consume you. But I used several others as my daily food. “Unheard melodies are sweeter than heard one.” You remained in me as unheard melody for long. Today I couldn’t control my impulses. Finally, I savored you. Now, there is no mystery. You are seduced.
Seto Dharti is a beautiful creation by Amar Neupane. This creation has unfolded the veils of evil practices of child marriage and the predicament of child widow in the Nepali society. The major characters of this novel are child widows such as Tara, Pabitra etc. Yemuna and Gobinda also have their own stories.
The main story is circled in the life of Tara. When she was seven years old, she got married by deception. At that time, she didn’t know about marriage. Her own parents lied her telling that there was worshipping of god at home and made her stay in the Jaggya. Then she was taken to her home telling that she had to go to the temple. Only the next day of her marriage she came to know that she was married with a person whom she hadn’t seen yet. When she had to perform the marriage rites, she was asleep. It was just like a dream.
She cried a lot remembering her mother. Her small mother told her dos and don’ts of a daughter in law in a new house. She had to stay one year in her house. It was so difficult for her to spend the whole year. After a year she went her own home. When she was nine years old, she became widow. She was called at home without informing about the death of her husband. As soon as she reached home, she came to know that her husbands had died. Although, he was an unknown character in her life, she was asked to perform all the rites. It was the first time she had seen the face of her husband in his death bed.
Then she was taken to the burning ghat. Some women broke her bangles. They removed all her ornaments and her clothes. They shaved her hair and made her stay thirteen days of mourning. After the rite was over, she was given a white cloth to wear. After a year she came to her own home. Her parents organized marriage of both the sisters at the same day. After coming to her mother, she had forgotten the past days. Her mother also told her that she could live like a son. She started playing with her friends. Govinda taught her some alphabets. Mother also gave birth of a son. They were all happy. One day her mother died untimely. Tara cried a lot for the first time. Nine months brother was taken by his maternal uncle. Later when they found that he was not being taken care properly, they took the child back.
Once, Tara saw her brother sucking the breasts of a dog. She was scared. When the baby used to cry for mother’s breast, she would pretend her breast feeding. Time passed. Her friend Pabitra ,who was also the child widow, went to Banaras. Govinda, too, went to Banaras for his study. Yemuna became her best friend. When her youth bloomed, yemuna was there to share her days with Tara. Tara used to ask about Yemuna’s love with her husband, she would reply romantically. One day her father got married another wife who was very young. As the time passed she also gave birth of son but it was the son of Tara’ first brother who was in the same age of her. Slowly and gradually, step mother started misbehaving her. Father was in the grip of her wife. He didn’t hear the pain of her daughter. Brother also got married and started living alone. Then she decided to leave home forever.
Her life was like a voyage without rudder. She headed towards Devghat. At the night of her escape from home she stayed at Yemuna’s home. The wished as if her brother would come to stop her whom she brought up like her son. But no one came. She joined a group of people who were migrating to Chitwan. After a week she reached to Devghat. She devoted her life to God. There she saw the image of Goving in the Swamiji. Several time she kept relation with young men in her dream. So, she also confessed that she was like Drupadi. One day, she met Yemuna, at Devghat. She had also been there after the death of her husband. She told her story to Tara. Later on, she became Sanyasi. Time passed in its own speed.
Once a female named Gangeswari came at Devghat Ahram. She became popular due to her knowledge and the money she brought with her. One night Gangeswari came to Tara’s hut and revealed her true identity. She was no other than Pabitra. She was Tara’s best friend who had gone to Banaras with a young priest who came in their village. Then, Pabitra told her story how she passed different stages of life and finally became Gangeswari. She also told that she became a prostitute and earned a lot of wealth while she was at Banaras. Then she left this profession and gave birth of a daughter who was a professor at the moment. Finally she came to Nepal changing her name to devote her rest of the life in God. When Tara first heard this story, she hated her too much. But she could not tell the Swamiji. Later she forgot everything. At last she also met Govinda whom she secretly kept in her heart throughout her life.
While reading this novel, my throat gagged several times. I couldn’t control my emotion. Though the story is fabricated with writer’s primary imagination, it depicts a picture of social evil and its adverse effects on the lives of many Taras and Pavitras of Nepali society. The narration of the story is tradition. However, the writer has given the space to the characters that have been lost in many writings. It speaks the voice of voiceless. Despite some incongruities, this is one of the best creations in the contemporary Nepali literature.