By Chiran Raj Pandey
The mother is a bird, preying upon her sleeping child. The scene is set: the clouds are descending, dark. The room is lit with halogen, a yellow-green ambience that could not possibly be recreated anywhere else. Inside, the mother is a bird, and her sleeping child lies there quietly with his eyes closed. The scene is set and the men are seated.
Across from the mother and her child, a man sits, his head resting on his neck and his neck on his body. There is another story here: the man used to love a girl. The girl was a poet. Her name was Sapana.
The girl named Sapana had written a poem called The Magnificent Life of Sapana, and it was drastically misread by anyone who attempted to read it. The readers misread the central character: a man so tormented by the death of his unborn child that he learns to sew, and then sews, and then he sews all of his clothes together until they become one big, fat piece of thread, and then he sews the clothes into and inside each other until they disappear, sewn into and out of everything there is.
The scene is set and the crows are leaving. Outside, the clouds are descending, dark. Nepal is the kind of place where women are but pithy characters in a sitcom, and inside, Sapana reads again the first poem she ever wrote. It was called The Magnificent Life of Sapana, and when it was conceived, it was supposed to be about her own life. She wrote upwards of a thousand lines and then some more, until her poem was five hundred pages. There was nothing more to write. The scene had been set. The world was to start anew.
Every child that has ever played in the streets outside his home will remember this: a solitary bicycle wheel rolling outside of an alley and into the main road, where it is run over by the bigger wheels of a motorbike or a car or a truck that has graffiti painted onto its sides. Every child will remember mourning for the death of his bicycle wheel. The scene is set: the boy-child removes the wheel carefully from the road, where it has almost been pasted onto the asphalt, almost become asphalt. He then brings it to his own backyard, where a funeral awaits the wheel. It is placed inside of a plastic bucket that is filled to the brim with hay, fresh, dry hay, flammable hay. The wind delivers the eulogy, and the boy burns the wheel. The soot makes its way onto his face, and slowly it is washed away, from underneath his eyes, dripping onto his neck and onto his clothes.
One of the objects in Sapana’s poem was a boy who, unborn, dies. His funeral was him and his bicycle tire, and they burned together, slowly but surely. Traditionally, the mother of the child weeps. The father wishes he could weep, but he must keep a straight face, today of all days. The scene is set and the crows have just arrived. The boy also has grandparents, one on each side. They weep with the mother, and then they return quietly to their own homes to resume their own deranged lives. Traditionally, the tiny boy, the tiny unborn infant, a fetus, finishes burning at most within an hour. If it exceeds the set time limit, more petrol is added to the pyre, and if by the end of two whole hours the boy is not ashes, he is buried because he cannot be burned.
Currently, the scene is set. The child is sleeping on his mother’s lap. His head is buried into her bosom, and the man stares at the both of them with great affection. When night arrives, the man wraps mother and child in a blanket that he had woven a night before, and as the man approaches her and her child with the blanket, the woman turns her body to the side as if to make space for the blanket to hug her. The man gently fells the blanket and leaves the two—mother and child—to become one.
When morning comes mother and child are wrapped into the blanket, so tightly woven to accommodate the shapes of their bodies, and they are but one, butterfly within a caterpillar, pithy characters in a well-established scene.