When we think of war, we think about chaos, pain, suffering. Have you thought of the other-ways? Well this story might change your perspective!
The war which took place in the year 1814 A.D between Nepal and British East India Company is called the Anglo-Nepal war.
And the most interesting war among the Anglo-Nepal war was the Nalapani ladai which was fought in Nalapani, a place near Dehradun. This war officially began from 31st October and ended on 30th November.
This is the story of a girl named Aashima who lived in the heaven of Nepal; Dehradun and Dave; a British soldier in around 1814 A.D.
[In may; six months before the war]
Slowly she stripped with what so-called desperate manner. With cheer and open heart she was waiting for him. Recalling those past memories watching herself in the mirror and just the difference when she last saw herself. Following her deep thoughts and passing through the vain, she was unaware that her cheeks were wet. Her legs were shaking and then cold fingers ran through her belly which distracted her.
That awesome moment which she was waiting for two months had finally arrived. Just putting a stone on her past she turned back to kiss him. Feel him and love the way she used to. Tell him all those things which had happened in these two cruel months. Make love with him like she did.
She was in a long list of things to do with him when the door bell rang. And she opened her eyes. There was no one behind her but the reality not the dreams which she often dreamed.
For a moment, the view was silent, silent for a while. Even she was silent staring at the wind charm which was gifted by him.
And then suddenly the wind charm began to move violently. More than ever; even the wind was absent. Once again she realized she was in her reality. Then, she heard the doorbell again. She quickly dressed up and went to open it.
There, she saw a short fat man wearing a khaki color uniform outside the door. He was carrying a bunch of letters in his hands which was being shuffled by his fat fingers. He was a post man.
“You Aashima Chetri?” he asked.
“No. Aashima Roberts.”
She felt something wrong. Wrong on reality but always true on her dreams. Her heart always loved her as Aashima Roberts but the world represented her as Aashima Chetri. She was fighting against herself, against the world and against the reality.
“Sorry ma’am, I’d rather mention it as an incorrect address. And once again sorry for the disturbance.” The post man apologized.
“Hey! Wait. I am Aashima Chetri.” Aashima stopped the postman from turning back.
Two curious eyes were staring her and then it showed up into a gentle smile remembering she had made the same mistake two weeks before.
As she was about to get the letter from the post man when the letter was snatched by her mother not letting her to see saying “it was financial, sent by her father from India”
The day after was the first day of June and as always as in the 1st day of the month she dressed up and set off for temple. It seemed as if gods reminded her of him. She could feel the presence of him on the air of temple. For her, only one prayer echoed around on the walls of the temple “god! Please bring him back into my life.”
While she was returning from temple she felt a chronic pain on her head sending waves of nausea to her mouth. She couldn’t help vomiting.
Sumitra, a close friend of Aashima saw her and took her to the nearest Vaidhyalaya.
Sumitra: What is this?
Sumitra: Don’t act like you don’t know anything. You’re pregnant.
Aashima: so what then?
Sumitra: What do you mean by so what? It is a sin. A girl shouldn’t be pregnant before marriage.
Aashima: He is going to marry me.
Sumitra: Who? Don’t say it’s that British again.
Aashima: He has a name. His name is Dave and he has promised me that he will marry me.
Sumitra: Don’t act foolish. And if he had promised to marry you than where is he now? Why hasn’t he written to you till now? Why hasn’t he turned up yet?
Aashima: Maybe he is little busy.
Sumitra: Yes indeed! He is very busy. So busy that he doesn’t have time to keep his promise. Why don’t you accept the fact? He is gone. Gone forever and gone for good in his own country.
Aashima: He hasn’t gone to Britain. He is in Calcutta.
Sumitra: How do you know?
( Aashima didn’t speak)
Sumitra: Tell me.
After a long pause, Aashima finally spoke.
It was the time of March when I first met him. Dave and his friend Jack came to our place as paying guests. They introduced themselves as journalists who were examining the beauty of Dehradun. I took them to various places. We went to Nalapani fort where he bought me a beautiful wind charm. I sensed that he wanted me to be interested on him, wanted me to like him. I thought I loved him but later on I just parted it as an infatuation which often belonged to me. Never had I imagined that I was in love, deeply in love with no symptoms because it was hidden, hidden in my deep passage of heart.
One day when mother was plating dinner for us, I felt something unusual. I looked at Dave. Dave was staring at me. I don’t know why but I was enjoying what was happening. For a long time, our eyes kept on the silent conversation.
After I finished my dinner, I was in the balcony enjoying the very first hint of love. My mind was playing all those love songs and my brain was recalling every moment spent with Dave.
Then a hoarse cough grabbed my attention. Looking back; I saw Dave. He was smiling at me. I smiled back trying to hide my feelings.
I asked him “Don’t you have to go to bed? It’s late”
Instead of answering, he took a step towards me and everything happened quickly to even make a sense. He slipped his arm around my back. He was holding on the same smile, knowing that I was falling in love with him. He pulled me closer and kissed me on my lips. We spent the whole night making love and talking about every beautiful thing of the world. He told about his country, his world, his dreams, his childhood and his life. And I shared mine childhood spent in a very strict Indian school. There were only three girls in the school, all the daughters of commanders. I told him about the British teacher who had taught me to speak English. He was very rude and cruel. I thought every British was like him until I met Dave.
Dave had gone to bathroom and I went to the closet to search blankets but couldn’t find anything other than shawls. While I was about to take out one, something dropped from the closet. I picked it up. It was an official letter written by Rollo Gillespie, the commander of the British army.
My eyes went wide open and my breath came in a whooshing sound. I was reading the letter and suddenly Dave snatched that letter from my hand. I couldn’t believe what I read.
I had so many questions which were to be answered. I hadn’t imagined Dave as a secret messenger of British army. How could he lie to me?
The person whom I shared my life stories, my feelings, my life was a scoundrel! He had cheated on me. I told all my secrets to him but he hadn’t told me the vital secret of his life.
“Look Aashima; let me explain” he muttered with a rush.
I realized my love with the pain in advance. I didn’t want to hear what it was. I headed towards the door without turning back.
Then Dave signed, louder than before “We are going to attack Dehradun.”
This time I couldn’t help stopping by the door. These words had sent a chill through my spine. My breath was heavy. How can I fall in love with a guy who was secretly planning to attack my country?
I turned back and asked rudely trying not to reflect the pain of my heart “why did you lie to me?”
His voice softened “because I had promised”
“Promise? You promised me to tell everything. You lied…. You are a liar.”
“No Aashima. I love you and this isn’t a lie.” It sounded true. “But a soldier’s professional life wins over his personal life”
This time I couldn’t reply. I was well aware about the life of a soldier. My dad was a commander and I knew what he said was true.
“So, when are you leaving?” although I knew there would be an answer, I was afraid to find hear it.
“Tomorrow, before the sun rises. The commander has called us in Calcutta”
“Dave” I pleaded “can’t you stay one more day?”
I felt something unusual that I hadn’t felt before. A sensation that something was merely going far from me.
He said despite he didn’t want to “No Aashima. I have promises to keep. But I promise you, I will come back one day and I’ll fill your life with happiness. I promise”
His eyes glittered. His eyes carried truth. His eyes carried love. The first love of my life.
By the time Aashima finished telling her story; Sumitra’s eyes had filled up with tears. Sumitra hugged Aashima and whispered “You are brave.”
Three months had passed since Dave’s departure but still no letters arrived.
Her belly had swollen up a little. She didn’t want to eat and with the beginning of the day she felt nauseated. Her feet were swollen. Her mother enquired many times about the way Aashima was responding. But Aashima told it was just food poison and nothing more.
One fine day of July, Aashima was home alone thinking about the beautiful night with Dave while the wind charm gifted by Dave was making mesmerizing sounds.
Then the bell rang, bringing her to present.
She went to open the door, hoping to get a letter from Dave. But when she opened the door, she saw her mother. With her mother there was another person. She had seen the person but couldn’t recall when. She thought for a while and then remembered she was the Vaidhya who had treated her three months ago.
Her mother spoke, “This is my daughter Aashima. She says she is suffering from food poison. You need to prescribe her some medicine”
The Vaidhya smiled. This was the cruelest joke played on her. She wished the land would split up and it would drag her to hell.
“Madam there’s nothing to worry about. In fact you should be happy. Your daughter is going to be mother”
Her mother stared at the Vaidhya in surprise “Are you sure?”
The Vaidhya answered “yes indeed! In fact I have already prescribed some medicines to her.”
Her mom looked at Aashima with more surprise than she had looked at Vaidhya. “Is this true?”
Aashima couldn’t deny, “Yes mother”
Her mom screamed, “Who is that man? Tell me Aashima!”
She wanted to answer but her lips trembled. She confessed “His name is Dave”.
“Who Dave?” this time the words were little soft as it contained seriousness.
“What? How could….how?” she stammered “He is a Christian.”
“He is a human” Aashima corrected her mother.
“Your father will kill you. Aren’t you afraid of him?”
She did not fear death but what she feared about was love, which she didn’t see in the eyes of her mother. Therefore there was nothing to fear about.
“Aashima, just go away! You don’t deserve to be here. Leave us alone” she pleaded.
For the first time in the entire conversation, Aashima looked at her mother and said “I thought at least you would understand. I was wrong mother. You aren’t the best mother alive.”
Her mother’s eye filled with tears but she didn’t want to show it. “Can’t you hear? Pack your stuffs and go away before your father comes.” This was said as if she didn’t mean to.
She looked around only to find herself in the middle of nowhere. She screamed, she shouted but the sounds diminished as invincibly like air in the surrounding. She shouted one more time on top of her lungs but not with the hope of being listened as she was in the middle of nowhere.
She began to shiver. Her legs were shaking. She could feel her hands tremble and finally she was unconscious.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself inside a hut. There seemed to be just a room in which a bed was in the middle, a big dungeon, one chair, a table and a fire-place where milk was boiling.
Then an old lady appeared. Her face was wrinkled but a gentle smile made that invisible. She was carrying a herb in her hand. She smiled after seeing Aashima.
Aashima couldn’t figure out what was happening “Where am I?” she asked.
The old lady smiled and answered “You’re in my hut. I found you lying unconscious on the street.”
Aashima had lots of queries. “Who are you?”
“Everyone calls me Aama.”
Three months passed. Now, Aashima was 7 months pregnant. Aama had lied to everyone that Aashima was her daughter-in-law to protect her from the society’s scoundrel. In this mean interval Aashima and Aama had developed a strong bond. Aama told Aashima that her only son had gone for war and she was waiting for him and Aashima told Aama about Dave. In a way, they both were on the same turning point of life.
On 31st October, Aashima was alone in the hut waiting for Aama to come so that they could have dinner together. She was wondering how on earth she had been lucky enough to find Aama.
After some time, the door bell rang. She went to open it picturing Aama with herbs on her hand which she’d promised to bring for Aashima from Nalapani.
But whom she saw outside was not Aama, it was Ram, their neighbor “Aashima. The British has attacked. They have attacked the Nalapani. And…” He stopped.
“And what? What Ram?” Aashima asked curiously.
“Aama…Aama was near Nalapani ….and she died.”
These words were twirling inside her head. She couldn’t believe what she just heard. This was the most unfaithful moment she ever lived. Whoever she loved, they would either leave or betray or would die. First it was Dave and then her mother and now Aama. It seemed as if love never belonged to her dictionary.
The war was going on; time and again the news arrived stating the victory and losses. The regular ups and downs were making the war even more devastating.
She prayed for the victory of Gorkhas but well wished British. The Anglo-Nepal war was not only the war between British East India Company and Gorkhas but also the war between her dreams and reality.
After one month of sitting idly inside the hut letting the loneliness to haunt her, the war finally ended resulting the victory of Britain.
It had already been 8 months since she last saw Dave. And with the passing of time, the time spent with Dave began to be vague. She had made herself busy, not letting her past to haunt her anymore.
That was till one day; the wind charm began to shake violently. This reminded her of Dave. His promise. He had promised to come back to her after the war ended. But Dave didn’t know she had left her home and was now staying in the hut. So how could he find her?
She made up her mind to go to Nalapani where the British Army lived. She pictured her dreams to change into reality. Wondering how Dave would be like, how the war had changed him and how would he feel if he found out he was going to be father of her child.
With much struggle, she finally reached the British camp. The day was cold, cold enough to make the water freeze. It was a December morning and she could hardly see anyone because of the presence of fog.
When the rays of sun became successful to penetrate through the dense fog, the view got clear.
There, everyone was packing their stuffs, getting ready to return home. There was a smile on everyone’s face.
Aashima desperately searched for Dave. She even asked the other soldiers but none knew about Dave.
Then, she heard someone call out her name. It was a familiar voice. She turned back. It was Jack, Dave’s friend. She went towards him with a certain hope of finding Dave.
“Where is Dave? Tell him his Aashima has come. Where is he?”
Jack was silent. He didn’t answer. Instead he faced the ground for a long time.
Aashima couldn’t figure out what was happening. She shrugged Jack and yelled “Where is Dave?”
Her voice was so loud that for a moment everyone stopped whatever they were doing and looked at her.
He still didn’t reply. He rubbed his eyes, put his hand on his pocket and took out a paper and handed it to Aashima.
By the time you’ll be reading this letter, I wouldn’t be alive. But my love is always alive for you. My love is always there even if my heart stops beating.
As I’ve promised to tell you everything, I am going to tell you another truth of my life.
Aashima, I am not a nice man. When I first saw you, the first thing that stroke into my mind was to get intimate with you. I did every possible attempt to make you to like me and I was successful too. I had planned to spend the night with you and then flee the following morning. But when I saw the pain in your eyes after you discovered I was a secret messenger, I couldn’t resist myself. I realized I had already fallen for you. This was the first time I ever had that kind of feeling within me. I didn’t know if that was love or not but when I got separated from you, I couldn’t forget you. All those moments we spent together, all those talks we had were always lingering on me. Though I tried to forget but now and then my mind recalled the vow I’d made to you about returning to your life.
If this is what the world calls love, then yes Aashima I love you!
Aashima, I want to meet you before I die. I want to whisper ‘I love you’ in your ears and see you smile shyly. But that does not seem possible. Everyone says I am dying.
Aashima, I’m going and I don’t want to see tears in your eyes. Now, you promise me. Promise me you’ll restart your life and forget me. Promise me you’ll be happy. Promise me you’ll never cry remembering me.
This is the last letter and I surely do not expect reply of this letter as you’ve never given reply to my previous letters.
But I know you love me and you’ll always do. And that’s what matters.
She felt a heavy turf rest on her heart. Her eyes were full of tears. But she’d promised she wouldn’t cry. So she rubbed her eyes raising the tears off her face.
She couldn’t believe what she just read.
She couldn’t imagine her mother preventing her to read the letters sent by Dave. Once she had seen her mother burning letters. And she’d asked too but her mother stuttered saying they were old and of no use. And she also remembered the day when her mother had snatched the letter from her hand. Her mother knew all the time that she loved Dave but why did she act as if she didn’t know anything? Why did she bring the same Vaidhya who cured her though there were plenty of Vaidhyas around the house? Obviously her mother knew the symptoms of pregnancy. She had gone through it. So this was all planned up. Her mother kicked her off the house probably because she knew if Aashima’s dad found out about the pregnancy, he would kill her.
Aashima’s head began to spin. She had a chronic pain on her stomach as if someone had punched her intimate areas. She couldn’t help crying. Jack held her and called other members to help her. She was kept on the log.
This was her labor pain.
She was trying hard, laboring heavily while some of the soldiers were involved in bringing towels, some were involved in boiling water and the others were beside Aashima giving her courage and hope.
Finally, she gave birth to a baby boy.
She was happy and along with her all the soldiers were. But she wished Dave was there. She missed Dave, the one who would be the happiest at the moment.
One day Aashima was sleeping in the hut when she heard the wind charm making mesmerizing sound. She woke up and found her son was awakening too.
His eyes were glittering. His eyes carried truth. His eyes carried love, the love which once shone in Dave’s eyes.
Then she remembered what Dave had said “I promise you. I will come back one day and I’ll fill your life with happiness. I promise.”
“Oh Dave!” she signed.
Five years have passed. David was growing up fast. She had named her son David as he was the replica of Dave. Now, she had what happiness meant but always lacked the presence of Dave in her life, the vital necessity of life.
One day again, the wind charm began to move violently making pleasant sounds. It was an omen that something was going to happen.
Then after sometime, the door bell rang.
Aashima went to open the door, wondering who might come in this hour of time.
There was a man in an army uniform.
The man questioned “Hi. Where is Aama?”. He seemed shocked to see Ashima.
Aashima had almost forgotten that the hut belonged to Aama. She said with rather pain vibrating than throat, “She went to heaven five years ago.” she analyzed the man. “Who are you?”
He opened his mouth to speak but instead shook his head. A drop of tear rolled down his cheeks. He was silent for a moment. “My name is Devendra. But my friends call me Dave. I am the son of Aama. I’ve recently returned from war.”
Aashima was looking at him with surprise. Aama had mentioned about him; about her only son who had gone in a war. She smiled at him. No, she smiled at the co-incidence. His friends call him Dave. What a coincidence!
Devendra was also looking at Aashima. He was looking at the depth of ocean into her eyes. The only thing that came from his mouth was “beau-ti-ful”
“Yes everyone says our house is beautiful” David muttered.
Devendra was shocked. He shrived. He couldn’t reply. He was talking about Aashima not the house. He remembered the letter sent by Aama in which she’d mentioned about Aashima, her past, her condition and all those kind things she did for Aama. Aama had also told him that she lied to the society about Aashima being his wife to save her from accusations. He thought for a while, Aama had forgotten to mention about her beauty.
It was almost a year Devendra came to live with them.
Every morning Aashima used to wake up listening the first rhythm of the wind charm. And her day would start by remembering Dave and his love.
But one day, she hadn’t waken up. The sun was on the top but still she hadn’t waked up.
Finally when she heard a cry from David, she woke up. She wondered how long she had slept that night.
She looked at the window where the wind charm used to be. Her eyes went wide open. The wind charm was not there. She searched it everywhere but it was nowhere to be seen. It was there in the window the night before and now it had just vanished.
That day Aashima couldn’t help crying. This was the first time she’d cried after the vow to Dave.
Suddenly she remembered her promise. She had promised not to cry. She missed Dave.
She took out a paper from the desk and started writing. Her first reply to Dave’s letter.
Time has changed. Circumstances have changed. My nationality has changed. Once I was proudly called Nepali but now I am compelled to be called Indian despite I am living in the same place. But one thing which hasn’t changed is my love for you.
Yesterday, our son asked me “Who is Dave?”
First, I was shocked to hear your name from him but then I figured it out Devendra might have told him about you. And do you know what I replied? I told him, “Dave was an angle; he came from heaven and gifted you to me.”
Oh sorry! You might be wondering who Devendra is. He is a nice guy. After five years of your departure, I met Devendra. He is so much friendly and funny. I couldn’t resist sharing my life stories with him. And along with the passing of time, our bond became stronger. He makes me feel complete.
And one day, I saw love on his eyes for me. But I knew I couldn’t love him. You are my love, my everything. No one can take your place. And moreover, whoever I loved god or the Anglo-Nepal war snatched it away from me. I couldn’t loose Devendra. I couldn’t lose a true friend of mine.
And if the world calls it loves, then yes I love him.
I realized my love for him when the wind charm made a serene sound. This reminded me of you, your letter and my promise. I had promised to move on and live happily and my happiness was with Devendra, I knew!
He is adorable. He loves me and our son too. He takes care of every aspect of our life. We married a year ago. He is making a perfect husband.
P.S As I have promised to tell you everything. I am going to tell you another secret of my life.
Nobody knows it till now. Not even Devendra.
I am pregnant again!
With lots of love,