Delayed goodbyeAfter moving to Kathmandu, his parents visited the village every year, but Yuvraj never went with them.
Yuvraj was only eight years old when he and his family sold their house in Naudanda Village and moved to Kathmandu. At 20, he left for the United States for his undergraduate degree, and by 28, he had completed his master’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois. In the sixteen years since he left his village, he hadn’t returned there once. So, when he visited Nepal after his post graduation and told his parents that he would like to visit his village during his stay in the country, they were pleasantly surprised. He told them that he would like to go there alone. It was going to be his first trip to the village after leaving it for Kathmandu twenty years ago.
Yuvraj was seven when his father took him to Kathmandu for the first time. Yuvraj cried the entire bus ride back to Naudanda. He cried for hours and then fell asleep. And when he woke up, he resumed his crying. The more sympathetic passengers tried coaxing young Yuvraj into not crying by giving him candies and making funny faces. But Yuvraj would have none of it. The not-so-sympathetic passengers looked at the father-son duo disapproving look and some made comments like kasto naterne baccha ho, baccha bhaeko bus ma ta chadnai hundaina, kasto dhukha diney bachha. As young Yuvraj kept on with his mournful wail, his father kept apologising profusely to fellow passengers.
After moving to Kathmandu, his parents visited the village every year, but Yuvraj never went with them. They never insisted him to. They were too worried that if they forced him to go with them, he would cry the entire journey and disturb everybody. When Yuvraj was 12, his father asked him if he would like to go to the village with him during Dashain, Yuvrja flat out refused, like he always had.
That evening at the dinner table, Yuvraj out of the blue told his parents that he doesn’t like visiting the village because the place reminds him of his paternal grandmother a lot. She passed away when Yuvraj was seven. It was a few weeks after her death that Yuvraj went to Kathmandu with his father. There, the two visited all the major temples in the city to pray for the departed soul.
Yuvraj was very close with his grandmother, and loved her immensely. She lived with them in the same house, and he slept with her in her room until she passed away. He only went to school if she took him, ate his medicines only when she fed them to him. Every Monday, the two visited the temple at the end of the village, and every summer Saturday, she took him to Phedi Khola, which was an hour’s walk from the village. There, the two spent the whole day bathing, washing clothes, and fishing. Her death was a shock to everybody in the village, She wasn’t suffering from any life threatening illnesses. She passed away in her sleep. When Yuvraj woke up in the morning, when he found his grandmother still in bed, he nudged her and told her to wake up. When she didn’t respond, a worried Yuvraj alarmed his parents. Everything after that happened in a blur. His mother cried, his father sobbed, and young Yuvraj had trouble understanding what had happened. He knew something terrible had happened to his beloved grandmother, but death was a concept he still hadn’t grasped then. He refused to cry. He kept telling everyone who visited the house to pay respects to her soul that his grandmother will come again. He told them that she loved him too much to just leave like that. On the seventh day of her passing, Yuvraj told his parents that he doesn’t think his grandmother is coming back ever. That night, he told them he doesn’t want to sleep in her room, and that he would like to sleep alone in the room on the ground floor of the house. When his father placed a photo of his grandmother beside his bed, Yuvraj asked him to remove it. It was his favourite photo of her. It was a photo of her when she was in her early 20s. In the photo, she wore a bright red sari and carried in her hand a bunch of marigold flowers. It was her favourite flower, and as a result it became Yuvraj’s favourite flower, too.
Yuvraj took the last flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. From the city, his village was a two-hour drive. He rented a motorcycle from Lakeside, and set out for his destination just after sunset. It was a cold November evening, and the wind was bone-chilling cold. Yuvraj regretted his decision to ride a motorcycle to his village. An hour into the ride, he stopped at a small tea shop beside the road. It was getting dark. He learned from the tea shop owner that the name of the place is Phedi, a name it got from the river that flowed via the village. The name didn’t register with him. He had been away for more than sixteen years, which was enough time for one’s memory to start forgetting things. At the corner of the shop, Yuvraj saw young woman waiting, who told her that she was waiting for a bus to Naudanda. He told her that he was originally from the village and was going there and that he can drop her as well. Yuvraj found it a bit surprising when she didn’t ask him his parents’ name, which was something Nepalis tend to do. When the two passed by the temple at the end of the village, Yuvraj, in an attempt to strike a conversation, said that he used to visit the temple every week when he was a kid. The woman didn’t say anything. A few minutes later she asked him to stop the motorcycle in front of the house that he grew up in. “Sixteen years is too long to be away from one’s home, babu. But I am glad you are finally here,” she said. Yuvraj was taken back. He didn’t remember mentioning to the woman how long he has been away, and he also found it odd that she referred to her as babu even though she clearly looked younger than him.
When he reached his uncle’s house in the village later that night, he noticed a lone photo hanging on the wall of the living room. It was the photo of his grandmother when she was in her 20s, which used to be his favourite photo of her’s. When he looked at the photo closely, he was shocked. The woman he had just dropped infront of his house looked exactly the same as his grandmother in the photo. Even the sari was the same. That night, he called his parents and told them what had happened. He said, “Remember how I used to you guys that she loved me too much to leave just like that and that she would come again. Looks like she had been waiting for me all these years. I wish I had come sooner.”
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