That strange girl’s true loveFamily hardship had matured him, and his honesty intrigued her more.
He was sitting by his moribund mother at Upendra Devkota Memorial National Institute of Neurological and Allied Science, Kathmandu. There was no one to sympathise with him at that very moment—no friends, relatives, colleagues or acquaintances. Would this loss provide an opportunity—just like what happened before?
He was scheduled to attend an interview for an international scholarship. But he missed the interview and lost the opportunity. Exactly, in 2008, his college received a quota scholarship for a hardworking student to study in South Korea. And, he was selected for the scholarship. But he had to attend an interview for a formality at the South Korean embassy. Unfortunately, he had to go to Dharan, to look after his mother who had undergone a kidney stone surgery at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences.
It was 11 years ago, when he lost his golden opportunity to study in South Korea, where he would have lived a good life with an international degree and recognition. But God swapped that possibility for another beautiful gift.
When he was sitting by his sleeping mother’s bed, his Nokia mobile started to vibrate and beep—“caller unknown”. However, he received the call and had a short conversation. Necessary greetings and confusion aside, the caller cut to the chase
“Who are you looking for?” he said into the phone.
“Amar,” the voice crackled back.
“It’s me, Amar. I don’t think I know you. Who are you? How do you know me?”
“Srijana. I was listening to Request Zone on Kantipur FM. That’s where I got your number.”
“Oh! Do you have anything to say?”
That was their first conversation. He then remembered he had sent an email to the Request Zone programme asking the host to play the song ‘Ek ladki ko dekha to esaa lagaa’ from 1942 A Love Story. The song was dedicated to his friends who lived in his hometown—Damak. The main objective of sending an email to the programme was, however, to share his first mobile number with his friends—not to share it with anyone else.
Several days went by, and he had almost forgotten the girl and the brief conversation. One day, she again called him and asked if his mother was getting well and if he had his lunch. He wasn’t interested in her because he had neither seen nor learnt anything about her. Rather, he had some negative assumptions about her. In Nepali society, girls who proposition boys, or show interest in boys first, are labelled ‘unethical’, ‘crazy’ or ‘shameless’, or much worse. A couple of times he asked himself how a girl could phone a boy whom she has never met—he also wondered if she had ulterior motives.
By the time the second call had come, his mother was almost fully recovered. He bought a bus ticket for Kathmandu, where he was pursuing his bachelor’s degree and teaching in a school. He was earning just enough to meet his basic needs in the Capital, but he had nothing in terms of savings.
He hardly sent money to his parents, and his father didn’t want to work—he was a drunkard—because he was too lazy to take responsibilities. He just spent his time quarrelling with his wife. His mother used to work on other people’s farms. Because he was skint, he didn’t want to waste a penny calling the strange girl.
Owing to his family’s wretched financial woes, and his determination to earn a degree from a recognised university, he tried to avoid love affairs and infatuation. Growing up, he saw Brahmin and Chhetri people earning name and fame, while his family seemed to have no hope, so he wanted more. He vowed to work hard to carve out a niche for himself in a career of his choice. He lavished his studies with attention and set his eyes on the future, slowly nurturing a dream of going to the US for higher studies.
Back in Kathmandu, his life returned to normalcy. He was back into his
regular schedule once more. Gathered momentum in his studies, he not only topped his college’s internal exams but also the board exams.
One fine Saturday, he was just lying on his bed listening to songs on his mobile. All of a sudden, the thought of that girl crossed his mind. He contemplated their conversations. She was just 15 years old, he was 20. Despite the fact he had told her he was a poor boy, struggling in Kathmandu for his hand-to-mouth existence, who had loved a girl at school who betrayed him—marrying a man who was 10 years her senior.
Family responsibility, hard work and the teaching profession had matured him. His honesty intrigued her more. He decided to phone her for the first time, thinking that she’d be very pleased. He decided to call her, but a middle-aged woman picked up.
“Hello, I’m Srijana’s friend. Can I speak to her, aunty?’ he asked.
“Babu, she isn’t here. Her home is a ten-minute walk from here. She doesn’t have a cell phone either. So, she comes to our house to phone you,” she said, matronly, “Babu, call after half an hour. I’ll go to fetch her.”
This brief conversation changed his outlook on her—she wasn’t an “unethical” girl. They had a brief conversation, and he could sense her happiness on the phone. Several times he
wondered why she called a boy she’d never met. Some weeks later, Dashain started. He was excited, as he could go home to meet his family and friends. He could also meet that strange girl, who had sporadically haunted his subconscious for so long. He bought a bus ticket to Damak. Settling into his seat, he called her and said he wanted to meet her at the bus stop of her hometown.
With every metre closer to her hometown, the more nervous he became. At the back of his mind were a few questions: Is she well-cultured? Is she pretty? Is she older or younger than him in reality? Eventually, the long-overdue moment came. The girl approached him and opened her mouth as if to speak.
Suddenly something vibrated and beeped on his leg. His musing was cut short, his train of thought halted. He glanced at his mother, lifeless in her bed—she had lost her final fight. He started to weep, realising she had gone. He took his mobile out of his pocket and read the text: “Rs 150,000 has been deposited in the counter for the operation. Your wife, Srijana.” His mother was gone forever now, but he still had his mother’s most precious gift: Srijana.