Living with a heart full of spiteTwo years passed with no information about Junkiri. And Sunkumari had forsaken all hope of ever seeing her daughter again.
Dhobi. That was what he was called by the village people. But his real name was Magan.
Magan had recently returned from India. In the country, he worked for eight years in a laundry shop. As a result, the people of his village began calling him Dhobi. Now hardly anyone remembered Magan. He was Dhobi to everyone. Strangely, he was happier with his acquired name.
Dhobi has a simple life. And a simple family, with his wife Sunkumari and his only son Ramite, who recently turned 11 years old. He did not speak of his daughter. This family lives in Diprung village in Khotang district. It is 12km away from district headquarters Diktel.
Ramite goes to a government school in Diktel and there he studies in the 5th grade. Like many people of Khotang, this family is also reeling under grinding poverty. Their only property is the house that was left by his father Harkaman, who died after falling from a cliff to a crevice, some 10 years ago. The crevice was narrow and deep. Even after several efforts, the body of Harkaman could not be hauled up.
Dhobi’s house needed immediate repairing, but due to lack of money, it was always postponed for the next year. Dhobi had very little education and apparently no skill to make a straightforward living. However, he did not want to go to India to work again. Two years ago, Dhobi had to return from India. His wife Sunkumari called him, because their only daughter Junkiri had eloped with Nare, a village boy. In the past, Nare had been arrested many times on different charges of theft and cheating people and he was jailed as well.
After having been released from jail, Nare went to Mumbai and started working there. No one in the village knew what he was doing there in Mumbai. But whenever he came to the village, he would spend money like water, to impress the village people in general but more to impress young girls.
Dhobi was well aware of the notoriety of Nare, which is why when Sunkumari called him, he left the job and immediately returned to his village.
“I’m well aware of this boy. Our daughter did not elope with him. He must have kidnapped her,” said Dhobi angrily.
“No, it is not a kidnapping. She eloped with the boy at her own will. Everyone in the village knows she was enamored by the boy,” replied Sunkumari.
“When the whole village knew about their affair, then what were you doing? Were you waiting to see this day?” asked Dhobi angrily.
Dhobi was wreathing in anger but he was unable to do anything. His wife advised him to go to Diktel and lodge a complaint against Nare for kidnapping their daughter.
Dhobi pondered over his wife’s advice.
“Look, Sunkumari,” said Dhobi. “Let’s say I follow your advice and lodge a kidnapping charge against the boy and let’s believe that after a few days or months the police bring our daughter back to us. Can we live in the village with the stigma of a trafficked girl who returned from a Mumbai brothel?” asked Dhobi.
“How can you say that she has been trafficked to brothels in Mumbai?” objected Sunkumari.
“You don’t know anything because you have never been out of your village, but I have already lived and worked in India. Nare lives in Mumbai and you don’t know this but most of the trafficked girls are taken to Mumbai. I’m very sure that stupid girl will be sold to one of those ugly brothels,” said Dhobi.
“When you know all this then you need to act urgently before it is too late. Why don’t you go to Diktel and lodge a complaint against Nare?” asked Sunkumari earnestly.
“All right I will go and lodge a kidnapping charge against Nare. But I swear I will never see her face again,” said Dhobi, banging the door in anger as he left the room.
The complaint was lodged against Nare and the police started their investigation. But even after five months, there was no information about Junkiri. Two more years passed with no information. Sunkumari had forsaken all hope of ever seeing her daughter again.
Dhobi, with the help of little savings, started a small clothes shop in Diktel and was doing well. He repaired his house and his status in the village had elevated as well.
When everything was going on well, then one day something much unexpected happened. It was at 9 pm when someone knocked on the door of Dhobi’s house. Sunkumari opened the door to find Junkiri at the door.
Sunkumari held her daughter against her chest and both of them began crying.
“Your heart is made of stone!” blamed Sunkumari. “How is it possible you did not phone me even once all these years?”
“I will tell you everything, Ama. I have to tell you a lot of things, but now I’m very tired,” said Junkiri.
Sunkumari went to the kitchen and began preparing dinner. When dinner was ready, Sunkumari called Junkiri to come to dinner.
It was about 10 pm when Dhobi, after closing his clothes shop in Diktel, reached home. As soon as Dhobi entered the house, Sunkumari broke the news.
“I have a pleasant surprise for you. Don’t you ask me what that is?” asked Sunkumari cheerfully.
“What is the pleasant surprise? Please tell me, I’m getting impatient,” said Dhobi
“Our daughter, Junkiri, returned...”
Before Sunkumari could complete her sentence, Dhobi walked away without listening further.
“She was already dead to me when she eloped with a criminal. She is a disgrace to our family. Tell her that this is not her house anymore,” Dhobi unleashed his anger and went to his room, and locked his door from inside.
Sunkumari persuaded her husband to forget the past and reconcile with the present situation, but Dhobi did not listen.
Next day, early in the morning, Sunkumari woke up and went to see her daughter but to her surprise, her daughter was not in the room. The room was empty. The bag that Junkiri had brought with her was not in the room either.
A year passed. Dhobi had become very sick and had to be hospitalised for acute kidney problems. Doctors advised Dhobi to go to Kathmandu for further treatment.
By following doctors’ advice, Sunkumari took her husband to Kathmandu. Time was running out and Dhobi’s condition was further deteriorating. Sunkumari had asked the doctor to take her kidney to save her husband’s life but the kidneys did not match. Sunkumari had an elder sister who lived in Kathmandu. She did not know where she lived but she had her mobile number.
She contacted her elder sister Keshmaya on mobile and reached at her house in Kalanki. She narrated the whole story to her elder sister and pleaded to her about donating one of her kidneys to save her husband’s life. Keshmaya flatly refused, but she agreed to give some money for her husband’s treatment. Sunkumari did not speak a word. With a heavy heart, she took a tempo from the Kalanki chowk to Ring Road. When Sunkumari gave the fare to the driver, she was utterly surprised. The driver was none other than her daughter Junkiri. Sunkumari held her daughter and began weeping loudly, right before the passengers.
“Ama, please stop crying and be seated in your seat. Let me drop all the passengers to their destinations after then we will talk peacefully,” said Junkiri to her mother. Sunkumari wiped off her tears and went back to her seat.
Junkiri dropped all her passengers to their respective destinations and parked the tempo in front of a restaurant.
“I can read your face, Ama. You have not taken lunch. Let’s have lunch together and in the meantime tell me why you are in Kathmandu. Is everything alright?” asked Junkiri.
Upon this Sunkumari explained everything to Junkiri.
“Don’t worry, Ama. Nothing will happen to Baba”, said Junkiri. Junkiri took her tempo to National Kidney Center, Bhairab Bhawan, where Dhobi was almost counting his last breath.
Doctors examined Junkiri and it was a miracle that her kidney matched with her father’s. Doctors took Dhobi to the operation theatre. Dhobi’s condition was so critical that he could not even speak properly. “Good luck. Someone has agreed to donate you a kidney,” said the doctor to Dhobi.
The operation was successful and Dhobi was eager to catch a glimpse of the person who had given him a new life. And when he saw the donor was his own daughter Junkiri, he was speechless.