Reminiscing the good daysInside the dingy room of an old single-storeyed house, Shakuntala managed to combat the bone-chilling cold with a meagre fire.
It was raining heavily. The dazzling lightning heralded the deafening thunder. The torrential rain brought hailstones the size of big pebbles. The fierce storm, capable of devastating a frail abode, added to the inclemency of the weather.
Inside the dingy room of an old, single-storeyed house, untenable to rain and thunderstorm, Shakuntala managed to combat the bone-chilling cold with a meagre fire, lit by burning small pieces of logs and cartons on a mortar pan. The intrusive lightning, invading the darkness of her room, illuminated her face, enhancing her pulchritude. The rain pouring from the worn-out shingles of her roof augmented the chill in her room.
Unable to tolerate the freezing temperature, she placed the fire on the table close to her bed and got under the warmth of two blankets. She reached for a bottle and glass under her bed and took out a box of cigarettes from under her pillow. She poured a glass of alcohol and placing a cigarette between her lips, she descended towards the fire to light it. She took a sip of the cheap alcohol followed by a long inhale of the cigarette.
Along with the fire beside her, a stream of vehement emotions kindled in her heart. With her conspicuously stoned eyes, she stared at a photograph hung on the wall. The picture, in which she sits between her parents, was taken during her nineteenth birthday. The photograph evoked a stream of poignant memories. The sluggish inebriation deported her to her chequered past.
Shakuntala Singh, a descendant of the Singhs indigenous to Kathmandu, is the only daughter of a prominent and affluent businessman. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she had a happy childhood. Mollycoddled as a child, she grew up into a snobbish, presumptuous and insolent nubile. The paucity of misery enthused sheer arrogance in her.
Her parents had feared her complacent attitude and had left no stone unturned to inculcate the idea of modesty and humility in her mind but Shakuntala was obdurate and intractable. She was blinded by her infatuation towards luxury. Being the only daughter, her parents had pampered her since she was a child and in a way, they felt responsible for her unruly and foolhardy behavior. Yet, they had a fear in their heart that life is uncertain and Shakuntala needs to be prepared, not only for the pleasures, but also for the hardships of life.
As feared by her parents, Shakuntala was deceived by her fate. Her parents died in an accident when she was nineteen. Being the only heiress, she inherited the surfeit wealth bequeathed by her parents. The wealth amounted close to ten million rupees in cash, land and businesses worth fifty million rupees.
After surmounting the bereavement of her lost parents, she commenced the journey leading towards her degradation. She had hated the admonitions of her parents and now, with no one beside her to berate, she started living life on her own terms, just as she had always desired to. She didn’t care about the speculations and judgements of people. She never married but she had earned a lot of notoriety through her promiscuity all over the town. She had numerous lovers upon whom she loved to squander her inherited wealth.
She had no care for her property and business as well. Soon, her once profitable businesses started losing money but she never bothered to care. An erudite, well-educated lady, her knowledge was constrained to academic degrees and certificates. She lost everything to her her improvidence. She was thirty years old when she found out she had no money. She had to sell her lands and mansion to pay off debts.
Having lost all her wealth, she decided to go live with her aunt, her father’s only sister, in a sequestered part of the outskirts of Kathmandu. Her aunt is an indigent old widow who depended on her few cattle and little land for her livelihood. She lived in utter austerity and had had no sexual relations since the death of her husband.
For Shakuntala, it wasn’t easy to bear an impecunious life. Raised in luxury, she had never experienced the hardships that come with being poor. As time went by, Shakuntala learned to live the novel life but the memories in her mind were indelible. She loathed her present condition and only cherished to remember her past.
As the night closed in, the darkness of her room worsened, with the incandescent fire being the sole object of light. With an even firmer gaze at the photograph, she started reminiscing about her past. She remembered how her mother and father shielded her from all kinds of miseries and provided her with a lavish lifestyle. She recollected the vague memories of her childhood, when she owned every expensive gift available and showed them off to her friends. She reminded herself of the expensive dresses and ornate jewels she wore that provoked jealousy among her female companions. She relished the reminiscence of the time when boys used to follow her all the way from school to her house, just to catch a glimpse of her. She remembered her faithful maid, employed by her mother, who dressed her immaculately and obeyed her obsequiously. She found it hard to acknowledge the life she lives. The metamorphosis that she had attained was detestable to her.
Apart from the vivid reminiscences of her heyday, a sheer repentance regarding her flippant attitude that she had shown towards every advice of her parents tormented her. The realisation of her being conceited, obstinate and complacent emanated hatred for herself and a feeling of remorse inside her. This contrition motivated a guilt in her. She felt like crying and in an attempt to stifle her tears, she broke down and cried out a wail. Her aunt, hearing the wail, rushed to her room and held her in her arms. She tried to calm her and wiping her tears, she asked, “What’s the matter, my dear?”
She asked repetitively but Shakuntala continued with her incessant cries without uttering a word.
The thunderstorm had come to a halt but the relentless rain persisted throughout the night. The dawn broke but the room was still dark. The alcohol and the cigarettes had left a pungent smell in the room. The fire had expired but the embers were still hot. Shakuntala, unaware of the break of dawn, was still engulfed in nostalgia.