Life after armed revolutionEver since the revolution ended, Arun and Rubina, both former rebel soldiers, have struggled to make ends meet.
“If not for an entire life, why not for a night? Why couldn’t we sleep contently even for a single night?” Arun mumbled in frustration. Rubina, his wife, had just brought a meagre-looking dinner to his bed.
It was a cool summer night. A heavy downpour, which lasted the entire day, had just receded to a drizzle. A small and dark underground room they had rented in Phidim Bazaar was engulfed with water.
“Commander Arun, why are you so discontent?” Rubina asked, sweeping the water out of the room.
“Looking at our life. Looking at you, a former Maoist combatant who has fought in multiple battles but now visits houses of rich capitalists so that you can feed your family. What an irony! The very people who took arms to fight against the oppression of the upper class and establish an egalitarian society are now facing injustice,” said Arun.
“But our leaders proudly state that they have compensated everyone, including us!” said Rubina.
“Compensated? They gave me what? Rs 500,000. I can’t believe it. We struggled for ten long years. I parted ways with my family and even left my teaching job to take part in the revolution. God damn it! I lost one leg and paralysed the other, and all of it is worth just a mere Rs 500,000? I could have earned that in two years, and what about the other eight? Look at you. They deemed you ‘disqualified’ to join the army in the verification process for being a minor, handed you Rs 6,000, and forced you out of the cantonment. How fair was that?”
Rubina didn’t respond.
“Had it not been for my injury, I would have been appointed as a politburo member of the party, and, hopefully, would have been able to provide you with a much better life,” said Arun.
“I don’t need that life. I didn’t fight to receive a ‘corrupt’ tag,” replied Rubina.
“I wouldn't have been corrupt!” Arun defended.
“How can you say that? Remember the time you stirred me up to join the guerilla force? I was just a thirteen-year-old girl! My family was poor, but we were hard-working Tamangs. I was one of the few privileged children in the village who could regularly attend school without worrying about any household chores. But you, my teacher, told me that I won't need that “bourgeoise education”, and my life would immediately transform once the revolution gets successful. Don’t you think you cheated me back then?” said Rubina.
Arun could not look at his wife’s face. A tinge of remorse was clearly visible in his expression, “It was what they said, the people in the upper echelon of the party.”
“You see, that’s where the corruption starts–adhering and respecting your corrupt hierarchy despite knowing that they are wrong and believing that you’d get something in return, maybe power in the long run. You knew how important education was to me, but still chose to brainwash a teenager.”
“I am so sorry. I’d done you wrong.”
Rubina produced a loving smile and said, “I knew you’d say that, commander Arun. No matter what I say for some healthy discussions between a husband and a wife, I don’t feel that you have done me any wrong. The material life of a true revolutionary won’t change and should not change just because he/she is giving up everything to create a better future for posterities. In fact, you’ve made me proud. I am proud that because of three thousand child soldiers like me, the other 300,000 children now get a shot at receiving “modern education” every year.”
“But Rubina, I could not give you what I promised. At the end of the day, it is you who is taking care of me.”
“I have a very high pain threshold, commander Arun. This is nothing. Further, I owe you my life. Remember that last battle?”
“You mean you are doing all these just because I saved your life? Just to prove your honesty by paying me back?”
“Oh dear, I didn’t mean that. When good people owe you money or other materialistic things, they are driven just by the sense of honesty to pay it back. But when people feel that they owe you abstract things, like their life, or their company for life, they are very purely driven by love and respect. I love you, commander Arun. I respect you.”
A moment of silence ensued, followed by a lovely gaze between the couple. “Dinner is getting cold.”
After dinner, Arun tuned to the radio for his daily dose of the evening news. Their leader was all over the news.
“I can’t understand why these people are just hurling slaps and shoes. I’d have shot him right between his eyes,” said Arun and took a deep breath. “I still have that gun.”
An hour or so had passed when there was a knock on the door. Rubina gets up to answer the visitor. Arun hears some indistinct chatter outside, “…young, beautiful ... cripple husband… waste…. a beautiful life together...”
“Don’t ever dare talk to me like that again,” shouted Rubina to the person at the door.
“Okay, if not for life, why not for a night? Mine is a dry room,” says the person.
This one gets Arun on his nerves, but he decides to stay calm and silently observe.
Arun senses an eerie silence for a few seconds until Rubina says, “Not this time!”
Rubina enters the room, and Arun looks at her and said, “Not this time, huh. How can you love me and let me die at the same time, Rubina?” Arun thinks to himself, and takes a turn, “I can’t even protect you here.”
Parajuli is a student of aerospace engineering at IOE, Pulchowk Campus.