Harka Bahadur Gurung was a a British soldier in the Gorkha Regiment. He was recruited some twenty years back when he was only twenty five. Having served there for twenty years, he had already got pension and was given a permanent residency in the UK. The kingdom of the UK provides permanent residency to all the pensioned Gorkha soldiers and Harka had also got that opportunity .However, he didn't like staying there as he wanted to do something in his own motherland. Therefore, he had returned back to his home in Nepal. He used to live with his wife, Fulmaya and his two children, Aadesh and Lakshmi at Lakeside, Pokhara.
He had an export import business of Nepali handmade products. His children Aadesh and Lakshmi assisted him in that work. Both Aadesh and Lakshmi were MBA graduates from the American university. Their other friends had settled there in the USA but like their father, they had also returned back to Nepal with the intension of doing something in their own motherland. Their business was scaling up high. Pokhara, being a tourist spot, had a high flow of tourists.
He had experienced the pain of being away from motherland and family for a long time. So he always spent time with his family every Saturday and on other special occasions although he used to be busy on other business days. He would go to the market, the theatres and other places of refreshment with his family whenever he got some off days. One Saturday after the morning meal, Aadesh and Laxmi came near him.
'Baba, what's the plan for today?' spoke Lakshmi.
'Well, I guess we're going for some refreshment tour to a nearby place. May be Sarangkot.'
'But baba we want something new today,' added Aadesh.
'Something new?' asked Harke in a tone of bewilderment.
'Yes, baba.You have spent several years in the UK as a soldier. Why don't you tell us something about the experiences of your life while you were there?' asked Aadesh.
'Really? What made you curious to know about that?' As Harka said this, he turned towards them.
'Just like that baba.'
'We want to feel and experience that situation which you had faced there. May be that will help us learn some practical life ideas,' was the reply from Lakshmi.
'What's going on here? Is there something special today?'Fulmaya interrogated as she joined them.
'You know Fulmaya, our children have want to discover some life lessons from the experiences of my life.'
'That sounds interesting. Well, then go on with it .I also want to know about it.'
'Yes baba. Please go on with it,' Lakshmi and Aadesh spoke in the same voice.
'Life in foreign is always troublesome,' Harka began.'You may be enjoying there but your inner heart is always haunted by nostalgia of motherland. And if you are a soldier like me, you have to bet your life at your hands because you don't know what happens the next. In my tenure, I was sent to Afghanistan. I had my battalion there and every second was terrifying. Once we were attacked badly by extremists and terrorists but we were able to swipe them off. The sounds of arms and ammunitions, panicked voices and the flow of blood, all are very terrifying.'
'Wow,baba. That's really adventurous. It must be an amazing feeling when you conquer over the enemies. I mean the moment you pick your weapon up, shoot your enemies and they collapse down. That must be so thrilling one!' said Aadesh in a sense of excitement.
'My son, real war is never like the one you imagine staying at home. It's neither like playing PUBG or Free fire nor like the one shown in the movie where the hero easily gets victory over the villains. It's a terrible feeling and war is always destructive both to the winner as well as the loser. There is no excitement in the battlefield. The only feeling that rules over you is the fear of being killed. It's the situation of do or die. This very fear leads you either to victory or death.'
There was a long silence as he said this .It seemed as if Aadesh and Lakshmi were disillusioned regarding their views about war. The way they looked reflected as if they had come to realize the terrible, inhuman and horrific picture of war.
'So what more do you want to know? And why have you made your face like that?'spoke Harka trying to break the long silence.
'Enough of these talks about war and battlefields. Just get up from here,' told Fulmaya.
The children got up and went to their room.
'May be they have come to realize the dark reality of battlefield,' Harka thought to himself. That day they didn't go out anywhere for the outing.
Few days after that ,Fulmaya came out in the morning as she had to buy some provisions and Lakshmi was handling the kitchen. When she came back, she was panting and went near Harka hurriedly.
'Harka,do you know one thing?'she asked panting badly.
'What? Why are you panting badly?' inquired Harka suspecting that something fishy was going on.
'Our neighbor Madan Chhetri has passed away. It was a few days back that he had come from abroad and today he passed away due to cardiac arrest.'As she said this, she was still panting badly.
'Holy shit!And where's his dead body now?
'It's at home only. He will be cremated today as told by his relatives. Don't go to the shop today. Attend his funeral as it's the duty of a neighbor.'
'Sure enough I shall attend the funeral ceremony.'
Saying this much, Harka hurried towards Madan's house. As he reached there, he saw that a gloomy atmosphere surrounded there. Crying and lamenting voices could be heard. Since all the relatives were already there, the funeral procession was decided to be taken that day only. Other neighbors had also arrived there and they were soothing and solacing the deceased's family. A priest was called and he started performing the religious rites of the funeral ceremony. After some hours, the dead body was taken to a nearby graveyard for the cremation. The participants of the funeral procession were carrying different things required. Some of them were also carrying mineral water bottles, juices and biscuits so that the funeral procession's participants could be fed after the cremation was done.
As they reached the graveyard, the pile of wood was arranged already in order to burn the dead body .When the dead body was kept on the pyre and given the farewell by burning, the whole atmosphere became so melancholic that even a deaf and dumb person could feel the pain. The yelling, crying and screaming of the relatives and well wishers filled everyone's ear.Harka was also grief stricken to see this. While the relatives over lamenting over the irreparable loss, he noticed that the other participants were lost in their own world. The funeral procession consisted of groups of participants who were talking about their own separate stuffs.
'What are they talking about here? Are they talking something about this situation or expressing sadness or something else?'This curiosity hit him badly and he decided to find out what those individual groups were talking about. As he went near one of the groups, he heard that they were discussing about some real estate topics.Harka stood nearby them when one of them said,
'Almost two kilometers away from this graveyard, there is a plot and it's a good one. Its price is one million rupees. If one is able to invest then it will hit four to five million within a year.'
The others were expressing their interest to see that plot and they were ready for the bank loan if required. They were also planning to make some buildings for commercial purpose if the price could be considered.Harka just kept on listening to their talks and then moved to another group. That group consisted of boys in their early twenties. They were enjoying juice which the participants of the funeral procession were provided. While they were enjoying their portion, one tall and lean looking boy said, 'You know guys, I nearly missed the juice. I was just few feet away from the person who was distributing it. Hence, I went hurriedly fearing that it would be out of stock before I got.'
'You nearly missed and this is my second round,' added another boy of the same group. 'I had taken it already but I asked for more saying that my friends are left to be given. And you know he even said that if more friends were left, I could take more and give them. But I was already full. So I let it go. I have also known that there is proper management of tea and biscuits in the canteen nearby. Make sure you enjoy them, too. After all, these stuffs will cost you money if you have them somewhere else. So why not utilize them when you ae given freely?'
There was burst of laughter and Harke moved away from that place as they continued their gossips over such topics. Some aged people were there, probably over sixty in another group. Generally, Harke didn't like joining such aged people as the one and only common thing that they talked about was the things of their time. However, that day he went near them with the curiosity about their gossips at that moment.
'By the way, when is your son getting married?' a fat looking old man of the group asked another white complexioned old man with average height.
'Most probably on the second of May this year, 'replied that man.
'And what's the budget for that?'
'Probably it will go around two million rupees.'
'All that everyone cares about is the reception. It must be a grand one with the proper management of meat and yes, drinks as well. Otherwise there won't be any difference between everyday ordinary meal and party.'
'My son has earned enough and there will be no shortage of those things.'
One man of the same group was sipping the juice and he dropped in.
'If the reception contains only simple food items, juices and sweets, there will be no difference between this situation and marriage.'
Harke was greatly astonished by listening them.'Feasts, drinks, meat,' Harke thought in his mind.
He kept on moving to other groups as well and all those people were busy in talking about different random topics. For the first time in life he came to realize about the random talks of funeral ceremony. The deceased's body was nearly burnt and everyone had started going out of the cemetery. As told before, the canteen near by the cemetery had prepared tea along with biscuits. While the participants were having them, some were complaining about the lack of sugar in tea, some of them complained about the quality of biscuits while some had no concern about it except enjoying what they were provided. In the moment, the deceased's relatives also came out of the cemetery. They were sobbing continuously and still the flow of tear had not stopped.
'Death is catastrophe for the one who has to bear its consequences and just a normal moment for other who come to attend it,' Harke contemplated.
He kept on watching the ongoing situation without making any comment. He went near the family and tried to pacify them with his solace. While the relatives were returning home, some participants were still waiting for their turn to get a glass of tea and some biscuits at the canteen.