Winter of 1994, Kathmandu
“You lost everything, old man. The people who taught you to fight for your rights have now disappeared. They have leveled up their status, and would not come back to help you. Now you don’t even have a son left to look after you at this age.”
“You were educated enough and had a little job to provide for yourself and for your family. What went wrong about the right issues? Why did you bother about others when your life was going okay? What was your aim?”
He threw the fragile chair in the wall, breaking it into pieces. Depression had never got him like that before. Dhanbahadur was all alone in his mid sixty’s. He had lost everything and everyone.
“You ruined everything in five years for nothing. What did the democracy give you when they are still above everything? Why did you not compromise?”
Anger and frustration made him Quiver.
“What a waste of lives.”
Dhanbahadur had chosen to retire from his civil servant duty in his early sixty’s to look after his sick wife and freshly graduated son – the only son they had with all the expectations in the world.
“What a bad morning that was.”
The gates of his house suddenly shook loud with a continuous knock that morning. It was his neighbor Prakashman.
“Police found her body.” Prakashman started crying “I know it’s him – the guy from palace.”
“How would you feel when a child, who was like your daughter…..” “Raped and killed by someone above the law?”
“I am really sorry! There is nothing we can do about it. You cannot file a case against someone from the palace.” Police inspector had already cleared about the things at the scene.
The movement against the king’s autocratic rule had already broken into armed resistance just after Dhanbahadur’s retirement. The banned people had started visiting people, enlightening them about the right system and governance. And the incidents like that had grown more frustration in people against the palace.
People showed up for Prakashman in numbers only for the condolence. Everyone was sad for his loss but no one had balls to speak a word for his right to justice.
“Things should be changed the way they are, and that’s why we need support from people like you. It can happen to anyone. We need a government that would promise equal right to everyone. They have taken away our rights for centuries. We should fight and take it back.” One of the banned leaders visited Prakashman’s house with some neighbors one day when Dhanbahadur was present. He tried his best to convince people to support them.
“Were you sick when you listened to them, old man?”
“But they did promise you the justice, didn’t they?”
They had convinced Dhanbahadur but not the victim’s family.
“It’s good to be a chicken sometimes.”
Dhanbahadur lost his wife the following year because of not having correct infrastructure locally for the treatment. The political leaders had another cause to convince him to get in. His house slowly became shelter to the multiparty system supporters.
“We are going for a nationwide protest from tomorrow. The power of people will bring the tyrants down. We will have a government that would treat everyone equally. This is possible. The golden days will soon begin.” said one of the political leaders during a secret meeting.
“Can you guarantee a justice for us? Can you ensure me that Prakashman and his family will get the justice?” Dhanbahadur had been raising the same question from the beginning. Maybe it was one of few reasons why he chose to fight against then rulers.
“How many times do I have to remember? The son of bitches had promised it.”
The demonstrations and riots broke out with a huge support from people. It grew bigger every other day. And the palace agreed to talk after losses of lives. Multiparty system was granted but it did not show any sign of prosperity and social justice as new leaders started to fight with one another for their personal benefits. The leaders disappeared from Dhanbahadur’s sight. They would only show up in the television or in the radio on rare occasions. Dhanbahadur’s son graduated and followed his father’s steps.
“Hey welcome, you are one of the reasons why we are here.” said the home minister who was one of the people Dhanbahadur would meet regularly before the political change.
Dhanbahadur had waited for months to get to him.
“I am glad you still remember me,” said Dhanbahadur.
The last time he had met him was during the election campaign.
“How can I forget you? And why would I forget people who contributed so much to get us here?”
“People didn’t contribute to get you where you are now. They contributed to ensure their rights. They contributed to ensure social justice and a better future for everyone.”
“So where is the justice you promised for me?”
“We have few complications, Dhanbahadur. They will be sorted out very soon.”
“You have kept them exactly where they previously were, haven’t you?”
“People are at least running the government now.”
“They command you how to run it, don’t they? They are still above the government, above the law, aren’t they? Where is the justice, mister minister?”
“Look, things will slowly be in full control of people. What you should understand is it takes time for everything to get on track.”
“Am I able to file a case against him? And will police arrest him?”
“Not for now, I am afraid. But soon you will be.”
“You have betrayed the people. You used them for your career. I should have never trusted you.” Dhanbahadur yelled “Where is the change?”
Dhanbahadur’s meeting with the home minister did not go well. He had spent a few of his productive years, and some of his money to make the political movement successful. They never paid him back on anything.
“I spent my brain, my little savings and my prestige to build a house out of sand.”
“Dad, why would you worry when her father himself has forgotten it? It’s impossible. You can’t fight against someone who is above the law. They can still do anything – kill people, rape people, or smuggle, because they are right there,” his son said one day, “where they previously were.”
“We have been betrayed. But I shall not let things go easily. I will get justice for her at any cost.” Dhanbahadur replied “This is the only aim in my life now.”
“Maybe you should see the king. Everyone follows what he orders.”
“Why should I? Doesn’t he know how many crimes are committed from the palace every day? Why would he bother to punish one of his people for a crime committed against a commoner?”
“Or maybe you should raise your voice against them in newspapers and make a justice movement.”
“They don’t write against king and his sidekicks.” Dhanbahadur sighed.
“The private papers dad – they need stories that sell. It won’t be against the king directly, and press freedom is better now days. But it can be risky.”
Dhanbahadur started doing things that he was not supposed to do. He went to the press to inform the public about what had changed. Press would listen and suggest him to let go. No one was ready to fight again though their last fight had only benefited the political leaders, who had become the new VIPs then. They had forgotten where they came from, they had forgotten the people who had granted them food and shelter when they were broke as hell.
Dhanbahadur funded his own paper and started writing against the corrupt regime. His articles started becoming popular in public and sparked a discussion about should anyone be above the law? And as expected, it became a headache to the new government and the palace. The tiny questions started to strike in the houses of ministers and the walls of palace. Then the threats, as expected, started to become a regular routine for Dhanbahadur, but were never enough to stop him. His campaign slowly grew in pace.
“We would like to see you and set up a meeting with you, Dhanbahadur.” With his exposure and his voices, he did not need to wait for months to see a VIP. He was invited for a meetup. He showed up before time.
“Why are you still bothering for something that even the victim’s parents have compromised for?” one of the leaders said during the meeting.
“Do you guys remember what you had promised me?” Dhanbahadur replied.
“Look Dhanbahadur, things are a little messy now. They will be all right slowly,” said another leader. “And these things come from a very high level, if you haven’t realized it yet.”
“When the crime happened, I was better off than you ever were.” Dhanbahadur shouted “Now that you have reached the highest level, don’t pretend. We had fought for people not for you.”
Home minister’s suite got silent for a while. The leaders had no excuses left.
“His highness was concerned about your movements and he was willing to see you.”
“The one you accuse of committing crime.”
“He is not his highness; he is one of the relatives to the kings.”
“Well, we commoners address every one of them that way.”
“The dogs had compromised with the palace when the palace had agreed to throw some bones. They were not previously happy because they had been roaming around like stray dogs with no professional skills than to fool the people. They were starving. Now that they got the bones, they were happy for themselves.”
The door cracked open and a very posh man entered. Everyone greeted him like slaves but Dhanbahadur, who had finally beheld the criminal in front of his eyes.
“You must be Dhanbahadur.” The posh one spotted him as he saw him. “I was just concerned what would you want from me? Why do you hate me this much?” He started walking around the old man.
“I just wanted justice for a little girl. It’s nothing personal.”
“Look old man: I have done so many mistakes in my life, and I regret for them, but you know you can’t keep on shouting at me every day like this. We can come to a conclusion.”
Everyone stopped talking when he started.
“What about I pay you some million rupees and you shut your mouth up? You know I am still above the law. No one can touch me, even the prime minister. Your shits are useless. I just don’t like being pointed fingers at every day.”
“I wanted justice for that little girl. That is the only thing I want. They had promised the justice before they came to power.” Dhanbahadur pointed at the leaders “I need an answer from them, not from you.”
“You are out of your mind old man.” He shouted
“Make him understand minister. I don’t have time for this bullshit.” He looked at his million dollar watch and left in anger, leaving everyone silent.
“You have to stop it Dhanbahadur and accept his deal. He is very powerful. Anything can happen.”
“You had said something to convince us before we agreed to fight ‘this could happen to anyone.’ I don’t want things to go like this forever. I don’t want it to happen again to some other innocent people. You have betrayed the people.”
Dhanbahadur left in anger too. He leaked the secret meeting and the offers he got in his papers next day. His campaign grabbed more attention as more people started showing their support, but the powerful ones were not going to give up without a hard blow.
“Your house is built in a government property.” One of the government people approached his house one sunny day when his son had already left to work.
“This is the paper from government and you have a week to clear the property.” He left without saying further.
“Hey stop, this is a fake document. This is a lie. This property belonged to us from centuries.”
Dhanbahadur shouted but the government man did not listen to him and left in the government car in a hurry.
Dhanbahadur knocked the doors of the court, met the lawyers but no one and nothing was ready to help him. His campaign to social justice found more reasons to fight for.
His son always supported his campaign. He would always assure him that things would be all right.
“Agree the deal or face the consequences.” The phone calls, the government people, and the threats of all kind would show up and try to slow him down but he did not give up.
Prakashman had been living a better life since compromising. He had bought happiness with some compensation and forgotten all about his daughter. Dhanbahadur never wished to see him again, but he knocked on his doors again that day with a frightened face that reminded Dhanbahadur of the past incident.
“A palace vehicle crushed your son in front of his office.”
”Now that you have come back from your son’s funeral, what plans do you have old man? This house is going to be demolished in few days and you will have nothing left. You didn’t want it to happen to innocent people anymore? They told you it won’t. It happened to you and you can’t do anything about it. What would you do next?”
He started breaking things up around till he got tired and weak. He then rested on the floor.
“Have you heard of the rebels, old man? You want to join them? Maybe you are too old and too weak for it. You are a loser.”
“I have lived enough, I have seen enough and I have been betrayed enough. I have no ambitions now. I am defeated badly.”
“There is a fan in your ceiling. Your muffler scarf is long enough to get there, and strong enough to hold your weight.”
“You at least know how to make a knot, don’t you?”
“Look up, give it up. It will be easier for you to die than to live.”
“Die old man, die.”