Story of a disappearance


Published in United Press International Asia News (UPI Blog.

 (Revised article)  "Did you hear? he disappeared at
1:30 a.m., the last night he was at work," informed my friend, one of
his colleagues. When I heard this news, I felt suffocated, as
though the earth had crumbled.

I remembered how he told me last month, "I can be proud only if I
get a chance to marry your friend."  He spoke as he lit a cigarette,
sitting on the balcony that evening. "You're in here. Will she
save her youth for you there in her village, while you get old?" I asked satirically. Ignoring my words, Sharma turned south and looked out of the corner of
his eyes, saying at length, "Patali is a woman like a flower. 'A son
of a brave man either should do or die,' Patali would say. I came here swearing my love for her. Sometimes I become sad, because
the image of her comes to my mind day and night."

He finished his pack of cigarettes and creased his forehead. Sharma
was the most candid person in our village, so it could also be said
that he had no enemies.

Despite being exhausted, Sharma would wake up early every morning
before the cock crowed, but that day he seemed to be in a cheerless
mood. I teased him, "Why are you worried? Soon you will take your
leave of twenty-five days, go to the village and get married there.
The more you worry, the thinner you become, so you should spend your
days cheerfully, to keep from looking old."  Sharma was
like a brother to me. "One needs to have patience in love," said our
friend Chandra, abstractedly, while sitting beside us sipping tea.
Sharma said, "I am ready to wait even my whole life for Patali. If
anyone even says the name 'Patali,' I blank out."

After speaking these words, he left us and went to his room. We
guessed he hadn't enjoyed our joking manner, which had made his heart
ache bitterly. Last year, Patali's mother had told me, "If she gets
married to someone of her own choice, my husband has sworn by the
water of the Ganges that he would not look at her face again." I had
responded, "Whoever Patali desires to get married with, we should let
her." Patali's mother disagreed with my view. It is said that was the
reason why she spread rumors about me in our village.

At the time of my departure from to Kathmandu, Patali had said to me,
"If Sharma changes his mind, I will hang myself." I had told her, "One
needs to have faith in love. Otherwise the meaning of love becomes
like pouring water in the sand. Sharma, who was standing beside me,
had said to Patali. "Don't worry, Patali, I'm with you".

Every evening, Sharma would talk about quitting his job and going to
village. "How will you bring Patali after quitting your job? You
should not get frustrated in this way." I did not know how he would
react to the advice I gave him.

"If my mother does not let me marry her, I will catch a bus coming
straight back to Kathmandu. I bought a return ticket too," Sharma told
me, showing me the ticket. I had scolded him, saying, "Hey Sharma,
how dare you buy a ticket without letting me know first? You should
have talked to me if you were planning on going! If you do as you
please, then I can do nothing." At that point, he had left my house
without speaking a word to me.

Much later, an early morning phone call from Patali had woken me up
from sleep, "It has been five days since Sharma promised to return,
but there is no sign of him. Do you think he committed suicide?" I
sensed that Sharma had not informed Patali that he was coming late.

Weeks before, he had boasted to me, "I have bought four pair of saris,
wrist rings, powder, a hair ribbon and scented hair oil for Patali.
How do you think she will look with these cosmetics? The day
after tomorrow, before the cock crows, I will leave for the village."

So, when Chandra told me over the phone, "Sharma disappeared at 1:30
a.m. last night, Kamala," I had nearly fainted and could hardly speak
to him." He went on, " Maybe he is already dead, we don't know." I don't even know if he is alive or dead. After he disappeared, Patali also
committed suicide in our village this year. I feel lonely without