Friday, May 23, 2014

The Story-telling Chautari Under the Kavra Tree

Swapnil Smriti

Grandson – A long time ago 
here was a giant Kabhra tree.

(After resting her load of taro leaves
Grandma started weaving the yarns of her tale)

Three long, long ropes couldn't encircle it's trunk
No mad raging storm could shake it
Neither could floods or landslides take it with them:
that giant, that Kabhra tree –
It was the mainam of the village life, they say
It was the murumsitlang of the power of the settlements

At its crown, like a bridge suspended between sky and ground
the moon would rise;
Under its shadows the farmhands measured the days
When it shed its leaves, it was Udhauli
When it grew new leaves, it was Ubhauli
They say – the ancient civilization of the locals
was all in the heart of that Kabhra tree!

Its branches spread in ten direction –
the biggest branch pointing to PhaktanglungHimal
the tangle of roots spread in seventeen directions
the thickest root turning towards Chotlung
Hand in hand, round and round, singing, Ha... Ha...
Matching step to lockstep, adorned in chyabrung,
– jumping, frolicking –
Greatest celebrations of love, under the Kabhra tree!
The tangle of that Kabhra's roots was fragrant with the scent of an ancient communism
And the tops of that Kabhra was the Shangri-La empire of singing cranes!

But, listen – Grandson!
In the BikramSambat year so and so – a long time ago –
And by a long time, I mean – a very, very long time ago –
Your grandfather's grandfather's grandfather saw in his dream
– Loom! Loom! Kadyāng! Kūdūngdūng... dūng... dūng... Haryākk!
A nightmare – a thunderbolt splitting the Kabhra tree!
But, when he awoke, he saw in a fork on the tree
the three-leaf sapling of a Pīpal, springing from wild-cat turd...

(The breeze blows through the chautari–siririririri... ririri... riri... ri,
We – grandmother and grandson – are lost in the world of tales
Have I – as I listened to a story about a Kavra tree – turned into one? 
What did happen thereafter, Grandma? Go on!)

Ask what all didn't happen!
The Pīpal bore its roots into the Kavra
And to the Kavra came a slow death 
The Pīpal grew bigger and bigger
Until one day –
theKavra became just a hollow heart and flaky bark  
Within it, the Pīpal stood with the uncontainable vitality of youth

But, even as the Pīpal trampled the Kavra under it and danced in the breeze
the progeny of the old Kavra mistook it for a new Kavra
Listen, now – Once the old Kavra fell, they say –
the heads of young men and women also fell
the children became lifeless, like well-stitched dolls
theMūndhūm dharma of the wise old fell –
The hearts fell and the country fell
Misery alone found birth in the village
Hunger and thirst alone found new incarnations
Once the Pīpal trampled the Kavra under it, they say –
they say that is when the culture of oppression and exploitation began
When the yellow leaves of the Pīpal spread wide
they say this round chautari was built under it
With a grand ritual-fire and human sacrifice
And with each morning, an offering of blood
That is when it all started – they say, Grandson –
the history of envy and grudge...
when in the Kavra tree started the history of the Pīpal
hatred was born in the people
rage was born
war was born
... ... ...

(After taking a deep breath
Grandma let her tale rest for a bit!)

The story is longer that the Tamor river
It is time to feed the hogs – let's go home!

(It was my turn to carry the load.
Before me, leaning on his cane, Grandma continued her story.)

Grandson! On that chautari
so many despots out for conquest
have stopped to rest
They tied their horses to Pīpal roots
and whistled their deathly calls...
... ... ...
Grandson! On that round chautari –
no matter how long we sit to rest
we remain just as tired! ...
... ... ...
Grandson! That is the very branch
from where your great-grandfather was hanged and lanced
That is the shiny rock where
– your  great-grandmother, then with child –
was picked and thrashed, picked and thrashed
until her belly tore open ...

Translation: PrawinAdhikari