Maiya occasionally felt terribly insecure for the way she was. Her mother had told her to be proud. “Acceptance will keep you and the world happy and sane. Just understand that you are unique, we are unique”. She repeated whenever Maiya felt lost in despair and self-doubt. Despite Motti didi’s warm assurance, Maiya sometimes longed to be normal. Normal like those people coming in their bhatti, and normal like those teenagers in her school.
Her school was just two minutes south off their bhatti in Lagankhel. Since it was a public school, most her classmates of Grade Nine were also from a low middle-class family. But she didn’t have many friends. In fact, she had just one – Kali. That’s the way she kept it. More friends could mean more trouble.
Kali came from Patan. She was not so beautiful and not so slim either. And she was kali. But Kali amused Maiya to death because she uttered dirty words every six words after. She would even throw dirty words at the boys in her amusing Newari accent. oii myampakha herow bhayera lyako hwoo? That would silence most of those sukulgundas whistling at her, or smacking their tongue at Maiya. Kali was protective of her, like an elder sister. Maiya, at times, imagined devouring Kali. It’s not like she hadn’t eaten ‘friends’ before. Kali would make delicious Haku Choyala.
Maiya didn’t like the school but she enjoyed the time away from bhatti. Every thing about this school amused her. The building reminded her of the cowshed they had in the village. Only a little bigger. The playground in the middle of the school was full of pebbles and dust – no grass. Blaring noise from the nearby bus park was an extra feature.
Their classroom was smelly, dark and had no window. Just one door. Tin roof wasn’t a relief, either. The teachers were hilarious, especially the English sir. And the students, all 17 of them – they were riot. No one could tame them. Even the girls were pretty wild. The English teacher would rap / rap / rap the desk with a wooden duster and shout deliriously. Tooooo much halla became, all body keep quite!!! This was his favourite line. The students would giggle and remain silent for the next 20 seconds. Then, much to the teacher’s agony, the riot would continue. He would furiously grate his teeth: only if the school allowed corporal punishment like in the old days. I would tear the skin out of these brats. Maiya and Kali enjoyed seeing English sir fume and perspire.
Then, there was Junu miss, simply known as Social miss. She was rather a pitiable sad creature. She never got mad at the students. Her voice was soft as flour, her plump body pale as pumpkin. She was five foot two but looked even shorter in her stubby legs. Her shoulders lurched visibly with years of pain and rejection. She was over 90 kilos, almost 35 and unmarried.
Maiya could spot the grief Junu miss carried in her hollow eyes. Those forsaken eyes were hungry for love, hungry for relationship. When she entered the classroom, her shawl would sweep along a gust of sorrow and frustration. Her parents didn’t love her. Her relatives talked behind her back – look, budi kanya! She would stand in the middle of the classroom, reading slowly from the book… word by word. The students barely heard her but that was her style. And all the while, her body posture and facial expressions would scream… she didn’t want to be breathing anymore… she didn’t want to be feeling anymore.
Kali noticed Maiya meditatively staring at Junu miss. “She probably feels pity for the poor creature”, Kali thought. You really like Junu miss, don’t you? Yes I do. Unbeknownst to others, Maiya had been brewing plans for Junu miss. Ninety kilos would be like god’s perfect blessing. Flesh and bones, enough for a month. But Maiya needed to wait – wait patiently and painfully till her next menstruation.
Unlike ordinary people, they were shackled by their own sacred rules. And her mom was rabidly religious about them. The killings were to be done only within the four auspicious days of bleeding. Otherwise, it counted as a fatal sin, a mortal transgression. And worms from the underside would crawl up to consume them.