On a foggy December morning, I sat at the Shaktikhor Camp talking to Maoist deputy commander Uday Bahadur Chalaune. I wrote about how Maoist rebels were languishing in the camps, while their leaders who had shed so much blood on their way to power, reigned in newfound glory. During our conversation, Chalaune and the others reiterated their party stand, at times nodding their heads in that familiar way.
Eventually, Chalaune and his relatives would choose the golden handshake instead of integration. Was he disillusioned with the long wait? I have often wanted to meet him again and ask him.
In her one-roomed home in Bhaktapur, Sunita Regmi ‘Yojana’, a former Maoist warrior, offers me tea. She wears a prosthetic after losing a leg during an attack of an army barrack. During our conversation, she tells me she wants their daughter to grow up to have nothing to do with politics. It makes a good quote to end my story with. I have never met the family again, but have hoped that they have been able to educate the child as Yojana had hoped to.
Jelbang is sunny but cold. Everywhere you turn, you meet someone who lost a loved one to the war. In Thabang, a strange coldness seems to have settled over conversations with outsiders. Who do you trust? Something about the neatness of the place makes me want to stay longer, but it also feels too far away from home. Sadness looms in the air, and I think I probably made it up in my head.
Over the years, Kiran Chaudhary has become the closest subject to my heart. She awaits justice, years since her rape-in-custody by the APF during the war. She comes to Kathmandu once a year to see doctors who are still treating her violated body. Her time in Kathmandu is spent shuttling between hospital and the National Human Rights Commission.
Years on, I have never been able to come to terms with the violence that unfolded during the war. Attending the conversation at the Indian Embassy between women who are a privileged minority — women like me, who went to schools in India and can read and write English text — made me wonder what Nepal’s endless political wrangling has really done to propel women into politics.
Sharma, the father of whose children was among the first casualties of the war, said during the conversation that the way forward to a peaceful politics is to make use of the right to vote. In Nepal, a generation of us grew up without an election for the longest time, and I still don’t vote because I have come to believe that an annulled vote is also a vote.
During the conversation, Sharma asked Yami how she now feels about the war to which so many people on both sides were lost. Yami paused, sighed, expressed regret and then said history is evidence that revolution always demands sacrifices.
I have become stuck in her pause. Watching Ila Sharma and Hisila Yami was to watch a repeat of the reconciliation process. But it made me wonder: is reconciliation even a thing after what has passed?
Suburban Tales is a monthly column in Nepali Times based on real people (with some names changed) in Pratibha’s life.