Upekkha Sil Mani was seated on a low stool. At her feet in a faded
sari was Padma.
“You are refreshed?”
“So, what have you to tell me?” she asked again giving a kind but a
scrutinising look at Padma.’
“Please, let me join your order. I am disgusted of life.”
“Many come here with that same request.” Padma was silent. “When once
you enter this order you have to adhere to its rules and regulations.
Then only they realise how hard it is. Then they wish to go back.”
“I have nowhere to go back. When you listen to my story you will
“No. let your story come out little by little. Until then you stay
here, help us and join in our meditating sessions. Then we’ll see.”
Thus Padma’s new life began. She was happy. There was no one to shout
at her. She had enough to fill her stomach.
The work at the monastery was no burden. She had a small bed to lie
down at night. When once her head touched the pillow, her mind goes back
to her sister and her four children. Nimalka, the eldest and Bandu the
youngest touched her heart, especially Bandu.
“May all the gods bless and keep them safe,” she prayed. “I love
them,” she soliloquised. “But how can I stay there any longer after what
Padma and Neela were sisters. Their only brother, the youngest in the
family was only five when he died of a serpent bite. Their father was so
devastated that he moved to a far away village with his family. Yet,
forever he was moaning for his only son.
After reaching the new place, he started a chena of his own.
Unfortunately, nature hindered it. The weather changed making the sun
burst out in its full force. The dry winds brought not only crisp,
yellowish leaves but also gales of dry sand and dust.
The plants started withering. Sometimes he would sit on the door-step
looking at the white clouds that gathered in the sky and then floated
away, changing their shapes every minute. He would sigh deeply and walk
about with no aim.
One day it was horrible news that reached home. Father was found dead
at the river which had only a little water.
How he died was a mystery. Whether it was suicide or an accident,
The next day he was laid to rest in the village cemetery. The same
night Padma became a big girl.
“You are a damned, unlucky girl,” shouted mother. “It was nothing but
your wretched fate that brought father his death.” She used all the
abusive, cruel words in her vocabulary as if Padma had purposely
“Now tell me, where am I to find money to carry out the rituals?” she
started pulling her hair and crying aloud. What a pitiful state?
The breadwinner of the family had just been buried. What can a lone
woman do with no money in her hand?
It was the end of Padma’s schooling too. “Let Neela attend school
another year or two,” said mother. She and Padma did whatever work they
found to exist themselves.
By the end of the drought, they were just bones and skin. Yet it had
not diminished the beauty of Padma. With the beginning of the rainy
season Padma and mother started a small chena on their own.
Mother found work at a farm about two miles away from home. The money
she earned at the end of the week was more important than leaving an
attractive young girl alone at home. Padma worked alone the whole day in
her small chena.
The attractive village lass caught the eyes of Ariya, a handsome
youth who was a labourer at the site where a new bridge was being built.
Their friendship was a secret until symptoms of morning sickness
revealed it one day.
It was a Sunday and Neela had already left to a friend’s place to
Mother started pulling her hair and abusing her elder daughter with
all the foul words in her vocabulary.
She straight away went to meet Ariya. But ...... he had already left
the site as his wife had given birth to a son. Mother came home in a
frenzied mood and started beating the daughter with a dry coconut
“You, you, you.....,” she shouted. “What are you going to do now with
that ......?” Padma ran inside trying to evade her blows. She faltered,
fell down and fainted. It was the end of the unborn child too. As
advised by mother the whole incident was kept a secret between the
mother and the daughter. Not even Neela knew about it.
As time went on Padma was given in marriage. Unfortunately, he was a
drunkard, a gambler. She was in hell. Whatever she did was wrong in his
face. Beating her became a habit. For three long years she suffered. One
day when mother visited her she was crying bitterly massaging the places
swollen from the beatings.
That was the end of that marriage. She was forced to return home with
mother. By this time, Neela too was married and living at home. Neela
who knew that she was not as attractive as her sister resented Padma
being brought home.
Padma worked hard at the chena as well as at home. She was the first
to get up and the last to go to bed. Yet she could not escape the wrath
of her own sister who found fault at everything she did.
After the death of the mother it became worse. Why her sister hated
her, she was not sure; but she suspected the reason. Feeding her was no
problem, she knew.
She wanted to protect her husband from an unwanted relationship with
her beautiful sister. Sometimes Neela would comment, especially if Padma
was close by, that to have barren woman at home was horrible, unlucky
and also a curse. Padma had to bear up everything as she had nowhere to
go. What cannot be cured has to be endured.
Neela’s two daughters got married. The elder son worked in the chena
with his father. Bandu the youngest, whom Padma loved most, did not like
to farming. He went in search of a job almost every day, but returned
empty handed. That was Neela’s only problem.
One day Padma heard her sister scolding Bandu, which made her take a
firm decision of her future. Neela was aware that Bandu’s affection for
Padma was no less than the one he had for his own mother.
The others called Padma ‘Loku Amma’ while Bandu always addressed her
as “Loku.” That too made her more aggressive towards her son.
“You always take the side of that cursed woman,” Padma heard Neela
shouting at Bandu. “Do you know that she became a big girl on the day
our father died? She was so damned unlucky. She is barren. As long as
she is here, you’d never get a job.”
Padma was not barren, she knew. But, how can she reveal it? It was a
secret that belonged to the past, only to her and her mother.
“I am cursed, no doubt,” she murmured. “Why should I let it fall on
She rummaged through her belongings and found the small paper
cutting, the address of the monastery of ordained women. She waited
until all were in bed. With all her belongings in a small bag she
stepped on to the road.
It is ten years now at the monastery. She is no more Padma, but
Bhikkuni Nanda. She leads a peaceful life. Yet, she still could not
overcome her worry about Bandu. Has he found a job? Still lingers this
question in her mind.
One day some visitors came to the monastery with things for its
The familiar name made Bhikkuni Nanda automatically turn that way. At
once her eyes met the eyes of a gentleman coming along with his wife and
child. He stopped as if he saw a ghost.
“Ban... Ban..,” stammered Bhikkuni Nanda.
“Loku,” cried the newcomer hurrying towards her.
Both stood smiling at each other through overflowing eyes.
“Loku, why did you leave us? How much we searched for you!”
“Putha, I am Bhikkuni Nanda and not Loku any more,” she smiled.
“This is my wife and son,” he started. “At last I’ve found you. I
could never get over your loss. We lost our mother last year. I came
here with all these things to invoke blessings on her. She was bedridden
for two long years. She never had a day without crying for you.
She told everyone that it was her cruelty that made you leave us. She
said that you would have nursed her if you had been there.
In fact, she made us all promise to search for you and on her behalf
to apologise for all her wrong doings.”