Love Made Me Run Mad

The other day, I was looking through my archived videos of Nepal, trying to decide what to delete to create space in my backup hard drive. I found this interview of Binod, a resident of Saptari district, a man who ran mad after his love affair with an upper caste girl came to an abrupt and violent end. I came upon him by sheer luck. While making Untouchable Love, I was visiting their home to interview his younger brother, Manoj, whose affair with Parbati, an upper caste girl, had led to a war in their village when I learned that that Binod too had been involved in an inter caste affair. I thought I had struck gold. Two dalit (untouchable) brothers fall in love with upper caste girls, causing a lot of trouble in the village, hmm, the kind of stuff every storyteller would jump at.
In their village, like everywhere else in Nepal, the different castes live together. The apartheid-like system that kept ‘untouchables’ in the outskirts of society no longer exists. Children from all castes mingle freely, attend the same school, play with in the same balls, grow up together – the only thing that still exists is that they cannot enter each other’s houses, or eat from the same plate, or drink the same water. Or fall in love with each other.
The way the two brothers fell in love was very similar. Both upper caste girls were their neighbors. They went to school together and were in the same classes. Binod, being older, was first to become romantically involved with (I do not remember him mentioning her name, so I will call her) Sita. As it is with love affairs in rural Nepal, the issue of marriage came in very early in the relationship. In that country, you do not date for fun, and Binod was so serious about his girl that he went to her parents to ask for her hand in marriage.
A very foolish thing, but very brave. Of course he knew about the taboos in the society. He knew that being a Mandal (or Khanga as they are sometimes called) it was unthinkable for him to marry a girl with the name of Raut. Still, their respective families were amiable to each other. He thought he could talk to her parents, they seemed like a nice lot, more liberal in comparison to other Rauts. So he dressed in his Sunday best and paid them a visit. Her father gave him a big smile and told him he will think about it. However, hardly had Binod left their compound than the old man pounced on Sita, and beat her up thoroughly. She was imprisoned in a room for several days and tortured until she denounced her love. Then they arranged for her to marry another man, an upper caste old widower whose teeth were black and rotten from eating paan, whose saliva was now permanently a bloody red from eating paan. This was the only way her parents thought they could restore the family honor.
Binod and one of his brother’s children.
Binod was devastated. He ran mad. Totally bonkers. I do not know exactly what he did that proved how mad he was, but all the wires in his head were broken. He ended up in a mental hospital in India. He spent there several months. Whatever treatment he got seemed to work very well. He came back to Nepal a sane man. The first thing he did was burn up all the photographs of Sita, along with all the love letters she sent him. It was the only way he could fully recover his sanity. To help him fully recover, his parents arranged for him to marry another girl.

He despises his wife. He kept referring to her as ‘uneducated’ and ‘foolish’. I could discern that deep inside he still moaned for his lost love. He apparently is still in a fragile state, although eight years have passed. When his parents heard him talking about Sita, they became afraid. And very angry with me. They thought memories of Sita would make him run mad again. They ordered to stop talking about her, and threatened to throw us out of their home if we insisted on asking him about her. I was sad to let it go, but I had to agree to their demands. We spent three days with them family, and I never saw Binod again. They must have sent him away to live somewhere else, to make sure he did not talk about Sita again. His younger brother Manoj told me the rest of the story.  

Binod’s wife in front of their home.
Parbati prepares to apply sindoor on her forehead.
It is part of the daily make up for a married woman.
Binod and Manoj’s mother with sindoor prominent on her head
a proud symbol of her marital status.
Now sisters. Binod’s wife in green, from an arranged marriage.
Parbati on the left, from a love marriage.
About one year after Binod’s affair ended in tragedy, Manoj fell in love with another Raut girl, called Parbati. Manoj was wiser. He kept his affair a total secret. Only a few friends knew about it. When they decided to get married, they did not bother telling their parents. They told no one. They simply sneaked away to a temple in Rajbiraj town, with a couple of friends as witnesses. He applied sindoor on her head and bingo, they were husband and wife. Sindoor is that red thing that you see in the parting of hair just above the forehead. It symbolizes virginity. I was told that you can rape a girl by simply applying that thing on her forehead. Well, it is like the ring in Western weddings. Once a boy applies it on a girl, it means he has deflowered her, and owns her forever. No priests needed, no fancy ceremony. Simply rub the stuff on her forehead and you are married. But they had to take a photo to prove that he had put sindooron her, that they were now married.
After the wedding, they could not go back to their homes. They went to live with Manoj’s uncle’s in a neighboring district. They thought they were safe. I won’t tell you their story because I already did in the documentary, Untouchable Love. They are the lead characters. All I’ll say is after their elopement, war broke out in the village. Ethnic cleansing. The upper caste people were fed up of the untouchables snatching away their girls, and so they decided to chase all the dalits from the village. It was violent and bloody.  
Good old Nepal, with so many stories. I cannot believe I lived there for only two years, because I came back with enough stories to last a life time. Strangely, though I’ve lived in Uganda all my life and I often fail to find what to write about. I should soon again travel again to someplace to collect more stories.
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