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The silent sufferings of abandoned mothers

The silent sufferings of abandoned mothers

Akhanda Bhandari is a well-known name in Nepali media fraternity. Born in Bhojpur district of eastern Nepal, he gained recognition through his influential column ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ in Kantipur daily. Later, he joined Annapurna Post and was appointed as its Editor-In-Chief a few years later. He’s also known for his innovative storytelling particularly with graphic narratives. 

Bhandari made his debut in the world of literature with the novel ‘Malaya Express’ in 2013. The novel delved into the emotional and financial struggles associated with Nepal’s remittance economy. Now, after a decade, he has published his second novel, ‘Bora’, which explores the lives of elderly mothers in Nepal.

Bora, which translates to sack in Nepali, carries both metaphorical and literal meaning in the novel. It symbolizes the burdens shouldered by Yamuna, who labors tirelessly, carrying sacks of sand to finance her son Asal Sharma’s education. It also depicts a troubling scene where Asal and his wife, Nirjala Adhikari, discard Yamuna by packing her up in a sack.

The narrative weaves together the lives of its contrasting characters. Asal is raised by his single mother, Yamuna, after she is abandoned by her husband, Rudra Prasad Dahal. Although Asal grew up witnessing his mother’s hardships and holding her in high regard, he is influenced by his wife, Nirjala, and ultimately abandons her. Nirjala, raised in an affluent family in Kathmandu and a doctor by profession, ironically believes in superstitions. She labels her mother-in-law, Yamuna, as a ‘witch’ and conspires to abandon her. 

Bora is set in various locations—Dhankuta, Jhapa, Itahari, Biratnagar, and Kathmandu. It raises questions about familial bonds and societal values. It examines how Asal, despite being raised amid hardships by his mother and grandmother, succumbs to his wife’s pressure. It delves into the dynamics that lead Asal to forsake Yamuna and how his son, Nirjal, rescues his grandmother from an old age home on the premises of the Pashupatinath Temple.

Like Malaya Express, Bora also ends on a happy note. Both novels are set in the Koshi Province of eastern Nepal and emphasize themes of women’s empowerment. Both novels also talk about journalism. These recurring motifs reflect Bhandari’s passion for uplifting readers and his affinity for powerful female characters and the role journalism plays in our society.

Despite its strengths, Bora isn’t without flaws. There are noticeable inconsistencies, such as the character Rashmi Nepali being described as sipping tea in one instance and coffee in another. The use of English terms like ‘aunty’, ‘please’, and ‘okay’ in dialogues supposedly set in rural Nepal decades ago feels inappropriate.

Nevertheless, Bora is a captivating read. Bhandari has crafted a narrative deeply intertwined with the fabric of Nepali society.  The 471-page novel, priced at Rs 700, is an exploration of the silent sufferings of Nepal’s abandoned mothers and criticizes the tendency of elites to neglect elderly people. The novel also delves into the issues of fragmenting family traditions and the rise of elderly homes in Nepal.