Sita Poudyal and Chabilal Dahal, or Prachanda, married young and both joined the communist party. Sita Poudyal keeps a low profile, but is a CPN-Maoist central advisor. [Throughout the interview, Sita Poudyal refers to her husband Prachanda in the third person, as 'he'.]
You married very young. Today it would be called a child marriage.
(Laughs) Probably. It was an arranged marriage.
What about your education?
I have no formal education. In Pokhara, I might have studied like my friends, but after we came to Chitwan I herded cattle and played with my Tharu friends. The school was very far away. My parents did want to send me, and if I were a son perhaps they would have. It was probably the place and the environment.
Was it difficult to adjust to an educated husband?
No difficulty. When we got married, he was in class ten, he only went to study in Kathmandu later.
What did you do after he went to Kathmandu?
I did what other village women did. We stayed with the family for the first 12 years, until 1978. Prakash was born in 1981, after our three daughters.
So your desire for a son was fulfilled later in life...
(Laughs) My mother-in-law wanted a grandson! I wanted to go for family planning after my daughters, and he agreed once our son was born.
When did you get into politics?
In 1978 there was talk of Amik Sherchan's wife teaching us. He also agreed. Influenced by her, I joined the movement.
Did you argue about your husband joining politics?
Women have a part to play in the party and I struggled with those matters. I did my best to save the party from dangerously divisive arguments. Once, there was trouble at a meeting in Rolpa. I pressed for the unity. I told everyone (pointing to Hisila Yami) that no one should make any trouble. We argued about these matters, but never about anything personal. I was married when I was a child. Unlike husbands and wives of today, I feel like I was born and grew up with Prachanda.
Were you ever scared that he might leave you?
We married as children, I became a mother. It was hard. We struggled against the world, but I never had any doubt, not after I joined the party, not now.
Do you ever feel like going on pilgrimage?
We've been on a pilgrimage all our lives, I'm 53. This is my pilgrimage.
Yet you're the daughter and daughter in-law of Brahmans.
My father used to scold my mother for doing puja, "what will you get worshipping stone idols?" Perhaps that's why I've never had faith in religion.
Wasn't it difficult living underground?
Let us not even talk about the struggles. There were countless uphills and downhills.
What do you do in the party at present?
I'm a central advisor.
Isn't this a post without responsibility?
My job is to give internal advice and make corrections according to the party's wishes.
Like your husbands, do you and Hisila Yami fight?
Why fight? Ask her. I used to say, beware, you have a role to play too. But there was never any animosity as outsiders think.
What has the 'People's War' given Nepali women?
This used to be a feudalistic, patriarchal society. Today our party has 40 percent women and they are in upper posts too.
What do you think about quotas for women?
It's not about weighing how much a woman needs. Women should take as much as necessary. We must demand our share.
Thousands have died since the beginning of the war. Don't you feel pity for them?
We've had sleepless nights. We felt the pain when we heard how many had died. We worried about the families of the soldiers of the Royal Nepal Army. We cried when our friends died.