Walk of shame

Society has different rules for men and women in love

Photos: PRATIBHA TULADHAR

I heard you were seen hanging out in Basantapur with a very young woman. I wonder who.

I imagine your face, warmed by the golden hour as you walked alongside your young friend, discussing philosophy and talking mysteries. Young people swarm to you like you’re their human magnet. Your face always lights up in their presence-- like you were born to do that. To talk to them.

It has been a while since I’ve seen your face. I wonder if there are gray strands in your beard now, or other signs of aging. I wonder what takes you out of your cubicle where you sit observing the world, battling it like a keyboard warrior. You once said one could destroy the world like that-- with your words.

Read also: Light of the absurd, Pratibha Tuladhar

I wonder what it might be like if I had been seen in your stead, sauntering in Basantapur, alongside a younger man. Walking, talking or perhaps just standing there in silence. I wonder what they’d say about a woman like me with "loose morals".

Cougar.

What could a woman like me, who lives sequestered, say about morality? I wonder what a man like you would say about cloistered virtue. A man like you, who believes in morality and nothing. Unlike a woman like me who believes in nothing and everything.

                                                                  …

One time, I ran down that temple in Basantapur-- the one in the centre with a long flight of steps-- with you trailing behind me, shouting my name. Don’t do this, you said. The life of a single woman is not what you need. Society will never let you live in peace.

It was 10:30PM. The courtyard had started to wear a deserted look with just a couple of men walking it at intervals.

Read also: Reasons for disdain at Dasain, Pratibha Tuladhar

I don’t care, I yelled back, as I ran all the way to the entrance to the Darbar Square. You caught up with me and grabbed my arm. By then, I had tears streaming down my face.

Today, I saw that the temple is still being rebuilt-- it has taken all these years since the earthquake for the reconstruction to begin. During the April 2015 earthquake, it had been flattened to the base. It is one of the last temples in Basantapur that is yet to go up since.

The stone steps I ran down, with you at my heels, are gone. They will be replaced by fresh masonry, new stones, new bricks.

Just before I had run down the steps, we were sat on the temple parapet, legs dangling, talking. About love. It is what we always did. In circles. The destiny of unhealthy attachments that follow the never-ending pattern of hurt and heal and hurt. I remember men walking past had stared at us. There’s a certain way people look at a woman who sits with a man in public places in the darkness of the night. There’s a certain way people look at a woman who sits with a man in any place in the darkness of the night.

When the reconstruction of that temple is complete, I shall go back and sit on those steps. In the darkness of the night. There will no longer be your voice telling me a woman has no business living a single life in a world where being affiliated with a man is the only way she can be safe. In the darkness of the night, after I have sat long enough at the temple, I will walk home, clutching my bag close to my chest, hoping the streets are deserted all the way. And that I don’t have to worry about running into a stranger. Man. Who will most likely brush past me. Or stare.

                                                                   …

The internet is a devious place. On some days, it is just a place. Where people meet. And find people. 

You looked me up on an obsolete platform one day and said-- Hi, remember me?

Read also: The light of feet, Pratibha Tuladhar

You’re that little boy I met at a cafe a decade ago. I pull together fragments of memory and chisel you whole. You are seventeen. I try to add a list of attributes so I can create the persona of an adult you, in my head. I imagine you’re a kind, bright child, interested in books and music. And not so much in me.

I have always meant to ask you out, but I was too young, you say. I do not laugh. I feel a pain tear through me. It no longer becomes possible for me to see you as you are now, because in my head, you become arrested in your late teens-- the child.

And as I start to pull away from the conversation, I ask: what does the world make of women who converse with younger men? Paedophile? Cougar?

                                                                      …

And yet. And yet, I heard you were seen hanging out in Basantapur, lending one arm to this very young woman. You, with pepper in your hair. She, with a lilt in her steps.

I walked the courtyard today and wondered if you’d taken the same path with her as you had with me. Perhaps love is a pattern too, you know? Perhaps we kiss the same way every single time we love. Kiss, pine, long, pull away, break, scatter. How is your love different from mine then? How is it that you’re a man who’s decided to move on and I, a cougar?

Read also: A letter to a sister, Pratibha Tuladhar

Pratibha Tuladhar

writer

  • Most read