CHAPTER I : THE WAYFARERS
Kunga Palmu was no ordinary woman. She was a mother of three. Two sons and a daughter. She fled her country with her children and a husband. She knew not what share of pain and pleasure she had to bear. She had promised to follow her husband anywhere.
Phutshuk Wangdi was an ideal husband. He had an array of livestock back at home; it was enough to feed seven generations. When the war broke families, he had to choose between the glory of death and the humility of living.
He chose his family.
So he chose to live but death wasn’t satisfied without him. He had no plans to abandon his wife as a fugitive to the world that they had not yet discovered. His absence was a poison that his wife had to drink without any options.
Kunga Palmu was thirty-six years old when her husband died on a strange land. She was laden with gold and silk but there was no warmth beside her bed to console her.
Tenzing Gyatso and Tsering Paldon were her neighbors.
When Phuntshuk departed to the other realm, Tsering made sure that the children were well-fed, bathed and the household shifted to Gyatso’s.
Kunga Palmu restored herself two weeks after the funeral. The neighbors asked her to stay with them for a while, which lasted for two years.
Kunga’s two little boys, Dawa and Gyalseng were always at Tsering’s lap and her daughter, Diki Choden loved playing with Tenzing’s hair. Kunga herself was so fond of Sangay, the only daughter of Tsering and Tenzing that it felt like they had swapped their places.
The grief of loss had made Kunga lean and fragile. She stood with her head bowed and lowly shoulder. Her pale skin had arcane beauty and all the blood had been restored on her lips and she didn’t look a day older than twenty-five.
Tsering, on the other hand, was darker than her friend. She had warm eyes like her late mother. She took care of the household and the business of running a hotel in an obscure land that they had landed. Her voice was sharp and harsh. Both Tenzing and Kunga knew that she was a very soft lady behind the plump frame.
Tenzing Gyatso was exactly a month older than Phuntsuk and a year younger than Kunga Palmu. His physique commanded respect. He was the tallest in his clan and had a baritone voice. He used to sing when he was drunk but he was socially awkward when sober. He never met an eye with the ladies when he spoke except his wife and his sister. He was a carpenter by profession and chef by hobby.
After a number of miscarriages, Tsering had slipped into a coma. It was then, Tenzing as a dutiful husband had taken over the household. Soon when Tsering recovered, they swapped their places of duties. Tsering started a hotel while Tenzing cooked for his wife and daughter.
When they heard the news of Phuntsuk’s early demise, it was Tenzing who asked Tsering to look after Kunga. The ladies bonded well. Tsering was a wise listener, even when Kunga was silent.
If one could know the direction of wind before it changes if one could know what heaven had stored for the ones left to suffer, if and only if one could hold the heart being ripped by another heart, life would have a different meaning. The complication is a synonym of life. It didn’t have the beginning; I bet it started with the longing. Love is a many word but attachment.
Tsering had shared everything with Kunga, even her children and the milk in her breast but she somehow couldn’t share her husband. So when Tsering found her husband and Kunga on the bed, she didn’t utter a word. She tried, however, to lit herself alive. The very next day, Kunga left the town without any goodbyes.
The absence was agony for both Tenzing and Tsering.
Not once did they ever speak of her. The memories that Kunga had left, forever lingered but not once did they utter her name. Not even their daughter, Sangay talked about her until some fourteen years later when Sangay married Norbu, the groom mentioned a certain Kunga Palmu, his relative who had fled from her country.
That evening Tenzing sat with his wife and held her hand to narrate the story well. His wife believed every word of it. Perhaps she loved him quite very much that she believed his innocence or perhaps Tenzing had never once lied to Tsering.
Whether Kunga had a heart for Tenzing, it was unknown. Love has its own origin and Tenzing confessed that he loved his wife and that he once loved Kunga, but it wasn’t a kind of love that should have ended on the bed.
Tsering sat quietly as he explained in tears.
Tenzing felt power like never before when he made Kunga laugh. She had a musical laugh. She closed her eyes and placed her fragile palm on her weak chest. Tenzing who would never talk more than a sentence with another woman loved the company of this other woman. He knew it was wrong for reasons unknown and he knew he didn’t want anything from Kunga but her company.
A widow like her couldn’t survive in the times like these and when the men in the town circled her like vultures during social gatherings, Tenzing’s heart lost its pace too.
He had never felt the fire of jealousy within him and he somehow knew it was not right.
He would always hear her cry at night. He would sometime tiptoe to listen to her lullaby and sometimes even her cries.
Kunga was his confidante.
That afternoon when he asked his confidante what he can do for her. She simply smiled. He told her he could do anything for her as she was his dearest friend. She told him, truthfully and innocently that she wanted to be touched. She threw her head unto her hand and wept bitterly. He wrapped his arms around her fondly.
She clung onto his cotton vest. He had a strange smell of wood and sweat. She still had her husband’s memories intact. She still had his perfume lingered on her body. She still missed him dearly but today she was in the arm of another man. Today He wasn’t someone’s husband or a father. He was just a man and she was just a woman.
She knew not about this alien hunger. She thought she was immune. Her sobs buried in his rock hard chest. She could feel his manhood hard beneath.
At that moment the right and wrong was the colour of the water the only thing she could do was float above it. She closed her eyes as she leaned against him. he kissed her soft lips, he kissed her cheeks. Her delicate throat, her soft bosom, as he undressed her, her eyes were closed and he wondered if she hated his face.
She was greedy for the touch and he was so generous. He caressed her softly like she was a delicate china and she moaned for more. He trembled to see how delicately fair she was beneath her cloth. He cupped her breast, her nipples were pink and erect at his touch and he gently suckled them. She moaned with pleasure but he could see she had tears in her eyes. Her eyes now locked unto his.
This was wrong but it felt so right, with her. He let her long hair open and kissed her eyes. He was still in his dress, his manhood hard when his wife entered his room.
That night as Tsering wept bitterly holding her husband in her arm, Kunga Palmu packed her bags. Sangay gave her silver ring to Diki.
Tenzing slipped a bundle of money into her bag at night.
It was only when she had crossed the border of the country, Kunga found a heavy gold neckless in her bag that unbeknownst to her, her friend Tsering had put for her. Love is a strange four letter word and yet Tsering couldn’t share her husband with her, though she loved Kunga.
So after thirty years when Kunga Palmu met Resham, a young widow. She could see her reflection on her. She knew not that she had a virgin widow under her roof.