‘Then what happened?’ Suparna asked Yimli.
Yimli was busy making noodles in her big pot.
At the counter there were two people, foreigners, backpackers.
Suparna cast a look at them. They were talking in English though the accent was different. Guttaral.
‘They might be Germans…’
Yimli’s husband, Butsugen was bringing in logs upon his shoulders from the barn.
Late October, the nip in the air was catching in. The morning had a feel of cosiness.
Suparna’s husband had not yet woken up.
Suparna also didn’t wake him up. She wanted to get the feel of the place all by her own.
Being an editor of a magazine on women’s issues, she was always on the lookout to find real-life stories.
Yimli’s face had a big scar. Running across from her right ear lobe end to chin. It had almost smoothened but the scar could be visible if anyone could see her face up close.
‘And then what? I ran away from him…’ Yimli said.
‘He didn’t look for you?’
‘How can a husband look for his wife if he had performed no duty to her other than those rituals related to bed time?’
Yimli was straight.
‘Brave girl you are! But how got this scar across your face?’
Hearing this query, Yimli’s face suddenly lit up. She even blushed.
Suparna was perplexed. How can one blush and get lit up talking about a big scar on one’s face? She thought.
Yimli stirred the noodles. They had softened. She started pouring the noodles with a ladle upon a sieve. Water started dripping. Steam started coming out.
‘That’s how I met him…’ Yimli blushed again.
This time she looked at Butsugen.
‘Tell me, tell me!’
Suparna became excited.
‘I was running through the wilderness all day, not knowing where I was going… I only felt that I would have to somehow escape from that hell…the hell where he came drunk every night and beat me up if I refused to perform for him that bedtime thing… He was a beast…’
She became absentminded for awhile.
‘Then?’ Suparna asked.
Prodded by her, Yimli restarted the narrative.
‘Then suddenly from nowhere a mountain bear pounced upon me…I am not sure whether I stumbled upon it or it jumped at me…but it happened…its sharp claws I felt running through my skin, face. I thought I would be dead. I was so much astounded and puzzled that I couldn’t even shout out. Then he came with his axe and with it took a big swing and rammed it on the head of the bear, using it as a club. The bear, to my amazement, fell to the ground, as if it went dizzy.
Butsugen took me up and took me to his hut. His mother and sister were there.
They took care of me using herbs…And…and I never left Butsugen after that…’ Yimli said.
The noodles had drained out the water.
She took a cotton cloth and put the noodles on it, spreading its strands using a flat wooden spatula.
‘How much do you love your Butsugen?’ Suparna asked.
‘A little bit more than my own heart…’ Yimli said, flashing a cute smile.
She was blushing again.
Suparna looked at Butsugen.
He had started serving meals to the backpackers. His face had a tinge of simplicity and fulfilment.
At least Suparna felt that, after hearing his act of saving Yimli.
‘What is the meaning of Butsugen, in your language?’ Suparna asked Yimli.
Yimli said as she got busy spreading the strands of noodles on the cotton cloth.
They were to be cooked soon for within half an hour the counter would have people. Tourists, travellers, backpackers, honeymooners, monks and drivers.