ovinda Giri 'Prerana' is one of today's most prolific writers, churning out as many as six books in a single year. He writes novels, he writes stories, he writes poems, he translates literary writings into Nepali, and he is by far the most energetic figure in any gathering of (generally quite listless) Nepali litterateurs. He manages to write even as he holds down a day job as an internal auditor in Tribhuvan University's Inspection Division. The inspiration that drives 'Prerana' (this Nepali word means inspiration) is obviously quite forceful: he is also currently editing a literary magazine dedicated to contemporary free verse.
The story below appears in his 1990 short story collection Antaraal, and shows the mercurial wavering of the identity of an ordinary man.
Krishna Man: Counter Man
In the end he'd come to be known by his nickname Counter Man.
He had entered that bank as an employee with the name of Krishna Man, and since the day of his appointment he had for the most part performed counter duty. Ever since a colleague jokingly called Krishna Man Counter Man, everyone had taken to calling him Counter Man. Now things are so far gone that only when a staff member addresses him as Krishna Man does he remember that he is indeed Krishna Man.
Krishna Man is hungry today.
It's not just today that he's hungry; it's a common matter for Krishna Man to stay hungry through a couple of mealtimes every month. Of all the office's staff members, he's probably the one who buys the cheapest snacks.
What can he do about this? It's just a myth that bank jobs are plush-not only does he not meet the demands of his wife and children, he finds it hard to set straight even the simplest of problems.
Krishna Man has integrity, he doesn't resort to wrongdoing; everyone trusts him. But perhaps because of his integrity, money has never shown much faith in him.
All day long, Krishna Man is translated into Counter Man. Counter Man is rich. Playing with one paisa coins and bundles of thousand rupee bills, lots of people receive payments of thousands and thousands from his hands. But when evening falls, he is translated back from Counter Man to Krishna Man. Krishna Man is poor: he's liberated from his duty only after placing all the money from the counter in the bank's safe. Then his pockets are empty.
It's not that on some days, when he's faint with hunger, Krishna Man doesn't feel the urge to take a handful of bills, and go to a good restaurant to eat till his stomach bursts; but the intellectual integrity inside attacks the base thoughts that arise from such momentary impulses, and he changes back into a meek and civilised worker-into the same hungry, dissatisfied, and suffering Krishna Man.
No matter what, Krishna Man has not betrayed his father's and grandfather's good name-he hasn't lost his integrity. No one in all the neighbourhood has ever derided his family with the smelly cap of wrongdoing. When he stands before all his bosses, and before those considered important in the neighbourhood, everyone's ten fingers join in namaste.
Krishna Man is most civilised. Everyone says so.
Today Krishna Man is extremely sick with hunger. His back and shoulders feel weakened by starvation. There are bundles of bills in his hands. He is at the moment translated into Counter Man. If he wished, it would take no off-day for him to slip eight or ten thousand into his pockets, and disappear on the pretence of going to the toilet. How difficult can it be to slip eight or ten bills into the pocket?
Krishna Man is hardened today. Paying no mind to the rest of the world, he has placed ten bills of a thousand into his pocket. Slowly he stands up, and excusing himself from a nearby colleague, goes outside. There is a guard with a loaded gun at the door. The cocked gun in the guard's hands arouses no fear in him. But outside the door stands integrity-entirely unarmed-and this makes Krishna Man slacken.
Poor Krishna Man gets ashamed, and feels weak and watery. He returns once again to his counter. Slowly he mixes those bills into a bag filled with countless bills. And finally the Krishna Man living inside Krishna Man is set to peace.
In the meanwhile he is bathed in sweat.
Krishna Man calls the peon Hari Bahadur and asks for water. Hari Bahadur brings a glass and places it in his hands. Krishna Man begins to gulp the water. The engorged veins on the neck of the famished man are clearly visible at this time.