No one from my generation has ever met a young man named Devata, but we know his story. A stage actor, a singer, a good student, a handsome teenager, and a devoted son; he was quite a famous figure in his small town. His parents, Chanda and Krishna, did not have a son for several years. They had prayed and organized several pujas, and he was their first-born healthy son. They named him ‘Devata’ – which literally meant God- because of the happiness that he brought to this aging couple.
During one monsoon season, a giant tree had fallen. Dev had just returned home from school. “Aama (mother), I am hungry,” he said. Chanda had prepared rotis (bread) for his son. As she was serving the food, she casually uttered, “The giant tree fell this afternoon. Villagers have reached the tree to collect the wood.” Dev immediately stood up and said, “Aama, let me rush to the spot and collect some wood.” “Babu, at least finish your roti, you are hungry.” “No, Aama. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to collect some wood. I will collect enough of them, so you don’t have to worry for a week.” Dev rushed to the spot without eating roti. As he approached the tree, a large branch fell on him, and he died on the spot.
This is the story of my grandmother Chanda, and Dev was my father’s elder brother. My father does not remember Dev as he was an infant when this tragedy happened. But Dev lived with us through the cries of my grandmother. She lived for another forty years experiencing excruciating pain and carrying the burden of the guilt with several questions. “Why did I tell him about the tree?” “Why did not he eat that roti (bread)?” “Why did Yamaraj (Hindu deity – he is the lord of death) take my hungry son?” “Why did that branch fall on my son?” and so on.
I am not sure if she ever found her answers. What I know is she spoke with Dev every day as if she could feel his existence and his every motion, and she asked the same question, “Babu, roti khayo? (Son, did you eat your bread?).”
With the death of my grandmother, I had long forgotten her story too – until I recently watched this newly released music video, ‘Mero Mann Timi Sangai‘ (My heart is with you). Inspired by a true story, this Nepali music video narrates a story of a grieving couple rediscovering love and resilience amid tragedy.
First, both Karishma Manandhar and Saroj Khanal (who played a mother and a father) are legendary actors of Nepal. Their presence and their performance of parents dealing with the loss of their beloved daughters make it a compelling story. And each scene is touching and relatable. A typical happy family. A loving couple and their two beautiful daughters. Their casual banter and fun times. All good until a tragedy hits the family when both the daughters die in an accident.
I cannot fathom the pain of this mother, who lost her two daughters any different from my grandmother’s agony. She must have cried several nights relentlessly, and her grief over the loss of her daughters must have been exacerbated and complicated by the feeling of injustice. “Why did this happen to me?” a question that would haunt her for life.
Nonetheless, what impresses me the most is it is not a story of only despair. In fact, it is a story of hope. It is about a maturing couple who have lost everything; yet, amid this personal tragedy, they rediscover an unconditional love and unspeakable bonding.
Rediscovering love and bonding does not mean they want to ‘move on,’ or they have ‘gotten over the tragedy.’ If anything, there is no end to the ways they grieve and how long they grieve. Their love for their daughters is eternal, and so is their anguish. But, as they mourn the loss, they find a way to develop a set of memories, feelings, and actions that keep them connected to their daughters. For example, notice a scene when they go for a hike again. They continue the relationship by believing that their daughters are watching them (see their daughters’ smiles in the end when the couple embraces each other). And they find a way to smile at each other.
The video ends with a somewhat hopeful message, shifting focus from the couple dealing with ineffable tragedy to emerging stronger with increased resilience. As they hold hands and embrace each other in the last scene, it is almost like they are telling the world, “We are in it together, and we will overcome it together.” It sends a strong message to its viewers that love can indeed provide psychological inoculation and strengthen resilience. And it is a beautiful feeling to witness that love between these two grieving individuals and imagine the profound connection between them.
BTW, my grandmother, Chanda, never experienced that love. Not able to cope with the tragedy, her husband often vented out his anger and frustration at her. She was often reminded of her conversation with her son before he left. There was no love or support, just bitterness. Perhaps, that’s why I find the message of this video so refreshing, inspiring, and, more importantly, so courageous.
Please watch and share the video ‘Mero Mann Timi Sanga’ that is inspired by a true story. Here is a link to the YouTube video