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(A short story of 3147 words)



by Merryn Glover

Laxmi, a girl from the lowest caste of a village in the remote west of Nepal, is told that she is the unlucky kind. But, resourceful and fiercely protective of her sister and niece, she is determined that low birth will not ruin their lives. All profits from this story go to aid work in Nepal.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that take life into their own hands, and those that have life taken from them. I am Laxmi, named for the goddess of beauty, love, wealth and luck. What more can you ask? From her four hands, lotus blossoms sprout and gold coins pour down. Today, my two hands are dirty from scrambling up a cliff, but in one fist I clutch a wad of rupee notes pulled from my father’s body.

Yesterday two men came from the land office to measure out the fields around our village and record ownership. The measuring was simply done, and after that they spread out their books at Dal Ram’s teashop to discuss the question of rightful possession. I slipped into the knot of people gathered around them. The men sat cross-legged on the string bed, leaning their backs against the wall, swatting idly at the sluggish flies. In the heat of the afternoon the thatched veranda gave ragged shade.

“There are two groups of people in this village,” said the long thin one, writing precise figures in his notebook. “The Thakuris and the low caste.” Everyone pressed in to see: farmers, sweaty and smelling of earth, women carrying babies on their backs in fraying shawls, and wriggling children with chapped faces and dusty hair.

We are the low: damai, kami, sarki, the tailors, the ironmongers and the shoemakers. Because we work with the skin of the sacred cow, we are untouchable. The one blessing of these steep slopes is that cows slip and fall and die. That is when we move in. We skin the carcass and dry it for our leatherwork, boil the bones for glue and eat the flesh. We are reviled for it, but we eat the cow or starve. The Thakuris – who wear these sacred skins on their feet – are high caste and live in the top row of houses...

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A review of Untouchable from the CUT team....

A moving short story about the plight of those deemed to be beneath all others in society. “Untouchable” tells of a Nepali girl and her family’s struggle against extreme hardship and injustice. Laxmi is born into a world seemingly without hope or mercy, but she is determined not to allow the circumstances of being low-born to define not just her life and future, but also her soul. A stark tale told with eloquence and humanity.

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