“The sun never changes, but patterns of sunlight and shadow change. The mountains remain the same but the trees, the flowers and the fruit it bears are different. Even if one vowed to resist change, the world would alter, people would become different…..

Soma’s heart was pounding: now he and Sombari would be left alone in the new hut. This first night was not a night of joy for the child husband: it was a night of terror! From this night, the Bonda male admitted his helplessness, his inferiority to the female in all matters! Soma knelt in the doorway of his new hut; the moment he saw the dhangras approaching, he bolted into the jungle to protect himself from his new bride. The dhangras caught hold of him and swung him up into the air; then, amid shouting and bawdy laughter, they carried him back to the hut.

Soma and Sombari were tied together, facing each other, with a stout rope. Soma’s head was on a level with Sombari’s breast. Sombari’s strong, rounded arms were wrapped around Soma’s frail body and covered with one more loop of the rope. Her hands were free. A mat woven from palm leaves lay on the freezing stone floor. The two were laid out on the mat, with a puny Soma on top of Sombari’s robust body. Like a thin sickle tucked into a chest-high pile of piri grass. The sickle could neither mow the grass nor cut itself free! How utterly helpless the eight-year-old male was in the embrace of the woman!

Sombari’s solid frame stood the abuse much better. If she was trembling underneath those layers of beads, Soma could hardly feel it,. But his own heart pounded like a tom-tom. Was it the cold, the fear, or the excitement ? To this day, Soma cannot tell.

With great difficulty, Sombari loosened the knots in the rope and freed Soma, then herself. He lay stiff, paralysed. She too was shivering with cold, but no Bonda possesses the means to change into dry clothing. Soma gradually composed himself into dull sleep on that winter night. He does not remember what Sombari did to calm him down. That first night passed – a night of incompetence and numbness.

Marriage reduces the Bonda to impotence and makes the Bonduni unworthy of trust. Neither is to blame; or perhaps both are responsible, for it is many Somas and Sombaris who make up the Bonda tribe, in which the child is united in marriage to the older female. Society is to blame.

As deprivation is the core of the Bonda’s existence, the Sahukar is necessary to supply all his needs! The Sahukar had helped Soma Muduli to get married: he had provided the money to pay the bride-price to feast his kinsmen- though his father’s lands and trees had passed into the Sahukar’s possession. But which Sahukar could help Soma now? Who could compensate him for the deficit of his body?

Sombari saw the fright on Soma’s face, the tears in his eyes, and lifted him onto her breast. Silently, wordlessly, she whispered many unspoken thoughts into his ears, communicated many unexpressed feelings. Soma grew increasingly humble and Sombari increasingly hopeless; as his confusion grew so did her dejection. As she drew her ignorant husband to her breast and gave him knowledge of the world, her own consciousness grew dull.

The child Soma separated himself from his wife’s ripe body. His eyes blinked with tears of anger and frustration, he rained blows and kicks on the door.

Sombari got up silently and unfastened the door. With one leap Soma streaked out of the hut and into his mother’s home. With his face snuggled into his mother’s drooping breasts, the bridegroom sobbed quietly. His mother stroked his thin back with one work-hardened hand, lacking words to comfort him. What comfort could she provide? Once, her own husband had run away from her in fright and hidden himself in his Yong’s breast. He had spent his nights in the dingo until he became a man.

Soma’s father blinked his eyes, heavy with liquor and sleep, and muttered, “Go, go back to your wife! Aren’t you ashamed to sleep in your mother’s bed at your age?”

“Why should he be ashamed?” Soma’s Yong said “His whiskers haven’t sprouted yet; what shame is there if a child sleeps with its mother? Do you think he’ll come near his mother once he has a moustache?”