Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Smaller Good (14th June, 09)

I was so sleepy when I was at my friend’s place. More friends came and they started playing cards. I thought I would watch a movie. The movie “X-Files” started on Star Movie but I just couldn’t feel at ease. I felt tired and sleepy, so I bid them goodbye and went home. I thought they must only feel good to see me go.

But when I reached home, I thought I was going to waste time by sleeping. So I geared myself up. I first took a broom and started cleaning the corridor and steps of the building where I stay. We have a sweeper there. There are 10 tenants in total and we pay Nu. 100 every month to be paid to the sweeper. The sweeper is paid Nu. 1000 for that job but I swear, never once did I see him or her doing the job. But I must admit that twice it was cleaned, though I didn’t meet her/him when she/he was at the job.

When I finished cleaning the steps and corridors, I thought it would be great if I cleaned the rough road that the dwellers there use every day. I took a hoe, a sickle and a spade and got myself to work. The building owners are so territorial. The owner of the building above the road put a drainage pipe till the ridge above the road and the owner of the building below the road put the same from below the road. So the road lies open and it has a badly maintained drain. This drain keeps getting blocked and the water collects on the road which is full of potholes. I cleaned the drain first. People passed by and they all covered their nose and said, ‘Gocholey, khiga ri giwa la.’ But this time, at least I was wearing the gloves.

I picked all the garbage that is dumped there, leveled and widened the road because there is problem for two cars to pass by. I was happy with myself for doing this small, simple job. I had the garbage collected in a huge plastic bag to be thrown this morning when the Municipal Garbage Pickup truck came. I did, but when I came to office this morning, I was so f**** up angry, disheartened and unhappy to see three plastic bags of garbage so neatly tucked behind the stone that is leaning towards the ridge. I shouted in hopelessness. I honestly felt so unhappy at this that I shouted, “How can people differ so much in attitude? How can people not want to cooperate when they see that there are some people who would like to do something good?” I wasn’t trying to say I am good, but I was so completely nobbled. It took me a while to come back to sense. I thought I could leave a note there requesting people not to dump their garbage there but on a second thought, I didn’t want to do it. I thought people will only mock at it, just as someone wrote “F*** You” in bold under the note I pasted on the corridor, “Do not spit.”

Oh but that is how well people understand the world. That is how good our generation is going to preserve the world and its resources for the younger generations. I sometime can’t help finding people so hypocritical. And I hate it.

Yanki's Life Story

Yanki’s Life Story—Her Birth

Perhaps, Yanki had the hardest life in the whole world. Perhaps, her destiny cursed her even as she was born. And perhaps, she was never meant to know what happiness meant.

Her mother died when she gave birth to her. Maybe the 13th December, 1972 was a day of the devil. And when she turned seven, her father was killed by a wild boar. There were not many neighbors nearby. The nearest neighbor they had was Ana Singki who was a widow living with her 10 year old daughter. She was a drunkard and her daughter strived for their daily meals.

Maybe their village itself was a cursed place. In the creepy dark night, when the crickets sang of their freedom, Yanki often wondered if there was a world beyond the mountains that shielded sun and gave plentiful of rain in her village. Maybe it was because of too much rain that they did not have a good harvest of their crops. When she was a child, she often wondered why the stars shone so brightly only in that village at the other side of the river. But when she turned four, her father told her that they had electricity in their village. Electricity? This was a new term for her. She did not know that a world could be so brightly lit up as if it were a day. Or as if the whole galaxy of stars has fallen on earth. This intrigued her and she wanted to see what an electricity bulb looked like. She wondered how water could be turned into light, when her father told her that electricity was generated from water.

She grew up listening to her father’s snoring, to her father telling her such wonderful stories, of reality and miracles. As soon as she turned six, her father and she bought a cow and thus they thought they were going to, maybe prosper. Yanki could then milk cow, take her to the mountainside and bring home lots of mushroom in the evening. And she had even started cooking for them. At seven, she even worked in the field and now, outside their hut was a beautiful garden. But in the peak of summer, when their garden has just given them the first of fresh vegetables, her father died. This was really shutting the day off and calling a night in, even before the day had shown the sun. She lost all her hopes and dreams. And she never wanted to live. She wanted to hide beneath the earth and never be part of the world. But your destiny always has a bigger dream for you. Or until you have paid even, you never escape.

Yanki’s Life Story—Into the World

When her father died, her father’s uncle Towpo took charge of all the rituals. Yanki never saw daylight since then. She cried every night and soon after the 21 day ritual for her father’s death was over, her uncle started beating her if even he heard her sob. Now her world changed.

She left her small village and was at her uncle’s village which had more people, more houses and a monastery nearby. She was happy her father taught her the prayer, “Dudsum sangay guru rinpoche…” which always gave her company. She saw her father in each syllable of the prayer. Her father told her that a God never forsake anyone but she sometime doubted if her father lied to her. She thought if there was God, it was time he saw her hardship. She was now her uncle’s all time cow herder. She did not see peace in this crowded village. There always was someone greeting you, even as you wash your face in the early morning. She missed the solitude and peace she had back at her village. She missed her father more than ever and she cried all day as the cows grazed.

She soon had access to radio and it became her all time friend. Now every time she was in the forest, she sang as she herded the cows. When she turned 14, the Gup in her village selected her as one of the dancers for the annual tshechu at the lhakhang. This unsettled her uncle’s mood and he beat her that evening. Yanki could not understand how at all she could outdo his children. She was a poor cow herder, while his three children went to school. But maybe her uncle was a miserable man. He took his temper on his wife quite often. His children feared him.

However, the Gup explained the matter to him the next day and Yanki was still chosen for the dance.

Yanki’s Life Story—Toppling on Love

It was unmistakable how well Yanki could sing. She got the voice of ‘khuju luyang’. And she had the looks of a ‘khamdrom’ and a heart of a ‘lha karpo’. It was as if, for all this virtue she had, her parents had to pay the price.

When the selected group of seven girls and seven boys were practicing dance for the tsechu, there was a dance teacher who had come from the capital. He was a young, impeccable man of around 24. The girls giggled shyly when he sometime had to hold their hands and show the steps, but Yanki was unaware of any charm or charismatic pull he had.

Girls started talking that he was attracted to Yanki. She had a heart so deeply bruised that she had not a single space to think of something like love. Dema said, “Come on Yanki, how could you not see it? Look at the way he looks at you.” But she still was sunk in her own misery and she was only always thinking of her father and her mother she never saw. She wanted to thank them for bringing her into the world, but she just couldn’t find herself to do it, for life had only sufferings and there wasn’t an ounce of hope for happiness.

The next day, when their teacher, Mr. Pema asked who could sing with him for the new song they had chosen to learn, the girls replied in unison, “Yanki drakpey la.” This was alarming but Yanki had to go when she was called in the front to sing beside him as the other girls and boys danced. And as the girls were discussing steps, he suddenly said, “Yanki, behind those beautiful eyes, I can see so much of pain hidden.” She did not know what to say, so she just shyly smiled.

Yanki’s Life Story—Destiny’s Plan

As if there was a pull of destiny itself, she found herself growing closer to Pema every day. And before the tsechu, she found that she had started talking to him about her parents and her life. He was a very trustworthy man—she could see it in his eyes. Without questioning anything and without discussing with her uncle and aunt, she agreed to marry him.

Her uncle beat her up once again and Yanki went for dance practice with a blue left eye. Pema knew about what happened, so he decided to meet her uncle and ask for her hand. And he did. Yanki was finally out of the yoke of her uncle’s unending complaints and scolding when Pema brought her to Thimphu after the tshechu. A girl who had never even reached the nearest town was now traveling to the capital. She now saw the electricity and the bulb and many wonders. When she told Pema about how she wondered about the generation of electricity, she was taken to Chhukha to see the Chhukha Hydro Power Project. The mysteries of life were unfolding slowly and she was almost coming to believe that life after all had so much to offer.

She never felt so much joy in her life. She wished she had her father with her to show him how life could be easy, simple and yet beautiful. Pema was simple, uncomplicated man who saw every day as a new day. Besides everything else, his biggest virtue was his faithfulness towards his wife. Though, Yanki was an uneducated girl, he always saw her as an equal to him and he started teaching her to read. Though he wanted a baby so much and she failed to conceive, he did not complain. He always said, “You are still very young to be a mother. I’m sure we will have a beautiful daughter like you very soon.”

When they had been married for three years, and when Yanki turned 17, she lost him forever. She now lives in an isolated Gonpa in her village and she is a nun. She doesn’t want to talk about that night she received call from the police from Chukha. He had gone to Phuntsholing. Though she asked him that it wasn’t required, he was making plans to set up a small shop that she could run. Even when his body was brought to her house, she didn’t want to see his face. She wanted to remember him as he was—those serene, deep eyes. And yes, now, Yanki has finally found peace. For so much she has lost, she has found the answer…the suffering, after all is a part of life and she has taken oath to cease it before this lifetime ends.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The travel for free

There was an old man sitting in the front, right next to the driver. The person who arranged the bus (dealer) said he was sending this man to Dorji Dhen for free. I thought that was a pious act. But the price he paid for the free trip was huge.

I mentioned in the earlier article that the driver and the conductors played a hideous game and they just didn’t agree to start the journey. We were struck in Jaigon. The conductor and the drivers (There usually are three drivers since it is a long journey and they have to drive at night too) wanted two seats near the door emptied. And the man sitting there didn’t fight for his right. I guess he thought it was better to let them win so that we would all be on our way to Dorji Dhen. But this forced the old man sitting at the back to look for a seat. He was so comfortably sitting at the last seat, but when the man who apparently paid for the trip got the seat, he was forced to stand.

As he came to the front and stood behind the driver, I just couldn’t help wonder how he would make the long journey. I prayed something would come up and he would not face problem. I guess the seats at the back were already packed. The man who gave up his seat to the drivers and went to the back came in the front too and chose to stand. When we reached Birpara, he got out and bought a plastic chair. He placed it behind the driver and sat on it and thus made his journey. In a way I was glad that he made this sacrifice, but on the other hand, I didn’t like this weak decision. I know, we were all going on a pilgrimage and we were supposed to understand people better and be gentle but I guess, I wanted to be more righteous than weak.

As the winter’s early dark crept in and people’s voices fell silent, the old man started to sit on the floor. The next morning I woke up, I looked at him and saw that he didn’t look tired. I was happy he was a tough man. It was difficult to get good food on the way. I usually don’t mind as long as I get rice but this time, it didn’t seem so good. My husband told me that the old man ate his lunch and didn’t pay the hotelier. I was glad he had that guts. The hotelier ought to have got the money because he had no wrong done to him, but I think this is how we all pay. The old man obviously didn’t like the hassle that came up in the bus and thus someone had to pay for it.

On the last day at Dorji Dhen, this dealer was there too. He wore the same black shirt tucked in his faded blue jeans. He was a short man of around 28 or 30 with a shabby look. As we circumambulated the chorten, my husband smiled at him and shook hands. But inwardly, I thought, ‘he tricked us.’ I didn’t have any kind of malice or grudge but I honestly didn’t like the way he chose to make good money out of innocent people.