Thursday, July 23, 2009
Dear Mipham....I'm sorry we won't be able to meet this summer. I hope you have fun nonetheless...i'm certain there are many more summers for us in store, with a bit of Fall, Winter and Spring. I look at your photographs on my laptop...photographs that are archived as the memories are. They take me places. I see you as a little baby; bald with a hint of hair. I used to love that look! You had this little patch of brown-matted-blotch right on top of your forehead.
I look at you playing with toys you had no idea were toys. Then these archived memories flung open and i remember moments and incidents. One time we were in the bathroom in Thimphu. You were barely a year old. You'd lie on the bed biting and licking your fingers and toes...if you didn't have anything else in your hands.
I used to be bowled over by the sheer dexterity and flexibility of your limbs! If they held a Baby-Olympics; i'm sure it'd be quite a sight! Now i understand why babies are so flexible. Their bones are still soft. I've seen many babies...all your brothers and sisters were once babies and they'd flummox me every time with their gymnastics!
I guess i ain't the smartest guy around...but somethings are better left mysterious and unknown.
We were in the bathroom and i put you in this good-old Bhutanese tubs...more of an over-sized bucket rather than a tub. The water was warm (i used to dip in my fingers to gauge the temperature until your mother told me that the elbow was more accurate!).
So i dipped in my elbow. It was warmer than when i dipped in my fingers! I set the warmth to bearable and dipped you in...toes first...then on your little buttocks! You played with the water and a couple of toys.
I sat on the edge of the actual bath-tub...watching you watch me...watching you play. Then something strange happened. I looked at you and sort of said sorry in a quiet way for the incident where i left you on your rolling-chair and you rolled right over! It was winter and the thermal-heater was on. The rods are usually pretty hot. You'd rolled over and your head was stuck on the heater-plates. You screamed so loud i was there in seconds. But you'd been a little burnt on the head.
So i looked at you and sort of apologized. What you did next raised the hairs on my back! You looked right back at me: straight into my eyes. Our eyes were locked for what felt like an eternity. You seemed to understand the look on my face...the sorry countenance...and you seemed to be saying "Its okay Jurmi, its okay. I'm fine and i know you are sorry."
Our eyes still locked, you then broke into this beautiful smile...it was so overwhelming an experience! I could not keep looking at you...i sort of broke the spell...i looked away from you and made a loud noise and broke into a stupid smile.
What that moment did was tell me the fact that babies might do a lot of baby talk but your souls are already wise and old. You already feel and know instinctively who you are and who we are.
I never look at babies the same way. The cloth you wear might be young but your souls are already wise and old.
Right now i'm in a town called Phuentsholing. It's where i grew up. Its where most of my boy-hood memories are. Its situated in the south of Bhutan and is known as the gateway to Bhutan (because there is a big traditional Bhutanese gate that separates Bhutan from Jaigaon in West Bengal, India.
Phuentsholing is much warmer than Thimphu or Paro. Its a tropical place down in the foothills and the Indian plains. Here the sunsets are stunning- a glowing bathing orange. I walk around and i find the town very small. When i was boy i thought this town was the largest place in the world. I walk around and recognize so many things. Time has brought about change but i can still picture the way the streets, houses, buildings used to be. My old school is now a ware-house of sorts. Yet i see the little children that used to run about the ground kicking a ball.
I go to our old neighborhood and find it like the shire. So small! None of the people who used to live here live here anymore. They have all moved on. Some of them have resettled in other towns and cities. Others have died. I see the old cottage that was our home. It looks very small. I wonder how Memey Sherab and Angay Deki managed to keep us all clothed, fed and educated...and there were a lot of us!
The mango tree that used to give us so many delicious treats looks old and abandoned. The office Memey Sherab worked in looks dilapidated. The betel trees are gone. Everything looks that much more smaller and tinier. But it doesn't make me sad. It makes me see how beautiful our time was when we were growing up here. It makes me see that fact that everything is relative in the end. I thought we lived in a mansion and that's how it felt. I thought Phuentsholing was the biggest town in the world and that's how it felt. I thought the mango tree was a delicious plant that gave us sweet fruits and that's how it was.
I thought i was the happiest kid in the world and that's how i felt. I hope that you too see and feel the beauty and the large-ness of things.The apartment we lived in, the zoos we used to visit, the bathroom you bathed in and the hundred other little things we did together.
If you coiled your little finger or looked at the sky through the eye of a blade of grass; it'd would be big enough to fit and fill in the whole-big-blue sky!
This is my third day (or is it four?) in Phuentsholing. I woke up yesterday morning to see the Dark Side of the Sun and saw thundering torrential rains instead.
I woke up again to see the union of the Yin and the Yang and saw nothing. Maybe that was the eclipse; maybe not.
Anyhow i'm glad that that is over and done with! I consoled myself with the fact that at least i saw the Lunar Eclipse and of course the big one, Haley's Comet. I was a kid then. I'm an adult now and still these celestial happenings arouse us!
It was a good day yesterday. I met up with an old friend. He's stopped smoking. I was impressed with that. Nicotine isn't easy to give up. We talked shop and we talked about the ride they'd made to Bumthang. I'm gonna make sure i'm on those rides from now on. But i've been telling myself that and every time they make a ride, i have to write. Its like what my friend Pale Rider said to me yesterday in an email. "To Brother Who Seldom Rides But Often Writes."
My buddy here is the Cool Rider. We've these names for everybody. Or is he the Crazy Rider? I'm not quite sure...shows i've been sloppy when it comes to the ride! We've a Wind Rider...Whale Rider...Old Rider...i was tagged, literally with the initials on my biking jacket T R...which is Toxic Rider.
Probably has to do with the fact that i've been intoxicated most of my life. Intoxicated with this and intoxicated with that.
Cool Rider shows me the pictures. This is the third (Fourth? Fifth? Sixth? I'm done counting!)ride where i've landed up watching pictures of the rides. The first ride i was there...we took red-feather jackets for little monks on an old monastery atop a steep ridge in Paro. The second ride they went to Haa. I hung around and went Baa. The third ride they went to Zhemgang to pick up a destitute family. There's a little girl the guys wanted to help educate. She wouldn't come without her battered mother (battered by an alcoholic father who's now in jail). The battered mother wouldn't come without her mother! So the guys loaded the whole family in a bus. They now live in Paro with more than a little help from El Presidente...the president of the biking club and other riders such as Pale, Cool, Old and Wind....
I feel left out! The latest ride was to Bumthang. They rode there to a temple where the caretaker is an half-paralyzed lama. They took sacks of rice ( a year's supply says Cool) for the monks in residence.
I looked at the pictures of my biking-buddies carrying those sacks of rice...
Don't judge a book by its cover is an old universal saying. I can certainly say with pride that my buddies are perfect embodiments of that phrase and i'm not even intoxicated!
Until the next rant...Cheers!