January 19, 2009

Home and her Charms

Home! Ahhhh (sigh)…….how the word home brings to me the smell of burnt leaves, and smoke and the feel of dirt in the fingernails. Yes… the dirt is dirt no more. It is a part of home. The oven fires produce smoke, but the smoke is smoke no more. It is a part of home.

I’ve just spent the past twenty days at my village, and the moments are still embedded in me. I slept with the taste of fried ara on my lips and woke up to the smell of firewood burning in the kitchen. I washed my hands in the clear-cold spring water, not taps. I strolled after the cows, their bells ringing in unison, and I learned how to crack walnuts using a patang. I used sharply pointed porcupine-quills to dig out the flesh from the walnuts. I drank butter-fried ara with milk. And I loved it all.

I watched my nephew Nima Tshering play with ‘tiger’ the striped-mongrel and ‘buddy’ the cute apsoo-cur. I saw him being lifted off the ground by tiger. I chased ‘lemo’ the black house-cat when she snatched my sikam-paa during ngan-pa dinner. I taught brother Samten and Apa to play marriage, and we played… sometimes till the wee hours of the morning. Then the morning ritual would include blowing the nose to clear the soot got from the kerosene sati. Apa always won in yam but I learned some of the choicest poetry to be chanted during the roll. Like:

“Gumchu Soenam Dema”
“Khapti Kota Bikhar Sangay”
“Surti Khao Botey La”

I also learned that every word used and each line expressed had a history.

My eldest brother who works in Thimphu had come to visit after a gap of seven years. His entourage included his wife and their three kids. They stayed for a week, and when they left I saw Apa cry for the first time. Ama is always the one to cry when we leave home for our own respective stations and Apa is usually the stronger one.

But when Ata Cheki left, Apa cried. I can still see the tears in his eyes. Ata Cheki was very very sad too.

This time also Apa tried to dig out about my love life. But as always I evaded his queries and said nothing. He is of the notion that I already have someone. He doesn’t try to understand me. Luckily he didn’t breach the subject of arranging my marriage with the daughter of his best friend.

I also went to the forest to help brother Samten in cutting logs. I used a chain-saw for the first time (they call it por-chain), and I nearly sawed off my left foot. The smell of freshly cut logs and the roaring of the por-chain… this will remain with me for a long time.

I was included in Apa’s local archery team during the ngan-pa. During the practice runs they classified me in the ‘C’ category. Out of the eight members, seven were in the ‘A’ category. At every round, some considerable time had to be spent in searching for my arrows. Soon brother Samten started complaining (in good humour) that his luck was being wiped out while searching for my arrows. Needless to say, I lost two pieces from different pairs. But I also hit a karey. That moved me to the ‘B’ category.

Right after the ngan-pa I had to leave home. I moved back to my present station…
[An archer lets go of the bamboo arrow. Archery is the national game of Bhutan]

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