Thursday, December 11, 2003

Continuation… THIMPHU

Curiosity. Everything around us were subjected to intense scrutiny. The need to touch, feel and know about it. An apple tree that grew slanted nestled its upper mass on the roof of our house. Summer had set in. Blossoms were replaced by budding fruits. Climbing on to the roof, Sangay Deki (neighbours daughter) and I savoured the apples. Later that evening both of us got sick… loose motion and giddiness. Curiosity indeed killed the cat.
I grew up in Thimphu, the place I grew to love. Most unforgettable memories are tied up with this small town which grew with each passing year. I was born in Thimphu. I had my operation done at the JDWNR Hospital in Thimphu, I had my schooling till the 12th standard in Thimphu and I had walked the same road to school for almost nine years in Thimphu.
Memories seep in and a kaleidoscope of colours fills my senses.
Kanglung, where I had my degree course took me out of Thimphu. An altogether different world of freedom and indulgence. Life tuned into another beat, friendship became the foremost thing and protected you twenty-four hours a day. Thoughts were vocalised, dreams turned into reality…or maybe reality turned into dreams in this dream world I lived in.
Home was not a distant memory, I missed home terribly, it beckoned and first year of college ended with excitement or returning home.
Disappointment. On reaching Thimphu disappointment gripped me. The same road that I had walked for years looked crowded. Friends became once in a week affair… yes something out of the family affair. Reality struck, I had grown in another place. Thimphu had grown too, without me.
Alienation. I remember that the only thing I talked about was returning back to college. Am I a hypocrite? All those calls I had made saying how much I missed home. Was it just a fa├žade to hide the happiness I found in Kanglung. Was it guilt? Like children sneaking out and devouring chocolate?
I look at it now and I realise that I had wanted the goodness of both worlds. Family and friends. I also realise that I can’t and this is how it is. My younger sister, Tshering Norbu Uden grew up without me, like Thimphu did. Returning back after graduiating from college, I came home with expectation to see Chey chey (we call her by this name at home) a baby whom I could love and spoil. I reached home and found her all grown up, nearly my size. What could I say, frustrated expectation and realisation too. Its not that I can’t love her or spoil her now that see is grown up, but I feel I have missed my part in her childhood. I sound too possessive but that’s how I am. I hate the word ‘compromise’ but I stumble across it every day of my life.
A strange kind of woman...

I get up early at around 6:45 am, shortly after the alarm rings. I have to finish my environment presentation. Take a quick shower and wait for the bus at the stop. The daily routine of all people... catching a bus. The bus comes late... as usual. I take a seat at the back, this is unusual, with Chitra.
Today the spectacle presented to me is different as I always sit in the front look out the window and get lost in the world connected in a chain of colours provided by a never-ending display of shops of varying heights and proportion . Today I see the world in the people hanging on to the poles or the bars that run at the top inside the bus and the numerous black heads with no names in front of me.
A feature of the public bus ...it is always overcrowded. My eyes are fixed at the crowd inside the bus and I notice a woman ...a head rather, over the seated women looking towards us. Ok, looking for an empty seat, I think. I see the crowd parting, making way for the woman as she heads towards the back seat. She squeezes in between me and the man sitting next to me and turning to me says, " move over". Rude, i think and I keep mum as we pass the Koddambakkam brigde. I expected her to sit near Chitra because there was a seat empty beside her. But the man sitting near the window looked rather dishevelled and poor. A labourer, perhaps. The man sitting beside me looks clean, properly dressed and a office-goer. The man who had been sitting alone in front of us leaves and she goes there and sits near the window. Good. I can do without a picky woman who just dropped from heaven. She has a scarf tied around her head and looks like a peacock... not that she is attractive or beautiful. Its just that the colour of the scarf is Peacock green bordered by black, maroon and blue.
The man sitting behind her starts coughing painfully, sneezes and produces repulsive sounds in his throat. The woman gives a disgusted glance and shifts to the inner seat. Chitra and I share an amused smile. The coughing goes on incessantly. Poor woman. She could catch cold. She looks rather upset, angst-ridden and irritated. Fiddles around and as people pour out at the next stop, spots an empty seat ahead and jumps towards it. So much for a bus ride.
The coughing slackens. Miracle or was it some kind of prank, an answer to the disgusted look?
She gets off at the next stop. Good riddiance. A strange woman.

Monday, December 08, 2003

THIMPHU

Spring of 1989.I was rudely awakened by a sharp and tingling slap on my face. The willow leaves indeed struck hard. My father, sister ( karma Chuki) and I were sleeping on the truck head, where the luggage is usually kept. My father had been transferred to Thimphu, and this is my earliest memory of Thimphu. The willow trees were the first ones to greet me.
School was fun. My sisters and me, coming from the South, knew Nepali more than Dzongkna or English. But it was not that difficult, we could communicate with others because our needs were never as complcated as that of grown-ups. Children understand each other... almost everytime. I say 'almost' because I have an incident to share. An incident that I related to my parents and had them laughing. It sound rather stupid now and is a source of embarrassment to me, but it had filled me with happiness just to see people laugh though at my expense.
The incident. In Lungtenzampa Jr high school, we had slides where we used to play during tea breaks and other free time. Now, to make it more interesting we would climb up the slide rather than slide down it. I climbed up and was unable to climb up further, a girl stood at the top, seeing her I reached out my and said 'push'. She did so, and rather hard . I went sliding down, all my efforts wasted. What made my parents laugh was the fact that I had reached out my hand and said push instead of pull.