A weather-beaten wrinkled face that I knew like the back of my hand floated among the mass. Grayish-white hair and beard as long as that of a dwarf, it wasn’t just familiar. I knew it. The tshechu in all its splendid colours and music made it only more familiar.
It was a rendezvous with Déjà vu. The old man’s eyes kept following me through the crowd, weaving its way among the people. It never left me. I could see him watch me. It was like watching my life on television, although there was no disconnection between the physical me on the tube and the spiritual me watching what was happening. The emotions were one. And in an instant it dawned on me. “Meme!’ I cried out.
“I thought you’d never recognise me,” he said. His compassionate eyes were as wise as ever.
“I did,” I said but didn’t quite know how to explain that the one looking at the scene recognised him but not the one at the festival. “You should have come forward and talked to me.”
A distant sound of someone blowing a conch tore his gaze from me. I followed it and saw a monk on the steps of Zangtopelri blowing the creamish white shell. The serene blue sky gave way to dusk. The temple stood as if floating amid the green grass and the blue sky. “It is now time for me to leave,” said Meme, gazing at the temple with such serene face…it brings peace to my mind even now.
I don’t remember what I said. Maybe it was the calm elements of nature that brought peace to my heart and which stopped me from stopping him. I don’t recall Meme walking away from me. But I know he went to a place of peace and calm. A place where colours were soothing like the dull sun warming up your back on a lazy afternoon.
I woke up that morning feeling peace as I have never known before. I remember sharing this blissful dream with my parents when I was home from college for winter break. My father had said, “Meme must have got his place in Zangtopelri.”
“He really must be in heaven for I have stopped dreaming about him, which I usually do when it’s time to perform his annual funeral rites,” Ama added.
My grandfather passed away in the winter of 1995. I remember the look on ama’s face when I came home from my winter vacation. When she came out to help me with my luggage I excitedly started chatting but one look at her face and I knew something was wrong.
There were tents outside and, inside, our home was packed with relatives, friends and monks performing rites and rituals.
I don’t remember being sad. I don’t know why. Meme had passed away while I was traveling back home from almost a month’s stay at my maternal aunt’s home in Deothang.
Meme was bedridden for years after suffering from a stroke and getting partially paralysed. He had a rugged handsome face with long flowing white beard. He always wore a faded brown gho up to his ankle, like a gomchen.
I don’t regret not grieving his death, because I know he was a good man and that death was not the end. I remember him often- remember the tales of yeti encounters that he spoke of, of fireballs chasing him, and of his sword and his travels along the rugged terrains of eastern and western Bhutan.
My only regret is not being at his death bed. Ama said he remembered me before he passed away. I’ll always remember him too.