Thursday, September 27, 2012

IRKSOME NEIGHBOR

G ray Toyota-Hilux truck drove along the bumpy farm road that bifurcated from the highway, closely followed by fumes of dust and pitch dark smokes, rumbling with distasteful clatter and halted with an abrupt jerk in our neighborhood. A bald man in his late thirties jostled his way through the truck gazing at the apartment he had rented recently. He wore a sweater tinted with a mosaic of tiny purple flowers and letters that looked more like graffiti than mere adornment, and Blue Jeans that went pretty well with white pair of sneakers. He was followed by a maid and a fair lady, his wife (or sister?) who was constantly throwing tantrums on him. It was much to expect, newly moved in couple quarrelling over petty issues in the neighborhood. They were followed by consignments they had brought along with them, sofa sets, tables carved with exotic woods, finely varnished chairs, TV set and other comfy amenities. That night, boisterous moment amid newly moved in couple nearly woke up half the neighborhood. They were quarrelling: one could hear crashing of bottles, ceramic plates and mugs, loud din and noisy two-way mutter in a dimly lit interior at the moment when people get used to hearing whining and shrill howl of nocturnal wolves and foxes lurking about the premises. “Damn it!” my cousin complained as he changed his sides on the bed, “they have begun too early”, looking at his watch with partially opened eyes and soon began to snore. Fortnight elapsed in Tokhaphuville, newly moved in neighbor kept people at arm’s length not even bothering to exchange greetings. Most of the times the husband would be found with infuriated grimaces, he talked less save for the complaint that the place’s festooned with hell lot of rats, of assorted sizes and colors that found no other jobs than to nibble up his exorbitant articles. His wife kept herself indoors, I wonder if other neighbors saw her for once. Late night quarrels were usual phenomena in their house after they put up in the neighborhood of Tokhaphuville. The neighbors walked office agitated and their inability to sleep the previous night formed the topic of discussion every morning since the novice entered the neighborhood. None knew him to furnish any details if one were asked for except that the couples were irksome and kept on fighting the entire night, making their home a wrestling arena. He mowed his little lawn, painted fence posts with lime and erected a huge signboard at the entrance of the gate that read: YOU ARE ENTERING A RESTRICTED ZONE WE LOVE OUR PRIVACY YOU ARE NOT WELCOME!!! Everyone respected the signboard and none seemed to have the audacity to trespass his premises. We were good the way it was, to be at a safer distance from the weirdoes and, him, from us. He was an intolerable cynic and a sadist!!! It was Saturday evening; the dusk crept at a snail’s pace and the little town of Tokhaphu lay adorned with brilliantly lit lamps with smokes issuing from the chimneys that left faint trails as it rose aloft. Everything seemed perfect that particular moment, when, as usual but this time, little bit violent, the distraught new neighbors quarreled. “I will kill you! There’s limit to tolerance and you surpassed that thin line”, the man yelled “Kill her before we wake up half the neighborhood”, the wife joined in. The dialogue was followed by clanging and breaking of household stuffs, assault and resistance interpolated by brief silence and loud noise that would have awoken even a deaf duffer or perhaps dead. The people assembled under colossal oak tree with faintly lit lanterns whispering and muttering about the commotion in the neighbor’s house. Someone from the crowd suggested, “Let’s call the cops before we witness cold-blooded murder in our vicinity”, and began to punch 112 when an elderly man interrupted, “it’s no use calling the cops, by the time cops arrive, he and his wife would have murdered the maid, it’s an open and precarious conspiracy of murder we are dealing with. Let’s break in their house and save the maid”. “What is this man? Is he on parole? For how long are we to face this sorta predicament?” someone muttered wrathfully. The crowd, more like a mob stampeded toward the “No Entry” zone, flung the gate wide open and entered in like pack of horses galloping to a finish line in a race. Inside the house, commotion and quarrels seemed to have unabated. Glasses broke, TV crashed on the floor, tables and chair dislodged and loud bang of someone’s head being battered by a club was heard. “I will get you, bitch. Just wait and see. Let me get a rock to crush your damn head”, the man inside yelled and pushed the door open to fetch a sizable rock to crush the maid’s head. As the man heaved the rock and tried entering inside, the crowd caught him by the arms entreating, “Please, simmer down. You are unto a heinous crime that would lead you nowhere than behind the bars. Let’s sit down and talk”. “What the hell are you talking about?” the man asked quizzically baffled by the crowd outside his porch standing like deserted animals seeking shelter from the downpour under thatched roof of a ramshackle hut. “Why are you so pissed off anyway?” the elderly man asked as he placed his hand on his shoulder to pacify him. “I have spent sleepless nights by her notoriety. By virtue of her, half the neighborhood lay awake as I heard them speak behind me. I have had enough and I am gonna smash her head and dance upon her corpse”, the man retorted maliciously. “You don’t wanna be committing the crime. Take pity on the maid and spare her valuable life and you save yourself from redemption. Isn’t it even?” the crowd protested. “Maid? What the heck are you talking about? Let me go or she evades, hold me not for I got to do this work at any cost”. But the crowd clung to him firmly advising him not to do anything he was upto… “Leave me for this is the perfect opportunity I was waiting for since I moved in here. She will escape…she will”, he writhed trying hard to get out from the hold of the crowd when suddenly, a fat rat leapt out of the door followed by his wife with a broom stick, “There she goes…” the man muttered resentfully. Karma Thukten 27th of September,2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

LATE NIGHT VISITOR

I drew the shades of my 2 feet window apart trying to lend my ears to the patter of rain that was playing pleasant tunes in my ear one wintry night. Thick droplets of rain were battering the ground, excavating lumps of loosely embedded earth out. Attired in my night gown, I placed my coffee cup on the window sill to let drown few rain drops that struck my window pane. It was murky outside with the stars and heavenly bodies snoozing in the veil of the night. I think it was 9 pm when my cell phone rang with the song of MJ set as my ringtone. I picked up my phone… ‘’Hello?” “ Oi, Chenga here. How are you? In Bumthang, right?” “ Oi, how did you remember me? Yea, I am in Bumthang and am good. What about you?” “I am good too. I am planning a trip to Mongar so thought like, I could halt at your place, enroute. It’s been long since we last met. Together we can hit the bar and spend some time there. What do you say?” “Splendid! When are you coming? I stay near Bhutan Telecom colony, you can call me when you get here” I responded excited by the thought of finally having a real friend with me and going to the bar, grabbing frozen beers and drinking into oblivion. He told me he would come the next day with his uncle driving the car. The same uncle who hitched me ride home in his red car, BP-2-2222 printed in bold on its number plate. Yawning with want of sleep, I curled myself up in my woolen blanket and I slept off. I woke up early in the morning, drew the curtains apart and looked outside,it was snowing: white flakes of snow fell from above like fluffy cottons ubiquitously heaping on barren land and atop verdant shrubs that grew rampantly all around. The day went on with me lazing about in the room for it was Saturday and office was off. I was waiting for my friend who would have started off in the morning and would halt in Trongsa. I feared the snow accumulated along Yotongla pass would deter traffic movement the other day when he was expected to be here, with me to paint the day with joyful smiles. Much coveted Sunday came too slow. The day was looking majestic; the snow shone bright giving off dazzling reflections to pedestrians who paced to and fro plodding in thick snow wearing knee heighted welling tons and clad in warm clothes.. The day crept unnoticed and it was noon, my alter ego showed no sign of arrival. I tried calling but couldn’t connect for he must have been in a network scanty area. The dusk came, gulfing exquisite town of Bumthang and soon it was dark. I dozed off several times waiting…waiting…seated motionless on the chair. Giving up my hope of seeing my friend, I dined and headed for the bed groping in the dark for the erratic electricity had gone off. I think it was 11 at night when I heard engine of a car rumbling in the courtyard, halted with a jerk, door slammed shut and footsteps approached near the threshold. I was keenly listening to the footsteps. The man stopped near the door, paused for a minute and then rang the door bell. I stood near the door with a candle dimly lit, “Who is it?” I asked in a rigid tone to sound brave when I was actually trembling through my bones. There wasn’t any response for wee seconds and then heard him say “Karma, open the door. It’s Chenga”. I opened the door with a relief “Thank god! It’s you. I thought it was some ghosts lurking around my house. Where is your uncle?” “He stayed in his brothers’ place in the market. I drove the car here. He wants me to pick him up tomorrow morning”, he said whisking off snowflakes that got on his jacket. “How come? You told me that you didn’t know how to drive. One may not have learnt to drive in a single day”. I asked glaring at him “I lied to you. I know how to drive, come and let’s talk on the bed, I am dead exhausted”, he said walking to my bedroom. “What about the supper? Sure, you would be ravenous and tired by virtue of the journey”. “No, we had dinner on the way. I am full. I got to catch some sleep, would you mind?” he responded getting on the bed. It was chilly even aboard so sleeping sounded great thing that moment. He turned aside trying to sleep when I felt like talking to him for we had met after a long time. “Come-on Chenga, tell me how your journey was or else tell me a tale”, I pleaded. “I think the latter sounds tempting. Let me tell you a tale, a true incident that happened a year ago”, he continued, “It was during the fall when a friend of a man died when his car skidded down the road. The ghost of that man visited his friend at night who was unaware of the mishap. They conversed the whole night and slept. Early morning when his friend awoke, the visitor was nowhere, thinking he had gone to toilet, he checked but found the door latched. He searched the whole house but found no trace of his friend, the door was bolted so he didn’t definitely go out. It was until next morning he was wary of his friends’ demise. The man died of shock the following day”. “Why do you sound like you are narrating the tale of you being dead and visiting me like the person in the tale?” I joked to pretend I was not at all afraid after his scary story which really ate my innards. “You and your craps. Let me sleep now and get yourself some sleep”, he bid me good night and slept. I was feeling drowsy that night like never before so I deemed sleeping the best thing to do. I rolled myself up adhering close to him for warmth but found that his torso was dead cold, may be the chilly weather bit him hard. As usual, I woke up the other morning by the crow of my neighbors’ cock. I wiped my eyes clean, stretched for sometime and as the thought of waking my friend came, I found my friend missing. He must have woken up early so as to pick up his uncle, I thought. I rose up to check the door but found it firmly bolted from inside just the way I left the other night. Shocked, I drew the curtains to peek outside to see if his car still lay in the courtyard but found it absent as well. Finding it hard to believe I sat on the chair marveling, when my eyes fell on Saturdays’ Newspaper: On the front page was the photo of what was left of a wrecked red car, with the heading “Car topples off the road near Dochula, killing all four aboard”…I pushed the paper aside and as I stood up to leave, my glance fell on the Number plate of the wrecked car…BP-2-2222 Karma Thukten 4th of September, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

VISIT OF APPARITION AFTER A YEAR OF GRANNY’S DEMISE

It was a weary climb uphill to my hamlet. The path led through scrubs of thorny boughs overhanging undulating route that abutted against barley field on both sides with copiously grown red crowns nearing harvest. The scorching sun tanned me brick red as I walked staggering forth perspiring all the while, when I heard an abrupt commotion in the field. I could hear women wailing and chanting of Mantra that swept through barleys right to me. Having my inquisition tickled and to unearth the bizarre situation, I swerved through the barbed wire fence fighting my way through barleys impeding my way and straight ahead headed for the source of commotion. I descended down a bit taking a detour around a stupa sending curls of colloidal smokes that faded beyond the horizon. From a distance of score meters or so I could see group of folks stampeding toward the scene and some flocked around a woman, trying to allay her pain who lay there whimpering and wriggling like an earthworm in a scorching sunlight. I jostled my way through, flicking my dark hair behind my ear and zeroing my sight on the poor lady dusted by the earth she rolled upon. Oh! Isn’t she my mother? Her countenance, she looks like her, yes! She was my mother. My father had slipped his fumbling arms around her neck gently stroking her gazing at the crowd and to my mother out of confusion. Brox, our dog was sitting on his haunches, barking in the void facing away from the crowd. They were guarding the field in a temporarily constructed shed. Terrified, I squatted near my parents gasping air hard, “what happened to her, dad”, I asked my weepy father, stiff wrinkles on his forehead faltering as he breathed hard drawing air that rumbled through his nose. “I think spirit has gotten inside her, it will be fine. We have summoned saint from the monastery, he would be on his way”. My mother moaned, and giving us all a surprise glance she asked, “ Could I get a cup of tea, please? I am really thirsty for I haven’t drunken a sip of it in ages, please, please”, she pleaded now and then. My father drew thermos flask from the basket, took out a cup from his *hemchu, wiped it clean with his sleeves and poured tea in it and offered to her who gulped hungrily through her gullet. I think she took four. Then, she began, “I feel immensely solaced to be finally at home and having my thirst quenched, it makes me euphoric. Where are my children? I want to meet and hug them; it’s been almost a year since I last saw them”. The boisterous crowds were whispering, “it’s the spirit of my grandma who succumbed to prolonged ailment of malignant gastric cancer at Thimphu JDWNR Hospital in 2008”. My father’s calloused palm clutched my mom as she (the spirit) spoke, “I detest the supervisor who lets us toil hard. In the morning he takes us atop to three-peaked mountains ( Ri sum tse ) and makes us descend down to the confluence of three rivers (Chu sum Dhue) in the evening. The iron boot we are provided with wears off in a single day. Neither are we bestowed with food nor with a drop of water. The wife of my son maltreats my daughter Ngawang who I left with them after my demise. I saw her beat and push my daughter with unbearable tantrums that could deafen ones’ ear. When I stood infront of your door, you all ignored my presence and did not respond to me when all I wanted to know was to assure you all were happy”. My grand ma’s sister who was amongst the crowd asked my mom (the spirit), “Do you meet our brother in law, your husband in the world you live in?” My grandma’s husband died a year in his senile age before my granny passed away. “No, he was a pious man while on earth. He must have been born somewhere unlike us who by virtue of sin commission is left astray to find our own route suffering all the while. Ask them to come here, my friends are watching me”, my granny pleaded pointing her index finger, to the utter amazement of the crowd who stood quizzically puzzled. I learnt that our deity who resides in everyone’s house do not allow alien spirits beyond the threshold of the house where they didn’t belong, that’s why the other spirits were standing outside in a spot where my granny was pointing her index finger . “ I know I am dead and with the weight of sin clung on to me, I cannot find my way out than to undergo atonement. While on earth, you have to earn good merits, help those destitute vagrants who extend their arms on streets, love animals and all sentient beings. Life is but one big test, a test to check your honesty, altruism, philanthropy and the good in you. I have to go now, take good care of my children”. Soon as she finished saying it, my mom gave a shriek of pain, muted for half a minute and resurrected into herself. Glaring at the crowd bearing shocking visage, she was like, “why are you looking at me? Has anything happened to me?” she rose up, wiped clean the dust from her dress by few gentle taps and headed home like a small kid, without even looking back for once. This is a true story narrated to me by my fiancĂ© who after repeated petition decided to get rid of my pestering queries by telling me those tales. To preserve the veracity of the tale, I have written the story putting myself in her boot. The story changed my life; I know now what is there in those worlds after one passes away. If you hear faint chime of bells emanating out of my house and alight quaint monkish attire I wear, don’t get surprised...I have gotten into praying…. Karma Thukten 3rd of September, 2012