Saturday, June 6, 2009

The genes in our neighborhood

So there I was, standing still on a strange yet familiar road. A car zoomed by. The driver honked and gave me a quizzical look. I look around and find myself a stranger in a familiar land. I try to remember the landscape I once knew like the back of my hand. Where were my neighbors, my friends? Are they still around?

Then like a face of comfort in a crowd of strangers I see the old familiar house- of stone and wood with ornate carvings, with frescos of Dragons and Jachungs. They wore a weary look. Somehow, the biggest house of my memories now seemed so small. It stood in the shade, sunlight blocked by the towering commercial building by its side. I did not walk towards the old house. Somehow it felt strange. Did I still belong here?
How long have I been away? 10 years?

How things had changed! Tall and cold buildings with streets bustling with human multitudes had now taken root on what was once a quaint neighborhood…my neighborhood.

I had not expected this; I wanted what was so firmly stamped in my memories. I wanted to go back to the past. I wanted to climb the old oak tree which no longer stood there. I wanted to eat the sweets laid out on a blanket by Memay Karchung. I wanted to lay on the soft green grass in the apple grove and gaze at the stars.
Everything had changed. Dark clouds enveloped me. My expectations twisted.

I took a stroll around what was once my playground, now yet another building stood there, along with row upon row of shops- selling everything from fresh vegetables to the latest televisions.

I stood there looking for a familiar face but I saw none. Everything felt odd and impersonal. Isolation accompanied me.
I wonder what had happened. I felt so lonely? Did I really live here? Rolling on the grass and counting stars at night?
Lost in such thoughts my only urge was to flee this place I once called home and belonged.

“Wai tosa. Are you looking for someone? You look kind of lost. Is everything ok?”

I look around to see where the voice is coming from. There, sitting on some steps I see a group of people. They are in engaged in some kind of conversation. There is laughter and inaudible exchanges in the air.
The voice that called out gives me a wave. He then gets up and walks towards me.

I introduce myself and let him know that I have come back after and an interlude of 10 tears. He smiles, offers me a doma and introduces me to his friends. We sit on the steps for a long long time. We sip tea, exchange experiences and indulge in some good old rustic humor.

Then it strikes me. Things may change in the physical world but the Bhutanese people do not. A sense of pride, compassion and confidence is palpable; knowing our past gives us the confidence of venturing into the future.

The echoes of our ancestors, warriors and god-fearing men, resonate in our heads.
And as the sun begins to set, I say goodbye to my new neighbors. We promise to meet up the next day.

I walk back toward the old house. This time there’s a smile on my face. I know the place again and am ready to go back to the Dragon and the Jachung’s embrace.

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