(Continued from the book "Shadow Around the Lamp"
The night came home again, but this time it was not alone. The anxiety began to dig itself and each drop of rain brought fear. Yangtsho’s father had gone to attend the funeral rites of one of the relatives in the village and he had failed to return even after three days.
“Must be gambling somewhere again,” grumbled Yangtsho but there was a hope that he would be here any moment. The fire in the mud stove blazed unwillingly, while kharang, the maize powder turned from gold to coal.
Yangtsho sat near the stove warming herself without dinner in an expectation that her father would return home any moment now. She went to sleep waiting for him.
Yangtsho have learnt to live life as it came. Her parents had divorced when she was less than five months old and she lived with her mother until she was eleven years of age. Her mother had married again to a village priest who would come home drunk from the houses he would go to perform rites. Even as a child, she would go out to graze cattle and would help her mother look after her baby stepbrother.
Circumstances had matured her faster than the Mother Nature had groomed her by age. As she grew older, her stepfather took to strong dislike in her because she was not his daughter and also that she argued with him often.
One day her stepfather came home from his usual round of reading scriptures and performing rites. As usual he started showing his wild nature again of abusing both the mother and herself and this time, she wouldn’t keep quiet. He picked up burning firewood and hit her on the waist. This infuriated Yangtsho and her mother too. While Yangtsho reached for the sickle hanging on the door, her mother had snatched the burning wood from her stepfather and had started the tussle. Yangtsho burned inside with rage and finally crumbled down near the door feeling scared. Her mother helped her on her feet and patted her to say sorry. There was no display of emotions although both of them felt very strong about it.
With the awakening of the dawn, Yangtsho had decided to go to stay with her father. She bundled a single torn kira her mother had woven for her inside the bamboo basket and started walking out of the door refusing to look back. The creaking door woke her mother who followed her across their maize field. As she reached the chorten below their field, her mother called out “Ausa , wait.”
Yangtsho turned around to see her mother trying to catch a breath. “Where do you think you are going at this hour?” came between the broken voices. Yangtsho caught her lips between her teeth and the explosion of emotions burst into tears.
“Where Apa stays …”, was everything she could say and as she bend down trying to find words, the tears branched in her cheek and most fell on her lips.
The silence spoke for them until her mother pulled the silver bangles from her hand and put it in her hands. “This is everything I can give you,” was everything she said. As her mother told her how to find the way to her father’s house, she poured some ara from the wooden palang . Yangtsho tore a banana leaf and folded it into cup and drank some ara from there.
As Yangtsho took her path, her mother stood watching her go with wet eyes. She waved with one hand while she rubbed the tears with the other until Yangtsho plunged into heart of still darkness. An occasional “ Awuuuuu wu” was exchanged until both heard no more.
It took Yangtsho three days to reach her father’s home. Her small legs took her across beautiful meadows and forests where small children played as they grazed the cattle. At Night she would find a house along the path and ask for a space to sleep. All those people in whose house she slept were related either to her father or to her mother. They ate and talked during the supper and when she left in the morning, they would pack some wine and food to eat on the way.
Yangtsho reached her father’s house late in the evening. A lone cowherd could be heard singing at the top of his voice amidst the jingling of the bells of the cattle returning to the pens. Maybe this is called the music of the life but “will apa recognize me” feeling grazed her mind until she reached her new home now.
Her father was outside the house pouring some used malt from the huge cauldron into the trough of the cattle. He didn’t notice her until he walked back to pour more malt. He came closer to her and asked when she reached. Her father had not forgotten her face although it was two years ago that he saw her at the village temple during the tshechu . He cut some nettle plants and just murmured some words as he pretended to clean her with it. It was believed that the evil spirits who had come alongwith her would go back while doing these. He then took the nettles on the crossroad of paths and left there under a huge rock so that the spirit wouldn’t come out of it.
Soon the young village girls who have gone to collect firewood saw her. They told their parents and others that she has returned to her father now. The relatives came to meet her bringing some gifts like wine, eggs, cheese and some butter. The house seemed suddenly alive. The elders sat on the hides, while some sat on the bare wooden floor. The young girls giggled near the mud stove as the older ones sat talking about the things that were happening in their family. Everyone had a dinner of kharang alongwith some gravy of potatoes. There was some scent of the dry fish too but whoever got it must have been very lucky. It was a treat anyway with the ara getting poured on the phorb everytime and there was enough for everyone.
The crowd finally dispersed and although she had reached her father’s house, her heart burnt thinking about everything that happened with her stepfather and she burnt more that she couldn’t do anything than cry.
The next morning she went to collect firewood with the women folk of her village and returned home before the Sunset to cook dinner and attend to other works. She had finally begun to taste life like any other women of her times.
Six years flew past. There were occasional spray of misunderstanding with her father and her friends but it was a part of the life. Yangtsho’s father often went out to gamble and very many times he wouldn’t come home for nights together. She chided him often but he would never say anything.
One time he had staked his best ox, which he lost. Buying the replacement would cost many days of work in some people’s field but fortunately they had two more.
This night seemed very long a wait for Yangtsho. As she put more wood in the fire, she kept looking out of the window to see if her father was coming and went back to sleep sitting again.
Yangtsho woke up startled in the night to hear a heavy knock on the door. She pulled the latch to see that her father had returned. He stood on the door gazing blankly. There was no sign of any feeling on his face. The strong smell of ara filled the distance between them. “Where had you been?” shouted Yangtsho at him. He looked at her again but no words came from him. Then a moment later he pointed towards her wrist and said, “Give me your bangles”.
Yangtsho waved her head. “No not for the dice, it is my mother’s…”. Her father didn’t want to hear it. The reason was drowned in wine that smelled in his breath. He tried to convince her that he would return it to her but she would never part with it. When he couldn’t assure her anymore, he pulled the patang and planted her to immortality. He stabbed her five times on the stomach.
He carried the bangles and ran to gamble again. Before the warmth in Yangtsho’s eyes died, he had staked everything that was in his name…the house, cattle, land and now also the daughter. When nothing remained and the wine had also finished its effect, he stabbed himself. He couldn’t face himself to the shame of going nowhere, the shame of staking the daughter and the shame of being such a father who couldn’t afford life to an only child.
Soon the rainwater buried him in the maize field that belonged to the friend where he gambled and could never return home. Yet the spirit of his daughter waits to this day for his return.