Anguish in Bliss

Pema was born in a small village of Pakyong. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a stay home mother who nursed her with her nine other siblings. There was never plenty of anything, what her father earned was enough to feed them two meals a day but was not plenty enough to add meat to their diet, it was enough to clothe them but was not plenty enough to add a slipper to their apparel. School and education were luxuries which seemed far off their reach and the brightest future for them was to get married to a farmer with a little land to till and sow.

Though she had been an ambitious lad as a kid, poverty had proven to be a force stronger than gravity to pull her free spirit down to the dust and made her accept the idea that nothing good ever happened to the poor. As she grew, she became better acquainted to poverty and made up her mind that happiness is a property far off the reach of the poor.

When she reached the age of 16, her father got her married to Passang. Passang was a local farmer, educated no more than his wife and no better off than her. They were same in every term but Pema had something that Passang didn’t and that was faith, faith in her Sangaylah, as she called the almighty god. She knew all the menloms by heart and would recite it every morning and every evening without fail. Passang never understood the point in doing it but never said a word against it. Although he didn’t believe in prayer, he never went against it as he feared the results if he disrespected the almighty.

Passang wasn’t an optimist but that day was different, the sky seemed way brighter, birds’ chirping seemed euphoric, the breeze seemed heavenly and the world seemed a lot better. He felt as if the world was apologizing for all the misery that it had placed in his way. And the apology was so that he forgot all the hardship he had ever faced. The smile in his newly born son’s face was enough to melt the iron ball of hatred he had carried in his heart for so long. He was a dad and the feeling of parenthood had raised him from his pile of hate to the seventh sky.

Holding the baby in her arms for the first time, after having carried it for almost nine months in her womb, Pema felt more religious than ever before. She had been thanking her Sangaylah for her little bundle of joy ever since she had learned that she was pregnant. She had thought about that day for a long time, she had already lived that moment many times in her imagination but her feeling of happiness was nothing that she had ever anticipated before. The feeling of her son’s smooth skin against her, the radiant twinkle in his eyes and even the vexatious wailing made her curve her lips and smile.

After a few days in hospital, Pema was discharged and taken home. They named him Chopel. Chopel was an angel masquerading as a kid, he rarely cried and Pema had no trouble feeding him. Chopel was growing up to become a fine lad. Everything was turning well for Passang. The rain was good and hence was the harvest, his son was fit and fine and his family were happy together. Chopel had turned out to be a lucky charm for the whole family.

Many years passed that way, fortune was being kind and everything was going smoothly. Chopel had recently turned three when it happened. It was a day no special than other, the only thing making the news in the quiet village was the arrival of one great Rinponche. As usual, Pema was ready to head towards the monastery to take the blessing from The Great One. This time she decided to take Chopel with her. It would be the first Rinponche that he ever met.

Pema along with Chopel went to the monastery where they were greeted with a long queue to meet the Rinponche. After almost an hour’s wait, they finally got to meet him. The Rinponche was an old man, his grey hair and his fair skin tone made him look heavenly. He looked too divine to be a creature of this world. His words and smile reflected almost an unnatural glow which seemed to light up the whole room. In simple words, the Rinponche seemed to be bathed in the holy glow of God himself.

Pema entered the room and saw the Rinponche seating in his Thi. He was praying with prayer beads in his hands. She bowed her head before him and placed the khadha before him as sign of respect and he gave her his blessings. She then lifted Chopel and asked him to bow his head before him. The Rinponche instead of putting his hand on Chopel’s head as a mark of giving him blessing, he bowed down and touched Chopel’s head with his own. He then asked Pema to hand Chopel to him. Pema did as she was told. The Rinponche took Chopel and kept him in his lap, gently playing with him. Chopel wasn’t bothered by this at all, instead he seemed more calm and relaxed than usual.

The Rinponche then said, “He is a special child, I had a dream last night, he was dressed in senthap and was seated in a thi higher than that of mine. You got to keep him clean. One day his syapchi will come looking for him, on that day you must let him go”.

It took time for the words to sink in but when they did, Pema’s heart shrunk, their little son had to part from them when the day came and she could do nothing to stop that from happening. In a small span of time she remembered every moment she had spent with Chopel, the first time that Chopel had called her amlah, the time Chopel had taken his first step and the time Passang had held Chopel in his arms, the first time she had seen true happiness in Passang’s eyes.

Pema said a short goodbye and left the room with Chopel. Her mind was too occupied to think about anything else. She started her way back home. The woods which normally seemed quiet and tranquil was howling with the blowing wind. Pema was sad, sad that her days with her son were now numbered.

Pema reached home and delivered the news to Passang who had just returned from the field. He was tired after the day’s work but all weariness seemed to have left him when he heard the news. He turned pale. He was happy that such a great Rinponche had chosen his house for his birth but the pain of having to part with his son was greater than the happiness. His son might be a great Rinponche to the world but for him, he was his son, a chip of the old block.

The day finally came when the monks came to see Chopel. They were asked to be seated. After the casual greetings and small talk with Pema and Passang, they put three toys in front of Chopel. They asked him to choose one, Chopel lifted an old top made of wood, the monks gasped with delight and bowed and offered Chopel respect, they said that it was his favourite toy form his previous birth. Pema and Passang meanwhile had been flabbergasted with what had just happened before them, although they already knew that Chopel had to leave one day, there was a small part in their heart which always thought that it was just a mistake. But that day all their doubts were removed and they saw their small innocent child turn into a respected Rinponche in front of their own eyes.

The word spread like wildfire around the village. Everyone from the surroundings started to pour in to get the blessing of the new tiku. The day for Chopel’s first ong in the local monastery was decided and preparations had already started.

Pema and Passang were so busy with the upcoming ong’s preparation that they never got any time to sit down and think properly that it would be the last time that they would be seeing their son as a small innocent kid. Finally the day came and Chopel with that Rinponche who had recognized him gave the ong. The small local monastery was filled with people from far and near and everyone. Chopel was enjoying all the attention and was happy with all the gifts he was receiving.

Pema was standing in the side of the room, looking at her son, her son who a few years ago was just a small part of her, her son whose one smile lit up her whole world, her son who a few days before seemed just an ordinary child to her but today while sitting in the thi with his senthap and the shaved head, seemed like a new person, one who was entirely new and entirely different.

The day slowly started to come to an end and the flow of people thinned. The monastery slowly started to get desterted again. The sun ever so slowly started to hide behind the serene hills. The Rinponche had taken Chopel to another room with his syapchis. Pema was out in the garden looking at the setting sun. Passang saw her outside and came out.

“Come in before you catch a cold”, Passang said.

But she insisted on being outside. Pema then said, “Isn’t it amazing, this universe, the whole world goes through the same routine day by day, the sun which is hiding right now will pop up from the east again and the day shall start again. It shall be the same day for almost everyone but for us it will be different. Our son, the most honored Rinponche, will have to leave for his monastery. He will be heading towards his destiny, towards something that Sangalylah had already planned. The almighty did bless us with his greatest disciple but he didn’t bless this mother’s heart with enough strength to look at her son being taken away. It is destiny that he has to fulfill and all my reasoning says that it is the right thing for him to do but still this heart aches. It is every mother’s dream to nurse her child and raise him with utmost care and love but I don’t know whether I should call myself fortunate for having given birth to a great Rinponche or call myself ill favored that I don’t get to raise to my own child”.

With these words, Pema broke down and Passang held her. Passang wanted to console his wife but he couldn’t find words that could console the aching heart of a mother.

The dawn was just breaking in the east and the morning silence was broken by the roosting cock. Everyone including Chopel and the Rinponche were already up and were getting ready for their journey towards their monastery. Pema felt the morning hours fly by and the time when she had to say goodbye to her son come in a jiffy. One of the syapchis was carrying Chopel. Everyone were ready for the long walk back to the monastery. Pema stood in the doorway and for the last time took the Rinponche’s blessing. Passang too was leaving with them to drop his son in the monastery. Pema reached and held her son for one last time. She held him in her arms and hugged tightly. The stream of tears she had been holding back the whole morning finally gave away. She burst into tears with Chopel still in her arms. Though Chopel was still too young to understand the pain of separation, the tears in his mother’s eyes told that something was wrong.

He reached forward and wiped the tears from his mother’s eyes, he then said, “Amlah, please don’t cry. Rinponchela has told me that I will meet new friends and will have many new toys to play with. He has also promised me that if I study hard he will give me lots of sweets. Wipe your tears, amlah. I will bring sweets for you when I come home, till then please don’t cry.” Hearing these words come out of a child moved everyone.

Pema handed Chopel back to the syapchi and they set off towards the monastery. Pema stood there looking at her son being taken away. She could still hear his laughter in her ears, she still felt the warmth of his skin, and she could almost feel that he was standing there, holding her hand, right beside her. The memories that lived in almost every part of her brain screamed altogether and she found the pain almost too hard to swallow. She tried to console herself saying he was destined to do so and that she should be happy that he was going to fulfill his destiny but a mother’s heart was too stubborn for reasoning. No matter how much she reasoned with herself a flash of her son’s face smiling was enough to shatter all these reasons and roll the silver stream down her eyes again.

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