Sunday, June 27, 2010



y grandpa lay in his death bed, pale as spring rose swaying amid gentle breeze deprived of nutrition. He looked so worn out from the life he has had spent over 84 years, his physical looks would testify my statement- wrinkled faces with whatever little flesh he had thrown into folds of pink tinge, facial bones accentuated into massive protuberance above the lean jaws, grey hairs so messy as though not combed for ages and incessantly he coughed in spurts moving feebly his sight around us assembled to bid him final farewell. He had blue blanket presented to him by my father during his visit to village, covered his torso till his chest. As he swerved a bit, his old bed, perhaps as old as himself crackled with an obnoxious clatter.

‘’ It feels so great to have all of you here at a same time’’, grandpa groaned with a hoarse voice as my father watched him with eyes brimful of tears, ‘’ its 12 years since your mom passed away Dhendup’’, he told my pensive father
‘’ yes, I remember father, since when I was 18 years of age’’, my father responded in his shaky voice filled with agony as he watched me stand aside to him.

‘’ Karma, I want you to pick up that old tape recorder of mine on the shelf, I won it during singing competition held by the district government. It was the time when Pema got really impressed with me…’’.
‘’ your grandmother’’, my father whispered.

‘’ I still remember the night she was seated on a chair watching me sing on the stage. She was the most beautiful lady then, attired in her favorite Kira* and tego**, her sweet glittering eyes whose glare was so mesmerizing. I was sort of hero then with all my heart given to her. Karma, play that audio cassette of my recorded voice sung that night of 1920, it’s beside the tape-recorder. I listen to it everytime rejuvenating my memories of my erstwhile love, my wife who left me alone to shoulder the bitter world, now that am bedridden, I want you to play for me’’, he said pointing to the shelf with his fumbling finger with tears flowing like a brook along the gorges from his weak-sighted eyes. 

‘’ Yes, I will do that’’, I obeyed. Then I shoved the cassette in the recorder and pushed the ‘play’ button. It didn’t take long when we could hear our granddad sing in his powerful and enchanting voice as he took a deep breath of relief listening to it. My father broke out in a burst of tears as he heard his father sing; perhaps he heard the song long before I was ever born.

‘’ I used to collect wild berries from the woods for her. Last week, I went to see that tree but it has dried up, shriveled to that extent that it took me couple of minutes to figure it out, till I remembered the bough Pema used to cling on while I climbed up, it remained all the same’’, he held her photo, black and white torn at the edges close to his heart gazing frequently and crying hard.

On the old shelf were frames with the young photos of him, young and energetic that pretty much looked liked me. Many a times I heard my dad say that I resemble granddad for which I didn’t believe much but now, he truly was like me, same dreamy eyes with that glowing face and notorious smile I have on my face now. The photo lasted for ages all the same conserving his strength though in factuality his strength dwindled and sight weakened.

‘’ It was our happiest day when she gave birth to Dhendup, the symbol of our love that we kept alive all those years. I am weak now, I was also like you Karma, strong and impulsive when I was young, you see that trophy, that one over the table, I got it when I was declared man of the match in a soccer match by the mayor of the district. I can’t even walk now, that’s the bizarre transformation time brings in, my son’’.

I found my eyes tickling at the edges as I listened to him to finally give way to tears. The melodious song was still in the air as though he sang it yesterday and not ages ago.

‘’ Karma, I want you to revere your parents, hurt not others with what hurts you, be good and honest for life is short and we can’t adhere to one we love for eternity. I know you are a good man now, no more a boy. Be rational for wise rule the world. I have to go now, for many times I offended Pema by not reciprocating her everytime she calls me in the middle of the night since she left me. I got to go now. I am complacent you people came to watch me, It isn't an intestate death now’’. 

All of us burst into tears as he, for the last time kissed her photo and closed his eyes to get into never waking slumber.

Karma Thukten
*Dress worn by Bhutanese women woven out of intricate patterns covering their whole body till the toes
** Cloth worn by women over the Kira

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