Tuesday, 9 September 2014

AN OLD MAN AND HIS YOUNG SOUL

There lives an old man in my neighbourhood. He is 82, his body is frail and his back bent but, his eyes are sharp and there is no hearing impairment. He is one of the few remaining elderly in the village. He is an interesting character that, despite his advance age he is fiercely independent and lives on his own.

Every few days, he will come to our place with his back bent, and on each passing visits I can see it aggravating. We know the reason of his coming. He comes to our place when his thirst for a glass of strong local brews ara forces him out of his house defying the physical frailties. He knows well where to go when thirst overtakes him and ours is one house where he feels assured even though It is customary for almost every households in the east to keep some local brew ara for various reasons.

And each time, he will tell that he came to buy a glass of ara to quench his thirst. It is customary for him to go for the inner fold of his gho and fish out an old Nu 10 note. We would not take it and he too knows it but it is a formality that has been embedded in him.

After few sips, he would begin talking and it is just interesting listening to what he has to say. Having been a cowherd all his life, there is nothing heroics that happened in his life to share but, whatever little he has, he takes pride in sharing as dramatically as he possibly can.

“Khotsa, meme kakter gila na.” (Young man, I was a doughty man once) he keeps telling during his visits. I would then pester him on what made him that stubborn and he has nothing convincing to tell. But, it feels good to see a glint in his eyes when he says that. This is a typical example of the old man living up to our adage which says that even as our bodies age, our emotions don’t.

The old man’s wife died few years ago and so did two of his grown up children but, there is a daughter and another son living nearby. Often the old man use to confide that whenever his son in-law visits him, he opens everything and rummages through the contents much to his dislike.

“I don’t like this and I had to confront him. This act of him and my daughter depriving me to have even a glass of local brew is what I hate the most to live with them,” he keeps saying every time.

He will reason, why he should not drink and indulge in what he likes to, at this age. And perhaps he is right to some extent. What has he got to refrain from this rare indulgence that is available for a man of his age?

Few more sips and the few remnants of his lifetime of herding cattle come to the fore. “I have enough money to buy a good jersey cow. Tell me if there is anyone willing to sell,” he would say. This cannot stop anyone from smiling, listening to him realizing the reality. At his age, he is barely fit enough to look after himself, let alone rear a cattle. He feels offended by our smile and with seriousness creeping into his wrinkled face he would insist that he in fact has enough money hidden from the prying eyes of his two children, enough to buy a good cow.

One day when he said he has some money safely hidden, a local leader and I tried to make him reveal where it was hidden knowing well, he will never confide this top secret of his. And yes, instead of responding to our question, he cleverly diverts the conversation elsewhere. We prod the old man and each time he would change the topic. The old man was known to be a thrifty man all his life, selling whatever there is to be sold and keeping the proceeds safely hidden. It is also a well known fact that, in the aftermath of his wife’s death, whatever the old man saved was taken by his two children for him to possess anything substantial.

Finally, after much prodding, the old man reveals a part of his secret. He said whatever he has are safely secured under a lock and key in one of his many boxes and that the key was buried underground. We tell him, if that is a wise decision because if a thief knows he has the money inside one of the boxes, the boxes can be broken without needing the key.

“Ah yes…yes, this is possible but, I did not realize it. I will have to device another safe keeping plan,” he said with a resigned look. And we all burst into laughter.

And soon after he left, his back bent and his frail legs little wobbly. Any offer to help him reach his home will be rejected saying that, a glass of local brew cannot down him and that in his youth a palang of strong ara (a standard bamboo and wooden wine container) never sufficed to intoxicate him. What he, doesn't realize is that, the equations have long changed and that, a small glass of the local brew is what it takes to have its effect on the old body, but we decide to respect his dispositions to let him walk like a strong man at least to his young soul in the old body.

Keep well until we meet again on the same page.

Gyembo Namgyal
September 10, 2014





10 comments:

  1. Nice article, please keep writing :-)

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    1. Thank you Nidup la. Have a good day. Keep writing too, I enjoy your blog as well.

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  2. "We maybe aged physically but never emotionally"
    yes this is true! a portray of typical medieval life!...

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    1. Yes, you are right. And thanks for reading and for your generous comments as always la. Have a good day.

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  3. At all stand locally brewed aras is the commonest available tea in Bhutanese culture. For Bhutanese times had started with the fact for taking ara all times and its sure this might remain for another few centuries to get out of the culture...His times of herding a cow with ara was the best times i must pronounce la...but now cow herder with mobile phones is in fact over taking la...Nice incidences Gyembo sir...Big thumbs up for the updates and times news la...

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    1. you are right sancha sir, times have changed and the old man in my story is few left of his generation. times have changed for the better but, i find their stories more fascinating than the modern day heroics la. and thanks for never failing to post comments. looking forward to reading another of your story and meanwhile have a good day la.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you Choki sir for reading and for leaving comment. Have a good day la.

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  5. Gyembo Namgyal sir, your story of the octogenarian meme takes me back to my life at Tsebar and Nangkor. A large space in my heart is occupied by cherishing memories of the Abis and Memes of Pemagatshel.I miss them. A few months ago when a meme( father-in-law of Mr. Tashi Tobgay, Deputy Commissioner, Revenue and Custom) of Regi village visited us at our Indian house, I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. He was one of our regular visitors at Tsebar. You must have seen him in the photos hugging my father. It was a great day for me.

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    1. Thank you Chowdhury sir, the abis and memes here remember you and thank you for everything you have done for them. They send their good wishes.

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