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An Egg For A Lifetime Remembrance

Author: Ranabha
Year: Adventure

I have always been a shy child. Timid, cowardly, introverted. So when I ended up with a teaching job in the neighbouring kingdom of Bhutan, I thought I had reached the end of my tether. How would I survive in a foreign land without my Ma when I used to wake her up in the middle of the night to accompany me to the toilet? My ancestral home is a two storied building with twenty six rooms. And the toilet at one corner with the shady trees hanging outside on the opposite walls, frightened me no end. I could imagine all those headless ghosts looking down at me with their bloodied eyes in the chests!

At the time of writing, I feel sorry for my late Ma, who was a very hardworking lady and could never get to bed before midnight. Anyway, the first fortnight in the border town of Gaylekphug didn't pose much of a problem but for the fact that I got stuck in the hotel U-Me due to a severe road block.

I reached my destination, Bumthang, known as the Switzerland of Bhutan, once the block was cleared. I joined my first school of posting, Ura Pilot School, on the thirtieth day in the month of March, 1990. The first six months I spent with a friend in a rented house. But as I am very high-nosed, I decided to move to the house opposite. I informed my partner, Mr. Mukherjee, at the last moment. Though he was shocked, he couldn't stop me.

The whole day my students and I were busy shifting my things to the house opposite. Ura is a heavenly place. The green, grassy field under a pristine sky, separating the two houses, had a sparkling brook running downhill.

It was evening time. My students had left by then. I didn't have to worry about dinner as my new house owner had invited me over to hers.

It was a new, three-storied, one-roofed house with a place for the cattle on the ground floor. As one climbed up the wooden stairs and stepped inside the main door, my room was on the right. There was a stairway on the left leading up to the room where the house owner stayed with her family. There was a small passage in between my room and the stairway that led to the kitchen.

I had a nice time in the kitchen with the house owner and her family. We sat in a semicircle around the bukhari, the family hearth. I really enjoyed the dinner and retired to my room afterwards. I had no knowledge whatsoever about the owner's pretty daughter, Yeshey. I also became aware of the door without any latch after I had retired to my room.

I had stopped being shy, timid and cowardly through my interactions with colleagues and students. But there was still the bear to deal with and the huge dogs that looked no less threatening than the bear!

Worried, I placed the chair with the broken handles against the door, made sure I had the blunt sword (“patang” in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan) under my pillow before going to bed. Soon, I was sound asleep.

It was around 12 that I was awakened by a strange noise of two wooden slabs of window colliding. I ought to have been scared like hell. Unfortunately, I wasn't. I had this feeling that someone was trying to scare me for fun. I made a mistake by switching the bulb on. If someone was really trying to have fun at my expense, he hid behind the bushes growing alongside the brook.

With the blunt sword in my hand and the rubber strip of my hawai chappals held in place with a safety pin, I, feeling like a medieval knight, brandished my sword about out in the open. But for the clear sky and the whistling wind, there was not a soul to be seen!

But the ghost, or whoever was trying to scare me, got very annoyed with my gesture. He simply didn't let me sleep for the rest of the night. Every time I woke up, got out and fought with my imaginary enemy, the person watched me patiently till I got back to my room. He then resumed his act of separating the window slabs with a wooden pole or something from below.

Exhausted, I must have fallen asleep when there was a colliding sound again. I had hardly turned my head towards the window when I saw a white stump, much like a lamb leg, but bigger, trying to enter the room. I forgot myself and plucking the sword from under the pillow, I dashed down to meet my invisible foe. There was no one. The wind could be heard rustling sadly and silently across the pine and willow trees.

All my confusion was dispelled by a friend when he explained to me what exactly had happened during the night. They had a practice (Night Hunting) in that part of the world of young men coming to the houses of the spinsters. The man who was trying to come into my room in fact was the gup of the village - the village head! He used to come to the house for who else but Yeshey, the house owner's beautiful daughter.

As Yeshey had left for the capital, Thimphu, earlier in the day, she couldn't inform him about my shift to that room of rendezvous.

Other than the white stump of the leg, the other thing that will stay etched in my memory will be the egg that I found in a stool near the window. The man was trying to put his leg on the stool for support but a student must have removed it to a corner.

When I tried to hand over the egg, the size of an Ostrich's, my lovely house owner suggested I keep it. And I took it for a lifetime's remembrance.