A Beginning to an End


Summer arrives with a series of mellow drizzles that gently coax life out of the plateau. Our visitors shiver as they step out of their cars in T-shirts. “What hemisphere are we in!”some joke. Indeed it is colder here, more like the onset of winter in most places than summer. The sheep shiver too, as they pick expertly at green sprouts of grass. But today the sun is shinning. A veil has been lifted and the plateau is revealed like a bride on her wedding day. The puddles ripple in dance, sparkling and twinkling as they flirt with the sun’s rays. Today, anything seems possible.


But for at least one family in the village it is these small hints of renewal that are the most painful. Every flower that blooms, every yak that grazes, every horse that gallops and every pig that grunts, is a painful reminder that life waits for no one. While the world blooms with new life, this family silently dismantles their house, a beginning to an end for the family. Beams and pillars are stacked in neat piles. Bricks are piled at one end of the courtyard, shingles at the other. Friends and neighbors have turned up to help in the careful destruction of a house that has been the family’s home ever since nomads started having houses. It is all that friends can offer to diffuse the sorrow that hangs from every pillar, beam and wall. “How could something like this happen? He must have been possessed.”There are no words to console the family for their terrible loss.


I never knew him personally, but I knew of him, had noticed him around on occasion. One Children’s Day, under the bright skylight in the office, I casually asked my team whose children were getting prizes that day. “Of course Ach Kesang Tso’s grandsons”they answered. Ach Kesang Tso happened to be there, she beamed proudly while continuing to sew a tag onto a scarf.


“The older boy is the smartest in the class, gets the highest mark. The younger one is doing very well too.”I remember glancing at her, beaming shyly, a woman in her fifties who, as all grandmothers do here, raised her two grandsons. That was three years ago. He must have been thirteen then.


But the prodigy had dropped out of school. I still haven’t dared ask what happened, the wound is too raw. Earlier that week, a month after dropping out of school, the boy had sold a yari (baby yak) for a bargain price. Some say it was his father that got angry and others say it was his mother who scolded him. It happened that same evening. They found him kneeled over, head stooped to the ground, the rope pulled tightly around his neck. How could he have hung himself while still on the floor? The more superstitious say he must have been possessed. This was a house of bad omen, a house that would taunt the family with memories of better times, when children’s laughter filled the walls. The house had to go, the omens had to be buried with prayers.


Acha Kesang Tso turned in her resignation, requesting that she not appear for her parting gift, a Norlha scarf.  “She thanks Norlha for her years here. She has sent someone in her stead.”There is silence in the room as the words sink heavily with the family’s grief. Someone clears their throat and the meeting resumes, the weight is defused by new topics. Life goes on, my heart goes out to the family, death is a loss like no other.