My daughter’s Microsoft Teams has popped up a topic for a project: Cosmopolitanism. She is as clueless about it as I am about these online classrooms that don’t even have four walls.
I wonder about cosmopolitanism and being thirteen; I remember with a pang that’s the age when you can choose to be cruel or kind.
We chose cruel.
When Sonam joined us in eighth grade, we giggled. The problem was we didn’t stop with that. The greater problem was, Sonam didn’t mind. He enjoyed it, even found us amusing. After we called his skin “chappathi dough” and made monkey noises around him we went for his food.
Sonam’s occasional rotis and sabzis for us in the far South during the 80’s were like the North Indian restaurants our parents rarely took us to and our mothers futilely duplicated. So on roti days we -buzzing around his dabba, ripping off his two rotis, dabbing it in his watery dal, and gladly exchanging our curd rice and idlis for it -spared him. On all the other days we made up for the kindness.
Show and Tell.
Maybe that is where this story should have begun?
Stories are circles of suffering and laughter that mist in and out of our lives; one man’s loss another’s gain.
Show and Tell-I always took my latest writing. Leena fetched her paintings. Arjun got his pup which peed, ate and slept the whole day .Sonam brought polished grey and brown rocks.
Someone yelled, “He is going to eat them”.
Sonam began with the showing. First he placed the flat rocks, and then slowly and steadily created a mound above them by cleverly balancing the large greys on the small browns.
I, always the show off; “That’s a cairn!”
It had the desired effect; everyone, in open admiration, gaped at me.
“Grandfather calls them Ovoo .He created them to offer homage to that which sheltered us: the skies and the mountains. Since we don’t have either I make it for you who have given us sanctuary and refuge.”
No one spoke.
Sonam brought his hands together offering us his deference.
He was not done yet,
“ For grandpa these rocks are also pieces of home with its yaks and the Himalayas” , his hands removed the stones one by one with a special care like the way we wrapped our mud and clay dolls after Navarathri, “ Not for me…”
A new pattern commenced; big rocks to the left and the right, two grey ones atop either and the several tiny ones were rapidly becoming an arc, “because a Tibetan born in India is…”
The brown rocks in the centre stand rootless in midair like, “an exile”, or like
Cosmopolitanism: fluid stories of stones which Tenzin Sonam’s grandfather brought with him creating cairns – one man’s homage; another’s quest for rooms with walls unlike online classrooms that speak of all humans as one family.
Ovoo: or obo or oboo means a magnificent bundle. In Mongolian folk traditions these cairns were created and used as altars or shrines
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