It was 2 am. A shard of moonbeam sneaked through the window and shed her light loud on the covers of the bed. I lay awake, quite sure it was the rose moon enticing me to accompany her on this warm night. I accepted her invitation and ambled to the balcony. Greeted by the rosy glow of her perfection and her play on the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna range, she projected a ghostly illuminated silhouette of the mountain, stark and wild against the velvet sky. The peaks and ridges were clearly the stars of the night, dominating the landscape even against the dark canvas. It was a soul-stirring dose of surrealism with the song of crickets thundering the silence. I wanted to capture the haunting image but my phone displayed only the black, refusing to submit to the white gaze. A strike from white chalk on the blackboard could tell the story of tonight.
The outward gaze was crystal clear. But my inward was not.
The shadows enveloped the living and the haunting shape of the mountain remained etched on my psyche. The worries of yesterday came nagging in a mischievous mission to change the colour palette of my crown, scattering generous silver threads ever since we had consciously turned our lives downside up and inside out, akin to how we pretzel ourselves into asanas but this time, not quite certain how to get out of it. I wondered about the lunar hypothesis whilst the streak of worry continue to stir in a cauldron hovered by the watchful beauty of the rose moon. I looked out, quietly wishing for something mystical to encapsulate the enchanting night. Perhaps a swooning werewolf, or the woman in her black crooked hat and broomstick, or ET cycling across the moon. But I found only a sense of heightened emotion. As Luna shifts around her trajectory, I imagine her gravitational force teasing the oceans, lakes and other water bodies in tandem with the soothing sound of gush and gurgle from the cascading of water, flowing from terrace to terrace. As time ticked, it became a trickle, a dribble, a drip, a driblet. A vapour. Like a lullaby, the soothing rhythm gradually calmed down. The worries of yesterday dissolved into a softer mass. And eventually into the diminutive.
Master Oogway’s voice in Kungfu Panda gives sound advice. Played countless times from the hard drive that Little A and G love watching, he advises:
“Your mind is like water my friend, when it is agitated it becomes difficult to see, but if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
G strides out on his morning routine to check on the site conditions after a deluge of rain all night. On his way, he scans that the flow of water is unobstructed along the carved-out channel dug alongside the freshly laid out road which is yet to be completed. The road has yet to be completed, year after year for as long as anyone can remember here. The annual budget for the works has a tendency to evaporate into thin air. G rearranges the loose stones along the edges and reinforces the troubled areas so that the water is directed into streams and paddy terraces, keeping the roads dry. Our first monsoon here had us trudging in perpetual muddy pathways with pools and mudslides, and threatening no signs of a possible civilised road. Some late afternoons, G takes Big A and Little A for a run and while they stop to rest, he examines obsessively that the flow is unhindered. Sometimes, a new outlet is required and he shows the boys how it is done. By allowing the monsoon rain to flow out and down, so will the worries.
The Jumla boys, our construction workers have gone home for the monsoon season to the remote far West of Nepal, leaving the site solemn once again. The wood team are still hard at work, finishing the ceiling of the yoga shala and furnishing the house. The rammed earth walls of the communal building stand stoically in their raw state. With the multiple lockdowns and multiple uncertainties, we are aware that The Project will be delayed for yet another year. Much of the groundwork is left to be done but not until the rain dissipates and the ground settles again.
Ama-of-the-land had the misfortune of coming in contact with Covid19 when she was at the hospital for a checkup but thankfully recovered well. R kept a watchful eye during her stay at the hospital in Pokhara and brought her home when all was cleared. We are relieved to see her back in the swing with her olive green boots and her 2 frisky goats roaming freely around the site, scythe in hand cutting grass and collecting firewood, filling up her woven basket to the brim – a sign of robust health. R continues to source for available materials within a very limited market and handles the logistics relentlessly, all this while with the absence of his wife and young son. Like many affected families, the virus has kept loved ones apart for a very long time. It is ironic that in today’s world, for the love of each other, we have to stay apart.
Little A comes out to play with the other boys after another spell of lockdown is moderated. His spirits soared with excitement when he noticed that the tadpoles had grown their hind legs. The boys dig a hole in the soft ground with their fingers next to the water channel where thousands of tadpoles congregate. They fill up the hole with water from an empty plastic wrapper and scoop the wriggly tadpoles in their palms to relocate them into their little private pool. They watch week after week how fat the tadpoles become. Then a careless motorcycle or a vehicle drives by and empties out their pool. I cannot tell if the boys reciprocate in delight or frustration or in empathy. But they repeat the cycle again the next day, and the next.
Big A has his nose buried in the world of Rick Riordan and Christopher Paolini. Just like the last monsoon, he is contented reading his way through the season, re-reading whatever books we have. He is a caveman in that way. He started off with Neil Gaiman’s version of Norse Mythology and then Riordan’s hilarious take with a contemporary twist on the characters. Big A enjoys humour and laughs himself into stitches. Then he moves on to the chunkier narratives of the Inheritance Cycle by Paolini. It makes the Potter books look a tad slimmer. I am thrilled that his love for reading has taken a rub on Little A who can now read without assistance and with enthusiasm. Sometimes it feels like the more Big A reads, the lengthier he gets. His un-kept hair tickles the upper tip of my ears when we stand side by side, and with him sharing my footwear. He is 10 and I don’t think he has been blessed with my vertically challenged genes or G’s.
In this remote situation where we are, I am gratified for the availability of educational platforms and resources that are available on the world wide web. Khan Academy, CommonLit and Vocabulary.com have been Big A’s daily anchorage, providing the essential building blocks to learn at his own pace and at higher and more accessible levels. The world is a better place with Sal Khan, Michelle Brown and Michael Freedman, founders of these sites whose singular mission is to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere. I take a mental note that there will be a time to pay it forward.
Life has its ways of spicing and peppering the route just for a bit of tango. A glitch here and there for an enriching human experience I suppose. Can’t take ourselves too seriously, can we? Perhaps, an added flavour of younglings to shoulder responsibility for a lifetime, a sprinkling of relatives with awkward communication capabilities, a disfigured stretch of muddy road that gives way when the skies weep and the abominable act of washing when the skies refuse to shed even a drop for months. Time brings novel sensations into the familiar and the normal, breaking habitual comforts and redefining the word ‘normal’ as we know it. A new meaning of the word seeps in and stamps our present lives. We are still living at the lodge with our few belongings that we came with, cooking and eating from our do-it-yourself kitchenette and clinging thankfully to the, albeit erratic power supply, internet for worldly connection. This has been our home for over a year and a half and the boys have accepted that this is home. For now.
Like the clouds, it is part of a cycle that is bound and influenced by a host of other factors. As parents, it is a constant reminder that we readjust and reconfigure ourselves in order to keep growing so that our children can as well. It is not to accept that there is only here and there, but that the world is more subtle and contradictory. We strive to evolve in our ways of being and that requires work and humility.
There was that night when I lost my hold, thinking about the worries of yesterday that had gone disarray and skewed in the face of lockdown. There were many. The worries kept growing into a swell, bubbling and boiling, hot and fiery, just waiting precariously to be spewed out like a violent volcano. And out it did like red molten lava, destructible and raging. And my loved ones watched it, near and far. I went to bed, troubled. The next morning, the birds sang the song of monsoon, the rain stopped and the mist cleared. It revealed the birth of a new sprout in the cracked avocado seed.
As life goes, it has a tendency to take unforeseen turns, often taking the unexpected rider for a joyride. The evolution of The Project, having been through multiple somersaults and back flips finds itself against forces that do not lean to ways we had anticipated. The force of an invisible virus, the force of limitations, and the force of simply not knowing have brought together a vortex of a nauseating ride. And out of this vortex, we are spewed out like tattered bits and thrown back into the ground. And we get up, limb by limb, day by day, picking up the tattered bits and pulling ourselves together again. And slowly, as the sun rises, we begin to understand how to un-pretzel ourselves and overcome the kingdom of limitations by working with it and around it. We strive to move forwards with the flow and with a predisposition to be flexible. Like how a coconut tree would dance in synchronisation with the fierce winds instead of standing rigid and holding its ground against the forces. To mend the cracks, pick up the pieces and put them together in ways that can work within our means and accept that the result of it is from a situation that is larger than us.
Acceptance, letting go and opening into the possibility of being uncomfortable and wrong are huge barriers to overcome but they are part and parcel of balancing the beam and allowing the flow to continue. Perhaps then, will the mist dissipate to reveal clearer days.