When he awoke, he was back at Cho Tabla, bundled in warm blankets on the platform near the window.
"I told you not to go!" scolded Dorje Drelhu, the monkey man, hopping from one foot to another. "Lucky I was watching!"
"What ... What.... ?
"You would have drowned!" the other squinted and sniffed. "Lucky I saved you! You should thank me for saving you, Chamba!"
"Thank you, " said Chamba.
"No need for thanks," laughed Drelhu, hopping from foot to foot.
"Ha Ha Hahahah!
Dolma carefully crossed the bridge going towards the gompa. She held firmly onto the bundle in her arms, which was strapped to her body in a large sling made of a shawl. once across the river, she stopped to inspect the baby within. She made small noises to it, and it answered with small growls. Dolma laughed at this.
"No, no! Baby noises. Baby noises!"
She continued towards the house where Chamba was speaking with Dorje Drelhu, working her way upon the path between the rocks.
"It worked!" said the boy Chamba. "It went very high!"
"Very good," said the kitemaker, smiling.
"Khatvanga-ji, you are as wise as any guru," said the boy.
" I would not say that," said the white-bearded man, pleased at the boy's delight.
"You are a guru! A guru to me ......
"Ha Ha Hahahah!" laughed the old man.
The boy joined his palms and bowed to his friend.
That was how it was. The old man and the young boy became good friends. It was beyond kites and beyond favors. They both recognized something valuable and precious to them in the other. It became one of the greatest friendships in ancient Nepal.
When Dolma came to the door she said, "I wish to speak to Chamba."
Dorje Drelhu was surprised by her presence, hopped from foot to foot and gestured her into the room, quickly leaving to find the lama. He did not like the looks of things. Some
thing was wrong. Who was this woman? How had she come through the ravine? She looked familiar and she knew Chamba was here.
She looked familiar, yet .....
Life is not easy for most people. Tragedies are a matter of course if one lives long enough. For the boy Chamba, he did not have to live very long before this became evident.
First, his mother died. His father took it very poorly. Chamba was at a loss for a way to deal with the turmoil his life had been plunged into. The loss of his mother was something inconceivable to him. "She shall be reborn ... like us all."
"Shall I see her again?" "You probably would not know her... "But then-then..." "Treat all beings as if they were your mother.. "But...!" Sri Khatvanga had a difficult time speaking of these things to the boy. The boy's sorrow penetrated his own body and he made it his own. The kites did not look very colorful to him. They were toys. What good were toys in the face of Chamba's sorrow? Everyone's, sooner or later, sorrow? They were bits of colored paper, only colored paper. He thought about this and remembered Chamba running away in tears.
"My father," the boy had sobbed. "He will explain."
But his father did not explain. His father was angry at the mention of his mother.
"She is dead! Do not remind me..." And Chamba realized that his father had been drinking. He was stunned to see him stagger, to smell his odor, to hear his slurred speech. "You remind me...You!" And his father struck him across the face, knocking him down. He ran from the house and walked the dark streets all night. The next morning his father was not at home. He did not see him for many weeks.
"Stay with me," said Sri Khatvanga.
"You can live with me. "
"Will you teach me...?" asked the boy.
Sri Khatvanga raised an eyebrow. "I don't know much... kitemaking...."
Chamba laughed. "Oh yes you do! You are a guru...and I will be your student ... please?"
"You'll be my apprentice..." started the white-bearded man.
"And you'll teach me to make miracles, also?"
"To make things fly?" squeaked the child.
"Ah cha!" said Khatvanga. "of course! why not!"
"And," said Chamba, hopping from one foot to another, secrets?"
"Secrets?" puzzled the kitemaker.
"Any secrets which you know... !" the agitated child exclaimed.
The old man smiled, trying to comfort the boy. "if... if...I have any secrets," he said, "you will have them all!"
"Oh good," Chamba said.
The old man pursed his lips and stroked his beard. "But you will have to study hard, and dig them out for yourself, from gestures, from tones of my voice and other such esoteric manner of transmissions!"
"Oh," said Chamba, "that sounds hard! How can I do that? And what is trans ... smi ... shion?"
"Ha ha hahahah," laughed the white hairs between his eyes. "That is what makes it a secret! "
The boy was solemn. "But please ... How can I, a boy, do such a thing?"
Sri Khatvanga relaxed a moment and saw the boy's seriousness. "Ah, poor Chamba ... forget the idea of secret teachings...."
"No! No!" the boy cried. "If you will not teach me, V-11 seek another guru and live with him!"
This startled Sri Khatvanga. Chamba at the mercy of some of the knaves and degenerates in this valley! He answered, "Be still! Sit quietly! I will be your guru."
"But how shall I ... listen and watch...your voice? your gestures?"
"It is simple," Sri Khatvanga looked stern, covering a smile. "You must listen with your eyes. You should smell the knowledge. But most of all, you should see it! And then most of all...."
"But that makes two 'most of all's ....
"Ah cha!" said the white-bearded man. "Most of all
comes twice! Any good 'most of all' comes twice"
"And Guru-ji .... ?" asked Chamba, his eyes wide open, questioning and listening.
"Ahem. Most of all," continued the mock-solemn kitemaker, now turned guru, "You should just do it!"
The boy frowned. "Guru-ji, I do not understand."
"I promise you, Chamba. If someday you recall this conversation at all, you will understand completely!"
"Oh thank you, Guru-ji! Thank you!" bubbled the boy Chamba, his eyes glistening and reflecting a pair of white-bearded images of his friend and teacher. These were circled in blue.
Chamba's father had not seen the boy for some time. He was not aware of the time-lapse, nor did he care. His drinking affected everything. Eventually, it cost him his life. First it caused him to fall from scaffolding upon which he stood, unsteadily, attempting to do some work building a house.
"Pass me those clay bricks!" he was ordered. When he tried, he lost his balance and fell. It was not far, but disastrous enough in any case, for the pile of bricks fell, scattering about him and upon him. Most had missed, or he would have been dead. Enough struck to do damage to him, breaking his arms and one leg. It was amazing that he survived.
Chamba knew none of this, and had not seen his father for some time, or thought of him except in fear in some time. Going through the bazaar one day on an errand for Sri Khatvanga, a crippled beggar was in his path. He side-stepped, but suddenly the man howled at him, "Chamba!" and reached out to grab him in a hawklike grip.
The boy cried out in fear and pulled away, freeing himself. The beggar glared at him but made no further move.
"Who are you?" asked the frightened boy, staring down at the man sitting on the ground. "What do you want with me?"
Red eyes squinted, and the twisted, badly-healed arms waved at him like some broken puppet. "Chamba..." he smiled, grimacing,, "I am your father!"
Chamba stared at him. "That is a lie!"
The other sniveled and wiped his nose, pinched his nostrils with an index finger and thumb, then blew out vigorously onto the ground near him. "It is true. I am... and you..."
"A lie!" shouted Chamba, running away, but hearing the parting words called after him.
"Help me! I am your father ......
Sri Khatvanga noticed that something was troubling the young boy, but he said nothing, watching. Chamba was quieter than usual. He did not seem as young or childlike as he had a few hours before.
"Chamba," the white-bearded guru said, at last speaking.
"Are you ill?" A look of concern filled his eyes.
"No, Guru-ji," Chamba answered without looking at the old man. "I am...fine."
"Ah cha," the other said softly, pausing and then not speaking again.
Chamba looked at the strings, the colored triangles on the squares of kites. An upward-pointing blue, a downward-pointing red. Sometimes red pointed left and white pointed right. The forms ran deeper and deeper into him, entering through his eyes.
Finally he said, with eyes full of tears, warping the triangles of colors, "Great Guru-ji!"
The other was startled over his glue pots and bits of paper. "Eh?"
"Maha Guru-ji," Chamba continued, "I must leave you."
"Oh," said the other, his eyes twinkling, relieved that Chamba's tension was breaking. "You may go play a while..."
"No," said Chamba. "I mean ... I must leave you forever!"
"Oh..hh..hh... " exhaled the white-haired guru, feeling his life slipping out with the air. "What do you ... mean?"
"My father!" answered Chamba, standing in front of his old friend. "I found him. He is crippled..." Tears began to roll down the boy's face, and sobs to rack his breathing. "I ... uh ... huh! ... must...hu...huh! ... go ... hu ... hu... 1 and help ... hu hu hu! him! He is now Hu ... hu..! Huhuhuh! ... a beggar... I must go and..."
And with that, Chamba left the kite-maker.
The old man sat there motionless for a long time, feeling as if he were growing older by centuries instead of moments. "Ahhhh, Cham ... ba!" he finally said, folding his hands in his lap and unashamedly crying, tears falling down from his bowed head.
Hu ... Hu ... huhuhuh!
Hu ... Hu...huhuhuh!
The teardrops fell upon the colored bits of paper. They changed, with pale centers that blurred into ripples of variations of their original colors. They changed and blurred, with overlapping ripples, weakening the paper, weakening it with the wetness to the point of tearing.
Chamba could not find his father that day. But he did not give up. And he did not return to the kitemaker's shop.
"He is somewhere," he thought. "He cannot go far...I must..."
But he did not find him that day.
"How long has Dolma been dead?"
"Dharma Dorje said," said Drelhu, "you should consider her alive... and dangerous."
"I know that," he said, looking at the monkey-man, "but I am talking about. . . "
"The other Dolma?" asked Drelhu carefully, squinting and wrinkling his nose, wiping his nose.
"Ahhh ... yes," he said, staring at the blue sky shown in the window.
"She..." began Drelhu, wondering is he should have separated the idea of Dolma into two women or not, "died many years ago. "
"When!" insisted the other, a cloud appearing in the window corner.
"One hundred," started Drelhu, "two hundred ... perhaps ...
"Years? Two hundred years .... ?"
"Perhaps," continued Drelhu, "three hundred...."
"Three hundred years? Three hundred years ago?" "Perhaps," said the other, shifting from foot to foot. "That's ridiculous!" And he broke out laughing. Drelhu was relieved. "Yes, ridiculous, Ha ha ha!" They both laughed. Ha Ha hahahah!
The boy Chamba finally found his father. He was dead.
He had been alive a few moments before. Chamba had heard his drunken voice shouting near the shrine down by the river. There were many voices raised in exclamation and horror, and then silence. Chamba came upon the scene in time to recognize the features of the dead man before they took away the body.
Chamba said nothing, standing as still as a stone statue decorating the stairs of the shrine of Shiva. Someone came with ceramic pots of water and splashed them on the wall and the stones to wash away the blood.
Others questioned, but Chamba remained silent.
"What happened? That beggar... ?
"The drunken madman started to attack the sacred bull ... the holy protected bull of Shiva!"
Silent eyes of Chamba. He did not hear, he smelled.
"Did the bull gore him?"
"No," said the voices, leaving him, "it merely.... leaned on him. It pressed its weight on him... against the wall. . . "
"Ah...Ah cha!" shaking their heads and walking away.
Chamba saw the huge black bull, chewing quietly, standing a few yards away, moisture collecting in its mouth and beginning to dribble out, swinging in the air like some white honey tendril. Its dark side was wet, but the color was all black. No red. No browns. Just black. It was beginning to cake in dryness, yet ...
"Shiva's bull," muttered Chamba, angrily. "Why could you not wait? I was coming... I was ... could have stopped this..."
The bull's eyes glanced towards him, dark and indifferent.
" ... death ... " Chamba finished.
As he and Melody were walking down the streets of Khatmandu, he kept watching the people with fascination He liked to look at them.
"Look out for that jeep!" warned Melody, holding tightly onto his elbow. They also were careful about splashes from the passing wheels.
"They all look familiar," he thought. "Especially the women...."
He did not tell Melody any of these thoughts, for he knew she would laugh. Or that she would ascribe it to their newly heavily reactivated sex life. She would jokingly accuse him of having a wandering interest in alternative sex objects. Perhaps she would be right in saying that. He did not know. He also did not know the effect that the city and its hundreds of images was having upon her. She felt it, but did not know its source. She dealt with it by going to bed for love-making more often. It had slightly surprised him, for in Srinagar it had been getting more and more infrequent.
It was not an interest in women as sexual objects. He knew that. But yet it had something to do with that .... What was it, then?
He thought he knew them. He thought he could recognize them, if he made a little effort. No, how could he? They were complete strangers, completely unknown to him. But the feeling persisted as he moved in their streets. He had known them, somewhere. And it was not only the pretty ones in green saris leaving school, walking home together in giggling groups, it also included the wrinkled prunes, samples, vegetable sellers in the market, offering him yellow squashes, drooling from toothless mouths. What was this feeling? What was it?
How could he have known them? And how could he have known them all?
Right step, left step, down the street. Looking to the right and looking to the left. All these people, all these women!
"What does Sri Khatvanga want?"
Teacher to student .... Student to teacher ... to student To teacher...to student... Until death interferes.
Melody smiled softly to herself.
"What are you smiling about?" he asked.
She looked up.
"You'll never know."
It was spoken softly, but struck him like a blow. He did not speak and hoped that she had not noticed his response. He had felt that it was a close call. She had narrowly missed. He felt that she had almost taken his life.
He never spoke of it
The thin lips were sucked out of sight into the mouth, making vertical wrinkles. They smacked and moved, puckering and pursing, then opened. The red gums were toothless and the wet tongue was evident, swimming in the gathering saliva.
"Namaste, Sahib," the bodiless woman seemed to say.
He stared at her.
"Ah! How she has changed, " he thought. "She does not recognize me any longer!"
She squinted up at him from where she sat, sniffing and shaking her head.
"Do I know you?" she wheezed.
"I am..." he said, "Chamba."
She wiped her nose in the nick of time.
"I do not know you," she said, turning away her watery eyes.
"She does not remember," he sighed. "It has been too long... ago."
"It's a binary system, easy to see that..." said the American. He stared at him scribbling on the page torn from a notebook.
"Oh?" he asked, not very interested in such things. "It is only the number one and zero," continued the other.
"Like existence and non-existence?" he wryly offered.
"Huh?" said the other, not hearing and then continuing his own thoughts and speech. "It's either one or zero. This dash could represent one, and this broken line a zero...
Suddenly he stared at the two lines as if awakening.
" ... or..." he suggested, "one and two..."
The other did not look up. "Yes of course. That also. Different assignments...."
"Different basis..." he said.
"Yes," continued the American still misunderstanding, "different bases. It could be a base of ten, or a hundred, or whatever! You're right!"
He was losing interest, thinking of the colors on the wall.
"Red or white. Red or blue, for that matter...."
"A set of three solid lines could be read as one, one, one," said the other, who began to talk to himself.
"Red, red, red," he said aloud in response, but the other did not hear him. He looked at the walls of the tiny restaurant closing in on him, all covered with a collage of fragments of Tibetan woodcut prints. There hovered a Buddha, there a demonic figure drinking blood, there some infinityshaped figure-eight objects someone had called "dorjes". They continued into each other in their new pasted configurations, on and on.
"Or blue, blue, blue," he thought.
"As opposed to ... two, or four, or six..." continued the other.
"As opposed," he thought', "to black, or moon, or rain!"
They were all served the yogurt. Some were waiting, but some started immediately. Patrick was inhaling on his self-rolled cigarette, with his arm draped over Melody's shoulders, his hand dangling down a few inches in front of her right breast. Her thin blouse did not hide the fact that she was wearing no bra.
"Let me have some of that," she said, reaching for his cigarette.
He squinted, focussing hard.
"Sure," he said, putting it to her lips. "Have a drag."
"Oh!" she said, inhaling with her teeth clenched. "Oh!"
"You hafta inhale it," said Joe smiling, "and hold it there....!"
Melody's eyes blinked, nodding, and her lips closed tightly. You could hear the yogurt spoons hit the glasses.
"Two, six, eight, fourteen a voice was saying.
He looked back and forth at them, right to left, left to right, very quickly, very many times.
"Honey," Dee said, touching his cheek, smiling. "Want something?"
"Want something?" he thought, gnashing his teeth. "Everything! But you'll never know!"
There was a ringing in his ears. He looked at the fragments of pictures on the walls, Buddhas and mandalas, circles within squares, squares within squares. Someone had colored a triangle blue. Another one was golden. One pointed up. One pointed down. They began to shimmer in the moisture of his eyes. They began to change their shapes.
"Too smokey," he suddenly said, getting up and stumbling out the nearby doorway. No one paid him any attention.
He brought a thin layer of perspiration with him into the cold dark Kathmandu street.
"One, two, three..." he said aloud, looking up at two or three stars.
"Cig nyi sum..." he thought, looking down at the ground.
"Life," he said, inhaling. "Death," he said, exhaling, and in between he thought, "Neither!"
"He was like a pumpkin," Melody was saying, and he nodded. "A pumpkin with a pig's noseand" she paused. "And?" he prompted. "A bigbig" her eyes were saucers.
"Moustache!" she finished, giggling."A huge moustache!"
"Funny small eyes with eyeglasses" She began to almost drift off, lying on the double bed.
"What was so special?" he asked before she fell asleep again.
"What was so special?" he repeated.
"It was so weird..." she blinked. "... weird dream...far off ... we...you and I were...."
But it was too late, she was asleep.
He looked down at her for a while and then covered her.
He shrugged and turned his attention again to the handdrawn map. He turned the torn piece of paper over, but there was no further information.
"Everything is hard to find," he thought. "Only thing clear on this map is the Chu Po river...."
At the burning ghats, they were burning a body. It was too late in the proceedings to see what color the cloth was, red or white. It was smouldering, and the wind was pushing the smoke back towards the bridge. The monkeys scampered away from the smoke. There were some foreigners photographing the incineration. His eyes smarted and he squinted, red-eyed. His nose wrinkled at the smell of burning bones. He felt itchy and wanted to scratch. He did not. He did not know where to begin.
He heard it, nearby! But where could he find it?
Before it was too late!
He saw a woman a hundred yards away, looking at him. She was going up a side gully that had a bouncing stream that tumbled whitely amongst the rocks. He watched her, motionless, continue making her way in and out of his sight, amongst giant rocks bordering the cold water. She was careful to check his whereabouts. He did not move. And she, solemn-faced, vanished completely in one split moment. She did not look at all familiar.
The top of the Empire State Building began to vanish.
It startled him.
Looking north and south, he saw that the tops of the other skyscrapers were also not there.
Those that remained at all visible were quickly fading in the approach of the lowering clouds and fog.
"Sri Khatvanga! Where are you? I know you are watching! Show yourself! Come out!"
A howl and a shriek came from the south, quickly approaching, not pausing at all in its plunge northward.
"Guru-ji he thought, and watched the hook and ladder streak by. "You don't fool me for one moment..."
Looking to the south.
"You haven't moved at all! I've located you...
He began to walk along the sidewalk, ignoring the cracks.
"Come out, come out ... wherever...
Chamba went back to live with the kitemaker. He gave the old man no details, merely telling him that his father was dead. Khatvanga believed him and was happy and sad. Happy to have to boy back, sad to see him so unhappy.
Chamba could not speak of how his father had died. It seemed senseless and stupid. In some way, it was his own senselessness, his ignorance that was tied to it. He felt as if he had been responsible, that it was something which he had forgotten, had not done, which caused that death. It was his responsibility. Not the bull's. Although, at
first, anger deeply buried in his bones focussed on the animal.
"The vehicle of ......
"The foundation of the destroyer!"
All these words existed, but he did not know what the~ meant. The only thing that he knew was that the huge, massive body of the bull had crushed his father.
"Death..." he thought. "I could have stopped... it...
The bull was only the agent. Whose agent?
"Shiva," thought Chamba, whispering that name even in his mind, so as not to be heard by spirits or gods.
"Shiva is responsible," he thought, throwing a rock far over the waters of the river, watching it bounce once, twice, and sink.
"Shiva," he said aloud, baring his teeth.
The crescent moon moved in the evening sky.
"Maha-guru-ji," said Chamba.
Sri Khatvanga smiled at his rising status as a teacher, but did not reveal this to the boy. "Yes?" he answered, as if it were his name, or his due.
"Shiva is the destroyer?"
"All-powerful?" he asked, thinking of the blood-stained
"Compared to mortals," hesitated the old man, conscious of the seriousness of the boy's tone of voice.
"He is the destroyer?"
"AH, yes. He is also the one of continuation ....
"I do not understand," said the boy.
The white-haired guru looked at the triangles on the kites, some of which lay overlapping upon each other.
"While ... he..." the white hair shook,... dances ...
the universe continues. When he stops ......
"It is destroyed?" asked the boy, all attention.
"So I understand...."
The boy was agitated. "Don't you know?"
The white shook. "I will never know...." said the old man.
"Yes, you will! You do now!" The boy shifted his weight from foot to foot, wrinkling his nose as he spoke, squinting his eyes.
The kitemaker frowned, looking at the disturbed child. "Chamba!"
"Oh! I am sorry, Guru-ji! I am not very....'
"That is ... allright. I cannot tell you..."
"You cannot tell me..." the boy's eyes lit up. "it is beyond...."
"My knowledge," finished the man.
"Beyond ... words," said the boy. Sri Khatvanga stared at the boy. He could see where the conversation was being twisted, but did not know what to say.
"That is not it at all!" he started.
"No," said Chamba, smiling broadly.
"And I do not know."
"Of course not," smiled the boy.
The old man became flustered. He had to speak.
"Yes, Maha-Guru-ji Sri Khatvangal" the boy said with joined palms, his eyes full of adoration.
This only irritated the old man further. "I am no guru!"
"Whatever you say," said the boy.
"It is useless to put meaning into my words!"
"Yes, yes," smiled the boy, nodding his head reverently.
"Ah cha," said the white-headed old man. "What am I to do?"
They were both silent for a moment.
"You are the most skillful of all great saintly gurus ......
"I am," the man started, "now a saint!"
"At least...a little holy?" said the boy, sensing the other's annoyance.
"Very little," smiled the other, relaxing.
"Oh good!" laughed Chamba.
A few moments of silence, broken by the sounds of crows far overhead. Chamba listened to them, almost hearing another voice, mixed with their sounds. But he could not make it out. Nothing. Nothing at all.
"Oh Holy Maha-guru-ji, Sri Khatvanga!" said Chamba.
"We are in the same moment again," thought the old man, shaking his head. "What is it Chamba?" he decided to say, looking to face it all, head-on.
"Is there a tune?"
"Tune?" asked the kitemaker, puzzled.
"A melody," said the boy, "to which Shiva dances?"
The old man laughed.
Ha ha hahahah.
"Is it a song?" persisted Chamba. "Are there words?"
"Ha ha hahahah," laughed the old man. "Ahl Chamba... your digging mind... !"
"Words ... made of syllables? You know..,Kha-Tva-Nga?"
"I do not know!" laughed the old man, missing the numbers that fell about him in the conversation. He was not aware of them at all. "I will never know...."
Chamba did not believe him.
"How did Shiva become so powerful?" asked Chamba.
"He always has been, " answered the old man.
"No," said the boy, "that cannot be ... How did he ...What did he ... ?
The whirlpool of white hair was caught in the creases of folding flesh. "He was a great yogi." "Yogi?" asked the boy, his eyes lightening. "Ah cha!" "The greatest," continued Sri Khatvanga. "He practiced all the great arts, delfdenial, austerities, self-control... He began to rattle this all off as if he had memorized a list of them. It droned on quietly and Chamba nodded. "Yes..." "Stillness. "Yes"Sight. "Yes...
Yes, nodded Chamba. Yes, nodded Chamba. That was one way. He must conquer Shiva. And he would do it with Shiva's own weapons! Then he must discover other weapons .... !
The old man dozed. Chamba looked at the darkness of the night. But it was not dark. It was full of colors, moving and shifting. He looked down at the floor and he felt that he could see the colored triangles in the dark, overlapping. Two triangles, pointing up and pointing down, formed a star. He stared at them in the darkness, light pouring into his eyes.
He stared at the star in the light of his own eyes.
He was very happy.