Monday, February 28, 2011

To Keep the Lamp Burning

Ms. Sonam Wangchuk

My mother is a great story teller. She has a good stock of it – ranging from love and despair, romance and sex; of kings and queens; greed and misery; of peace and war; of poor and rich; and of might and valor each with befitting moral in the end. 

During my childhood days my cousins and I would sit around her after dinner and listen to her stories passionately. Some of my friends would seek leave from their parents while others would simply sneak out and come to our place to hear her stories. During cold winters we would sit around her with dimly lit lamp fed with pine bits near an oven. And in summer nights, we preferred sitting near windows letting in cool breezes often accompanied with noises of dripping rain outside, through partially opened window shutter. 

Her stories helped us understand realities of life as most often she would relate it with our day to day affairs like what to do and what not to do in one’s life. As mother, she’d never yell or scold us when we made mistakes, instead she would correct us through her short stories. I remember, once on my way to school, asking her to pluck me a flower that perched over a huge cliff in its full blossom. She immediately narrated a brief story of a father and her beautiful young daughter wherein daughter climbs a cliff to pluck flowers despite her father’s repeated warning and slipped off the cliff to death. Her father who could not bear this pain jumped over the cliff and joins his daughter’s fate. Today as I recollect, I know she cooked-up this story, but it does bear an important message even today.

Well that was in late 1970s and early 1980s, when radio wasn’t even heard of. Today my mother is sixty three and I’m nearing forty. All these years of gap has only helped wane its importance as our memories faded away. But, is there a need for me to remember all those fairy tales? Aren’t radios and televisions taken the role of my mother?

One evening, as I got into the bed, Dechog my three year old daughter reminded, “Apa stoyee yek cho (meaning tell her a story)”. At once I became blank. I know many stories, heard many stories from my mother and many others. I’ve also read many stories. But tonight I’m totally confused in front of my daughter. Thoughts propped up one after another. I even wished if her grandmother was with us tonight. She kept on insisting me. Finally I said, “okay here you go!”…and narrated her a story of Father and Son, where father keeps his son warm at night through his constant farts in absence of adequate coverings. So this was the time I realized story telling is not just an art but a way of passing on values from generations to generations.

The following morning when I woke up, I dialed my mother, “Hello, is it Ama?” “Yes, yes,” replied my mother faintly. Thinking that mobile network may be down at the other end, straight away I said, “remember when I was a kid you used to narrate lots of stories. Now I’d like to hear them again. Record them. Write them down and let you make money out of it,” I ended jokingly. After about few seconds she said, “Yes, but now that you’ve all grown up and I’ve nowhere to tell my stories. I can barely recollect quite a few of them,” she concluded. It’s sad to learn that. But I believe most of those fairy tales were told and re-told across the country as is evident through writings of pioneer Bhutanese writers. Most have been written already and needs no repetitions. But there are quite a few that are unique to my mother and her locality. I thought, maybe I should write them down for those few to remain forever. So I decided to write them down in my own words for my children to read them as they grow up. 

I do not possess necessary skills and command to be a writer but this is how my passion for writing has picked up. And I shall help revive my mother’s story telling culture by narrating her stories to my children.

No comments:

Post a Comment