Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Farts for the Warmth

I could have been around five or six year old boy that time. I wasn’t going to school yet. It was always fun accompanying my mother at her works then. In summers when the crops start to ripen my mother had an additional responsibility of guarding maize fields from wildlife at night. One such night, as we got into a thin blanket my mother laughed and I asked, “Why?” Still laughing she said, “Tonight we will have to fart to keep ourselves warm.” I stared at her confused. The night was still and calm. There were no signs of wildlife encroachments. In the dimly lit temporary shelter my mother started a story thus, “Dangpo[1] Ap Dorji and his son…” I try to reconstruct her story of “Ap Dorji and his Son” as I heard from her about thirty years ago. So here it goes…

“Ap Dorji” shouted the village Tshogpa and said, “an urgent letter has come, it needs to be delivered to the Gup immediately.” 
Unlike today, those days’ mails and messages had to be conveyed by a person from one village to another. Often Chupons were entrusted with such tasks. Ap Dorji a well built man in the village was trustworthy among the villagers and this has earned him respect with which came an additional responsibility too. For his outstanding qualities his village mates appointed him as their Chupon. And he never failed or betrayed his village mates in delivering his responsibilities.
Ap Dorji, who was busy weeding in the middle of his maize field, looked up in the sky. The sun had already tilted towards the west and the village where the Gup resides is not within few hours reach. Ap Dorji without any complaints approached Tshogpa, picked up the letter and got into his house. 
In the kitchen his wife was readying to light up the pyre for dinner preparation while Lepo his five year old son was busy playing with Serchung, their family cat.
He came in early, but his wife never questioned as she is aware that he is on some business. “Ama I’ll have to go Gup’s place to deliver this mail immediately” announced Ap Dorji, and “I’m taking Lepo along as my companion.” 
His wife packed them stale leftover food in a bangchung[2] for their dinner. It was then placed in a bag along with a bottle of Ara[3]. Ap Dorji hung that bag over his shoulder and father and son set off. 
The place where Gup lives is little less than a day’s journey from Ap Dorji’s home. There is no way Ap Dorji and his son could make it today with the sun just few meters away from its setting.  Therefore Ap Dorji planned to halt half way and deliver the mail in the first hour the next day. 
Today they travelled little faster. They could cover little more than half way. They decided to put up the night in a cave located above the path. In the cave they had nothing except few dried twigs and leaves for them to lie on. They had their packed stale food along with Ara and went to sleep with just Ap Dorji’s Gho[4] as their only covering. After having had cold food, Ap Dorji’s stomach did not fare well that night. On top of this with just single covering the night had been very uncomfortable for Ap Dorji to get a sound sleep. He laid there wide awake while his son struggled to get sleep. By now Ap Dorji had accumulated enough gas in his belly and is left with no other option than to fart. So he started to fart in the total darkness that reverberated echoes from the far end of that cave. 
With the warmth generated from his fart, his son soon fell asleep. The moment its warmth were gone his son would say, “Apa Phen Taang[5]” meaning please fart. In this way Ap Dorji kept his son warm all night long.
The next day they dropped the mail at Gup’s place and returned home. 
At home while his mother served dinner to them, Lepo in his soft tone said, “Apa, had there been no farts from you, I could not have slept well yesterday night.” His father got intimidated and threatened his son to stop such talk. His wife understood what their child meant and burst into a laughter wherein her husband and son joined her, thus creating this interesting story.

[1] An expression used to describe “Long ago”.
[2] A container with lid woven from bamboo and cane.
[3] Home brewed wine often called as Local wine.
[4] A dress worn by males in Bhutan.
[5] “Phen” means a gas/fart and “Taang” means release.

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