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Lhamu's Scar & Memory

Lhamu’s Scar

For years Amla would agonize over a scar on my sister’s forehead. Duplicating my aerial feat, Lhamu trips in mid air, falling like a drunk on the edge of a bed. Blood splatters and her cries summons a mother in her tigress avatar.

I, too, have scars but they never seem to bother my mother. Cuts and nicks on my knees and elbows, some the size of coins, and others embedded like fossils under thighs and forearms. But the one I flaunt like a tattoo runs diagonal over my eyebrow. For a boy of eight it came with unexpected benefits; eliciting a certain reverence lending itself to a dark, brooding image. I was quite unsure if it was good or bad. ‘Cool’ hadn’t quite entered this kid’s lexicon yet.

‘A girl’s face is her fortune.’ Amla did not utter these words, but she didn't have to. She died too young to live out her anxieties. Would Lhamu's suitors, pursuing their separate affections, be acutely aware of her scar? Would catty match-making aunts visiting a prospective bride slip in snide remarks between cups of tea? Or would Lhamu charm them all, cleverly hiding her silver stitch?

I remember on so many such days Amla would gaze far beyond her dressing mirror, combing my sister’s hair, running her fingers absently over the protrusion as if each stroke would somehow erase the bristles of this shining, sleeping, breathing pain.

Note: amla- mother in Bhutia and Tibetan

Separated by twelve years,

both born in the year of the snake.

She was the youngest child

and he the eldest son.

My uncle is the head of his clan.

Soon after my mother died

just shy of her 53rd birthday,

my uncle stops imprinting his memory

as if it did not matter anymore.

I remember my mother’s tender story,

how he carried her as a fading child on his back

trekking for several days to “Phur Chachu”-*

invoking the gods with his fierce love-

a brother grows taller and taller in a little girl’s eyes.

I meet him now and then since twenty-two years,

drooped are his broad shoulders,

gone is his ruddy vigour.

He bothers me for some tobacco and rum

this time I carry none.

Memory and awareness are the materials of the mind,

but time is a fabrication.

Amidst obviously embarrassed cousins,

he inquires who I am and to state my purpose of visit.

I tell him I’m his kid sister’s son,

he looks at me most incredulous,

my grey beard finally pulling the rug under him.

He tells me I’m a most disgusting low-life liar.


* the holy hot water spring in South-Sikkim, India popular among pilgrims seeking cures.

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