Unseeing

1

The eye of memory is dubious, often questionable; and the intricacies of its accuracy, phenomena and sentiments all the more irresolute when being narrated to an extraneous ear veteran of times beyond. But certain things we know we saw, in all undesirable earnest, can never be unseen.

2

Sunday mornings were most lazy in Paljorling khimtsang, but this particular morning was a long drain on her dread. Chime wakes up with a thud of her memory jerk having realized she had wet her bed again. It was the same old dream — some urgent event, an exhaustion and a light that shone over the toilet — and before she regained control over her subconscious realm, she had done it, as quietly as acha Karma whistling her sleep away in soft purrs right next to her on the same bed. Chime glances over at the wall clock and sees that it was 6 a.m.

“Good”, she thinks. Acha would wake up late today, maybe around ten, and hopefully the lake on the mattress would dry by then. Hopefully, acha would be distracted enough by the joy of having no school today that she would fail to notice the visual map of Chime’s nocturnal creativity. She slides her hand underneath, feels the wetness with her palms and slaps her own head as if scolding herself. Shit. She then quietly removes herself out of the bed to her cupboard, picks up the thickest cotton towel, and quietly places it over the wetness. A quick change of clothes and she runs out to linga gyab, the empty patch of land behind their boarding school dormitory home. All the younger kids of the khimtsang were already awake and playing while the older children were still asleep.

The school had just started after two months of winter vacation and khimtsang amala was considerate enough not to put the strict order of khimtsang rules back so soon as yet. So she let the children sleep late till 10 am on Sundays and have their breakfast late at will whenever they got up. The older children grabbed their opportunity to insist upon sleeping late just to make up for all the incomplete sleep amala had broken with her shrill 5 am shout on school weekdays.

Yangkyab Tsering, Tash Dhondup, Gyalpo and Paksam were playing Toli — the game of marbles. Chime squats by the pili and watches as Paksam holes his marble and eyes Yangkyab Tsering’s. He closes his left eye and aims for attack. Gyalpo laughs slapping his hands, “Key Yeshi Gyalwa Paksam, he’s too far. Surely you can’t get that. Aim for Tash Dhondup’s marble, he’s much nearer”.

“I want the special white toli, man. Tash Dhondup’s regular toli doesn’t interest me. I am going for the kill itself.”

Yangkyab Tsering laughs, “Ha, your aim is not good enough to hit my toli, you know that. You are aiming for mine even when his is nearer, kookpa. Showa, once you miss this, and I know you will, I am going to smack your toli and snatch it from you. You wait and watch!”

Paksam with all his thundering hit misses the white toli by a few inches.

Yangkyab Tsering bellows, “Aha. You punk, now you wait. It is my turn.” He sniffs in a big green snot that was ready to burst out from his nose, wipes the little that drips out with his bare fingers and rubs it dry on his T-shirt leaving a huge snot map in front of his belly. He doesn’t care. He wants no olfactory distractions at crucial moments such as this. He bends his knees, squats and shoot his white toli back in the pili. Yangkyab Tsering was always meticulous with his game strategy. He shoots Tash Dhondup’s toli first and pockets it. Without waiting to celebrate lest it wreaks havoc on his distraction, he goes back for the pili and shoots Gyalpo’s marble. “There you go, lungpa mekyok Gyalpo,” he utters under his breath and without even looking anyone in the eye, he aims back to the pili for his final kill. Only Paksam’s toli remained now at a furthest distance. Everyone holds their breath and shudders. Chime, feeling the pain of squatting by her legs, stands up to get a better view of the shot. She knew he’d get it.

With a nose always filled with snot even on hottest summers and a round face with red cheeks everyone said would go away once he stays long enough in India, but that which never lost its rosy sheen even years after him leaving Tibet, Yangkyab Tsering was the toli champion of not only their khimtsang but of all khimtsang north of school temple.

A thumb in the pili hole, middle finger raised-a-trembling, left index finger pushing it back for lever, one eye closed for aim, and a few seconds that seemed like an eternity in slow motion for the onlookers – Smack! The white marble hits the green one of Paksam as it rotates in its finest spin pushing Paksam’s in the grass beyond. Yangkyab Tsering runs toward the grass ruffling them away and raises the marble up to his eyes showing his loot to everyone – sighing. Two victory lines of green snot slowly flow down his nose until they touch base with his upper lip. With a cheesy smile and a gleeful countenance, he licks them off with his tongue and shouts, “Banda khena bhoooooos”.

“Can I play, please”, Chime timidly joins the guys standing behind the game line. “Yangkyab Tsering, please”.

Yangkyab Tsering was amused, “You will play with us? But you have no toli. This is a real game where we win each other’s marbles. This is not like the fake game I played with you yesterday, Chime.”

“Please Yangkyab Tsering. Kuchi”.

Paksam jumps in and pushes Chime roughly, “No way, you go play hopscotch over there with the girls. Girls don’t play toli. She will ruin our game. La gyu. Are you crazy? Go over there! You can watch us but you can’t play.”

“Paksam, she knows how to play. I played with her yesterday and taught her.”

“Then you go play with her somewhere else. This is a real game where we show no mercy. If she plays, I am not going to show her any mercy, I am telling you. I know she plays bad.”

Yangkyab Tsering pats Chime’s head, “Not today, okay? Maybe you should go play anga-tinga with the girls over there. Girls play hopscotch. I will play toli with you tomorrow, okay kiddo? Now go”.

Chime glares quietly in silent hatred at Paksam and says, “I hope Yangkyab Tsering wins all your toli”, and runs away before he could catch her and beat her.

At the girls’ crowd, Yanki was the boss of the hopscotch game. Chime had always been scared of Yanki and hated her with equal ardent. Yanki had always bullied her, right from the time she first came to khimtsang. Yanki was only two years older but already had enough skills necessary to navigate labyrinths of Chinese torture stations of gulag and survive the worst of Wasseypur gangs with her evil schemes to out others of their innocence and espy for the older bullies. She would secretly listen in conversations of gossip between khimtsang children and then go relay the same with much added garnish to the subject thereby causing rift between friends, animosity between social groups, and even physical fights among the boys while she quietly basks in the joy of her devilry. Why does she do that? It probably started as a defense mechanism to being bullied herself over time that slowly transferred to a habit of feeling joy in yet other’s misery. Even Freudian psychoanalysis might tire rationalizing a behavior such.

Boarding school khimtsangs were dreadful; the essence of imposed dread being inversely proportional to one’s age; and as one gets older, the arc of recovery gradually reaches the blissful top before taking a final dip where receiver of the past dread ever so often ends up being source of new dreads for posterity. In Chime’s habitat, bullies ran deodars amok with innocent lack of sentiments.

She doesn’t even bother asking to join hopscotch game with the girls.

She looks around and sees everyone already engrossed in small group activities and couldn’t see a welcoming one befitting her own recreational class. She is the youngest kid in khimtsang after all, the newest at the age of six, quietest and the most bullied. The most timid, as a result. The only time children bothered being friendly with her was when she had brought back a hand-held videogame from home at the end of her winter vacation. All of a sudden, kids revolved around her, chiding few friendly banters while asking to let play a game or two. In less than a month, it was stolen. Chime clearly remembers putting it in her cupboard behind the pile of her folded clothes only to find it gone one evening when she returned from school. She cried to poor sympathy of some people but had since lost her newfound videogame friends just as fast as she had lost the videogame itself. Weeks later, she had seen Yanki playing a videogame that looked identical to the one she had but the entire surface was blackened with permanent marker. Chime could swear it was hers under all that deception. But Yanki had punched her, said it was hers, and that she would beat her up if she went and told people about it.

Strolling alone in her doleful thoughts back towards khimtsang, she passes by the huge water tank that was forbidden for children to climb atop. A high-pitched flirty squealy laugh catches her attention. It was distinctly Dolma Tsering’s laugh. Chime stops and looks up towards the top of the water tank. Samten’s head popped looking down, “Hey. Jhutok, what are you looking at? Nothing of your concern is going on here. Get going, scram”. Chime mumbles apathetically, “Sorry”, and looks down. Just then Dolma Tsering and Cho Norbu Tsering’s head emerge looking down. “Oh, it’s just Chime. Don’t worry. She’s so quiet she won’t say a thing to anyone at khimtsang.”

Cho Norbu Tsering smirks at Dolma Tsering and says, “I will spare her if you say so, zema.”

As she starts resuming her walk back, Chime suddenly remembers something, looks back up, and says, “Dolma Tsering, is it true there are fishes in this tank? Can you look into the water from the lid up there?”

Dolma Tsering laughs making her usual high-pitched sound. “Yeah, do you want to look?”

“Deki Tsomo told me there are fishes in there. Can you see and tell me?”

“Why don’t you come up here and look for yourself, kiddo?” cho Norbu Tsering quips. “Samten, pull her up.”

“What? No way. She will go tell everyone we are here.”

Dolma Tsering giggles pushing her head back. The wind was blowing her shiny curly hair and her rosy cheeks glowed in pristine smoothness. Dolma Tsering was the only girl in khimtsang who wore long frocks and sandals she had brought from Lhasa. She never wore pants except for her school uniform. Her hair was always let loose and the wild curls always aflow. She was three years older than Chime, yet at the age of nine, was more mature and riper than any other. She was much taller for her age, much fanciful and always the object of the older boys’ curious stare and glare wherever she went. Her Lhasa accent was as thick as it was melodious, and when her words flowed in ebbing waves of sweet tunes, it made the boys even more curious. She was always happy, always laughing at odd jokes of the older boys’ trying to get her attention, and always unaffected by negativity of the likes of Yanki in khimtsang.

As pretty as Dolma Tsering was to the whole world, she was as nice to Chime although she didn’t talk much with her. If Dolma Tsering saw Chime getting bullied, hit, or said harsh word to, she didn’t come rescue her. She would silently witness the event and when everyone departs the scene leaving Chime to weep alone, she would slip out from her shadows and pat her head silently as if saying ‘there there’. Sometimes she would offer her a ribong jhiri, a white plastic-like candy from Lhasa Dolma Tsering always seemed to have a stock of. Chime loved ribong jhiri. She would restfully accept it, dry her tears and eat it. No words would be exchanged. Dolma Tsering would then make sure Chime had stopped crying before she would leave her.

Chime knew that the reason Dolma Tsering never got bullied was because she was so pretty. And it was true. Yanki hated Dolma Tsering and was jealous to the core of her mantle, but she was always intimidated by her nonchalant personality and her dashing looks. She was even more jealous of the fact that she got all attention of the boys and chochos in the khimtsang that she could never win favor of despite all her acts of espionage for them.

It was also through Dolma Tsering one candid evening that Chime ever got the idea of how boys are physiologically different from girls. A bunch of boys were huddled by the khimtsang corridor wall one day drawing something on the wall with white chalk guffawing in uncontrollable fits. Upon Dolma Tsering and Chime passing by the corridor, one boy shouted, “Hey ladies, check it out. Something for you on the wall.” As they approached, the imps scattered away from the wall laughing. Dolma Tsering and Chime stopped by the wall and looked up. Chime couldn’t make top or bottom of the drawing. It was a long elongated pointy thing with two small ball-like things at the bottom on each side. Short dotted lines were drawn on all sides as if the thing was glowing. She stared at it for a while, “What is that?” Dolma Tsering laughed out loud at Chime, “Ha ha. Those naughty boys. You don’t know what that is? Ah, you are too innocent.” She then reached down to Chime’s ears and whispered, “This is a boy’s organ. It is called a penis. That’s how it looks like for all of them, very different from ours.”

“Why is it shining?” Chime had asked, baffled.

Atsee, those are hair on it. You mischievous boys, I will report it to amala.”

“Dolma Tsering, it is Samten’s. For you only”, shouted the boys from afar.

Chime had been left alone in the corridor staring at the image as disgusted as she was curious.

Back in khimtsang presently, Chime peeks in through the door of girls’ room to see if acha Karma had woken up. She was still sleeping. Chime quietly prays to the picture of the Dalai Lama hanging on the wall that acha would not notice the wet bedsheet. She shuddered to think what would happen if acha Karma happens to be in a bad mood upon discovery of her crime. She didn’t dare upset her for she was her only source of protection in the khimtsang. Acha Karma was the monitor gendak of the khimtsang, not just of the girls but of the boys as well. She was the coolest person in the world by Chime’s eyes.

Physically, acha Karma did not look like a girl at all. She was a tomboy. She was tall with very short hair, at most two inches in length, always oiled and curling from the lower end. She walked manly with the gait of a boss; spoke rough, curt, and cursed endlessly. She had a piercing stare and a grim face, always dead serious with constant dark brows. Nobody dared answer back to her commands at khimtsang. She would beat up delinquent boys who didn’t do their khimtsang duties. Everyone was scared to death of her. Oldest in the khimtsang at fourteen, she was the only protective adult figure in Chime’s world – for as overwhelming as acha Karma was, she was just as fair in treating everyone equally albeit in a slight non-endearing way.

All younger kids shared sleeping beds with an older person in their khimtsang. It was the early 90s, a different era of collective pitiable social narrative. There simply weren’t enough beds for every child to have a single bed each. Chime was assigned to sleep with the horrendous acha Youtso. The more ire she drew of Chime’s habit, the meaner she got, which didn’t help Chime’s cause at all. She constantly wet her bed, more out of psychological fear of acha Youtso than anything else. Every morning as she discovered Chime’s nocturnal deed, she made theatrical scenes in front of all girls scolding, shouting, and even hitting her. Everyone would look pitifully at Chime, but no one dared be nice lest Chime be assigned to sleep with them.

“Why can’t you wake up in the middle of the night to go pee in the toilet?”, acha Youtso would shout.

For a few weeks after that remark, Chime constantly woke up sweating in the middle of the night fearing and wondering if she had done it. There was a kind acha Sonam Lhamo who had once sweetly told Chime to wake her up anytime in the middle of the night if she had to go, and that she would assist her to the toilet. But on a night Chime actually woke up feeling the pressure to go relief herself, she walked to acha Sonam Lhamo’s bed and tried to wake her up. No amount of violent shaking and crying, “Acha Sonam Lhamo, wake up” would awaken her. She kept on sleeping like a log. Not even the wail of linga gyab witch would suffice to break her indomitable slumber. Not surprisingly, Chime peed her pants standing up that night in the middle of her effort to wake acha Sonam Lhamo up.

The next morning, acha Youtso glared, “Don’t you dare sleep in my bed from today”.

Seeing Chime nervous and visibly shaken at bedtime, acha Karma took pity on Chime and allowed her to sleep in her bed. Chime thus came to be under acha Karma’s wing. She continued to randomly wet her bed, but acha Karma only sighed, glared in anger for a while, then silently sent her to wash the sheets upon each discovery. She never raised her voice like acha Youtso did. Chime had never felt more gratitude at that bud of an age than to acha Karma for not telling her off on her intractable habit. It was from that day that Chime became acha Karma’s Chamcha – her low birth social squire, to say the least.

Chime understood as she observed acha Karma and her attributes that being with her meant power in the social structure of the khimtsang. Being under the protective wing of acha Karma meant she could taste her own little power she never imagined she could possess. Nobody openly bullied her anymore, and even the bullies of the past kept their distance.

She ran all kinds of errands for acha Karma; washing her clothes, doing her dishes, reserving spot or meal when acha was running late, cleaning her cupboard, folding her clothes, polishing her school uniform, running to shop to buy things, going to another khimtsang to give acha Karma’s message to her classroom friends, digging her ears, giving back or foot massage when acha returns to khimtsang tired from a long day; literally everything that could ever require assistance of luxury. And Chime did all these out of nothing but sheer joy for it gave her the recognition she savored as acha Karma’s squire. No one ever dared mess with acha Karma. Then how would it ever cross anyone’s mind to mess with the very source of acha Karma’s physical comfort? Bullies be damned – Chime was finally free – and at the top of khimtsang food chain.

Breakfast rules on Sundays were not as strict as regular days. Everyone did not need to eat together at a set breakfast time. Khimtsang amala would make tea, keep them in kettle along with sliced bread in the kitchen, and people were free to eat at their own time as and when they get up from their late slumbers. Chime knows she has to make best not to upset acha Karma today. After quickly eating her own breakfast, she saves one for acha Karma pouring a cup full and covered it with a lid. Then she packs four pieces of sliced bread in an old newspaper and hurries back to the girl’s room.

She cleans her cupboard, folding her clothes neatly atop one another, and then moves to clean acha Karma’s. She notices dirty trousers and T-shirts that she sets apart to wash. She takes all her time in the world making sure the cupboard looked spick and span and glossy without any mess. She knew acha would be happy seeing the neat state of her cupboard and would not ever be mad at her. Now she starts to feel increasingly confident about the upcoming anticipation of events. Piling dirty clothes in one arm, she steps out of girl’s room to the khimtsang’s designated washing area outside. From the shoe rack on her way, she grabs acha Karma’s dirt-ridden school uniform shoes.

She was the only person in the lone washing area. She soaks acha Karma’s clothes to wash them, all the while dreaming about her home in Delhi and all the wonderful time she had had at home with her parents. Her heart ached a little wishing she was home in her mother’s embrace. She made sure to scrub away all the dirt, rubbing the clothes with full force between her hands. She giggles to herself as she remembers seeing acha Karma’s underwear in the cupboard. It was unlike any underwear she had seen girls wear. It was, first of all, dark brown in a worn-out shade, and most profoundly thereafter, it had a pocket out in the front. Just like boy’s underwear. “Wow, so acha Karma wears boys’ underwear”, she thinks to herself and grins at the fact that now it is a secret only she possesses of her most revered acha. It made her feel special even as she continued to wonder what the purpose of the pocket in the front could be, both for the boys in general and for acha Karma personally. She moves on to clean the shoes, mopping the mud away with a wet cloth from all sides scraping off layers of dirt to reveal a smooth sheen of the leathery cover.

“Ah, now she can’t ever be mad at me today. Look at this, so neat”, she gleams unaware of the length of time that had passed since she had been out. She only realizes she must have taken so long when she suddenly feels the glare of March sun vertical over her head and warmth of the heat below on her body. She glances back at khimtsang and sees that the entrance door is now abuzz with intrusive commotions among the children now.

“Oh my, how long have I been here? I must get back to acha.”

Chime barges in the girls’ room to find it empty and all beds made. She sees their own bed neatly made – it was dry! She heaves a sigh of relief but wondered if acha had discovered the map but decided to ignore it. She could lightly but visibly trace the border of wetness on the bedsheet with her eyes. She wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or get nervous. She checks her cupboard and sees that acha Karma had not touched the breakfast.

Running outside looking for acha Karma, she checks the dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and even the corridor – but was nowhere to be found.

“Hey Pema, did you see acha Karma anywhere?”

“Nope.”

“Dorje, have you seen acha Karma?”

“I saw her earlier in the living room.”

Acha Sonam Lhamo, did you see acha Karma anywhere?”

“She went to linga gyab.”

As Chime runs for linga gyab, she bumps into acha Youtso outside the khimtsang.

“There you are! Did you do something? I just saw Karma at linga gyab. She looked furious.”

“What? Really? Oh no.”

“Wait. What did you do?”

Without even stopping to answer, Chime rushes to linga gyab.

Yangkyab Tsering and the boys were still playing toli, all tanned by now, beads of sweat glistening on their foreheads, unperturbed by the bewildered faces and hushed whispers going on around them. The group of girls who were playing hopscotch were all huddled together whispering grave buzzes to one another at the side.

“They were not supposed to be up there on the tank. It’s forbidden for anyone to get up there.”

“What was she doing there with Cho Norbu Tsering and Samten? Is she crazy?”

“That girl is too much. Always acting pretty with that high-pitched squeal. Good thing acha caught them accidentally today”

“No, she didn’t catch them accidentally. Acha Karma came looking for her and she knew exactly where she was.”

“Really?”

Chime didn’t understand what was getting discussed but had no courage to ask Yanki and her girls. She runs toward Yangkyab Tsering.

“Yangkyab Tsering. Where is acha Karma?”

Yangkyab Tsering, clearly unaware of whatever event had unfolded on the grounds of linga gyab, looked up from his game and says, “Huh?”. His side pocket was bulging with marbles that he seemed to have won and as he squatted, they almost overflowed out of its pocket space. His fingers were brown with muddy sand and nails dark with embedded dirt.

“Oh, she was here. I saw her leave with Dolma Tsering. I think they went back to khimtsang.”

Chime went straight to her cupboard and took out the breakfast she had saved for acha Karma. This would be her shield against any wrath that may befall her misery today.

Acha Youtso sees Chime all nervous carrying a tea cup in one hand and bread in the other.

“Psst Chime. Look, I don’t know what you did, but she went towards the bathroom. Good that you have saved her breakfast. Go.”

A long dark corridor opens from living room of the khimtsang to bathroom area where a square plot befits two toilets with a shared open ceiling, a big private bathroom, and a long sink basin containing water taps for children to wash their faces. Chime crosses the corridor and notices that the toilets were empty. The bathroom door seemed closed, however, upon looking carefully, she could see it was ajar with a little open space from where light shone from inside. She could hear muffled voices from inside. A weeping muffled sound alternated by some stern muffled words. Chime stands outside the bathroom door, unable to move, unsure how to proceed.

Just then the door swings open and out peers acha Karma’s head, visibly surprised to see Chime outside.

“What? What are you doing here?”

Acha, I have been looking for you everywhere. I even went to lingya gyab just now but came to know you are here. I am terribly sorry. Please don’t be mad, acha.”

“Sorry for what?”

It was then clear to Chime that acha Karma had not discovered her crime and was genuinely unaware of her guilt.

She smiles sheepishly and replies in a long-bated breath, “I cleaned your cupboard, washed your dirty clothes, even your shoes, and look, I saved you breakfast from this morning.”

Acha Karma gives a piercing stare while trying to register all components of activity Chime had just mumbled.

“You get in.”

“What?”

“I said get in the bathroom.”

Without a question, Chime drag her legs weakly inside the bathroom and gets surprised to see Dolma Tsering inside huddled in a corner looking down. As Chime steps in further, Dolma Tsering looks up from her huddle, eyes red and watery, body shivering as she silently sobs. Chime does not dare ask questions but looks back at acha Karma questioningly.

“Give me that tea cup, keep that bread on the window sill over there and sit on it”, acha Karma orders.

She then closes the bathroom door solidly from inside, making clanks of noise with each thud in slow motion as the latch fastens in its place. The three of them are now alone in the bathroom. Acha Karma gulps down two sips of the cold tea and standing up erect, places her other free hand on her waist.

Looking down at Dolma Tsering, she thunders, “Are you still saying you don’t know what I am talking about, Dolma Tsering? Huh?”

Dolma Tsering silently continues sobbing, not answering.

“I have been hearing this rumor for the last two weeks. I didn’t believe it first and brushed it away. Now it’s getting out of hand. I am hearing more and more of it. And from those damn boys! Do you know how upsetting and shameful it is to hear from them? Now I must hear it from you directly to believe it. Come on, spill it out.”

“I don’t know, acha”, trembles Dolma Tsering.

“Your parent sent you all the way from Tibet to study here and make good of yourself. And this is what you do here? Have you no realization of your parents’ sacrifice? I see you running around with those boys where you are not supposed to be. I see you squealing and giggling away stupid jokes with those awful boys. I see you prancing around in those frilly frocks even on windy days. I tolerated you too much thinking you will know better. The world is not a good place to always be so happy about. You should know what your limit is, and your limit here is that you behave. Aren’t girls enough for you to make friendship with that you need to sprint with ugly boys at odd places?”

Silence from Dolma Tsering.

Chime grabs the edge of the window sill upon which she was sitting vigorously clawing at the loose silts of cement tearing them off of the old wall. She did not understand what was going on. She hadn’t yet comprehended the situation, but her apprehension escalated with each rising word of acha Karma in the bathroom echo.

“Answer me now. I am waiting. You tell me before I beat you black and blue. Tell me what I am hearing from people?”

Dolma Tsering hesitates as her eyes flutter glancing from one spot on the floor to the other as if debating what to do, biting her lips in anticipation of fearful doom.

“I don’t know, acha.”

“Okay then”, mutters acha Karma trembling with anger. She moves her hand holding the tea cup towards Chime who quickly gets up to remove it from her hand.

3

There were a few moments of unclear eternity after that when Chime witnessed acha Karma crack her knuckles on both hands, shift her neck right and left in slow motion, and proceeded to unbuckle her belt fastened on her trouser.

The next moments that followed were timeless in Chime’s memory; timeless – for she had no recollection of how long it took, or how short, for that matter. Everything moved in slow motion. She wasn’t sure if it was a mere minute, five minutes, half an hour, or could even be hours – it was all a blur. But she knew it was traumatic. Trauma of self-loathing she felt years hence into adulthood that she had once been complicit in an event of torture. Her being passive and involved without will did not matter, for her eyes witnessed what laid ahead and excruciatingly still – her soul watched.

Maybe she closed her eyes, she can’t be convincingly sure. Maybe the self-preserving psyche of human nature blocked out that memory. Who’s to know now? She cannot recall the specific movements and actions of the limbs; upper and lower; nor can she hear the sound of the whipping lash of the belt. There could have been thudding of some boot soles over the grimy flesh of a helpless wench. Wails, cries, pants, screams – all muffled at this stage by now. By the end of it, Dolma Tsering was black and blue.

Memory is self-preserving for the soul – very much connivingly so. If you want to forget, you will forget. If you want to not-remember, you simply don’t.

The eye of memory is dubious, often questionable; and the intricacies of its accuracy, phenomena and sentiments all the more irresolute when being put to words for any attentive extraneous reader decades beyond.

Yours truly possess not a singular evidence for this detailed narrative of authenticity but then again neither to the triviality of its refutation of falsehood.

Certain things we know only we saw, in all undesirable earnest, can never be unseen.

4

“I’ll tell you everything, acha. Please stop beating me. It was weeks back when everyone was out watching football match at linga gyab. The khimtsang was empty and I thought I was alone. I went to use the toilet and I heard the door of the other toilet shut as well. He called out my name from the other cubicle and asked if it was me. When I said yes, he said he was climbing over wall in between from the open ceiling. I thought he was joking but before I realized, he was already in my cubicle standing in front of me. I tried opening the door to run out but he threatened that he would beat me if I opened the door or made any noise. He said no one was in khimtsang anyway to hear me.”

“Then…”

“Then he told me to remove my skirt.”

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