POSTCARD #116: Bangkok: We got here yesterday, flight from Chiang Mai, one night’s sleep and in the darkness of five o’clock in the morning next day there’s a voice in M’s room. It’s her mom saying, time to wake up. I can’t hear exactly because I’m at the desk, listening to a YouTube music video with the ear buds in. There’s the glow of the video in the dark room and mom’s voice is a mumble going on and on… a sound that cannot be switched off – the option of going back to sleep is ruled out. I hear M’s voice, a baby bird calling, tiny high-pitched utterance; small resentment enclosed in a whimper.
Just as I start to forget, she creeps up behind me – gives me a fright… I turn round, see her sleepy face lit up in the illumination of the screen; what you listen to Toong Ting? I pull out the left earbud and give it to her, it’s Liquid Mind – Awakening (Cosmic Sea), click the link: here, extended peaceful music with nice visuals of stars and galaxies. She stands next to me, level with my shoulder, ear bud in her left ear and my ear bud in my right ear – we watch and listen together. Somewhere outside of the sound cloud we’re in, I hear ‘the voice’… this time it’s an urgent questioning pitch. I should tell M to go see what mommy wants but this music is so nice and we’re transfixed by the visuals. There’s a stirring beside me, then the curious sensation of M gently placing the earbud back into my ear – and she’s gone.
I am given the last hug, she’s out the door, into the car and off to the airport with Mom for the early morning flight to the South. M will have her 11th birthday there in the house in the trees. It’s the clan thing, the elders will study her face, her posture and see in her the ancestors. Those who are long gone will come alive again. She will be taken from house to house, she will anjali, show respect sawat di kha and it’ll be very boring because there’s no internet.
I sympathise with her why-do-I-have-to-do-this? feeling, I’ve had to do the clan thing too – more of an idle curiosity on the elders’ part, since I come from a different planet… but they’ve gotten used to my visits over the last 30 years of births, deaths and marriages. I arrive at the house in the trees and it’s a déjà vu moment, the ever-present now. The place is always associated with the last time I was here, no difference between time and space. Conscious experience is only ever happening in this body/mind organism, always here-and-now, the event is forever in present time. Usually it’s when somebody respected and venerable is approaching the end of their life. Last thing is, they may raise up slightly from the deathbed, hold my forearms in both hands and look into my eyes. A blessing given with this frail touch, held with their last ounce of energy. Next time I see them, they’re lying in a flimsy coffin as if asleep, hair looking nice and wearing reading glasses. After that, there’s the smoke rising from the crematorium chimney… those not busy being born are busy dying.
We’re all in transit, small children and old folks. I miss M, her laughter tinkling like a fragment of a Mozart piano concerto; her unbearable lightness of being….
‘I was not ‘there’ then, just as I am not ‘here’ now. I was not, am not, and will not be a separate being. If I am something, I am flow, I am experience, I am perspective.’ [Tashi Nyima]