A column of small red ants moving in the groove of the railing of my window are like monks in their red robes moving in a trail towards their monastery, after collecting the bhiksha (offering) of the day. The monastery is carved out of an old cave which is dark and has collected blotches of moss all over with age, carrying with them the enigmatic aura and secrets known only to them, secrets to appease gods seen only by them. They move in perfect sync, towards the unquestioned mission. As these ants move, they touch the ones coming from the opposite direction as if passing on the secret mantra of salvation.
Looking at them I go down the memory lane when we had visited one of the world’s biggest monastery at Diskit in Ladak.
After we finished the ritual of bowing to all the gods, seeking the blessings of all the main Lamas for my little, one year old daughter, the big gong struck loudly, resulting in the outpouring of hundreds or thousands of monks in all sizes, ranging from the children of the age five years to old ones of 70 or 80 years. You can never tell their exact age after certain period actually. They came out of all the nooks and corners of the monastery. The young ones had the same kind of happiness on their faces as the school children when the bell for the recess rings. Rightfully it was their recess though they did not have tiffins in their hands.
How can they have? They did not have parents to pack food for them. They were the chosen ones, offered to the service of the Lord.
One of them, carrying a basket full of big round baked breads came and started distributing those with the expertise of a well practiced ritual, in a great speed, not missing even a single throw. I was overwhelmed by the scene and posed for a picture to be taken among all the ever smiling, chubby little monks. My little one took her place between us.
As we were waiting for the photograph to be taken, I could feel some touch at my back. It was one of the young, in fact very young boy, if at all I’m permitted to call them boys. He was holding my daughter’s hand, touching her tiny fingers, as if trying to feel if she was real or no! I don’t know why but this scene touched me somewhere deep. When I offered him to take the baby in his hands, he felt shy and ran away.
The memory of that blushed smile and his innocent eyes is so fresh in mind.
With a lump in my throat I descended the stairs of the monastery. There were many questions in my mind, like where is the home of that boy? Does he miss his mom? His dad? Or does he at all have any memory of his home? Doesn’t he feel like clinging to someone when he is afraid or he has already conquered all the fears? Does his mother miss him? After bearing him for nine months, under what compulsions must she have given him for the noble cause?,
Perplexed, unanswered, confused on what is right and what is wrong, I reached down. I turned to look back for one last time and I could gather the glimpse of him peeping through the grooves of the vast widespread boundary wall made of big boulders. His innocent face and those questioning eyes etched a lasting memory in my heart.