Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Homage to Ani-la

I survived a week since my knee surgery, Karma's cooking and all. It was a little rough in places (more emotionally, than physically, but they're so tightly connected), but I'm hobbling my way back to "normality" and am free from the land of noodle soup. Actually, Karma's simple meals were pretty tasty, there was only one "incident" including a mix-up of balsamic vinegar in place of soy sauce (in noodle soup)...he also convinced me one night that he was "hard-boiling" avocados & heating up some cucumbers...

I swear he lives to see me get frustrated, only to make me laugh at his wacky jokes. One day he came bounding into our room and said,
"I have two ideas, listen to me. The first, we can go to the new movie theatre by our house."
Me, "Where is it?"
Karma, "Over there." (Pointing in the direction of theatre.)
Me, "Really? I didn't see it!?"
Karma, "No, not really."
Me, "What? You lied?"
Karma, "Yes." (Very deadpan.)
I never did hear his second idea, I was laughing too hard at the first. I just love things that make little sense.

Karma has proven himself to be a great nurse (which I could have predicted). He changed the ice water in the machine I had the first 3 nights (for the swelling) without being prompted--even in the middle of the night. He's even thinking about being a nurse's aid, or something similar, at a nursing home...Which brings me to my next point: He's got a work permit! AND we got our interview for his green card. It's on June 3rd, which is my grandparent's (father's side) wedding anniversary. That's the grandma that sponsored to come here, so it wasn't a surprising "coincidence." I didn't know until I told Granny about the interview day and when she told me I was instantly teary-eyed. So, things are going smoothly on that front.

Last night Karma told me a really amazing story about his mother's family that I want to share.
His grandfather was head of a village, including Panchen Monastery (very famous), in eastern Tibet (Kham region). He was apparently a very good looking guy. When the Chinese invaded in 1959, he was taken to prison, as all political leaders (or heads of anything) were (to be "punished" for benefitting from  their fuedal society).

He had two wives. One was Karma's grandmother, the other was a sister of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's (very famous lama who came to teach in America and died in the 90s). Karma's grandmother starved to death during the Great Chinese Famine, as so many Tibetans and Chinese did. The other wife fled to India with her family. His grandfather died in Chinese prison and the authorities notified his sister. A nun (ani) who was living in a work camp where she was severely beaten on a daily basis.

His grandfather's sister was a strong woman. When she heard of her brother's death, she walked to the prison to claim his body. It took her somewhere between 2-3 weeks to get there. When she arrived, she had to identify him, which was difficult because he was very skinny, but his face was bloated...not to mention he was in a room full of other corpses, all in similar condition. One of the other prisoners told her which one was him.

Ani-la carried his body on her back for that entire 2-3 week journey to their homeland. She then cremated him and did all the prayers in secret (very risky, especially during the Mao years). I just can't get over the image of this woman carrying a corpse, although probably light because he had starved, through the mountains of Tibet. She was a woman of strong will and strong faith. Apparently the tip of her thumb wore down into a half-moon shape from doing so many mantras on her rosary and she would come home every night from the work camp after doing manual labor and enduring beatings and sit in meditation.

Karma's mother was really young, maybe around age 7, when all of this was happening. She chose to go with her aunt (ani-la) to the work camp. Her other aunt didn't have as difficult a situation, but she was very close to ani-la, so she wanted to go with her. I'm not sure whether or not her aunts knew about their situations prior to his mother choosing her path, but I certainly hope not. His mother spent her youth working doing such things as plowing fields with a yoke on her back, just like an animal would. At some point things became more lenient and she no longer had to work there. I'm going to dig for more details, although because Karma's barely lived with his mother and phone calls to Tibet are dicey these days, it may take some time. I was just really moved by his family history and wanted to share.

Karma loves telling me his family history and stories from his youth. A lot of them include a lot of adversity, which I know he's trying to point out to me to create perspective. I try to stay as open as I can because I know how easy my life has been. Sometimes it's easier to remember than others, but I know, just the same.