Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kung Fu Flick

If you were seeing what I was seeing, you’d have thought you had landed on the sets of a Kung Fu flick.

If you’ve seen as many Kung Fu flicks as I have, you would be hearing it too. The background music. There was none, but the radio station in my head suddenly went ancient Chinese.

Any moment now the montage would begin, I thought. A line of monks would materialize out of one of the buildings, chanting ‘aum mani padme hum’, and file past me just as serenely disappearing into another building. Their prayers would not falter even if they noticed me standing there with the Teva monk.

If only life imitated movies…I would be taken straight to the head honcho of the monastery who would sit me down for a cup of tea (serene, somber Buddha in the background), give me instant gyan and hand me over to the Jet Li lookalike monk who would then quickly teach me all kung fu moves. I would with the corner of my eye, stumble upon the secret self-defense techniques monks practiced at the break of dawn (I would be humbly sweeping the backlit dusty courtyard, the rising sun shining orange on my face), then I would be able to leave the monastery armed and dangerous, ready to defend myself against my monsters…


The Teva monk was patiently waiting by my side, watching me stare at the buildings straight out of a Kung Fu Flick.

Stop it Manisha! You must not go on that track again!

“You’re wearing Tevas?!”

As soon as I had uttered them, I knew I was better suited to be in charge of Imelda’s shoe museum instead of the main role in a Golden Harvest Kung Fu Flick.

He looked at me as if I were hardly material that would test his patience.

“Who says the path to Nirvana has to be traversed with bleeding feet?”

A hundred out of hundred I marked him for dialog. At once profound, and at the same time ridiculous. I pretended to understand even as I nodded my head.

He made that smooth ‘proceed this way’ gesture, which I thought was so smooth, it would need to be patented.

He walked beside me. We walked across a courtyard and climbed three steps into a dimly lit hallway of some sort.

I was still adjusting to the light inside when he pointed out to the table.

Still in the Kung Fu Flick mode, I expected to see a bowl of steaming rice and chopsticks.

Under the covered dish there were about six slices of bread and some cheese.

I had no smart comment to offer. I suddenly realized that I was hungry. He pointed to a stack of dishes. I gratefully took one, and placed the bread and cheese on it. He pushed a bottle of jam at me and pointed to the cutlery. He even chose an apple from a bowl of fruit, and placed it in front of me.

Then he sat across the table and watched me eat.

It is the most difficult thing to do. Eat when you’re being watched. Eat when the jam is too sweet and the cheese too crumbly. But I was too hungry to care.

My mouth was stuffed before I realised I had not said grace. I felt ashamed. For the first time in hundred years I had forgotten to say thank you for the food I was about to receive.

I stopped wolfing down the food.

He looked kindly at me, “It’s all right. You can say thank you after.”

And he said he did not read minds.

My plate was clean. I had eaten so quickly that there were no crumbs left to lick. I had even eaten the apple clean.

I closed my eyes. Said a silent thank you prayer, and pushed my plate away.

He was looking at me. Pointing to a shiny sink, he said, “Please, wash your plate.”

I stared at him. What did he think I was some sort of a city brat, who had never washed a plate?

But his face was as kind as before. He simply added, “Only when a plate is clean, can you put another meal on it, isn’t it?”

This was my zen moment.

And I was staring at him with my mouth offering to say an ‘oh’ but producing nothing. The tap in the sink had really cool water. How right he was. I was going to learn nothing new unless I had a clean slate. It seemed like a promise. It seemed like I was going to learn something huge here after all. The towel by the sink asked to be used. So I happily dried the dish.

When I returned to the table, where the dishes were stacked, he was gone.


If nothing else, I am going to learn to move as silently. I promised myself.

And picked up the hastily dumped backpack by the chair, and stepped out into the sunlight.


Post a Comment

<< Home