To the Hill
The credits rolled down the screen listing the customary names and positions of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people involved in making the film -- it struck Ezra that ‘credits’ were the perfect visage for an unassuming, simple observance that in reality laid the framework for a calculated, complex ceremony whose purpose was to make the viewer feel splendidly insignificant and incompetent. It was getting late and his homework wasn’t finished. As it was unfinished homework made him feel incompetent (and that was on regular days) the movie only added to his sudden guilty pang of grand incompetence. He sprang up from the old Thai triangular pillow he had been lying on, compelled by his sudden pang of guilt. His parents, his brother, and his baby sister (all of whom had been watching the movie) were still hypnotically glued to the credits -- reflecting on the movie, their musings, the day, thingsthatbabiesthinkabout, dinner (possibly), lunch (maybe), breakfast (probably not).
The movie’s end panicked him a little; it reminded him of his unfinished work, but now that he had walked over to the computer, calculated the work that needed to be done (and the time he had to get it done), and began composing an email to his ‘future-self’ he felt much more composed. Outside he could hear the light patter of rain falling on the house; these light drizzles were the pebbles that signaled the avalanche of monsoon that engulfed the Himalayan Kingdom every summer. Things would never the same. He peered over the computer and saw that the rest of his family had finally broken free from the hypnotic effects of rolling credits; his father, Keith, his mother, Shakun, and his baby sister, Leah, were now dancing to the Indian-themed music -- he couldn’t help smiling. He glanced over to his (also smiling) brother, Joshua, they caught each others eye, and smiled uncontrollably.
He was in control now. The work would get done. In fact, now that he thought about it, he had made the right choice to watch the movie with the family. It was what his father wanted, with his brother, Joshua, preparing to go to boarding school in a couple of months, at this point every moment spent together was treasured by his parents (still dancing). He began his email:
Hey future Ez,
just try not to think about how dad was dancing around in the TV room yesterday...haha anyways i’m tired i’ve got to do some stuff so i’m gonna bounce...but just remember you’re probably gonna have some work to do cuz i didn’t do it okay? anyways just do what i don’t...
catch you on the flipsyde...
He smiled at the thought of his future-self and decided, as a memento to the film, to sign the email: Googol Ganguly. Then he clicked ‘Send,’ said goodnight to Mum, Dad, Josher, and Leah Loo, stumbled down to his bedroom, pulled out his unfinished work, and, with the dying image of his parents and little sister dancing to movie credits, fell fast asleep.
The book was better, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, but it was a wonderful movie nonetheless. The movie had struck close to home tonight, Keith Leslie thought, although his own life had been the story in reverse. He had come from the West (the Land of the Free, Big Stick Democracy, Hamburgers, Home of the Brave) to explore the east (deep seated history, spicy food, governments steeped in monarchy). However, the protagonist, Gogol Ganguly, displayed the same confused idealism and youthfulness that had propelled him to his life here on this six-thousand foot ridge overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. It had given him this life with his wonderful wife (now putting the youngest to bed), his three awe-inspiring children, an amazing home, and of course the garden; reminding him that it was the perfect time to revel in the beauty of the garden. He slipped quietly downstairs and glanced into Ezra’s room -- he had fallen asleep books and papers scattered around him, one was resting lightly on his chin. Keith gently pulled it off, laid it beside him, turned off the lights and headed for the backdoor.
The door was already locked and in the darkness he fumbled with the latch locks. Finally, he was rewarded by the distinct “kathunk!” of freedom. He pulled on the door handle, pushed the gauze screen wide open, and took a deep breath as he escaped into the peaceful serenity and bounty of nature. The light drizzle blanketed him in a soft cooling rain when the warm glow of lights turned on revealing the exquisitely fragile and beautiful garden, a delicate expanse of green existence.
Shekhar, the Nepali gardener/guard who had been outside, heard the screen door opening, turned on the lights, and came over, “Namaste, Sir.” It was always a pleasure to walk in the garden with Sahib, together they had helped nurture and build this garden. He had been with the Leslies for over fifteen years now -- he knew that Sahib understood the true beauty of the garden. If everything went ahead as planned though, he would be leaving the Leslies in a few months time to serve manual labor in the Middle East. Although nothing could beat the working conditions here with the Leslies, the Western salary would help earn money -- he wasn’t getting younger.
Together in mutual silence and respect they walked along the bank of the brook that runs alongside the ten ropanis (acre) of property that Keith had bought with Shakun twenty years ago. The house, built seven years ago, represented how far he had come since he arrived in this Himalayan Kingdom, a simple Amherst graduate from Upstate New York who left America seeking enlightenment, but never came back. Leah was born into this house, Josh and Ezra had grown from boys into men here, and even he had gone into his fifties in this house.
Shekhar was now kneeling over the bank, the moonlight shining upon his short and thin, but strong, frame as he peered into the cool, flowing water. “Aunus, Sahib,” he said pointing into the water. Keith walked over and gazed at the ten-inch river crabs digging up the streambed. They both gazed on in wonder at the richness of life that thrived around them. After several minutes of wandering thoughts and gazing at the crabs, Keith glanced up, Shekhar had already walked on ahead. Standing underneath the willow tree that swayed slowly under the patter of rain, amidst the otherwise humid spring night, they both turned towards the wire fence (many years since covered in vines, ivies, and plants) at the sound of leaves crunching.
A horse had wandered over to the fence from nearby grazing pastures to eat at the other side of the property fence. “We must all leave our own grazing pastures at some point,” Keith mused thinking back on his own travels away from the West, Gogol’s less physical (more emotional) departure from his past, and Joshua’s imminent geographic departure halfway across the world to a boarding school in Northfield, Massachusetts (of all places). At the thought he felt a deep remorse rise up in his throat, feeling the physical and emotional distance that would soon separate him from his son. Knowing his two sons it would probably be Ezra leaving next year. “It is funny,” he thought, “I spend the majority of my adult life worlds away from my own parents, and now I feel the pain of a parent as Josh prepares to spread his wings.” He knew it was for the best though, the type of opportunities lay in wait for his son that students at their International school in Kathmandu could only dream of.
Shekhar and Keith now had slowly made their way along the fence (they let the horse graze) around the stream, across the pond, and into the front yard. The maple tree they had smuggled over from America ten years ago was thriving. It was a wonder to observe the often arbitrary nature of survival for the plants -- some survived, some didn’t -- this maple was already nearly ten feet tall. He stepped forward, the moonlight suddenly revealing the intricate intertwined gossamer web of a spider spun throughout the limbs of the maple. “Hopefully, the spider is more of a Charlotte than a Shelob”, he thought as he smiled to himself.
What was this Northfield Mount Hermon? This mystical hill ten thousand miles from Kathmandu, this self-professed educational institution of “the head, the heart, and the hand.” What webs would Joshua spin for himself at Mount Hermon, where would they lead him to? These questions rolled through Keith’s mind like the credits at the end of the film making him feel strangely insignificant and incompetent. There was really no way of knowing what his experience would be like in Massachusetts, but whatever happened Keith knew that few kids had grown up in the cosmopolitan, worldly setting that Kathmandu had offered Josh and Ezra (Leah still had time).
The rain was beginning to fall in larger and more concentrated flurries now, it would soon be time to go in. It must already be 1 am in the morning, but there was one last stop he would have to make. Shekhar had already gotten there. Just beyond the maple, across the other side of the property, lay the bamboo grove. Keith’s love for bamboo encapsulated his passion for his children -- wonder, awe, and immense pride. No stroll in the garden was complete without contemplating the beauty of at least a couple of the forty some-odd bamboo species on their property. Particularly in the spring, as it was now, they were rewarded by the multi-inch sprouting and growth of bamboo’ tusas’ (shoots) daily. Their powers of growth never ceased to amaze him. Together, Shekhar and Keith, caressingly removed the fallen leaves from the roots of the bamboo unearthing new ‘tusas’ and revealing growing ones.
Keith sighed looking up at the house, the TV light (forgotten to be turned off) still glowing through the window, “Never again will they be the tusas they once were.” The rain was pouring now -- it was time to go in, he turned to his companion “Namaste, Shekhar.” “Namaste, Saab,” Shekhar called out, already disappearing off in search of shelter.
Inside, the house was quiet -- everybody was asleep and staying put, although not for long. Quietly, Keith closed the screen door closing his garden palace behind him. He tiptoed slowly upstairs where Leah had fallen fast asleep in Shakun’s arms (or the other way around, he never could quite tell). The TV and computer were still on, gently bathing their features in the day’s activities.
Keith silently turned off the TV and sat down at the computer, peering over the top smiling at his daughter and wife softly dozing in each other’s warm embrace; his smile grew as he saw Ezra’s habitual email to his “future-self” in the Outbox. Slipping on his glasses he prepared an email to his son:
“hey, future once, now past easy ez, what's cooking? ya missed a splendid stroll in the midnight garden w/ sheks et moi. great visuals of ten inch crabs digging up the stream bed, a horse out the fence munching on the grass, magnificent gossamer charlotte's webs on the maple tree, the massive tusa coming up in the bamboo groves and the drizzle becoming a slight downpour telling us it was time to turn in. i know it's no comparison to chemistry or mystic literature... but what's an olde guy to do when he doesn't have classes anymore... just go out and watch the natural world do its amazing thing... have a lovely morning, son. love you, you know, your once and future dad."
Outside, the rain fell unabatedly on the ten inch crabs digging into the river bed, on the horse grazing away from its pastures, on Charlotte spinning her webs, on the ‘tusas’ growing without respite, on Shekhar dreaming in his room, on the young and the old, on the awake and the sleeping, on the staying and the going.