TWO MORE YEARS: A Memoir Book in the Making

By Tendar Tsering | May 8, 2017 |

I could call my family in Tibet twice a year, but they couldn’t contact me. There was no

international out call service in most of the places in Tibet. It was a forbidden region. I would call them once in awhile. Occasionally I was able to reach them but most of the time, they were unreachable. 
    “Duibuqi, ni de dianhua buzai choe” –Your call is not reachable— was the answer most of the time, but occasionally, I was able to reach them after hours of trying over and over again.
       Whenever I spoke with my parents over the phone, I sensed both of my parents were living in agony and regret. My mother would often apologize to me for sending me away to an unknown country. She would always keep sobbing. Her agony and her tears would always remind me that the pain in her heart was still an open wound. Knowing my tears would be like rubbing salt into her open wound, I would always calm myself, and hold in my tears. But I often cried in silence while lying on my bed, drowning myself with tears. 
        At a time when I was unable to reach them through phone calls, I never dreamed that a day would come where we could do video chat. But since 2010, things were different. We had several free, cross-platform and instant messaging applications where we could talk regularly. And there was the possibility where we could do video chat if my parents or my brother knew how to start or accept a video call. So, I told my family to seek help from someone to make sure that they could come online and do a video chat with their long lost son. We had in fact tried to have a video chat for years but we failed. 
      For days, I was glued on my bed as my family and I had decided to see each other face to face via video chat. I combed my hair with my fingers. I washed my face. And with my best clothes on, I was just lying down with my laptop on my lap and waiting for my parents to come online. My eyes were motionless fully focused on my laptop screen as if I was going to enter into the screen. One hour after another, more than six hours passed, my parents still didn’t show up. I was not surprised, because that was not the first time where we failed to meet online. I was not that hopeful to see their faces either. The previous year, my parents had travelled hundreds of miles from our hometown in order to have a video chat with me but we failed to do that. However, a part of myself was still hopeful. I felt the day I had been dreading was finally coming. From dawn to dusk, I didn’t sleep a wink. Apart from constantly rushing to the toilet to pee, I was totally glued on my bed with my laptop on my lap. I could hear the echo of my fingers constantly drumming on the keyboard. My face, rigid with excitement and then frustration, I truly seemed to have aged decades in last two days. At the last minute that I almost knocked off my laptop in anger and frustration, finally the call rang on my laptop. I clicked the green button to accept the video call. I was suddenly transported back to my family. It was like a returning home, but at the same time, I felt strange, as everything had changed in my absence. My three-year-old, younger brother had turned into a young man, much like my father. My parents who were then in their early thirties had turned into much like my grandparents and sadly my grandparents were nowhere to be seen; probably they were waiting for me at the heaven’s gate. 
       My mother with her toothless mouth wide open, started wailing as if she was going to get a stroke out of crying. My father in his Buddhist monk robe stood behind with tears racing down on his cheek, sniffing and patting on my mother’s shoulder, trying to console her. We were all speechless. Then, my younger brother started speaking. 
     “Ani?” he said trying to start the conversation.
I turned my head away from them for a minute. I wiped my tears, and said, “I am going to the United States.”
     “Then, when would you be able to come home?” said my brother.
    “Two more year,” I replied as I swallowed the lump in my throat.
    “Ga re shey ge dub?” my mom asked while struggling to still herself up.
    “Two more years,” translated my brother. 
My younger brother was our interpreter. My mother knew only our regional dialect, and I had forgotten our regional dialect. 
    “Tsering lho gya, khe lama kyab,” my mother wished me long life, and requested me to come and see them as soon as possible. I could understand what my mother was saying but I didn’t know how to speak in our regional dialect. So, I said, ‘yes’ to whatever my mom was saying. As usual, she did not say much, she just kept sobbing and apologizing to me. 
My dad jumped in and spoke a few words. He was also a man of a few words, at least with me. Both of my parents were apologetic. No matter, how many times I told them that I had grown up into a fine, “educated man”, all thanks to them, they were still living in regret and agony. They didn’t say much, just kept quiet, shed tears, and urged me to visit them as soon as possible. 
     “When are you coming home?” was what my mother never missed to ask me, but to their despair, my answer was always, “two more years.” For years, I had been giving that same answer. 
    “Life expectancy of people in our town is short, people are dying around 60s,” said my brother, after an hour of video chat, an hour of sobbing and staring at each other to be precise. 
    “Okay,” I replied with a heavy heart. What my brother just said was like an icy wind running down through every inches of my nerves, numbing my senses and making me go blind for a moment. With our trembling hands and tears in our eyes, we waved at each other to say ‘good bye’. Within minutes, my laptop screen went black. So was I. Slowly as I gained my senses back, I reflected back what I just saw— my three-year-old younger brother turned into a man, much like my father and my parents turned into much like my grandparents— everything had changed in my absence. 

      It was my foolishness, but I could not let go off of the images of my younger brother as a three-year old toddler, and my parents in their early thirties. I could see my pa in my younger brother and my younger brother in my nephew. No matter how hard I tried to let go off of the past and embrace the reality, a part of myself was still stuck in the past. There was no turning point. The emptiness was always there, I merely hid the nostalgia by masking it with a smile.




NOTE: This is an excerpt from an unpublished Tibetan memoir book titled TWO MORE YEARS. The author hopes to get a publisher by the end of this year or early next year.


1 comment:

  1. In a way, that is also my story. It is the story of all Tibetans. You got the voice to represent us all, and tell the story to the world.

    ReplyDelete