Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kumari

Feet barely touching ground that
Precedes me by centuries
My sturdy guide rushes me through
Doors not to be opened
And narrow conduits threading
Durbar to durbar
We halt at one
"Pretend you're Nepali."
I put on my best Nepali face
The guard smells it on me - foreign
"Say something in Hindi!"
My guide sounds irritated
An ounce of me wants to protest
Don't speak to me in that tone
A hefty pound of me is intrigued
I want to meet Kumari
Curiosity triumphs
"Bhaiya, Newari hain"
Still suspicious, but not entirely confident of the percentage of non-Nepali in me
Guard reluctantly lets us through

Durbar after durbar
From inner square to outer
From courtyard to alley
I follow judiciously and obediently
Until he comes to another stop
This time to a voice from above
A quiet hole in the immaculate wooden walls
Carved by unique fingers to house princesses and queens
Guide responds to a surprised query
With an obliging nervous laugh
And quick words are exchanged

I gather from their tones
I am but welcome
But they won't turn me away
My feet are heavy with confusion and unwantedness
I spiral up
More ancient wood
Under my heavy feet
"You have cash? To give Kumari?"
"For blessing." Response to my silence
Pink and blue Nepali rupees haunt me
Money for blessing? Kumari?
Get ready to punch, run, and scream if you're about to get scammed, Suparna.

No scam. No punches. No screams.
Just stale smells I can't place
Words in Newari I don't hear
And a distant call to someone in the maze of this cavern

Shoes off
Money in hand
"Durga is coming"
Durga. Durga?
Shakti. Strength. Goddess of creation and all destruction.
This is serious business, Suparna.
You're about to meet god.

Head bowed. Barefooted. Eyes fixated on a stain on the shiny stone floor.
I hear them
Coming closer
Shy yet mischievous footsteps
A small body finds its holy abode
Atop an unnecessarily garnished stool

Her legs sway
Playfully like that of a child
Waiting to be pushed on the swing
I look up
Her 7 year old eyes
Meet my eyes of 26 years
Her legs pause
Mid-motion
She peers through me
Resumes her leg swings
Blesses me with a proprietary 7 year old hand on my head
I deepen my bow
And listen as she skips off -
From goddess
To being 7 again.

I met Kumari on my trip to Nepal 2 years ago. I was superbly ignorant about her until I sat staring at her toes in the durbar (square) of Bhaktapur. It took me days to shake off the paradox of being blessed by a 7 year old incarnation of god while watching her skip away to her missing childhood. I read more and learned that to become Kumari, she had to endure several strength trials - including being alone in a room while witnessing he slaughtering of many animals. This poem is inspired by the article I read a few days ago:

http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/05/28/410074105/the-very-strange-life-of-nepals-child-goddess?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150528

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