Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carrying Lut in Takhmachik

Our first day in Takhmachik we cleaned out three rooms of manure and moved it all by basket down to a pile in the road.  From there it went by truck and by donkey along the road and paths to the fields.  The baskets are simple to carry and to adjust, held by one strap across shoulders and upper chest.  To empty it you hold the bottom, bend forward, and make a toss over the shoulder into the pile.

Tashi, our host and friend from SECMOL, said that ten years ago their rooms were filled to brimming and they had many more animals; now the rooms are only about two feet deep.  At first I carried "lut" with about ten other people, mostly middle-aged or old ladies, two men, Nyilza, and Tashi.  ("Nyilza Angmo" is a suitable Ladakhi name Caitlin was given at SECMOL.  I am called "Phuntsok Dorje."  We introduce ourselves often with both our regular and Ladakhi names, and people gladly use only the Ladakhi ones.)

When I stopped to adjust my basket strap and get more comfortable, someone would say in passing "Chi wa?" or "What gives?"  Then on one trip back to the room I noticed Tashi was breathing hard.  So I helped shovel for a while, and fill people's baskets.  I was tentative at first, not shoveling hard, not knowing how much to load up these old ladies.  But they are tough in a humbling way, and one of them stopped me and showed me how to shovel, picking up a heaping scoop and speaking words I couldn't understand.  So I started working and breathing hard, loading them fast, not letting old ladies wait with a load on their backs.  It was our first day and I felt energy surging through me, wanting to rise to the challenge of these tough, amazing people.  When Tashi's dad came in one time, Tashi filled his basket faster than I've ever seen.  Later, Tashi told me to tip, not dump, the manure in, so it's easier on people.

These women, forty, fifty, sixty years old, are carrying forty pounds of manure up and down steep slopes and staircases two hundred yards at a time.  Singing mantras in soft voices, braids double and tied together at their lower backs, washing together afterward with soap and a bit of water from an old Indian mustard oil tin in the cow yard.

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