The Owl Feathers!
He stood there, with a worried look on his face. I looked at him and the two large feathers in his hand. “Maámle, I wanted to give you this. Will you take it”, he asked me. “But Stanzin, what is this? These feathers are so large. How did you get this?” I asked him “Maámle, I have an owl as a pet. You are leaving us. I wanted to gift you this. I pulled it out of my pet Owl” I became quiet.I looked at him again, my heart brimming with emotions inexplicable. He had small eyes and a snub nose. His cheeks were freckled and red due to the extreme cold. He wore a torn jacket, and a worn out monkey cap. His shoes were completely worn out too. I smiled and shook hands with him. He smiled back and his smile grew wider as I took the two Owl feathers from him. “These are beautiful ! I will frame it and keep it. Thank you Stanzin. You needn’t have done this son. But thank you for the gift.” I told him, my eyes already welling up in tears. “Maámle , I just wanted to thank you for teaching us. We will miss you”, said Stanzin, one of my brilliant students. I choked with emotions. Stanzin was one of the many Ladakhi students from impoverished backgrounds and he could not afford to buy a gift for me, so the owl feathers. Extreme weather conditions and poverty had not deterred him from pursuing an education. He kept at it like hundreds of other Ladakhi kids. During my stay there, Leh did not have 24X7 electricity or any modern amenities and internet connection was erratic. Yet these kids were brilliant, and they amazed me each time with their thoughts and ideas. And it was here that I discovered the joys of teaching! Each time my life takes an unexpected detour, I open by black trunk and look at the 2 owl feathers so lovingly gifted to me by Stanzin and I tell myself that my life might meander like a river, touching many newer shores, yet the pearls of memories get polished each time, shining brighter, the dazzling rays lighting my heart with wistful joy.
Ah! the joy of being a teacher!
PS: Ladkahi kids call their teachers Maámle or Sirle which is equivalent to Maámji /Sirji.