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Manoa 12.2 (2000) 19-26

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Journal of the Grassland

Yangtso Kyi

Written in Serzang Tang in X, on the x day of x 198x


"Now if you wanna talk about the old days . . . Our yak-hair tent back then was cured with smoke! We had a huge iron pot--soot-black we used it so much! Hmmph. And who was that, you ask? That was my family . . . Wa Tar's family in Logor. I'm the son of an outstanding man! The hide of an excellent yak! Who else but me, Norbum, was raised reining in wild horses, leading wild yaks by the nose, seizing the chests of charging tigers, and grabbing the horns of rampaging yaks?! Hmmph. And why do I mention this? . . ." By this time, Akhu Norbum's eyes were bloodshot, and his strength having waned, he could no longer hold himself steady. A long strand of drool wound its way to the ashes below.

"Ano! . . ." called Norbum's younger brother, Tsewang, who was seated across from him and was now quite concerned. He tried to quiet Norbum. "Ano, now you're drunk!"

Akhu Norbum simply ranted all the louder. "I'm not drunk! Ever since the world began, people have had to pay for brides and the mother's milk that nourished them. Especially these days--now that Party policy has improved . . . Besides, this daughter of mine is our firstborn, the first pup of the litter. We need something to tell our relatives, no? Something to show up our enemies, right?"

Akhu Tsewang looked uncomfortable. He repeated, "Ano, you're drunk."

But the guests who had been asked by their relatives to arrange this marriage hastened nervously to defer. "Of course! You're absolutely right." Showering Akhu Norbum with such remarks, they adorned with ornamental laurels the worthy points he'd just made. [End Page 19]


It was nearly midday. Ama Dzomkyi was seated in the doorway of the tent she shared with Akhu Tsewang, sunning herself, as she did every day. One end of the wide sash at her waist was draped over her head to shield her from the sun's bright rays. Under her chuba of navy-blue wool, she wore a tattered, white silk shirt. Where its collar button was left unfastened, one could see the string of her amulet pouch and a soiled, red silk cord blessed for her protection. Ruddied by sun and oil, her face was flushed and happy. While her fingers kneaded the time-worn prayer beads, Ama Dzomkyi peered out lazily towards the grassland. Her glance fell upon the young woman who was spreading out wet dung to dry in Akhu Norbum's yard. It was her niece, Drolkar. Ama Dzomkyi continued to recite under her breath, concluding, "I dedicate any merit accumulated now and always to the Buddhahood of sentient beings who have all once been my mother."

With these words, she turned around slowly toward her husband, Tsewang, who was busy arranging the cloth that covered the thangka painting of Sakyamuni Buddha. "Why give that girl to a family who lives so far away? It will be difficult for us to visit each other even once."

"Who? Oh. Drolkar?"

"It's not like there aren't other families. What about giving her to Uncle Sonam Tsering's family? Our nephew is practically a young thoroughbred. He's from a good family. And in terms of property, while they might look flashy on the outside, down deep they're as rich as dark earth. Or you could give her to Yangbum Jyal's family. They're respectable--and rich too! That's for sure. Why give her to some farmer?" She sat with her head turned away in disapproval, but Akhu Tsewang's attention was wholly fixed on covering the thangka and he didn't respond.

Ama Dzomkyi drew the wrinkles of her brow into a single furrow and placed around her neck the prayer beads she'd been holding. "Nama! How about making some tea? We've missed teatime again." She stretched her legs out, then...