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Manoa 12.2 (2000) 121-124

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Your Birth Day

Palden Gyal


I know you, I know everything about you because I am always with you. You are an ordinary man, you have five senses like other men. But you are very clever, knowledgeable, honest, patient, and brave--in those ways you are much better than other men.

However, you are an unlucky man. When you came into this world, there were no special signs, such as earthquakes or rainbows. I am sure that you came into this world with a loud cry. Your father was overjoyed when he learned you were a boy. He went on the roof with a conch shell and, as is our tradition, blew it three times in order to announce that you had been born on this earth. Moreover, having been blessed with a son, he pressed his hands together in front of his chest and prayed that all your wishes would be fulfilled.

As soon as you were born, your mother, although in the grip of unimaginable pain, raised her head to see if you were a boy or girl and had all five senses. However, only your parents heard your cry, only a few neighbors heard your father blowing the conch shell. When your father prayed for you, nobody knew; even the local gods and protectors didn't hear. Only your mother knows how painful it was for her.

You are an unlucky child. When you were born, both your father and mother were beside you, but your father disappeared two hours later. Since then, you have been an orphan.

Your parents' life story is a long one, sometimes sad and sometimes humorous. If you want to know their story, please ask your mother. She will tell you about her life with your father.


However, I have to tell you something that is not clear in your mind and that you could never remember--your birthday.

You are really an unlucky child. You are one of the children born during the Cultural Revolution. You were born in 1968 and don't know your [End Page 121] birthday. Even your mother doesn't know it. You were raised during the movement to destroy the Four Olds--old thoughts, old customs, old culture, and old habits--and among people shouting, "Revolution is no crime. It is reasonable to rebel." Your father's crime was that he believed it is indeed reasonable.

Two hours after you were born, five or six Red Guards came to your home holding sticks in their hands. One of them was your father's best friend, Samten. All your father's crimes can be traced to your birth. His crime was blowing the conch shell three times to announce you were born on this earth--that was your father's crime.

The Red Guards tied your father's hands behind his back and led him away by a string around his neck. At that moment, your father called out, "My son, my sweetheart!" and turned back to look at you with tears falling to the ground. It is impossible for you to know how your father felt at that time. Even I cannot describe it with pen and paper. Since then, your father has not returned home.

I don't need to tell you about your mother's feelings, the situation of you and her at that time, because your mother knows this and she will tell you. You don't know your father's story after he left you; even your mother doesn't know. So I have to tell you the story of what happened to your father after he left you. Please listen to me.


Your father is a brave man, a really brave man. He was twenty-nine years old at the time the Red Guards led him by a string around his neck into the heavy rain and the strong wind. There was a clap of loud thunder. For your birth, this could not have been a good sign. It was a sign that you would be an orphan.

Your ancestors...


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pp. 121-124
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