There was a knock at his door.
"Come on aii1, you don’t need to be so formal with me. Please come in.” Said Lhakpa engulfed in his quilt, his eyes crimson, a small book in his hand. She entered the room and left the door ajar.
“I just came to see what you were doing” Said she casually.
Lhakpa closed his book and placed it aside. He loved his mother and she adored him in return. She was forty but her charm was many years younger. Her eyes were expressive and her smile broad and warm. She was always amused when Lhakpa’s friends remarked that he looked like his aii. Lhakpa, in his school was a personality; many fell short of words to describe. Her eyes ransacked around the room being a little surprised to find the charm of the room faded.
“Oh! Your certificate has toppled down,” remarked she looking at the glass-laminated certificate on the table near the window. It was lying flat.
“You know the wind, aii,” Lhakpa justified. A few days ago, the same incident had occurred and she had castigated him for not caring about it. She said nothing today. Both knew the reason why, but neither of them spoke. She lifted the lamination and made it stand as usual. She looked at it and read:
This certificate is awarded to Master Lhakpa Dorji for his excellence as the best player in the Inter-Dzongkhag2 over-all games competition held in Bajothang Higher Secondary School from October 10 – 15, 2010.
This wasn’t, by any chance, the first time she had seen the certificate but the more she read it, more she discovered that there were more reasons to be proud of her son than of anybody else in this world.
“Lhakpa, where did you keep them ALL?” her eyes were the mixture of wonder and sympathy.
"What is the use of them now, aii? ” He looked at the other side evasively.
“You didn’t answer my question, did you?” she appeared stern but he knew how kind she was. He had no option left. Though reluctantly, he lifted his hand and pointed towards a direction, his eyes still crimson but filled with tears now. She looked where his finger pointed only to see an old musty box. She walked towards the box, kneeled down and opened it. He stayed in his bed unmoved.
Dozens of medals were strewed in the box haphazardly, many of which were of gold, some of silver and a few, bronze. Another uncounted numbers of certificates and prizes were placed on the other corner of the box. She picked up the certificates and read them randomly. One said, “First in Basketball Competition,” the other said, “Academic excellence for the year”. Another certificate read, “The best speaker in debate competition”, and several others talked about similar things like football, volleyball, quiz-competition, extempore speech and so forth. She stopped reading and placed them back in the box. She closed her eyes and let the drops of her tears prowl along her cheeks.
“That certificate didn’t fit in there.” Lhakpa muttered looking at the same certificate in the table. “Pema had come to see me sometimes ago. I asked him to collect all medals, prizes and certificates all around the room and put…them…in…the…box…” He forced himself not to cry.
“Why?” she asked, although she knew the reason. Her tears were still flowing like a summer’s river. He was silent for a moment.
“Why are they needed now…?” This wasn’t just a question, it was frustration. The force of his emotional finally defeated his stoicism. He cried helplessly. “They are not needed anymore,” he cried, “not needed aii.”
She said nothing but wept with him. She could only embrace him, console and mollify him, but she couldn’t share his agony. She couldn’t preclude his mournfulness to gradually alter to that of a noisy, helpless cry. He continued crying ceaselessly.
He suddenly threw off the quilt that covered him hitherto out of a sudden intense pang of exasperation. He stopped crying momentarily and looked at his legs with his eyes wide open. She too looked at his legs only to confirm for yet another time that, HE HAD NONE! He had lost both of his legs.
The door of the room opened wide and only half of Lhakpa’s father entered the room. He said solemnly, “I’ve talked to my boss, he will arrange for a vehicle everyday to reach me to the office. I’ve decided no to buy another car!” He was about to turn his head away to leave but he looked back at his wife and son and remarked, “I don’t want to take a risk. After all, who will earn for you both if I loose my legs too?” He walked off and slammed the door quite loudly to make both of them startled.
Lhakpa neither moved nor expressed, but there was something that did the both… his tears!
1: Aii - "Mother" in Bhutanese language
2: Inter-Dzongkhag - "Inter-District"
Note: Since this story is set in Bhutan, the names of people and places as well as certain expressions are Bhutanese.