Posted by: jolantru | December 1, 2010

Fourteenth Branch: Roots

Rakshya guided me through a dark passageway lit only by light bulbs. The mountain ran on steam, generated by the underground thermal springs, she explained to me while navigating through the passage ways. The steam powered just about everything, even the light supply. I curbed my fear of enclosed spaces, following her slim figure.

“Open your eyes,” she said, a hint of pride in her voice. I did so, and simply stared.

Grandmother told me about greenhouses, where plants would grow without the fear of winter. Now there was one right in front of me. Vegetables glistened with dew. Globes of fruits, glossy and ripe. Tomatos. Melons. Old friends: herbs and spices, aromatic and familiar to the nose. Somewhere water flowed. A fountain. It was pleasantly warm. It was magic.

“I saved you this,” Rakshya pushed aside green fronds moist with water. I stared once more.

A young she-oak. Almost as tall as me. Delicate green needles, spreading upwards, reaching forth for the light. How long had I been staying at Little Lhasa? I touched my swollen taut belly. Eight moon-cycles? Or more? I was ready to give birth.

I hugged Rakshya impulsively. She returned the hug gently, a smile on her face. “Now follow me.”

More walking now. I gasped, feeling cumbersome, out of breath. Rakshya had to stop and wait for me to catch up. Another large chamber. Echoing whispers.

“I saved this one too,” Rakshya said softly now, a little hesitant. She smiled once more, to ease the tension. The light from the ceiling illuminated the large machine.

It was the silver fish. “I fixed it for you. Managed to salvage most of the parts.” Rakshya patted the metallic side with a satisfied grin. “Fortunately, the cognition module has not been damaged.”

Auri.

My world spun around me. A vicious band of pain stabbed into my skull. Rakshya visibly blanched, grabbing me as I staggered. “You are not well.”

I swallowed convulsively. “I am… fine.” My abdomen tightened. “I think I need to sit down.”

She looked at me, concerned. Realization dawned. “Tenzin! Tenzin!”

~*~

The labor was long, contractions increasing with intensity. Rakshya helped me walk around for the first part of labor, instructing the menfolk to prepare hot water and clean cloths. Dorje Dawa joined us, when I could walk no longer. She spoke to me, stroking my belly skillfully, while Rakshya translated. Push. Breathe. Push. Stop. Breathe.

I wanted to give up, the pain too terrifying, too exhausting for me to endure. I caught sight of Josh’s eyes. Worried eyes, loving eyes. He thought he was going to lose me.

Through the haze of sweat and tears, I thought I saw Auri. “Auri!” I panted, reaching out wth my hands. “Auri!”

Rakshya shook her head, dabbing my face with a rag. She exchanged glances with the shaman-healer. I wanted her to go away. I was drowning in the agony. Another contraction. Push. Breathe. Pant.

Auri smiled her gentle smile. The smile I first saw when she nursed me back to health, back when the tsunami hit my village. Something surged in me. Determination.

I screamed, bearing down. In a rush of pain and joy I gave birth to a little girl.

The shaman-healer draped her still slick with blood and vernix on my chest. I could feel her heat. Her warmth. Felt her tiny beating heart. She moved automatically towards my breast. Her eyes were open. Bright, intelligent, Auri’s.

“She is beautiful,” Josh said, his voice hoarse. “Beautiful.” He was weeping unabashedly now. “Mirra!”

“Kindness,” I said, holding her, inhaling her scent, blood and all. My daughter. Josh’s daughter. Auri’s daughter. Our daughter. “Her name will be Kindness.”

~*~

Glutinuous Rice Balls

Glutinuous rice flour (a cup and a half)
Brown rock sugar (you might have to break them into tiny pieces)
Young ginger (a finger)
Castor sugar (a tablespoon). Use honey as an alternative sweetener
Water

1. Mix water with the flour until it becomes dough.
2. Make balls (the size of marbles), using brown sugar as filling.
3. At the same time, bring water to a boil in a pot and throw in the young ginger. Add in the castor sugar. Stir gently until the water looks syrupy.
4. In another pot, add water and bring to a boil. Place the balls into the pot. Wait until the balls float.
5. Serve the balls and syrup in bowls. Serve hot.

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