Some time about 2 weeks ago I noticed that the prayer flags, which were decorating the garden area outside my classroom were gone. It was an elaborate display erected by the class XII students of 2011.
I suddenly missed it and I thought that it was odd. As is often the case with things we see daily we hardly notice when they change and I wasn’t sure if they had been removed long ago or quite recently. It is also true that after some time we can hardly remember what was once there, but that would not be the case with this sacred space.
A few days later I saw students in class XII cutting down a young tree in the School Agricultural Program (SAP) area. Now this is really unusual in nature-loving and tree-protecting Bhutan but I assumed that it was interfering with the garden.
Next a bundle of newly cut bamboo poles appeared in the position of the previous prayer flags. At this point even a novice like me knew…….. A new prayer flag display was on its way care of this years class XII’s.
I have to mention the uniform tied to this student- ready to be donned in an instant but not worn. It inspired me to take the shot.
Pin pointing the exact time anything will happen in Bhutan is problematic. The concept of Bhutanese Stretchable Time and the reluctance to absolutely decide anything before the last second combine to make appointments, deadlines and even auspicious celebratory events prone to occur with regularity in unannounced and inconvenient timeslots. Undeterred, I did my best to question all concerned and involved about when said new structure would magically appear, to no avail.
In the near dark, heading to the farewell dinner for our principal, itself announced less than 24hours before it was scheduled, I saw a sudden escalation of activity in the prayer flag zone! I sensed that the time was fast approaching.
At 5.35am on my way to morning study the next morning I decided that I should take my camera, as I really wanted to record the process and not just the end result this year. I was almost smug with the cultural appropriateness of this decision when I walked into the school campus and saw it littered with laboring class XII boys!!
Second-guessed you for once, boys! They of course didn’t bat an eyelid. They expect me to have my camera at anytime anything noteworthy happens and here I was reconfirming that that is the way it is! Yes, I confess, my supervision of study that particular morning was rather perfunctory.
Nonetheless it is a spectacularly colourful, new addition to the school campus and I love to see the flags fluttering and hear the wind whipping those flags into a frenzy on stormy afternoons.
As promised, it is more impressive in design than last year’s but it really shouldn’t be a competition. I wonder why the girls had no visible role to play, but the sheer aesthetic beauty of it and psychologically calming effect it has on me, is enough, in my humble opinion.
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