At a monastery once in deep conversation, a monk asked me “Do you feel blessed?”
I never really understood the magnitude of that question until a few years on. I am known to be deeply spiritual, far less religious. It took me sometime to fully realize the depth of that answer and it so happened in Cambodia of all the places.
On the Tonle sap commonly translated as “The Great Lake” to the natives of Cambodia this river is truly a wonder for unusual reasons. The flow changes direction twice a year and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks with the seasons. I happened to be there during the heavy rains with the river up to form in all her enormity.
To my delight was the inhabitants of the river. Not the fish or the gators or the exotic snakes the locals keep as household pets rather the ecology of the way of life to all around. Houseboats, boat colonies, ferries, fruit vendors and snake charmers on boats it felt like a scene from Waterworld.
With the tide rising and our boat docked for a quick tour of the gator farm (crocodiles reared for their skin and meat;yes as cruel and barbaric as it sounds I like to think of it’s perspective and relativity of the way one looks at it) I had some time to ponder over my thoughts when out of nowhere in a distance came Devi, a local native paddling feverishly to reach my boat as if his life depended on it. I urged our captain to steer closer to him to ensure his seemingly tiresome journey be cut short. I was curious to know the meaning of the word as in Hindi it meant “goddess’. A rather unusual name for a male child. I was told it meant ‘angel’ in Cambodian.
Upon conversation with the captain I was told he invited me to his house. No reason, no questions asked. It was a rather unusual request which got the captain to suspect his behavior but something in his eyes steered me to willingly oblige.
It took us ten minutes to get there as the tides turned with the onset of threatening clouds looming above waiting to burst at a moments notice. I kept preening backwards to see Devi sitting comfortably in his bucket tied to our boat and enjoying the mist splash against his face. Upon entering his house i had a lump in my throat and found it hard to swallow. The family of 4 lived on a wooden boat the size of my washroom back home yet they were so welcoming and humble.
His father was a 40% disabled war veteran currently bed ridden. His younger sister had a pet yellow and black snake. She used it as a source of income from tourists. USD $1 got yourself a photograph with it. I dared not ask if it were venomous as she playfully inched closer to hand it over to me -while I acted calm on the outside I was petrified deep within. Much like a duck on the lake, calm on the surface but paddling a mile a minute underneath to stay afloat.
Devi’s mother has prepared food which was simple and homely. We all sat around his fathers bed to eat together.
When I asked Devi what was the purpose of getting me to his place he explained to the captain that he spotted me a mile away looking at my camera slung around my neck. I was invited to meet his family to share a meal only to ask for a favor in return – A picture of his family since he had lost a brother earlier that year to diarrhea and had no record of how he looked from memory.
It’s the little things that make up the biggest constructs of this ‘blessing’ called LIFE.
Cherish every minute you have cause tomorrow,my friend, is promised to no one.
P.s. Devi received his family photograph. It took almost a year to get there but I am told he is thrilled with the outcome.