Mandala of Memory


Mandala of Memory

A memory: a woman in a temple near Durbar Square bowing her head and smiling to us.  The temple was small and dark, blackened by the constant burning of butter lamps; there was one guardian and a multitude of marigolds strewn about the stone floor, which had water running across it, and upon the altar, which had been tinged with bright orange and pink powder.  It looked like a seemingly forgotten place juxtaposed against the vast bustle of passersby outside, but we were caught on the threshold, wondering whether to enter.  Moments later this woman mildly pushed past us into the chamber of the temple.  Perhaps sensing our discomfort as we stared about in ignorance, she came and offered us bindis, then made her prayers to the deity and quietly left as we were still looking about, the guardian eyeing us evermore strangely until we finally took our leave.

The very next day on the other side of that vast sprawling city of Kathmandu near Swayambhunath temple, we unbelievably stumbled upon the same woman we met in that small temple.  Navigating through an endless amount of people in the hundreds of back-streets that seemingly lead in no direction whatsoever, our looks met, bringing together the sheer impossibility of ever remembering each other from such an uneventful and fleeting glance the day before, and the understanding of some irrepressible secret.  We laughed wholeheartedly at the circumstances and left each other with a feeling of good fortune.

Now that this memory has come to me after so many years, I wonder if she is not at this moment reflecting on the same encounter or sharing the story with a friend.

Douglas Thornton


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