29 Dec 2019
I was all set to leave my flat for a post-christmas gathering at a friend’s place when a clear voice rose in my head and went, “Bring something from Nepal.”
I tried to ignore the voice because I had already wrapped up a present for gift exchange and saw no reason to bring another.
But reluctantly I went back to my room and selected a notebook made of Lokta paper from among the gifts from Nepal to take with me.
I’m fond of buying handmade gifts, compelled by a vague logic to honour the makers and the belief that they will bring blessings to the recipients.
As I didn’t know who I would be meeting at the gathering except “a few close friends and family members,” I wasn’t sure if the Lokta notebook would be appreciated.
When I arrived at her home, my friend had the Nepali greeting, “Namaste,” on her door.
So my first word upon my arrival was a “Namaste!” to the guests who were already inside the flat.
A tall and lanky netball player with gorgeous curly hair came to hug me. She knew me from sports school days.
A quick sweep across the living room confirmed that I was The Oldest person in a meet up of supple youth from the sports and art fraternity.
After the gift exchange and a couple of group shots, a young man came to sit with me and asked if I was a teacher in SJI before. He had been a student there and recognised me the moment he saw me at the door even though I didn’t teach him.
Our conversation drifted to school days and the convergence of circumstances that set him on a path in film & animation.
Young Man laughed at my attempts during teaching days to interest his SJI mates in “Dreams” by Akira Kurosawa when all they mostly cared about was having a lesson in the air-conditioned comfort of the AVA studio!
But years later, one of those boys would become a partner in a law firm and write to say that whenever the sun shines on a rainy day, he would remember the foxes’ wedding in “Dreams,” and think of me.
I mused that perhaps Kurosawa’s films were too stark and too abstract for teenage boys. They might have responded better to “Totoro,” or “Spirited Away,” although Hayao Miyazaki’s animations are as profound, if not more, than Kurosawa’s films.
Young Man’s eyes lit up at the mere mention of Hayao Miyazaki, the 70plus year old Japanese animation guru. This creator of fantasies is renown for his meticulous hand drawn details and his ability to convey difficult themes such as death, abandonment and loss through his tales.
Young Man then shared that even though these days lots of animation work has gone digital, he is still very “old school” at heart. He really enjoys drawing every detail by hand and still does so with his projects.
I knew by then for whom I had been told to “bring something from Nepal.”
I showed him the last minute gift that I had brought from home.
He was stunned and told me he didn’t know what to say.
And thus it was in the living room of a flat by the Kallang River in Singapore, that a young animation artist came into contact with handmade paper made from trees growing at 3000m in the Himalayas.
I invited him to use the notebook to incubate his ideas for films and animation so that the many blessings from Nepal on survival, gratitude and beauty will bring him assignments that not only pay the bills but also be of great benefit & service to others too.
Young Man accepted the Himalayan blessings reverently. I was very grateful to have obeyed the prompting to bring a gift even when I thought it wasn’t necessary.