Zooming with the Chuba from Boudha.

6 July 2020

The iridescence of the brocade fabrics from which the chubas are sewn reflect the rainbow in our soul. Weaves of flowers, eternity knots, and geometrical patterns conjure up aspirations of peace, healing and balance.

The “chuba” or “chupa” is a Tibetan word for an ankle length robe worn by Tibetans. Slight variations of it are worn by members of the Sherpa community and a number of cultural and language groups across the Himalayan regions.

Even though I had passed by many chuba shops during my visits to Nepal, I took my time about buying one. I didn’t want to treat someone’s actual clothing like a costume or a quaint souvenir.

A Tibetan grandma in her chuba feeds the dogs at the Stupa even as she does her daily circumambulations (kora).

Apart from its wearability for celebratory occasions in Singapore, I wanted a chuba as a visual reminder of my encounters in Nepal. From the Nepali friends of the Newari, Tamang, Rai, Gorkha and various culture/ language groups, I’ve learnt what it means to be generous and resourceful at ALL times.

So after thinking about it for about 8 years, I finally bought my first chuba from one of the shops at Boudha in December 2019.

The lovely young lady at the chuba shop speaks fluent Nepali, Tibetan, Hindi, Assamese and a smattering of English. In Nepal, many young people study and work at the same time. She was just delighted to show us how the chubas for men and women should be worn, without expecting us to buy more stuff or even tip her. There is much power in her gaiety & service! 😄

Little did I know that a month after that purchase, Covid-19 would affect all human interactions & put a stop to trips abroad. In Singapore the Circuit Breaker measures kept people housebound, affected jobs, schools and gatherings of all sorts.

It looked like my chuba from Boudha wouldn’t be required for a while I figured. But I was wrong.

This May I received my first ZOOM birthday celebration invitation. The birthday celebrant is an avid traveller & photographer. Travel restrictions had affected her birthday plans.

Celebrating our friend’s birthday via ZOOM with her parents, dogs and even her Korean film idol in life sized paper cut out. The human mind has no boundaries!

So that night holed up in my little flat with my cats, I put on the chuba as it was purposed for.

And the birthday lady, being the good sport that she is, turned up on ZOOM in lapis lazuli blue and a strand of turquoise around her neck.

As the fireworks went off in her living room, while her parents looked on in amusement, her dogs in puzzlement, and ZOOM guests cheered, I felt that although we were physically “grounded,” our spirit was free.

The chuba from Boudha has also become a pleasant reminder that the darker the times are, the more brightly we can try to shine, and the less we have, the more deeply we may experience abundance.

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