An excerpt from the book, Destiny’s Flowers by Kajoli Khanna.

Pema has returned to the Dzogchen retreat centre to exhume the girl, to uncover her evil intentions. When everyone is back in the shedra, immersed in the study of the Kon Chog Chidu, Pema has decided she will inspect the wicked female’s belongings, examine the contents of her room. From a safe distance Pema observes the residential block. It is a two-storeyed building of a light yellow colour filled with small, ordinary rooms fitted with one extraordinarily large glass window each (a recent addition funded by a disciple). Some of these windows have their blinds pulled up, enabling Pema to look inside but other occupants have left shades down, and there are rows of rooms on the other side that border the forest, so the novice cannot depend on the fenestration to help her ascertain the room the girl stays in. But she will find it. The afternoon session is about to start, the compound is already empty, it will not be
long before the bhikshuni has proof of the fraud the girl is trying to pull.

Mila emerges from the entrance with a puffy black plastic bag in one hand. She walks to the large trash containers placed next to the boundary wall, throws the bag into the big blue bin and goes back into the dormitory. The novice is sure she will root out what she is looking for in the garbage container, proof of the girl’s sins that she is trying to
get rid of.

The afternoon session is about to start, the compound is already empty, it will not be long before the bhikshuni has proof of the fraud the girl is trying to pull.

Pema runs to the blue bin and opens the lid. To her dismay there are a number of bulging black plastic bags that look exactly like the other. Which one did the girl put in there? She pulls those on top, out of the bin and glances around. It is so silent you can hear a pin drop. She sits down on the floor, behind the trash containers, with her booty. The first plastic bag is bulky but light with nothing but crumpled bits of coloured paper, biscuit wrappings and a half eaten bun in it. She flattens a few of the crumpled paper balls with the palm of her hand: they are cuttings
left over from some type of paper craft. Grumbling, she sweeps the litter and the bag impatiently to the side. She unties the knot of another and turns it upside down so the contents fall onto the floor. Amongst more
crumpled paper balls is a pen that works, an orange that she will eat, a nearly blank exercise book which she can use. She places them on one side and picks up a pair of spectacles which she examines. A small crack becomes visible in the frame and Pema is wondering if she can repair it, when she hears a familiar voice.

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“Sister, can I help you?” says the girl. Pema drops the glasses and gets up, frantic. What explanation can she give for her odd position, seated on the floor surrounded by rubbish?

“I… I… was looking for something,” she whispers.

“What sister, what are you hoping to find in other people’s garbage?”

Mila asks, her voice full of concern. Pema points at the pen, the orange, the exercise copy and the spectacles.

“Perfectly good things being wasted,” she says. There are tears in the girl’s eyes as she takes Pema by the hand.

“Come sister, let us sit on this bench and talk.” She has changed out of her orange sari into a brown and blue printed salwar-kameez and smells of some expensive perfume. “Whatever you need I can buy for you.” Pema pulls her hand out of the girl’s grasp.

“I am a nun, not a beggar! I don’t need your money,” she hisses.

“No, sweet sister, I offered because… because I know you do not have a sponsor. Please do not take offence.” Pema begins to spit the venom the snakes of hatred and anger have released.

“Offense! You talk about offense. You people come into our holy spaces with your obscene clothes and your silly ideas, disturb the sanctity of the place and then you have the audacity to talk about offending us. Because you have money you think you can buy your way in.” The girl looks so virtuous it turns Pema’s blood to fire.

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“Please sister, come sit with me; I have something very important to tell you.”

“Yes, yes, everything you say is important,” Pema mocks. The girl tries to put her arm around the nun but Pema pushes her away. Mila pretends to stagger back, smiling.

“Wow, you are very strong, though you look like you might blow away with the wind,” she marvels. “Strong, mentally and physically.”

Pema glowers at her, then lashes out, “No more flattery, you temptress! You can fool the people but you cannot fool me. I have dealt with many like you in my time. I know you are Mara in disguise!” Pema can hear a thundering in her ears as a heavy black shadow falls over her eyes. It is like an iron shroud has been thrown over her head and the weight of it is pulling her down, slowly, to the ground. Her knees buckle, her ankles bend, the last thing she remembers is falling into the arms of the girl.

Picture Credit: Roli Books/ Kajoli Khanna

Excerpted with permission from Destiny’s Flowers by Kajoli Khanna, Roli Books.

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