It was the year of the dragon, twenty four years ago that in the high altitudes of Laya there lived a little boy with rosy cheeks. He was the youngest child in his family along with an elder sister. When he was one years old, his father died while trying to save his family against the brutality of the feudal lords and his mother and sister did domestic labour around the neighbourhood as it was their only source of revenue. The little boy was born in the village of Gasa, located high along the snow peaked mountains which were only accessible by yaks. The population was barely a few hundreds and they survived mostly by eating yak meat, cheese and rice that were brought up from Punakha during the summer months by the local traders. And those who could afford would exchange their local produces with the Tibetans along the border through barter system for spices and other rations that are not found in Laya.
Ever since that day, the boy’s mother knew he was destined for greatness as his birth was surrounded by auspicious and superstitious beliefs. The entire village witnessed a full prominent rainbow was around the sun and even the thick misty weather suddenly cleared out bringing much desired sunshine and warmth. The clear blue skies above the entire Laya community spoke of a miracle birth of a high lama but however, they could be mistaken this one time.
The boy’s mother was overjoyed as her son was born on this very day and thus decided to call him Gesar. Before the boy was born, the village barely saw any mothers giving birth to boys for a long duration of five years as most women had miscarriages during pregnancy which gave rise to high mortality rates in comparison to neighbouring villages. And ever since the birth, the entire village of slowly started to progress forward. Their crops and vegetables started to grow and the entire village came together as one community rather than individualistic. Even though it took a few years for people to change, they started to live together in harmony where everyone was willing to help and be there for one another. Neighbours started to grow closer and families were extended.
But things didn’t stay this way for long and it wasn’t until Gesar turned eleven when the village was visited by a mysterious looking man. His clothes were tattered but similar to that of a gomchen*, the outer skin of his hands was darkish brown almost black in color while his palms were strikingly pale white prominently displaying the palm lines. The texture looked almost like leather but had more resemblance to an old man with dirty, long uncut nails. His face was scrubby looking, hardly shaved and his shoes had several holes in them from walking miles after miles and his bag looked almost empty. When the village people had gathered to welcome this man he declared himself as a paow* who foresaw into the future and came to warn the people of this tiny village.
He warned the village elders about what is yet to come and not to let any of their children travel outside their village until they turned seventeen as there would be huge consequences which the entire population would face and if the word of warning is not taken seriously then they would soon all perish to be non-existent. Soon after the entire village held a meeting and decided to put signs and build walls to protect their children and their village from the evil that was yet to come.
Gesar’s mother Dema was frightened of the thought of having Gesar grow up in this tiny village as education was scarce limiting knowledge and opportunities for personal growth. Her main reason to send Gesar to Punakha when he was fifteen was particularly the death of her husband Tobgay who was brutally killed by the feudal lords. It happened when the lords increased taxation and demanded surplus revenue from their family and when he spoke back to defend them without any mercy he was brutally killed.
Four years passed by and Gesar was now fifteen years old. The warning soon became a tradition as only those who turned seventeen that year could leave the village. Some returned with tales about seeing the takin in Thimphu, some even brought back electronics that fascinated the elders while the rest only spoke of beautiful men and women whom they fell in love with. Gesar was no ordinary boy as he taught himself to read and write without attending school as the only nearby school stood at the foothills of the mountain passes behind the high inaccessible snowy peaks. Dema was worried for her son’s future as he was truly gifted; some even believed him to be a reincarnation of a high lama that passed away a few months before Gesar’s birth.