Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Have you seen a yak?

གཡག Yak
My name is Tenzin
I am Tibetan
I was born in South India
On a hot July day in 1984
When my mother was still weak from labour –
Our neighbour Mr Malickarjun
Broke a coconut for luck
His wife brought a garland of jasmine.
Mother even now calls me Tenzin Jasmine.

My father, Yeshi Phuntsok, died
Three months after my birth
He was on his way to Ludhiana
To buy sweaters for the winter business -
‘He fell down the shaft between train and platform’
My mother told me years later.
She took a long sigh
‘He was suffering from TB,
He didn’t have to go.
Your father was stubborn as yak hide
He listened to no one,' she said.

My grandfather, Dorjee Gyalpo
Is my favourite person in the world.
He was born in Chu Marlep in Northeastern Tibet –
That wide expanse of grassland
Where the famous Tibetan horses come from.
Grandpa told me about yaks.
How he rode them across the mountain passes
འབྲི། Dri - female counterpart of YAK
How his mother weaved their tents from yak hair
How their mastiffs barked at the menacing wolves.
'A yak can easily take on an elephant,' he said.

My name is Tenzin
I am Tibetan
I have never seen a yak
But I have a pretty good idea
How it looks.
Long rough hair hanging down
Black horns very sharp at the tips
Hooves as tough as cannonballs.
A yak can eat a truckload of grass.

My name is Tenzin
I am Tibetan
I love coconuts
Especially ones that grow in our backyard
My grandfather hates them
‘Its juice looks like donkey's piss,’ he would say.
He loves to eat meat

Once we went to Hot Yak Café
Located in Yalakudam Street.
It claims to serve yak meat thenthuk
And yak-cheese cakes
‘Yak cheese?’
Grandpa wouldn’t stop laughing.
Acha Tsedon, the owner came and asked,
‘Pola, garey nang song?’ Grandpa wiped the tears from his eyes
‘Can I a have a glass of ox milk?’
He burst out laughing again
Buried his face in the menu
Written in English, Tibetan, Kannada
‘Wozi, Pola nyo yin pa da!’ Acha Tsedon said
She stomped back into the kitchen, upset.

My name is Tenzin
I was in Hot Yak Café
With my grandpa who couldn’t stop laughing –
I elbowed him in the stomach
‘Pola, stop laughing
Everyone's staring at us’
Suddenly he posed dead serious
‘I want a plate of yaksha momo’ he said.
When Acha Tsedon served the momo
Grandpa asked her to sit down —
‘Yak is male. Dri is female.
Dri gives milk. You give milk.
I don’t give milk. Neither does a yak.
No yak milk. No yak cheese.
I am old. You are young.
Yak is big. Dri is small.’

My name is Tenzin
I am Tibetan
I have never seen a yak
But I have a pretty good idea
How it looks.

Have you seen a yak?


  1. Nice one. I have never seen a yak too. So 'yak' is the male species 'dri' the female species??? Never knew that.

  2. I, too, have never seen a Yak. But, after reading the poem, like the 'poet' says
    "But I have a pretty good idea
    How it looks".
    A really good piece..

  3. My dear Tenzin Jasmine,
    I was lucky,
    For having seen a Yak.
    It was at the feet of a mountain,
    in your beautifull land of Tibet.
    But I was born below seelevel,
    in the little country Holland.
    I feel sorry and some strange quilt,
    for what is happening in this world.
    EVERYBODY should be able,
    to be free and see,
    Your beloved Yak.