Gitarga

Dabon came into the kitchen, his arms full of bags of groceries, to find his daughter Hana sitting at the table reading a book. He put the bags down on the counter, kissed her on her forehead, and said, “What are you reading, sweetheart?”

“Oh, just some story,” Hana replied airily, without looking up.

“More comics?” Dabon asked wryly. He peered over his daughter’s shoulder, and said in a surprised tone:

“That’s Kabi’s homework, sweetling. It’s too advanced for you.”

“I like it,” Hana said.

Andy came in, set a crate full of groceries on the table next to Hana’s book, and began putting them away. “What’s she reading?” he asked Dabon. “Is it too adult for her?”

“It’s ancient Soronan poetry,” Dabon replied, with a bemused smile. “‘Gitarga’s Advice to a Young Student About to be Reborn’. Odd choice for an eleven-year-old.”

“That’s typical Hana,” Andy remarked, “she barely does her own homework, but now she wants to do her sister’s.” He bent to kiss the girl’s forehead to show he was teasing. Hana looked up and beamed a big smirking smile at him.

“Tell me about this poem you’re reading, then.”

“OK,” the girl said. “Well. It’s rather complicated. There’s this girl named Chandra.”

“Chandra was a boy, sweetling,” Dabon put in.

“Oh!” Hana said, “I thought Chandra was a girl’s name. So anyway, there’s a boy named Chandra, and he’s about to go on a journey to another world. I guess he must have a spaceship. It doesn’t say that in the book, though. And he doesn’t know what the planet he’s going to will be like. So the poem is mostly about his teacher telling him that he has to be really tough and smart and brave, because he has to be ready for anything.”

“Are you sure that’s ancient Soronan poetry?” Andy asked with a chuckle.

Hana turned red, and retorted angrily: “I’m not making it up, it’s in the book! Look, you can read it if you want.”

“I know you’re not making it up, Hana,” Dabon put in quickly. “Actually you got it almost right. Gitarga was a Soranan philosopher, a wise man who lived eight-hundred years ago. Chandra was a young son of a nobleman who had an incurable illness. He was going to die soon. But Soronans believed in reincarnation – they believed that after you die you’re born again as a baby in some other part of the world. So Chandra asks Gitarga how he should prepare himself for his journey into the next life, and the poem is about the advice that Gitarga gives. But it’s really a poem about always staying true to yourself, no matter what is happening around you. That’s why people still like it, even after eight-hundred years.”

“Oh,” said Hana, “that makes sense, I suppose.”

“You sounded like a poet yourself just now, saying all that,” Andy told his husband with a grin. “Hana, did you know that when Dabon and I first met, he read me poems sometimes?”

“Was that before I was born?” Hana asked suspiciously.

“Yes.” Dabon replied.

“Oh,” Hana said, in a tone of deep disinterest.

“I don’t know why I bothered, actually,” Dabon put in. “He hardly appreciated it. Uncouth, uncultured thing that he was back then.”

“Was?” Andy asked archly.

“So good-looking, though,” Dabon added, grabbing his husband by the belt and pulling him forward.

“Do you know what?” Hana said, in the ultra-serious voice that children sometimes use, “I really like this poem. It’s my new favourite poem.”

When there was no response Hana looked up and saw that Andy and Dabon were wrapped in each-others’ arms, kissing. She heaved a long, exagerated sigh of annoyance, and stuck her nose back in her book.

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