It's easy to spot them ­ a long line of black ants moving steadily towards the goal across the yard. Not again! I forgot to hide food remains after breakfast, and now ants revel in the pan. Disgusting! Disciplined bugs crawl in neat ranks to the kitchen and back. What do you think of when you glance at the busy glossy robbers? I imagine a big hungry anteater with a sticky tongue.
Likewise, the ants visit my neighbor from Bhutan who lives on the second floor. He is a Buddhist and cannot cause harm to living beings. With a straight face peaceful Gembo sweeps stairs, scattering shameless thieves. With each passing day, his sweeping seems fiercer. We don’t have fridge in the house, and all other secret places tiny experts find easily. Once a heart­rending cry storms the house. I run out to the yard alarmed. "What happened, Gembo?" The boy goes down, he looks lost and confused, but his eyes sparkle with triumphant splendor. "I could not stand it, ­ he says ­ I put boiling water all over the ants! Each and everyone, each and everyone..."
A timid knock at the door. I open it wide. Gembo is shifting from foot to foot.
- I have a favor to ask.
- What?
- I'd like to have meat. I'll give you money, and you buy a chicken.
- Why don’t you go yourself?
Gembo lets out a sigh.
- It should not die because of me ­ he explains.
We don’t have meat market in our area. Most people who live here are vegetarians.There is a shop, where live chickens are kept in cages. You should point one and the butcher will kill it for you. Buddhism does not forbid eating meat, however, the adept himself should not be the cause of the death of a living being.
- Really?! ­ I ask mockingly. ­ And  encouraging friends to kill  is not a sin for a Buddhist, is it?
- Please! ­ He folds hands in a prayer. ­ I'll cook, and we'll eat it together.
In the shade of a spreading tree, we wait for the seller to pluck and cut the chicken I selected. Gembo whistles, looking away. I feel like an executioner, but calm myself with the thought that the terrible demons will not pull my friend down into their dark realm.
An hour later, we tuck into a gorgeous meal, leaving behind all moral anguish. Wondrous chicken!
- I saw a ghost in my dream, ­  tells Gembo in a proud voice.
- Was it scary?
- No. It was a beautiful girl!
- How did you know that she was the ghost?
- I jumped on her. She disappeared.
Bangalore, India - April, 1999

The Last Princess of Numenor
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