A steady stream of people poured through the doors, silent, dressed in white. I sat on the floor, legs crossed, a plate of food in front of me. People loaded up their own plates with rice, curried vegetables, fried eggs. Slices of watermelon for dessert.
The monks sat on one side of the room, swathed in ochre, shoulders bare.
On our side, nuns wore white robes, their heads shaved. Pointy ears. Delicious smiles.
Once everyone was seated, we began to sing, songs in Pali, the language of ancient Buddhism. We gave thanks for our food, prayed for simplicity and peace.
A butterfly fluttered around the room, landing, pausing, lifting into the air. Its wings beat fitfully, it couldn’t find a place to rest. It fluttered to the wall, found an electricity box to sit on. Flew off.
Fluttered over to the monk’s side of the room, seemed to become startled at all the formal, golden piety, and fluttered back to our more humble, earthly side.
It flitted over to the cupboards, almost landed, didn’t.
Then it flew over to where a young nun held a microphone between her palms, guiding us in song.
The butterfly fluttered its wings once, twice, and then settled on her head. Its wings beat slowly, methodically, a winged creature’s deep breath. It became still.
And so we sang, guided by a bald-headed nun with a happy butterfly on her head.