Kyablo and his Ponytail

Kyablo and his Ponytail

Kyablo and his Ponytail is a short story by Takbum Gyal about a nomad boy’s curiosity about filmmaking and his wish to be an actor. There are only a few popular novelists in Tibet, and Takbum Gyal is one of them. Many of his short stories and novellas have been published in Tibetan literary magazines. He also published a novel titled “The Silent Grassland” some years ago. His short story collection “The Song of Life” received the 2011 Minority Literary Award in Beijing and was translated into Chinese by filmmaker and writer Pema Tseden. Takbum Gyal is now writing a novel called “Decline” and a collection of short stories titled “The Winter Without Snow.” We translated this short story excerpt from the Gendun Chophel website.

Kyablo and his Ponytail
By Takbum Gyal

The year Kyablo turned eighteen years old, some people from the provincial seat came to make a film in the county town and saw Kyablo.

That day Kyablo was in the county town because his father sent him to do some shopping. When he saw a crowd of people gathering to watch a film shooting in the courtyard of the County Committee building, he pushed his way up front through the crowd to watch the shooting. When the film stopped shooting, the county secretary, a young man, was about to take them to a meal. At this point, the senior director who was wearing glasses and a visor suddenly saw Kyablo. Once he saw Kyablo, his attention was caught like an archeologist looking at a piece of priceless fossil, and he approached Kyablo.

The senior director came to Kyablo and closely examined his whole body. Then he closely examined Kyablo’s thick and black ponytail and said in Tibetan, “Young man, do you want to be an actor?”

As the stranger suddenly asked him such a question, Kyablo became puzzled, and stood like a motionless image. He asked the stranger, “What is an actor?”

The senior director, as he realized that Kyablo was an ordinary villager, responded with laughter. “Have you seen any films?” Kyablo thought for a while. He remembered that when he was young, some people from the county had come to the village with a cart. At night, they had hung a piece of cloth between two metal poles and showed some action films. All the villagers had gathered and watched the figures on the screen with surprise. Later many of the kids had played games in the sheep pens, pretending to be the enemies and allies from the film. He nodded his head and said, “Yes, I have seen films.”

The senior director nodded and said, “Actors are the people who act as the figures in the films. We have a plan to make a Tibetan film soon, and you are suitable to be an actor. If you want, you will be in the film.”

Why didn’t Kyablo want to be an actor? When he was small he liked to hold a stick and act as his ancestor. People joked that in the future he would become a hero like his ancestor. After thinking for a while, Kyablo looked at the senior director and said, “Will there be spears and knives in the film?” The senior director thought that Kyablo had all the natural characteristics of an actor and he delightedly said, “Yes, there will be. There will be whatever you want.” Then he rolled his eyes and waited for Kyablo’s response.

After giving another thought to the matter, with his eyes showing hesitation and fear, Kyablo asked, “After entering the film, can I come out?” When Kyablo was small, a cadre had brought a radio to the village. Every morning and evening the radio broadcasted news and played songs. The elders from Nakzhar village were astounded and Kyablo heard rumors from the elders. “Bad omen! According to some sayings, there are people the size of thumbs. The person in this radio must be the size of a thumb.”

The senior director laughed and glanced at the young secretary next to him. Then he looked back at Kyablo and said, “You don’t enter into the film. Your body will be recorded in pictures. After that you can return home.” Kyablo was happy to hear this and said, “I want to be an actor.”

The orginal link:

(Translated by Rebsa)